Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T For Your Kids

How well do you really know your kids? What has God shown you about who they are and who they will become? He has sent these children into your home at this specific time for His glorious purposes. Indeed, you have been invited on the adventure of a lifetime, a journey on which you will see walls fall, seas parted, and giants slain. You don't need special skills or training for this journey—you need only to seek God and hold tight to His mighty hand! As with so many things, the first step to having a heart for your children is knowing your heavenly Father. As you seek daily to share His heart for your children, keep this inspirational book close at hand.
 (from the Apologia website)

I received How to Have a HEART for Your Kids by Rachael Carman to review last month and have been carrying it around in my purse ever since. It is a sturdy, hardcover book of compact enough proportions that it is not awkward to transport in my (albeit large) handbag. I am one of those people who always has to have something to read, wherever I go, or I might just feel like I am wasting precious time waiting in a line, an office, or in my car. Give me a book, however, and I will happily wait for an hour or more without a complaint. My ever-present book has saved my sanity on slow-doctor's-office-visit days more than once.

So, once I recieved this book in the mail, I decided it would be on this month's reading list (you can see my reading lists on my sidebar to the right) and I have been enjoying it in small, but inspiring, bits and pieces ever since. In case you are not familiar with the author's name, let me introduce you briefly. Mrs. Carman is a homeschooling mother of seven blessings and has been married to her husband, Davis, since 1986. The two of them purchased Apologia Ministries a while back (I will assume that if you have homeschooled at all, you are familiar with Apologia...they produce our favorite science texts EVER!), and have been expanding its selection of products, from solely science-related materials, to include encouraging and inspiring products for homeschooling parents as well.
One excellent product from their new Parenting Resources section is the How to Have a HEART book I have been reading lately. This straightforward, easy to read book is full of solid and much needed advice for those who are already homeschooling as well as those who are merely considering homeschooling. There are many books on homeschooling available these days (which is a nice change from when I started and the pickings were slim!). Sometimes, it seems like there are too many to choose from because they all have different viewpoints about what the most perfect way to homeschool is.

This book is not like that. Mrs. Carman focuses on what God has said about your relationship with Him, your relationship with your husband and your kids, and how what you do impacts your kids' relationship with Him. In this way, her advice applies to any style of homeschooling and will be helpful to any parent contemplating taking the home educating plunge, even those with very small children who don't necessarily have to choose a homeschooling style yet (maybe especially to those early home educators because the huge impact of this small book will have longer to make a difference!).

The book is divided into an Introduction, five chapters, and an Epilogue. Each of the chapters discusses a part of the H*E*A*R*T acrostic in deeper detail, and each chapter is followed by several instrospective questions for you to contemplate during your reading or prayer time. The questions are also excellent ones to consider discussing with your spouse.

Here is what each of the letters stand for:
H – Have a Heart for the Things of God
E – Enrich Your Marriage

A – Accept Your Kids
R – Release Them to God
T – Teach Them the Truth
Overall, I have to give the author kudos for writing a book that encourages such soul-searching about the true mission and reasons we each have for homeschooling our children. Above all, our focus should be God, not academics, and I know that I have often gotten distracted by the long lists of supposed "need-to-do's" for academic subjects and lost sight of the really important stuff like my kids' relationship with God, each other, us (as parents), and how they view themselves in light of what the Father feels about them (He LOVES them and has a PLAN for their lives). I believe that overall we have succeeded in guiding our children towards discovering what the Lord has in store for them (though it is early days yet for the younger ones), but even feeling as if we are somewhat on the right track, I know there is always room for improvement. The day I think I know it all is the day I stop learning and when we stop learning, well, what is there left for us (or for God to do through us, for He is the only one who truly knows it all)? This book has a lot you will learn from it.

Here is a question from the "R" section of the book (Release Your Children-Chapter 4) that helped me with my planning for Tex's school year: "Has God given you a vision for what He has planned for each of your children? How are you preparing them for the future God has planned for them?" It made me think hard about whether he (Tex) is getting enough Bible time, or have I placed too much emphasis on math or science? It also made me consider what strengths and gifts I see in Tex, and how I can help him learn to utilize those strengths, as well as learn to compensate for areas he needs more work in (don't we all need work in many areas!).

