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Notable Books

Notable Books | Books for educating and disciplining children reviewed by Susan Olasky

Give Them Grace

Why do so many Christian parents revert to a works-based system when it comes to childrearing? Why do we spend so much time piling on rules and teaching the law? Give Them Grace teaches, "Christians know that the gospel is the message unbelievers need to hear. We tell them that they can't earn their way into heaven. . . . But then something odd happens when we start training the miniature unbelievers in our own home. We forget everything we know about the deadliness of relying on our own goodness and we teach them that Christianity is all about their behavior and whether, on any given day, God is pleased or displeased with them." In this important book, a mother and daughter challenge the thinking found in most Christian child-rearing books.

Famous Figures of Medieval Times; Famous Figures of the American Revolution

These wonderfully detailed and historically accurate paper figures provide a way for children to expand historical learning with creative play. Each book includes 10 full-color paper figures and 10 colorable ones, printed on heavy card stock. Clear markings show where to insert brass brads so the figures can move. The books include a short biography of each historical figure and a reading list. The Revolutionary War book includes Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Daniel Boone, and a continental soldier, along with Jefferson, Washington, Patrick Henry, John Adams, Franklin, and Revere. The Medieval Times book includes Justinian, Theodora, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionhearted, Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, and Leif Erickson.

What We Believe, Vols. 1 and 2

This excellent, Bible-rich worldview curriculum in four hardback volumes begins with God (Who He is, What He is like, His works of creation and redemption). Volume 2 looks at what it means to be made in His image. Each lesson presents a "big idea" and uses stories, discussions of art and literature, definitions, exposition, and Scripture to explore that idea. Whether the lesson is "Who are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?" or "Can you trust your feelings?" portions will be appropriate for children from elementary age through early high school. The books make clear that a Christian worldview grows out of our relationship with Christ and not from a set of abstract principles.

Look at My Eyes: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Melanie Fowler has a master's degree in special education and had worked with children on the autism spectrum. Despite her experience and her Christian faith, she felt overwhelmed when her own son received a PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified) diagnosis. She wrote this primer so that other parents could benefit from the things she learned to help her son. You'll find frank advice about getting a diagnosis, choosing the right early therapies, and avoiding quacks. Fowler provides honest insight into grieving, strategies to deal with behavior problems, and advice for handling insurance companies. The book contains insights from her husband Seth, who provides a father's perspective, and a directory of helpful websites and materials for at-home activities.

Spotlight

In Sex, Mom & God (Da Capo Press, 2011) Frank Schaeffer continues his "God Trilogy" (WORLD, Oct. 13, 2007), in which he lays out in too-graphic detail the sexual and other foibles of his famous father Francis, and some of his own. He combines these sharp details with much more soft-focused memories of his sainted mother Edith. As Schaeffer describes his mom (and more or less provides a gloss for the entire book): "God suffered by comparison to my mother."

Schaeffer can be witty and ironic and, like the stopped clock that is accurate twice a day, some of his observations hit their mark. However, the tone, which vibrates between shrill and creepily oedipal, undermines the book's readability and credibility. In the end, Schaeffer's open, unsubstantiated, visceral disdain for theological and political conservatives makes Sex, Mom, & God little more than a textbook example of the ideologically driven close-mindedness he professes to hate.

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these notable books on The World and Everything in It.

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