Can you happily and comfortably welcome the unexpected visitor into your home? Or are you more inclined to keep them at the door, trying to block as much of the interior of your home from view as possible? It is the latter group to which Vicki Caruana writes in The Organized Home Schooler.
I must confess that I was a bit put off by this book from Chapter 1 in which Ms. Caruana sought to pinpoint where her reader is on the journey to an organized life. While it was likely not her intent, I felt as though she wrote the book from a pedestal rather than as a mature friend, sitting across the table, sipping tea and sharing wisdom. I felt judged rather than loved, and this seemed as though it would be the case no matter where one was in the organizational journey.
Books on organization flood the market, and I have only read a handful of them. Like any book, it is important to know what the author is trying to accomplish before deciding if it will be helpful to you. Ms. Caruana sums up her goals like this:
"This book doesn't outline our system for you. It presents a way of thinking that will encourage you to seek out what will work for your family..." (pg. 9, emphasis added).
That being said, this is certainly not the only book to which you would want to refer. The Organized Home Schooler very generally deals with organizing your thoughts, time, space, supplies and materials, paperwork, and family. It does not offer many specific helps/guidelines and when it does, they are often too specific to be helpful. (Her filing system appears to resemble something that you would find in a doctor's office.) There also isn't much written to help you figure out how to manage homeschooling alongside everyday household responsibilities.
Personally, I found this book rather overwhelming. At the end of each chapter, Ms. Caruana seeks to guide her reader into a state of greater organization by providing a checklist for the mind, heart, and body. These checklists seek to help the reader believe rightly, think rightly, and act rightly. However, she often asks readers to accomplish tasks for which she did not clearly outline a process and merely expects them to pray for guidance. (i.e. Save money for a special purchase or project. Determine how long it should take.)
I appreciate the way that she sought to look to Scripture and apply it to homeschool organization though it seemed, at times, that some verses may have been taken out of context in an effort to make her point. She rightly encourages families to prayerfully consider how God would have them organize their home and seeks to give general information to assist along the journey. She also attempts to remind her reader that organization is ultimately a heart issue and involves your belief system as opposed to merely being a matter or know-how. However, Ms. Caruana fails to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ and His saving work to bear on the reader's shortcomings so some may be tempted to wallow in condemnation and self-pity rather than experiencing the life-changing grace of God.
While I think there are a few helpful tidbits in this book, I have read several other books that have been more faithful to Scripture, gracious, and beneficial. If you truly want to examine your heart in the matter of organization, I would recommend The Organized Heart: A Woman's Guide to Conquering Chaos by Staci Eastin. Ms. Eastin's writing is grace-filled and compassionate. If you are ready to evaluate your priorities, Shopping for Time by the Mahaney women is a great choice. If you are looking for a practical how-to resource, Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman is an excellent start regardless of family size or educational preferences. (You may consider waiting for a good sale on this title or signing up for the Vision Forum newsletter and coupons if you're tight on money. ;) If I could only choose one of these three books with which to start, I would choose the latter.
*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!