I'd like to share some of a passage that particularly affected my way of thinking about my children (not that I think I view them unappreciatively, but this paragraph really opened my heart to seeing the impact I have as a mother, and the enormous responsibility). It is from Chapter 3-Accept Your Children:

     "Could it be that you or I have given birth to an answer to prayer? That will make you think. What are you urgently praying for? Godly government leadership? A cure for cancer? Are you praying for a new generation of dedicated homeschool families? Missionaries to take the good news to the lost? Are you praying for the movie industry to portray more Christian themes? Fashions to become more modest? Advertisers to have more integrity? On a more personal note, is there a relative for whom you have prayed to recieve Christ as Lord and Savior? It's possible that the answers to some of those prayers are already here in the form of a child, a teenager, or a young adult. Are the answers to these prayers growing under your roof?" (pages 95-96)

Wow. Do you feel more important yet? I do. I am humbled by the responsibility that has been placed in my hands. It kind of makes the endless hunts for supplies, shoes, and cherished toys look a little different. How I act, what I do, what we choose to teach and focus on WILL influence my children's ability to live out the plan the Lord has laid out for them. I am going to pray for more wisdom and patience this week...big time!

This book is filled with choice tidbits like the one I shared above. I felt it was an easy and worthwhile fact, it is probably something that should be taken out once a year around planning time and set next to the bed so it can be perused, pondered, and the admonitions and ideas shared in it prayed over again and again.

The only thing I think I wish I could add to the book was a bit more personal sharing of how the author and her family handled specific experiences. I didn't realize until I was halfway through with the book why I felt a bit less involved than I sometimes do with a book (apart from the very thought-provoking questions and deep Biblical lessons , because I suddenly came across (in the book) exactly what I was looking for...the author sharing a detailed story, giving specific information about her own choices (in this case, she shared about her date nights at a favorite restaurant). My usual sort of homeschooling book is very chatty and shares actual events and writer-specific techniques, rather than generalized ideas. I especially enjoy the ones where home educators share about their school days and their "insider tips" (that's one reason I love blogging!). This book has less of that, and more generalized advice. It is more like an inspirational retreat for parents (specifically home educating ones) than a homeschooling how-to book. 

Now, as I said at the beginning, the fact that the book is this way is very useful because ANY style of homeschooler can read this book and glean something from it (though it is written to a Christian audience). I LOVE that. However, if you are seeking many specific stories about particular methods or tips for homeschooling, this is not likely to satisfy your craving. There are some stories that offer some more specific and detailed examples of what the author and her family chose to do (such as supplementing their Bible memorization by participating in Awana), but they are not the norm, since the author is (I think) desiring that you, your husband (or wife, depending on which you are!), and God have a talk (or listen, on your part) and decide what is right and best for YOUR family.

That said, I can definitely recommend this book wholeheartedly, especially if you (like me) need something that will help you focus on the truly important part of homeschooling...preparing our children's souls for eternity. What a responsiblity. What a challenge. What a blessing.

  • If you would like to learn more about this book, try reading the Introduction HERE. You can view the Table of Contents HERE.
  • Grab a cup of tea and settle in to read some more reviews about this book from other homeschoolers HERE.
  • You may order How to Have a HEART for Your Kids at Apologia's website HERE for just $13.00. It's a homeschool retreat in a book, so line up a babysitter, organize your planning gear, and head on over to your favorite quiet place for some frutitful (and necessary) time with the Lord.

Blessings to you and yours,


I hope this review blesses you. Reviewing this book blessed me. I received this book for free in return for an objective review of this book. This review contains my accurate opinion about my experiences with reading this book. If you have questions about anything I have said or refered to in this review, please feel free to contact me.

1 comment:

Tim said...

I've felt bad for not getting around to reading some of my fellow crew members blog posts. I'm glad, however, that I waited. I loved this book, but as time goes by, I tend to become forgetful. Reading your review was a great reminder to me about what I liked about this book and what I need to change because of reading this book. Thanks for a great review and reminder.


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