Thanks to some work I do for the Catholic Writers Guild, I sometimes get copies of books by Catholic authors. The two books I’m sharing with you today came to me that way, and I’ll admit that I was delighted. They had been on my purchase list for a while.

Both of them are billed as “homeschooling books,” but I am here to modify that a bit. If you homeschool, you will certainly find them helpful. But, my friends, I am not technically in the homeschooling ranks anymore, since we’re sending our eldest to kindergarten in the fall, and I just know these books will become treasured friends on my resource bookshelf. I don’t think this makes me weird, either. I think we parents, especially those of us with school-aged children in our lives, have a need for idea-generating resources around us, inspiration that can be opened up and picked through again and again.

Haystack Full of Needles, by Alice Gunther (who is one of the nicest, most lovely people in the blogosphere), is subtitled “A Catholic Home Educator’s Guide to Socialization.” I have read raves about how it sets the record straight on the myth of how you’ll get that much-needed and much-talked-about socialization time in if you choose to homeschool. I agree with those reviews, but as someone who is both intimidated and very enamored with the homeschooling, I found in it much more than that.

Hope. Yes, that’s right: hope. Whether you send your kid to the public school down the street or have discerned some other educational option, this book has suggestions that you can implement and weave into your life. It’s not as much about your children and you as it is about the larger community, about foster the Body of Christ within the context of children playing together. It’s about community, in the sense that we seem to have forgotten in our world of Twittering and texting. It’s about stepping back from the rush and embracing the cup of coffee and the companionship of other people.

I find a lot of hope in that, because I find that in the counsel Gunther so beautifully shares throughout her book, I have an answer to a longing of my own, the longing for support in more than just educational pursuits or faith pursuits or homemaking pursuits. Somehow, she braids all these, and more, together, telling stories of her own adventures, strewing seeds along the path for you to water or leave…as you choose.

In His Image: Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home, by Mary C. Gildersleeve, has a subtitle that almost sent me packing: “Nurturing Creativity in the Heart of Your Home.” Now, folks, I love creativity. I write for a large part of my work. I understand that creativity is about more than arts and crafts and that we all have our own brand of it.

But…there was still some hesitation, because I know that while I define creativity loosely and openly, most others don’t…and this smacked of an artsy sort of book.

What I found in this book, instead of a detailed mandate to get myself working on being better at the elusive arts, was encouragement and support for an area of life that I treasure. Gildersleeve approaches creativity from the standpoint of a gift from God, and she gives a host of resources, ideas, and general tips that even an uncoordinated, intimidated dunce like me can make use of.

It’s because she gets me past myself, and because she is so gentle. She stresses the importance of the arts and gives practical ways to incorporate them. You don’t have to have an hour a day to pull these things off; you don’t even have to have a plan (though, of course, that does help).

Once again, we have a book that’s written for and marketed to homeschoolers that the rest of us should snatch up and check out. There’s wisdom here worth gleaning and sharing and using!