Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Loving the Little Years – Motherhood in the Trenches

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

I just finished an excellent little book – Loving the Little Years – Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic. Rachel is “in the trenches” with five children five years old and under. She writes from the perspective of a mommy with her sleeves rolled up and working hard – not from one kicked back after raising her children and reminiscing about the “good old days!” Having four girls and a son including a set of twins, she and I share a heart for mothering as well as very similar family dynamics. As she described many Jankovic scenarios, I was reminded of many Jobelette “in the trenches” days about a decade ago!

This little 102 page book contains twenty essays that address  the heart of the mother before anything else. There are no chore charts, meal plans or checklists. This may strike young mommies as odd. Don’t all parenting books contain tips from the experts to make life with so many munchkins more manageable? Consider this quote, which still  spoke conviction into my heart though my 5 under 7 are now 15 down to 8…

“When Scripture says to bring children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is not talking about finding the most effective way to organize them. This is a very easy trap to fall in, because the more children you have the more difficult it is to keep them clean and clothed and fed. Just the basics of life are a full time job. … What you are doing is finding a way to contain your children, control them and keep their sin from making you look bad. But you are not actually dealing with anything. The fact that your children have learned to go with the household flow and do their chores does not in any way offset the fact that they spend all their available free time sulking in their room. Christian child rearing is a pastoral pursuit, not an organizational challenge. The more children you have, the more you need to be pastorally minded… If you are being a parent who is pastorally minded, you will stop whatever it is that you are doing to go see how your daughter is up in her bedroom.”

I call such bedroom checks “eternal time,” a term borrowed from a dear friend of mine. In taking time away from dinner prep, math homework or laundry, we’re focusing on the eternal living souls of our precious children. We are tending to our little lambs, making sure their hearts are ok. Eternal time can be terribly inconvenient – especially when there are lots of lambs to tend to and they are all hungry. Rachel makes the point that, if you are blessed to be the mother of many young ones, you must make special effort to see each child as an individual. Schedules and charts are fine and needed, but they can give a busy mother a false sense of security or success. Children quickly pick up that peace in the home matters more than peace in their spirit when the schedule is too highly valued. One observation that I have, as a mother of older children as well as a couple of littles, is that the older they are, the more eternal time they need. Teens and tweens don’t, by any means, have it “all figured out.” They also don’t go to bed at 8:00 allowing you to complete unfinished tasks. Thus, as the littles age, you get to sleep through the night which is wonderful, but you often have midnight counseling sessions 🙂 Mothering gets easier in some ways and harder in others.

Rachel, in each of her essays, addresses the heart of the mother before the behavior or management of children. Unlike children, there is one thing that absolutely must be organized:

“The kids can be running like a bunch of hooligans through a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster, and yet, if organization and order can still be found in my attitude, we are doing well. But if my attitude falters, even in the midst of external order, so does everything else.”

I could not agree more. And that organized attitude starts with knowing where to find our peace!

Other topics you’ll read about in this little book are child training, the “bulk” effect (which comes with having many young ones at once), the physical scars of motherhood, little girl emotions, being “overwhelmed,” “me time,” and more! In reading it, I’ve been reminded of many “mothering in the trenches” moments, and I plan on sharing a few of them in the weeks to come.

Will You Be My Friend?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

As if “Facebook friending” weren’t enough, I have another friend request. My techie-hating self figured out how to do the “Google friend connect” thingy on my blog. It’s not that I care to have “followers” although I’m sure it appears that I do. There may be a better way to have blog subscribers. I have no idea. So why did I do it?

I’d like to do some curriculum reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and a requirement for that is to have a Google friend connect on my blog. My assumption is that I’d also need a few people that actually subscribe. So… if you read my blog would you consider being my friend? Just look to the bottom of my sidebar on the right and click “join.” You will then be walked through the steps of setting up a Google account if you don’t already have one.

Thanks so much, dear friends!

