Book Review of ‘The Self-Propelled Advantage’ by Joanne Calderwood

As I have found book reviews from other home educating mums so helpful, I hope to be able to post regularly here throughout the year on books I have found interesting or benefitted from.

The subtitle of ‘The Self-Propelled Advantage’, by Joanne Calderwood is ‘The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence’. Mrs. Calderwood describes how her own experiences of homeschooling eight children led her and her husband to believe that children learn best when motivated to plan and complete their work through their own enthusiasm.

The author divides self-propelled learning into three aspects: self-learning, mastery and self-mastery (or self-control). She places an emphasis on aiming for excellence in everything, but with Godly character, rather than knowledge for its own sake as the ultimate goal. Although the biggest practical applications of the book will be for home educating families, Joanne Calderwood does address how it would apply for families who send their children to private or state schools.

I found this book helpful in seeing how I could guide our children to be more self-directed in their learning, and although the author produces her own ‘Student Planners’ for purchase from her website, I have easily been able to implement her ideas in our home by downloading free-to-print home education planners from other websites.1 It was also useful that Mrs. Calderwood discussed how self-propelled learning would look for children of different ages.

My son's Homeschool Planner from 2013

My son’s Homeschool Planner from 2013

2013 Reading Log

2013 Reading Log









I particularly enjoyed the chapter of questions and answers with the Calderwood children, including the three who are already at college, and the author’s insights into having a common sense perspective on family life and our attitudes towards the real point of education.

There were a few downsides I found to Joanne Calderwood’s book. The first was that a major chapter later in the book is devoted specifically to the American system of High School diplomas, SATs, and college applications. Secondly, the author talks mainly about children aiming to go to university, without mention of those who will go straight into the world of work. Also, if a family relied heavily on unit studies or little bookwork, this approach might not work so well for them. However, these downsides do not detract from the positive aspects of the book in my view, and I would definitely recommend it for parents who are looking for a way to encourage more self-motivation in their children’s learning and a less ‘teacher’ centred homeschool.

Secondhand copies of ‘The Self-Propelled Advantage’ are now becoming cheaper, but I feel that even though I had to buy my copy brand new, it was worth it.

1 The planners we have been using are from

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5 Comments on “Book Review of ‘The Self-Propelled Advantage’ by Joanne Calderwood

  1. Great post. I’m always looking for resources for homeschooling my children. My goal is to have my children be self motivated and take an active role in their education. This looks like a good resource.
    Amy recently posted…Seasoned Dried KaleMy Profile

    • Thank you Amy- yes, I really enjoyed the book- I should really look through it again, as I’ve got a bit slack on encouraging the children to be taking the lead on organising their schoolwork. Maybe it is something to aim for after the summer holidays 🙂

  2. Pingback: End of School Year Wrap Up - An Island Family By Grace

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