16 Dec 2009

Books that changed things

Have you ever had a realisation that the book that you're reading is going to change something in your life forever? I don't mean the Bible, because that changes us with each fresh reading, but other books.

I have. I my case, I have found that the books concurred with my husband's and my extant views on the topic, and the book really served to flesh out the bones of our existing idea, serving as an instruction book for how we were going to get ourselves to where we already knew we wanted to go.

These are mine. Would you like to see them?

The Ezzo's philosophies on child-rearing are controversial, I know that, but when my dear sister gave me this book when I was pregnant with Jemimah I realised that we were speaking the same language. To my husband and me, a child is valuable member of a loving family, not the centre of it. So often we had seen children whose parents' whole lives revolved around them and who grew up self-centred and shallow. With Preparation for Parenting we found a way to ensure that the same thing didn't happen with us.

With the help of this book, Jemimah, who was not an easy baby, slept through the night at 8 1/2 weeks of age, and was doing so every night by 12 weeks. That's no mean effort!

The beauty of a book, you know, is that you can pick and choose what parts of it you want to use. If you don't agree with everything written, you have every right to just ignore it. Some of you won't like this book. For us the book fitted what we already believed like a glove, and we loved it!

I suppose that it comes as no surprise to you to find Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake on this list, but at the time it was given to me by my friend Kaylene I had had no plans at all for educating my then three year old daughter at home. We had a great State school just down the road, I was working full time and loving it, and life was good.

Then whoosh! Along came Charlotte Mason and life as I knew it was changed forever. This Victorian educator was offering exactly what I wanted for my child's education, and I was hooked from almost the first page. Here I found a Christian liberal education full of music, art, languages, geography, nature, walks in the country and books!! Lots and lots of books!

Later I found the Ambleside Online website offering a Charlotte Mason online. A little bit of Australianising and our homeschooling adventure began. This is the book that started it all.

My husband and I have always had fairly fixed ideas about what we wanted our home to look and feel like. We used to call our style 'earthy minimalism' because we didn't know how else to describe it.

We discovered Wabi Sabi Style in Keibunsya in Kyoto - my absolute favourite bookshop anywhere, by the way, and this book has done more to influence our home and the way our environment looks than any other.

Wabi sabi has become trendy since this book was published in 2001, and with its new found fashion has come a considerable layer of Zen Buddhist overtones that play no part in our Christian life. This original book had none of this, just lots of tips to help us make our home into the Peaceful Home that it is today, a home embodying the essence of Japanese design in country Australia.

Sorry the pic is smaller than the rest, but I don't own this book, so I can't scan it for you. What the previous book did for the inside of our home, Susan Irvine's Garden of a Thousand Roses did for the outside. This story of how Susan established her beautiful garden in Malmsbury, just an hour or so from where we live, inspired much of the garden that I see outside my window as I write. Copiously illustrated, I still turn to Irvine's books for inspiration, names, ideas and advice.

I am interested to see that Garden of a Thousand Roses is back in print. It's now on my wishlist!!! The local library will be glad to have their copy back, I am sure!

I have never felt so humbled, so inadequate as a parent, as when I read this book for the first time. Written from a uniquely Reformed and Biblical perspective, Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children in Dependency on the Spirit by Joel Beeke is about caring for the souls of our children and the benefits that result from doing so.

More than any other, this book encouraged me to evangelise my children and to plead for their salvation, never giving God rest until they are brought safely into his fold. It taught me to teach my covenant children to plead with God on the basis of his promises to baptise them with the Spirit of grace and to grant them regeneration, repentance, and faith.

This wonderful book is available as a free e-book here if you would like to be inspired as I am. I think I'd best reread my copy today as well!

So that's it then - a potpourri of my old friends. These books have gone a considerable way to defining who we are as a family. I hope you've enjoyed your journey through the bookshelves of our life.

Do you have any life changing books of your own?

Care to share?


  1. I might have to have a look at your wabi sabi book sometime :)

    prep for parenting. glad it worked for you...glad there are other biblical (as well) philosophies however!

    Interested in the covenant one... off to follow the link.

    all my love,

  2. Great to be able to get back on!
    Great post, Jeanne,
    Not an Ezzo devotee. Love For the Children's Sake. Totally unco-ordinated and useless with home deco and gardening but LOVE the look of these and of any pics I've seen of your house and garden. (Oh, that would be a great name for a magazine!)
    I would love to read the Beeke book. My computer is old, as you observed when I couldn't load the blog, and when I get any unknown file type which that one is, I can't open it.
    Any possibility you could post the actual web address.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your life changing books post. I have read some of them and would love a look at that roses book "O) as well as the convenant one (I will be checking out that link) sounds excellent. One book that was life changing for me was Created to be his Helpmeet. Controversial also but I was at point in my marriage where I wanted out and this book changed the way I thought RADICALLY. Again, the foundational thoughts were truth and I needed to hear it. Definitely a tool the Lord used to save my marriage. There are other books too that had an impact but that one was the most "dramatic".
    Thanks for the post!

  4. Off to read the children and Covenant theology one. . .

    I read "For the Children's Sake" oh. . . about 15 years ago. . . when I was homeschooling my sil/bil and we had hit such a rough spot. It really was a catalyst to renew our hearts and attitudes. (And can I say that I'm glad I had a chance to "practice" homeschooling before I had children!)

    We utilize the outline from Ambleside Online, too -- it is a fantastic resource. We have four boys ages 9, 10, 12, and 13. They are all in the same "core" but we have differing expectations for each of them. We'll be starting with year six's Greeks and Romans in January.

    Prep had a huge impact on us as well. Went through it with our first, thought it was fantastic, and even facilitated the classes. Then. . . well. . .