True Treasures (book review)

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Back in November, I agreed to be a “Gabby Mom.” I can just hear the chuckles from those who know me well.  Most of you know I’ve been gabby well before November so I’ll explain.  🙂

The Gabby Moms are a group of homeschooling mothers who’ve agreed to review materials from Eternal Encouragement Magazine, which until just last month was called TEACH. Before last fall, I’d never heard of this publication. Lorrie Flemm, the owner of the magazine, “friended” me on facebook. Because I love receiving homeschooling encouragement in my news feed and we shared many homeschooling friends, I accepted. From there, I have enjoyed getting to “know” her through her positive, edifying posts that encourage me in my roles as a wife and mother. When I saw she wanted bloggers to be “gabby moms” to review her resources, I enthusiastically agreed. Monthly, I’ll receive a product, review it and then link my review to the Gabby Moms site.

Shortly after Christmas, I received the first TEACH publication to review entitled True Treasures  – 10 Years of TEACH Magazine. What a lovely little book! It arrived just a few days after Christmas and I felt like I’d received a late gift. This little book, which came wrapped in a glittery blue bow, was exactly what I needed after an extremely tiring Christmas season. As the new year became inevitable and I lacked the energy to even “undecorate” our Christmas-y home, I knew I needed inspiration. Let me tell you – I received just that! See if you aren’t inspired just from the following snippets contained withing this resource:

If we are faithful, we will reap the treasure in Heaven that we sow here on Earth.” (page 17)

Never let yourself get so busy or focused on what you didn’t get done that you don’t enjoy what you did get done.” (page 63)

Some days, being a godly mother is all we can accomplish, and it is a BIG accomplishment.” (p. 17)

Put your first and best energies into things that matter eternally.” (page 38)

If I am to be an instrument of God’s peace, I must have a quiet heart.” (page 12)

Remember you can’t do it all yourself!” (page 64)

As you plan, pray, prepare and then proceed, you will have the joy of finishing those things you’ve dreaded for years.” (page 20)

The truth is there are no little people or little jobs when you are fulfilling the work asked of you by the king!”

If you aim at a bull’s eye you might hit it, but if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it every time!” (page 65)

Our husband’s heartbeat must be our heartbeat.” (page 30)

No’s should be no’s!” (page 33)

As you can see, I received INSPIRATION to parent well, love my husband and children, keep our home running as smoothly as possible and work on academics and character building in our home school! I received words of wisdom to focus on the eternal and not the temporal, set goals, and limit the unnecessary. I was encouraged that little things matter and that some days all the little things I do add up to be BIG! I was also encouraged not to allow the busyness of homeschooling to take priority over my marriage, and I was reminded that I am incapable of being a godly wife, mother or homemaker on my own. No! I need the Lord!

True Treasures is indeed a treasure. It contains over 100 pages of short, inspiring articles. While I had not heard of Eternal Encouragement until recently, I immediately realized that I am familiar with many of its authors. I was delighted to see submissions by Marilyn Boyer who spoke several years ago at our state’s home school conference and MaryBeth Whalen, a somewhat local friend and author! I very much enjoyed the short, readable articles… just the right length to read before turning out the light at night (usually a double spread – about 5-10 minutes!)

My local friends, I am happy to pass my copy around! If you’d like your own, use the coupon code GabbyMom at check-out at www.homemakingwithteach.com for a $4 discount. At the same address, you can download a free PDF of TEACH magazine. If you like the freebie, you’ll love True Treasures!

I received this product for honest review from TEACH Magazine as part of The Gabby Moms blogging program. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

To Train Up A Child (Book Review)

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Michael and Debi Pearl are authors of To Train Up A Child (TTUAC), a little book on child training and run No Greater Joy, a ministry to parents. They have a huge following amongst Christian home-schooling families. Their child-training resources focus on consistency, the use of “the rod”, and training children before disobedience occurs. They claim not to advocate child abuse, stressing the need to never discipline in anger. They emphasize the importance of cheerfulness both with parents who discipline as well as children who receive chastisement. There is a huge emphasis on building sweet family relationships. Obviously, much of their advice is good. So, how is it that recently Lydia Schatz, a seven year old girl was killed at the hand of her abusive parent who claimed to follow the Pearl’s teachings? Sadly, this is not the first case.  Sean Paddock, a four year old boy, also was killed several years ago by parents influenced by principles read in TTUAC.

