I might be shunned by the home school community after this post. I mean, I purchased this book based on the handful of years' worth of highly and positively charged reviews of my fellow "living book" lovers, but . . . I'm gonna say it because I have an innate need to be honest about books. . . this, in my humble opinion, was no living book.
There, the stewing of my heart is finally out of my mouth.
But I cannot stop here. I must tell you why.
Living books are not merely textbooks that an author wrote in a conversational tone, which seems to be the trend in newly published books for home schools. Anyone could do this. But an inspired education is like attending a lush banquet for the mind, not a family potluck. You see, the analogy here depends upon the rich content of the feast, the fine quality of the foods presented, not merely because it's being presented by someone [who seems] familiar. We do not merely provide our children with a wealth of information because information alone is not an inspired education. If the knowledge presented does not stir the mind, causing the child to bind himself to the material, it matters not if he can recite it with precision, if he can recite it at all. It cannot be said enough: instruction must be married with delight, it must quicken the heart and mind of a child, or it is merely vacant facts, here today and gone tomorrow.
Simply put, the child must care.
Children are reasonable beings, persons of mind and heart and conscience like ourselves. And children are intelligent. They know when someone does not take seriously their ability to understand, talking down to them in simple terms that dull the mind and offend the heart. They also know when someone clothes a load of facts and vocabulary with a first person narrative and calls it "living."
Simply put, my children loathed this book.
And so did I. Where is the delicate poetry of her blog in this?
Because of my kids' collective knee-jerk reaction to cringe and shudder whenever I pulled this book from our shelves, and in order to continue our study of physical geography, I had to change the way I used it. Instead of reading aloud from the text, I scanned each chapter and then found related and topical materials at our library and in the free domain. Our favorite of all was Charles Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why, a truly living book that inspired my children to conduct their own experiments with soil and water and ice and...
Now, before you call for my neck, I don't entirely discount Ann Voskamp as an author. Her heart is in her work; one cannot miss that she cares. But the depth and richness conveyed through the follow-up activities for Christian service is wherein lies her strength. Her dear heart is revealed in her love for God and His creation, and I do fully respect and appreciate this. It is why I cannot part with this book. It's a great "faith-in-action" resource that inspired my children to generosity through service that connects them to their larger Earthly home. And, if you feel at all the way I do, you'll at least agree with me that this kind of resource is infinitely valuable.
So, no. You cannot have my book, but I don't blame you for trying.