As the principal of the “School of Smooches,” I’m always interested in learning different ways to encourage both my wife and my children in their academic activities. Even though it’s my wife who does 99.9% of the teaching (and more than earns her title of Director of Family Operations), I try to be on the lookout for ways in which I can help. When I received Vicki Caruana’s book The Organized Home Schooler from Crossway’s Home School Book Review program, I was very interested in learning how we could be more organized.
In her book, Caruana goes over the importance of organization. She points out areas where organization could be of benefit such as Thoughts (ch.3), Time (ch.4), Space (ch.5) Supplies and Materials (ch.6), Paperwork (ch.7) and Family (ch.8). The chapters dealing with supplies and paperwork contained the most practical information , offering advice on how best to file away your school items. She offers good suggestions on keeping the organizational system simple (K.I.S.S.) and making sure to involve everyone. If everyone isn’t on board, the system won’t be as effective.
Sadly, this is the extent of worthwhile nuggets from the book. The vast majority of the book is spent trying to convince the reader of the importance of an organizational system and comparatively little amount of space actually being organized. As I read through the book, I felt like saying “Ok, I get it. You think organization is important. Now where is the practical advice?”
The worst part of the book, however, was not the browbeating of “you need to be organized” but rather the spiritual implications the author made of NOT being organized and the complete misapplications of Scripture (such as her comments on Proverbs 31) in order to defend her view of organization. According to this author, an individual who is “anxious, confused, full of despair, fearful, [and] even angry…[is] experiencing the consequences of a disorderly life.” (p.18) Further, in one of the end-of-chapter Check Lists, Caruana states: “I realize that my children and the success of their homeschool experience depends upon my level of organization.” (p.20) Caruana ties disorganization together with unbelief and simply not trusting God. Still further, Caruana gives a list of reasons why someone might not be as organized as they could be in their schedules and in response to these reasons states, “If any of these statements or others like them describe your reaction to the word schedule, I suggest you prayerfully consider your motives for saying them.” (p.48) Even a person’s choice of “escape” is targeted by Caruana’s misinterpretation of Jesus’ invitation to “come to me and I will give you rest.” She says, “God asks that we come to Him for rest—not to television or the Internet or even a good book. This isn’t to say that these things are off-limits, but don’t use them as an escape. God is our refuge and strength. When we choose to ‘veg out,’ we leave room for the enemy to corrupt our thinking. So as you look to rejuvenate, focus on the things above by going to God’s Word.” (p.108) Trite comments like these abound throughout the book that the author does not expound on or explain just what this is supposed to look like. Apparently, the organized homeschooler should only find “rejuvenation” in reading his or her Bible and praying, a concept that I find nowhere in Scripture.
Ultimately, while the book has a few things of value, they are so wrapped up in a warped view of Scripture as to not be worth the time trying to sift them out. Many homeschool teachers are perhaps so stressed out about having the perfect schooling system, that for them to read this book that ties their spirituality to their lack of organization would certainly do more harm than good. A much better book on homeschooling would be “Homeschooling for the Rest of Us” by Sonya Haskins. (1/5 stars)
(Thanks to Crossway’s Homeschool Book Review program for providing a review copy of this book.)