Ironically, the number of "getting started in homeschooling" books can be just as daunting as the multitude of topics through which each one claims to guide newcomers. Many of them start the same way—the author's personal story of how their family got into homeschooling, reasons for Christians to homeschool, the bankruptcy of the public school system, the varieties of curriculum available, learning styles and personalities, finding help from local support groups, etc.
A Field Guide to Home Schooling is no exception to any of these rules, but Christine M. Field's contribution to homeschool literature is exceptional in other ways. For one thing, she doesn't try to be exhaustive, which allows her in some ways to present more information; while you won't learn everything about classical education, unschooling or the principle approach, for example, you'll learn enough to know which methods you want to investigate further, thus saving you a lot of time. Plus, though the book is about 11 years old, references are more or less up to date and include web addresses.
Field's book includes one of the most impressive resource guides, in fact, amounting to 64 pages in the back of the book and covering homeschool resources, organizations and applicable laws in all fifty states. For each publisher and provider, she offers descriptions giving readers a good idea both of the philosophy of the company in question, as well as the range of products they carry. In the state law section she includes contact information for each states education board, as well as a summary of that state's homeschooling regulations.
Some readers won't care too much about the section on how to obtain government vouchers, but pretty much all homeschool parents will be interested in the chapter on avoiding burnout, and mothers are sure to appreciate the exhortation to husbands to be actively involved in their children's education while helping to preserve their wives' sanity. Field's section on socialization is one of the longest and best-presented anywhere, addressing the often-cited but too little explored idea that homeschool students actually have more opportunities for positive socialization than public school kids.
There are better practical guides for beginning homeschool families (How to Home School for example), but there are few that do a better job defending and presenting the ideological reasons for homeschooling while not ignoring practical concerns. Because it isn't too long, however, A Field Guide to Home Schooling isn't likely to overwhelm those who aren't entirely sure what they're doing yet. Field continually encourages readers, and for those as yet uninitiated in the often overwhelming world of home education, this is possibly the best asset of all.