When I first read these stories, while saddened, I was also a little angered. I saw blame-casting and also felt a little condemnation. Am I guilty too because I own books written by the Pearls? Are these “witch hunters” accusing me of being authoritative and harsh simply by association? I own many of their resources and have read No Greater Joy newsletters for over a decade. We live in a society that is very quick to blame and very slow to accept responsibility. I do not believe the Pearls are legally responsible for either of these murders. This post, in defense of the Pearls, has some valid points. Certainly, there is no resource other than the Word of God that is infallible and Christians need to be discerning and prayerful while reading any book. I can “eat the meat and spit out bones” and so should these folks! However, over the past few weeks, my opinion about this has changed as the Lord has prompted me to reread TTUAC, pray and reflect on my fourteen years of parenting.

In my recent study of TTUAC, there are three teachings that I find harmful. Yes, I could find  three things I disagree with in anything! However, I believe these teachings could, at worst, lead to abuse or, more likely, damage parent-child relationships. It is probable that the Pearls address the concerns I have in publications outside of TTUAC. However, I am looking only at their book TTUAC for this review because for so many people, it is the only Pearl resource they will read. I am no longer angered by the publicity this case has received. Instead I am hopeful that through the deaths of these children, more examination will occur. While I still don’t believe the Pearls are legally responsible for the deaths, they are accountable, as Christians in ministry, for the influence they have on so many parents who look to them for guidance. Parents, who want the best for their children and seek the Pearl’s advice, will read that:

1. Parents Must Always Be Consistent

Page 60: (On spanking an infant to train him to go to bed without crying): “Those who are MOSTLY consistent must use the switch too often. Those who are ALWAYS consistent almost never need the switch.” … “Just think! A child who never begs, whines or cries for anything! We’ve raised five whineless children.”

Page 62: (On teaching children not to whine): If you gave it a 99% consistent try, you would not be satisfied with the results.”

Page 11: Every small child will have one or two times in his young life when he will decide to take hold of the reins. The stubbornness is profound… If you are consistent, this test of authority will come only one, two, or at the most three times in each child’s life.

Page 23: (On preventing anger building in a parent) “… Discipline them immediately upon the slightest disobedience.”

Page 80: (On tantrums):Once he learns that the reward of a tantrum is a swift forceful spanking, he will NEVER throw another fit. If you enforce the rule three times and fail the fourth, he will keep looking for that loop-hole until you have convinced him it will not work again. If a parent starts at infancy discouraging the first crying demands, the child will never develop a habit.

When my twins were born, I had 4 children under the age of four years old. It was during this season that I began subscribing to No Greater Joy newsletters and studying TTUAC. I was in a season of intense parenting and remember feeling so overwhelmed and so sleep-deprived. Those feelings were legitimate! I also felt burdened because I wasn’t consistent in my child training. How could I  discipline my squabbling toddlers while simultaneously nursing two babies? I truly felt that their good behavior depended completely on my consistent training and I knew I was failing in that area. I simply did not have the energy to sleep train my babies, potty train my two year old and character train my preschooler with 100% consistency or sometimes even 50%. I felt they’d lack character due to their close spacing!

I thank my Lord for showing me early in this season that such consistency was impossible. I remember praying and asking Him to help me train my children with more consistency and He revealed to me something that prompted me to put this Pearl teaching away. In the midst of my tears of sleep deprivation and stress I came across a precious scripture:

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:10

“God gently leads me, ” I thought. “Gentleness, at this season is needed more than consistency.” The Lord revealed to me that Michael and Debi Pearl (and countless others I knew who followed their parenting advice) never parented four children in under four years. Having one toddler at a time makes a world of difference in how consistent you can be. The word “gentle” came to mind when I wondered if I should train… not discipline, but train. The Pearls recommend placing forbidden objects within reach of toddlers and mobile infants and “train” them not to touch using the rod. For curious infants reaching for something hot, they recommend allowing natural consequences. Often these recommendations seemed far from gentle.

“Having to always be consistent” is a ball and chain to a mother who has on her plate more than she can handle. In my case it was impossible. However, outside of “never discipline in anger,” consistency is key to training success according to the Pearls. God showed me that my desire for consistency was robbing me of joy. He showed me that He’d given me “more than I could handle” so that I would give him my load. He led me gently and I praise Him for that! He also showed me that my children weren’t doomed for character failure just because I could not train with the consistency the Pearls recommend.

2. Parents Must Spank Until Submissiveness / Repentance Occurs

Page 80:  “It is his purpose to intimidate you and make you feel like a crud pile. Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same… If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again.”

