Book Review–“The Organized Home Schooler”

I received a review copy of The Organized Home Schooler by Vicki Caruana from Crossway Books. I was pretty excited about reading this, as I’m always looking for new ways to organize, and because we’re in the midst of transitioning our school room to a new space. I have to say, though, I found the first 10 chapters to be pretty dry, and not particularly helpful. The “Heart Matters” at the end of those chapters (example–remembering that I’m a steward of the school supplies God has given me), seemed way too preachy and patronizing to me.

Six of those first chapters dealt with different things in our lives that need to be organized (thoughts, time, space, supplies and materials, paperwork, and family), and I didn’t take away much from them. There was an interesting section about public vs. private space in the home, complete with a list of ideals Frank Lloyd Wright had when designing spaces, (I really liked “the house shelters the family not only from nature, but from the world itself”) but I found that to be a more general home design issue than a home school one.

I did benefit from the last three chapters, however. These focused on the actual organizing of the school room (great suggestions!), a filing system, and a whole chapter of lists (I love lists!). This was all very useful information, and I definitely have some ideas to implement in our school–including a hard one to hear: “if you can’t keep it neat, you have too much stuff.”

I wish the whole book had been as useful to me as those last three chapters, but even so, the content of those three chapters was excellent and very helpful. I don’t know if I’ll actually become more organized, but at least I have some good ideas from another homeschooling mom who’s been there, and is succeeding!

Book Review: “The Church History ABCs”

Crossway Books recently provided me with a copy of The Church History ABCs by Stephen J. Nichols and Ned Bustard. I have to say, I am very impressed with this book. It gives a brief background on 26 important players in church history, from Augustine to Zwingli, and many well-known (and not-so-well-known) characters in between.

I love the idea of this book. I’ve been looking for ways to introduce my children to some other important names in the church, other than Martin Luther (of course), but there aren’t a whole lot of resources that touch on these men and women of faith. So, I was very impressed to find a children’s book that doesn’t shy away from names like Hippolytus and Tertullian–I have longed believed that if you start giving children information when they are very small, even if it seems above their comprehension level, they will pick up on it, and it will be that much easier for them to process more complex information when they are older. I was very happy to see that there were harder names, and challenging stories, and not just simple ones.

I will say that I was puzzled by the inclusion of some people–I don’t know if it’s just because I was unfamiliar with some of them (like Absalom Jones), or because I have never viewed them as church heroes before (like Lady Jane Grey), but there were names that didn’t seem to fit as well with the others. For the most part, though, I thought there was a good variety of people from different times and places in church history, mostly names that *should* sound familiar, but are often not quite remembered.

I do wish this book was written for a slightly older audience. This book follows the same format as many ABC books–while the focus is on one individual (A for Augustine), and there is a brief paragraph about his or her life, there is another goal to the book–teaching very young children the alphabet. So, in addition to Augustine, we also read that “A is for apricot, and apple, as well as Augustine–Africa’s ancient bishop.” This is great for preschoolers, but I would love something a little more in-depth for early elementary students, that does a little less alphabetizing, and a little more historical information.

Book Review: “The Big Picture Story Bible”

I recently had the opportunity to read David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible to my children. It was a huge hit! Even though I would consider a toddler/preschool Bible storybook, my older two (ages 7 and 6) were also riveted. One of the things they, in particular, enjoyed about the book were the questions interwoven in the stories. These, of course, are not a standard part of the Biblical narrative, but gave them the chance to think about the story, and then show their understanding of what they had heard.

The large pictures were especially enjoyed by my younger two children (ages 4 and 3). They found it easy to point out different familiar items, such as animals, people, and vegetation. My youngest didn’t want me to stop reading, and we read over 100 pages in one sitting. Granted, there isn’t a lot of writing on each page, but it still held her attention for a long time.

As a parent, I thought this was a good book. The stories, of course, are nothing new, but I did enjoy the way one part led into another, showing the connection between Bible stories. I did find the book to be an odd size and shape for holding and reading to a child sitting in my lap, but I made it work.

What I liked most about the book, though, was my children’s reaction to it. I started reading to the youngest two, and when I glanced up, I realized the 6-year-old had left her artwork to listen in, and a short while later, when I read one of the questions, my 7-year-old, who I didn’t even think was listening, chimed in with the answer. It is always a pleasure to see my children enjoying the Word of God!

