Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Book Review: A Place to Belong

The following book review was done by MommyMaestra guest contributor, Stacie Farias. All thoughts and opinions are her own.

Diversity... in Homeschooling?

It has previously been the case that my family was the only BIPOC family in our local homeschool community. Having homeschooled around the country and overseas, we have experienced different levels of welcome in different communities, but we have never wavered from our decision to homeschool because of the lack of diversity.  If anything else, the lack of diversity in homeschooling has motivated me further to speak openly about our experiences as a Hispanic family with our homeschooling friends because I have often felt that we, my family as well as the other BIPOC homeschooling families of the last decade, have been laying the groundwork for what will be a beautiful and dramatic shift in the homeschool population.  Working with Mommy Maestra and helping moderate the Hispanic and Bilingual Homeschoolers FB group, has given me a front row seat to the colorful influx of new homeschoolers that started on this journey (initially due to COVID but have decided to stay) and what an incredible sight it is to behold.  

A Place to Belong

Emerging as a leading voice in the BIPOC homeschooling community is Amber O’Neal Johnston, already a blogger, Charlotte Mason devotee, and homeschooling speaker, Johnston is now a published author.  Her book, A Place To Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond, is destined to take its place in the pantheon of great homeschooling books like Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching From Rest and Julie Bogart’s The Brave Learner.  Reading this book, I cried, I laughed, I felt seen. 

A Place To Belong is a blueprint for ANY family, not just Hispanic like mine or African American like Johnston’s, who is looking to add more to their homeschooling experience in terms of diversity but also when to use the usual books in the Western canon.  Just like her blog, Heritage Mom: Homeschooling Children With Mirrors and Windows, Johnston believes that parents should build, “a library that intentionally melds beautiful literature, contemporary stories, and books as mirrors and windows so children can see themselves, value and embrace others, and become part of a story that enlarges the borders of what is worthy, significant, and possible.” 

Johnston also provides a framework for discussing difficult subjects with your family, found in books and media.  Let’s face it.  We live in times where echoes of the difficult past of our country, continent, hemisphere, is played out on the news.  How do we talk to our children about topics like chattel slavery, racism, stereotypes, violence, etc.? How do we address divisive issues found in books, media, and in real life?  How can we build community and friendships with people who are different from us? Johnston tackles this and more in A Place To Belong

Johnston is also painfully and beautifully honest about her experiences as a homeschooler and what it is like to parent her children in a world that, at times, does not recognize their dignity.  There are too many instances in the book to name but several stand out in my mind that I will never forget including the incident with the hand-dryer on page 54, the list of questions on page 74, and specifically ALL of Chapter 9 “From Tragedy To Triumph: Bringing Hard History into the Home.”  Johnston’s retelling of her family’s experiences filled me with intense sorrow, righteous anger, and above all the motivation to do better for my family and my homeschooling community. 

Simply put, this book is remarkable.  As you can tell from the well-loved cover in the picture at the top of this post, it is something I personally have been waiting to read for a long, long time.  If you cannot afford this book, because we have to squeeze every penny out of our homeschool budgets, ask your library to purchase it for you.  Suggest this book for your mother’s book club (there is a discussion guide in the back). Look for it on Overdrive, Libby, and Hoopla or recommend your library purchase it digitally.  Borrow it from a friend.  But please, read it while you are picking out what books to use next year.  Read it while you are discerning how to raise compassionate and thoughtful children. Read it while you are overwhelmed with the endless barrage of difficult headlines and offensive memes and despairing over whether everyone will just stop being so mean to each other.  I promise, you will feel renewed.

“As I raise my kids, I will infuse in them all the beauty of who they are and where they come from while ensuring that they see you and your children as friends and not foes. I’ll give them windows into other families and their ways of life alongside the mirrors reflecting our own culture to them.  I will lead them to love themselves.  And I will teach them to love you.” - Johnston

Thank you for writing this, Amber! We are so grateful!

You can purchase your copy here:

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