Page 46: If you have to sit on him to spank him, do not hesitate. and hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. Your word is final.” (Now, to be fair, Pearl also says on page 47, “There are always some who act in the extreme and use what has been said about legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality of children.” He then goes on to warn against abusive behavior. The above is also in reference to an older child.)

There is much in TTUAC that emphasizes the need for a child to submit and repent before spanking ceases. Yes, Pearl says not to be abusive. However, for strong willed children, repentance may not come. Some children may not ever, in a spanking session, submit.

When my son was 18 months old, he learned to jump out of his crib and I decided to train him to stay in his new toddler bed. I put him to bed and kissed him goodnight and closed the door. He got up. He received a swat. I put him down. This went on for a while. He wasn’t “getting” it. He wasn’t repenting. He knew I wanted him in bed. He didn’t want to obey. He was absolutely “out of sorts” and I knew he’d had enough. I looked at his sweet little face, picked him up and took him to my rocker. We sang and cuddled. I told him I was sorry for being harsh and he fell asleep on my chest. The next night I put him down and he got up. His room was childproof. I told him goodnight and later found him asleep in his closet. He received no spanks. The third night he just crawled up on his bed and went to sleep. I didn’t win. He did. However, in the end, we both did! I now wish I’d never even tried to win. Nathan was not submitting or repenting and it did not appear he was anywhere close to doing so when I discontinued his “training.” The story of Sean Paddock comes to mind and it grieves me. Like my son, this little boy continued to get out of bed. His parents wrapped him so tightly that he suffocated. The Pearls, nowhere in their writing, suggest wrapping a child so tightly suffocation occurs. They do recommend “winning,” and being consistent. My guess is that Sean’s parents were trying to be consistent and yet discontinue spankings, not kill their son. The consequence in this case was horrifying and heartbreaking.

3. The Pearl Way Works!

The Pearls make countless claims in TTUAC that following their training methods always works. In rereading this book, there is very little mention of the role of prayer while in the midst of a training session. As a matter of fact, in the 109 – page book, I saw only one reference to prayer while training and it was not in the context of praying for wisdom in parenting but rather asking the Lord to use the rod to do its job:

(page 46) “When the time comes to apply the rod, take a deep breath, relax and pray, “Lord, make this a valuable learning session. Cleanse my child of ill-temper and rebellion. May I properly represent your cause in this matter.”

I believe this omission of prayer is one of the most dangerous aspects of TTUAC. The Lord may at any time lead parents to parent differently than a manual suggests. The Pearls present child training with a common sense approach: The child does this… the parent does this. When a child rebels…  the parent spanks. If a parent is consistent and uses the rod like this… children will behave beautifully. It sounds simple. However, parenting is complex. There is not a formula to raising well-behaved children. Sometimes the Lord may lead us to extend grace even to a rebellious child. Sometimes spanking is the wrong tool. I know the Pearls are not against prayer, but a book that ignores its role in a discipline or training session bothers me.

There is much said in TTUAC about the mother who is driven by her emotions and that not being a beneficial parenting trait.

(page 37) “The pitiful look of betrayal in his poor little eyes just breaks her suffering heart. It would hurt her too much to obey God in training up her child. Because of her fear of personal emotional suffering, she neglects the rod… To set aside one’s own feelings for the purpose of objectivity regarding the good of the child is the only true love. If a mother should smother her baby while kissing him, she has not loved him.”

I agree that emotional parenting isn’t a positive thing. However, Mr. Pearl is not a mother. This is a statement of the obvious but I think is important to remember when reading any book that involves motherhood as well as fatherhood. God put in mothers a sixth sense when it comes to caring for babies and children. Sometimes that sixth sense tells us to intervene or “give in.” The Holy Spirit speaks to mothers through our nurturing instincts. These instincts are God-given and while they can lead us astray, do not always! A practical husband may not understand and may view us as weak when in fact we are responding exactly how God has wired us.  I believe this is one reason Titus 2 tells women to teach other women how to love children. While TTUAC is co-authored by Debi Pearl, this portion is written from Mr. Pearl’s perspective..