    Long story very abbreviated. . . over time we came to believe that the teachings in Prep and related materials very much do NOT reflect our theology (Reformed, Covenantal) and instead very much reflected the "Christianising" of a man's ideas. Especially in the materials for toddlers and older children, the place and power of the Gospel in families and children to change lives is missing.

    Anyway. . . not saying this to start a debate or disparage any families who utilize Ezzo materials. Just suggesting that at some point you may want to re-evaluate the materials and ideas in light of Reformed and Covenantal theology. Theology that reflects the grace of the Gospel has really changed what our family looks like.

    Grace and hope,

  5. Have never even heard of most of the books you mentioned, but love For the Children's Sake, and just re-read it for encouragement at the end of last summer.

  6. I may be the only CM-er that hasn't read For the Children's Sake but it did change my sister's life. Like Pauline, I was also sent (topsy-turvy in a good way) from reading "Created to Be His Helpmeet." Highly recommend to anyone no matter their situation.

  7. Talking about books, I am about to make a substantial book order, like around 50 books. I have looked at The Book Depository...the books are quite well priced, with free delivery. Can you recommend another book source for the classic child read alouds? Also can you recommend your top ten chilren's learning to read French books? A lot to ask, but if you have a chance it would be much appreciated!
    Hope you receive your tea set!
    Butter Fly

  8. I really like 'For the Children's Sake'. It was 'A Charlotte Mason Education' by Catherine Levison that I picked up at the library, several years ago, that had me rethinking about the way I was homeschooling.

  9. Butter Fly, Your wish is my command.

    Most people speak highly of The Book Depository. I used Amazon for my recent order because the dollar is good against the greenback right now. I think either would be good. Don't forget to try Borders online and Fishpond before you order though!

  10. Not a Ezzo fan either - but did get some useful hints from their 'Training kids God's way' program. The book I've found most beneficial in more recent times for raising my children is 'Dare to Love' by Heather Forbes.

    When I first read 'For the children's sake' about 15 years ago I was a bit disappointed (others had praised it very highly) but have reread it since and think it is a wonderful place to begin to think about what you want for your child's education. The first books I bought about home educating were 'Hard times in Paradise' - David and Linda Colfax and 'Better than School' by Nancy Wallace and they were very influencial in making me want to try to create something like the enviroments they created for their families. Also they were autobiographical and I love a story!

    I like the sound of earthy minimalism - maybe I should look at that book. (But actually I have too much stuff to honestly call myself a minimalist.)

    I do like Susan Irvine's books and have read 'Garden of a Thousand Roses' twice. I think her book, 'Garden at Forest Hall' is even better though. My favorite gardening author is Jackie French and her book 'The Wilderness Garden' is the book that has most influenced my gardening. (And John Seymour's 'Self-suffincency' which I think was the first book I ever bought myself. (as an early teen))

    Books that I think have changed my life: 'The Way Home' and 'All the way Home'. and the magazine, 'Above Rubies'. (Have you got me in a little box yet? lol)

    'The Primal Wound' by Nancy Verrier and "I dared to call Him Father' by Bilquis Sheikh.

    I enjoy your posts where you share about books. Thanks.

  11. It is lovely to get to know you a bit, Silvia! When are you going to start blogging so we can see what you look like?!!

    No, I don't have you in a box. I don't think any of us fit stereotypes very well. After all I too am inspired by Above Rubies, but I don't think I fit their stereotype at all!!

  12. Blogging is not on the cards just yet - I can't imagine having the time! How do you do it? And really I wouldn't have enough to share to keep you interested.

    I just asked my daughter if I fitted the Above Rubies sterotype - she said in some ways yes and in some ways no. But then my son called out yes. I agree with my daughter's assessment. I don't think anyone fits a sterotype very well either.

    Seeing someone does round out the 'knowing' them. I asked my daughter for a visual discription of me - she said "short, long brown hair and a mum - that should do it." Does that help you?

  13. My cousin's homeschool had a major turn around after reading For the Children's Sake, and she pops it into anyone's hand who is thinking of homeschooling.
    As someone else said, I've read it, and because of such rave reviews came away a bit flat...maybe because I have heard and understood many of the prinicples way before reading it?

    You are going to think this is pretty funny, but Anne of Green Gables did a LOT for me when I was growing up, and I still turn the phrase "It's not what the world holds for you, it's what you bring to it" over in my mind in trying situations!

    Butter Fly

  14. Mine go way back to the early-mid 80s. Raymond and Dorothy Moore's Home Grown Kids, [and others by them] then Home Schooling for Excellence [can't think of the authors, but the eldest son raised Goats and went to Harvard] and finally Marva Collins Way--an inner city "teacher" [in quotes because she was a sub in public schools--no teaching credentials] who, like CM, believed in rigorous books from the start. She insisted on manners, an ever-expanding vocabulary and a desire for excellence. Those, at least, are the education themed ones!!!

  15. Oh, yes. . . Like Butter Fly recommended, the Anne books are always wonderful when you need some mommy-inspiration (that, and the Psalms.)

    I think you'd also like the books by Clay and Sally Clarkson. I've also found the podcasts from http://www.thatmom.com to be bits of encouragement right when I needed them. (I'm friends with one of her daughters. . . you can see the good fruit. . . and since she's been homeschooling for decades, she definitely has a good feel for how theory meets reality and God's grace covering it all.)

  16. A great list of books. I have a couple of the Ezzo ones in storage. I just take what I can use and don't worry about the rest.

    Off to have a look at the covenant children book. Sounds super helpful and interesting. :)

  17. Hopewell - the authors of 'Homeschooling for excellence' are David and Micki Colfax who are also the authors of 'Hardtimes in Paradise' and not David and Linda as I had in my previous post.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...