Find out more about this book at

Book Review: “A Family Guide to the Bible”

A Family Guide to the Bible by Christin Ditchfield is a good resource, especially for people who are unfamiliar with certain parts of the Bible, or the history behind each book. After some introductory material, including the history, message and authority of the Bible, there is a summary of each individual book, which has the author, audience and setting, as well as the story, interesting trivia, and important words to know.

The only part of this book that I really disliked is the way Ditchfield boiled each book down into one key verse. While these are probably a good starting point for memorization, I don’t think you can simplify each book of the Bible to that point, and in some cases, the key verse given is questionable regarding whether or not it is even the focal point of the book.

I particularly liked chapter six, on how to study the Bible. I think the author made an excellent point, in that families should chose one translation of the Bible, and stick with it for the sake of consistency (although it is also mentioned that using different translations for comparison can be useful). I wish that paraphrase translations of the Bible had not been mentioned in the “choosing a translation section”–I truly believe that those versions of the Bible have no place in serious Bible study.

This book could be a very helpful tool for families trying to get a grasp on the big picture of Scripture, although my personal preference is a good study Bible.

For more on this book, visit

Book Review: “What He Must Be…if he wants to marry my daughter”

I was very excited to read What He Must Be…If He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Baucham Jr., because I’ve read an excellent book by Dr. Baucham before (Family Driven Faith), and I was curious to see what he had to say about helping your daughter find a good, Christian man to marry (even though I’m no where near ready to think about my two little girls ever getting married!).

I thought that this was another excellent book by Dr. Baucham. It’s a topic that I think a lot of parents either don’t think about or are afraid to approach. In a culture of “falling in love” and “if it feels good, do it,” fathers and mothers have to make a deliberate effort in guiding their children as they look at potential spouses, at instilling in their children what kind of qualities to look for before they marry, and in helping (their sons, particularly), cultivate these qualities in themselves.

I did feel that this book would be especially beneficial for fathers to read, although mothers can gain much from it as well. I also think that fathers and mothers would take away different things from their reading. I’m sure that my perspective on the book is much different from what my husband’s perspective would be were he to read it.

I especially liked the chapter entitled “He Must Be Committed to Children.” When dating or even newly engaged, I’m sure that the topic of children is far from many couple’s minds, and yet a man’s feelings about children, the way he treats them, and his ability to interact with them speak volumes for the kind of man he is, and are a good indicator of the future of the relationship. While it may not be a comfortable thing to consider or discuss, it is a crucial topic, and parents need to be encouraging their daughters to consider it, and raise their sons to care for children.

The only part of the book that really puzzled me was the conclusion. It seemed to focus entirely on race issues, and while I understand that that can be a very important discussion for some families, it seemed like it would have been better discussed in it’s own chapter, instead of a wrap-up to the whole book. It felt a little awkward having the conclusion focused so much on one topic.

You can read more about What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter at

Book Review: “What Does the Bible Say About That?”

Even though I use a curriculum I love, I’m always looking for supplementary resources to use in homeschooling. Although What Does the Bible Say About That? by Carolyn Larsen isn’t specifically a book for homeschoolers, it could be very useful to our family in our school Bible time, as well as useful to non-homeschooling families who wish to teach their children more about God’s Word during family devotions.

This book covers 300 topics, from abandonment to worship, and all kinds of stuff in between.  It’s written to kids and for kids, with a very down to earth style.  Each topic poses a question:  “What Does the Bible Say about Homework?” for example.  The question is followed by several relevant Bible verses, an honest, practical look at the issue at hand, and a personal challenge (Today I Will…Finish my homework, then turn on the TV, video game, or tunes. I will work first–play later!).  Many of the topics also feature a cute and humorous illustration that drives home the point.

Although this book is written directly to children, and is specified for ages 8-12, I would encourage parental involvement in the use of this book.  Some of the topics (dating, drinking, unborn children, to name a few) are a little heavy for eight-year-olds.  And even for the children on the upper end of the recommended age spectrum, I still feel this book would best be used in a family setting, to facilitate discussion, and encourage children to share their thoughts and feelings.  At the least, parents can use this book if their children have questions about the Bible that they themselves don’t have an answer for–there’s a pretty good chance they’ll find something here!

I think this is a great idea for a resource.  Of course, not everyone will agree with everything in the book, but at the least, it will get children (and hopefully whole families) to think about what they believe, and try to challenge themselves to live as the Bible commands us.

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