I am not advocating arguing with husbands. I am not advocating giving into your child’s every whimper. I am not advocating being characterized by inconsistency! I am saying that always denying a mother the privilege of comforting her crying baby when training can be damaging. Sometimes, yes, it is necessary but there are no rules here. Husbands and wives sometimes need to pray for wisdom together while training. The following explains my point:

Eventually, we have had to train all of our children to sleep through the night. This has never involved spankings in the Jobe house but it has involved some amount of “crying it out.” When it comes time for this training, my husband takes the lead because I absolutely cannot check on my sweet babies without comforting (nursing) them. He puts them down and when they awaken, he puts them back to sleep. Usually they protest because they want me. However, after a night or two the nursing-in-the-middle-of-the-night habit is broken and we are all sleeping better. Our 5th child, however, took longer than a night or two. On her third night of sleep training, she cried for about an hour. I told Daniel I felt like I needed to go to her. Daniel reminded me (being practical) that we might “undo” two nights of training. However, I had “that feeling.” We prayed and Daniel agreed that I should tend to Sarah. I am so very thankful that Daniel and I sought the Lord instead of Michael Pearl! Sarah had no symptoms other than crying – no fever, tugging at her ears, or loss of appetite. However, two days later, at a wellness check up, we were informed she had double ear infections!

In our parenting journey there is no doubt that we will make mistakes. However, asking the Lord for guidance is sure to prevent some of them! The Pearl child training methods may work. Some of it is Biblical and does work. However, the claim that perfect training always works is misleading and can cause a parent to feel inadequate or incompetent when promised results aren’t apparent. It also can encourage a mother to ignore the Holy Spirit prompting her to “make an exception.”

My Conclusion:

Much of TTUAC speaks of honorable and wonderful things – relationships, love, and well-behaved children. However, without the Holy Spirit, this book could be very dangerous.  Imagine an impressionable mom, looking for parenting advice that works. Her children are out of control and she desires more than anything to train them in righteousness. She must be consistent. She must chastise until her child is submissive. She doesn’t trust her intuition. She consults TTUAC when conflicted instead of praying for guidance. It is possible to physically abuse a child and not be angry, especially if you feel you are doing it for his good. Yes, Pearl warns not to “cross the line.” However, with so much emphasis on the need for consistency in training, that bit of advice could easily be forgotten during a discipline session.

Please read this from an acquaintance of Lydia’s family.

Article from WORLD Magazine.

Over a decade ago, I turned to TTUAC because I needed help with training and consistency. The book did help me in these areas. Upon reflection, however, I realize I was adversely affected by the same teachings that had some positive results. With each parenting memory I’ve described, there was an internal struggle. I felt “wrong” for rocking my son when he refused to sleep in his bed. However, I know the Lord led me to comfort him. My husband and I felt conflicted when sleep training our baby. Yet we later realized the Holy Spirit was leading us. Sadly, through my TTUAC reflections, many memories were brought to mind where I was too harsh and failed to parent with the grace my children needed.

TTUAC does contain potentially dangerous information. At least two children have died at the hands of misled parents who went too far. It grieves me to consider how many more have likely been physically abused or even just denied the comfort of a mother’s loving arms. While I do not think Michael Pearl intends for his teachings to lead to abuse, I can clearly see how reading TTUAC could influence parents to sin or at least exasperate their children. I am not calling for a Pearl book burning. I do still believe that Christians should “chew the meat and spit out the bones” with any resource. Doing so, however, requires wisdom. So many parents who seek parenting advice are young, inexperienced and lack discernment. (I know I was!) Seasoned parents should direct young parents to resources that emphasize the need to pray for wisdom continually and are written in a gracious manner. This is a response Pearl wrote to his critics. I do not know when he wrote it or the circumstances behind it. I do know it is this tone that has kept me from readily recommending his materials over the years. I do think this writing style is not necessarily representative of his heart. However, an inquiring mother would be better off reading encouraging and edifying resources that leave her inspired to discipline her children in righteousness – not afraid of failing in consistency, convinced she must chastise until repentance or condemned for acting upon her God-given desire to show mercy toward her babies.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

There are many Christian parenting resources that, while not perfect, are written without the authoritative tone of TTUAC. Consistency is emphasized but not more so than prayer, grace and gentleness. My all time favorite is The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson.

Blessings to you as you parent your children and train them in righteousness.