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Pajama School: Stories from the Life of a Homeschool Graduate

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  • Posted September 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Homeschool Grad's Spiritual Memoir

    Once upon a time, a blonde and blue-eyed family of girls (three, to be exact, all with names starting with "N") left old ways behind and lined up at the foot of the stairs for their first school picture as a homeschooling family. They had desks, organized bookshelves, maps and pictures on the walls, and a placard proclaiming "School Room."

    Well, most of us homeschoolers know how that goes. The Wickham family soon gave up trying to be like a school and got more focused on being a home that teaches, and Pajama School - Natalie Wickham's memoir of homeschooling, getting to know God, and learning to lead - was born.

    I came away from Pajama School feeling like I'd gotten to know Natalie, who is just a little older than I am and has had a journey in some ways like mine and in other ways very different. The book is steeped in the perspective not just of a homeschooler, but of a homeschooler who grew up connected to ATI (Bill Gothard's Advanced Training Institute), which is a subculture all its own. In many ways I enjoyed that aspect, which reminded me of dear friends who were also brought up in ATI and who, like Natalie, found places of service within that ministry as young adults.

    In fact, Pajama School focuses far more on those experiences of service as a young adult - with ATI in Children's Institutes and at the beginning stages of the Character First! program, in politics, in running a tea shop, and in teaching - than it does on the childhood experiences I expected from the title. This is less a homeschooling book and more the record of one homeschooler's spiritual journey. More than anything, Pajama School is a memoir of Natalie's walk with God - a memoir that is honest, humorous, and insightful.

    Natalie has spent many of her years as a young adult teaching, whether in public-school classrooms as part of the Character First! program, in assemblies at big homeschool conferences, or in her own piano studio. I found her emphasis on teaching methods and experimentation slightly ironic for a "homeschooling book," but also very inspiring. She's implemented some fantastic ideas, and anyone who works with children will find something to encourage them here! In fact, I passed the book on to my partner in Soli Deo Gloria Ballet, as we're developing summer camp ideas.

    For homeschool grads and older teens, parents who want to see how homeschooling can play out in their student's life, and anyone who enjoys good, clean, thought-provoking memoir, Pajama School is well worth reading.

    - Rachel Starr Thomson, author of "Tales of the Heartily Homeschooled"

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  • Posted August 5, 2010

    review of Pajama School

    Pajama School - stories from the life of a homeschool graduate by Natalie Wickham is an encouraging book I would recommend to any homeschooling Mom.

    I love reading about successful homeschooling. When a parent shares something that worked for them, I feel more secure attempting it than just a product promoted for sale. This is not a parent's tale of what worked rather a homeschooled graduate's story of her life.

    Another homeschooling Mom first mentioned this book to me. She shared one of the real life learning examples from the book, and I wanted to read it for myself. Soon after that, I had the privilege of hearing Natalie Wickham speak at the HOTM conference, and I wanted to hear more of her success story. That isn't how she markets the book- as a success story, but that is my own view of it.

    This is such a personal story, almost as if Natalie Wickham opened the door of her home to her readers and let us be a part of her own homeschooling experience. She speaks from her heart, even honestly sharing about hard times. By the end of the book it is as if you are listening to a friend.

    First hearing her as she shared at the conference, then again while reading about her scripture memory, I was inspired. NavPress was referenced both times and I have since placed my order for their Topical Memory System.

    She also shares creative teaching ideas that she has used with her own piano students. It was encouraging to read of her personal training route instead of college, to become a certified piano teacher.

    I gave the book to my oldest daughter to read and discuss with me. One thing she remembered was reading how their schoolroom didn't work. (We also have a schoolroom, of sorts, but it becomes more of a storage room and our actual school lessons are more often done in the dining room.) She also discussed the real life examples she read, how plans changed when life happened. I enjoyed using this book as a discussion starter with her.

    Natalie Wickham graciously shared a copy of her book for the purpose of this review. All opinions shared are my own.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    Even better than I anticipated!

    It was with great excitement that I picked up my copy of Natalie Wickham's book. I, too, am a homeschool graduate, and I could not wait to read an honest account of growing up counter-culture. Imagine my delight, upon beginning the first chapter, to discover that Natalie's homeschool beginnings were so like my own. I identified with her first day of school-at-home: the carefully arranged desks in the meticulously prepared homeschool-room; the carefully-chosen wall-charts, assignment notebooks, and workbooks; and the nervous excitement while saying the pledges to the flags. I also relished Natalie's honesty regarding the natural emotions homeschoolers face when the newness wears off: the anxiety about leaving friends from the former church-school and feeling like an outsider at times during church activities; the struggle with family relationships in the first year while siblings adjust to being home all day together; the periods of adjustment every time Mom re-evaluates her teaching styles; and the strain of trials on the entire family as they deal with tragedy while learning together. She shares each of these with us, and how they overcome them with joy and strength.
    Pajama School is not merely an account of homeschool success, though you will certainly come away encouraged in your teaching by reading Natalie's story. And it is not merely an amusing tale of growing up at home, though the irrepressible homeschool humor shines through on many occasions. It is not even a treatment of biblical principles, although Natalie does discuss her wrestlings with peer-dependency, feminism, courtship, politics, entrepreneurship, bitterness, institutionalization, higher learning, and pride. More than these, Pajama School is a transparent look at how the Lord can use family discipleship to begin a life-long relationship with Himself.
    Natalie is honest, painfully honest at times, regarding how God used her unconventional education, her committed parents, and her own sinful yet broken heart to accomplish His will in her life. As she says,
    "The Lord has a way of using the right people at the right time to teach me, counsel me, and help me understand different areas of life from His perspective. That's an education far above and beyond what I could have ever learned from a textbook! {page 50}"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2010

    Extremely well written!

    Every homeschool family has some of the same experiences--we all study, work to incorporate learning with daily activities, and we share special times with siblings and parents. Yes, homeschooling leaves a recognizable mark on those who have gone through it. The mark may be recognizable but each family has a unique story to tell about their homeschooling journey. Natalie Wickham shares her adventure with wit and honesty. Her book will particularly appeal to families who are looking into homeschooling or those who want to hear a first-hand account of a homeschool graduate. It is a rare author who can take an everyday subject matter and turn it into an engaging book for others to enjoy and that is exactly what Natalie Wickham has done.

    As a homeschool graduate I could identify with Natalie's story. When she shared how she and her sisters became best friends it sounded like my life. When she told about the multitude of activities her family was involved in, I could relate because my experiences were similar.

    Natalie Wickham really shares her heart in this book. We see her heart of thankfulness to her parents for following God's leading to educate her at home. Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed along the homeschooling journey and need a little encouragement, PAJAMA SCHOOL will encourage you to continue this important path. Thank you Natalie for sharing your story!

    Amy Puetz, author of Uncover Exciting History
    www.AmyPuetz.com

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Encouraging

    I was encouraged by Natalie's story, yet in some ways it made me feel inadequate, only because she and her family were extremely involved in the homeschooling community and ministry. That just hasn't happened for our family, yet anyway.

    I believe that Pajama School isn't just hope for homeschool moms, but for our growing young daughters. I couldn't help but think of my oldest at different points in Natalie's journey because Natalie is the oldest child of a larger than normal homeschool family and so is our oldest daughter. Our daughter has already asked to read this book and I will gladly allow her to. However, since she has a "wee" tendency to share what she reads, I asked her to wait until I was finished and wrote my review. I look forward to reading her review of it, as I think it will be inspiring to her; it will be interesting to see if I am right. :-)

    This is definitely a book that Christian parents, homeschooling families can glean from and one that I highly recommend them to read. Natalie is a testimony to her parents and to the Lord for how He has graciously used her during her years of singleness, under the guidance of her parents. Even if you don't homeschool, it will allow you to understand what it means to homeschool - from a graduate's student's perspective.

    May the Lord bless Natalie as she contines to seek and serve Him in all areas of her life.

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