great friend, I recently had the opportunity to review an audiobook I've been eying for the past year or so. Raising Real Men, by Hal and Melanie Young (read by Hal Young) was an absolute delight.
On their webpage, there is an endorsement by J. Michael Smith, President of HSLDA, that says, "This is a book that every family should have..." Prior to reading the book, I thought that was hyperbole. After listening to the book, I think it is only a very, very slight exaggeration.
Here is what I would say about it:
- If you homeschool boys, this book is an absolute must read. It should go on a list of books that you re-read at least annually. Probably more often. I may start listening to it once a month. Seriously.
- If you have boys, this book is a must read. Yes, the authors homeschool. But very little of the content is homeschool-exclusive.
- If you only have daughters, and you homeschool, this book is probably still a very good read. Particularly if you think your daughters are ever going to be interacting with boys. And especially if Mom didn't have a houseful of brothers.
- If you only have daughters and you don't homeschool, you may not get much out of this book. Unless of course, you plan to interact with (and help your daughters interact with) boys, especially as they get into those teen years. In that case, this book would probably be a great one to read, but maybe you don't need to own it. Buy it, read it, and then pass it along to a friend who has sons.
- If you are non-Christian and are opposed to any Christian messages, well, then you might want to skip around a bit. Because this book is definitely written by a Christian family.
I'm giving this book about a hundred stars, on a scale of one to five. Seriously. GET THIS BOOK.
I grew up with brothers. I grew up in neighborhoods that tended to have very few girls. My Barbie doll dated GI Joe -- a real man. Ken was for the flighty Barbie dolls of those silly girls at school. And I grew up to have sons. Four of them, in a row. Followed by one little girl. (No offense intended, if your Barbie dated Ken. Really.) So maybe I understand boys a bit more than your average mom. Or maybe I tend to forget some pretty important things about boys, and I need Hal and Melanie to remind me.
Did I agree with absolutely everything they had to say? Certainly not. I agreed with an awful lot of it though.
Some highlights, or why I think this book is so fantabulous:
- First off, they make no claims that they have found THE one right way to raise boys, or if you don't do it their way you are not a good Christian. No magic formula, no one perfect way. They admit to making mistakes, they recognize other families will make other decisions.
- They have six sons. A couple are grown, some are still at home. The youngest is about the age of my youngest. It is clear on every single 'track' of this book that Hal and Melanie have serious, personal, real experience in raising boys.
- These boys are real, and the Youngs tell us that. You hear stories about the boys trying to boss (bully) younger siblings. They have sons who don't understand why they should have to change clothes more often than every couple of weeks. They have boys who can, and do, turn everything -- including sandwiches -- into a gun. For half of the stories, I was thinking "have they been watching my family?" For most of the other half, I was thinking, "Oh, so that is what I have to look forward to!"
- They also have two daughters, who (I believe) came after all the boys. Knowing how many "So you finally got your girl?" comments I have heard, I can just imagine if there were two more big brothers in that mix.
- They have struck an incredible balance on so many issues. They are certainly teaching that boys need to do boy things. But they are also coming down pretty solidly that boys should be helping with the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and laundry. They suggest making it sound more masculine -- so their boys serve as chef, for instance. Something I was already doing, which proves their ideas are terrific, right?
- And they have a realistic balance on things like college. I know the currently fashionable thing is to push that homeschoolers can only become entrepreneurs, and that college is expressly forbidden in the Bible. The Youngs say that you can't just dismiss college. We need good, strong, REAL men going into fields like medicine and law. Do you really want a future where there are no Christian doctors, no Christian engineers, no Christian CPA's? Some fields require college. Period. But college isn't for everyone either.
- They take on other touchy issues too, drawing a nice, realistic balance.
- One thing I really love is how they draw from the experiences they had a children too. It helps with that whole balance thing. 'Melanie's parents did this, while Hal's parents did that. We chose something a little different. All three were great approaches.'
- Being written by BOTH Mom and Dad, there were just so many wonderful insights. I'm hearing Hal say things that my husband has told me and I didn't quite believe. Hearing it from someone else affirms that Dale is on the right track. And I'm hearing Melanie validate the struggle I have with understanding some of these boy points of view. And Dale is getting the female perspective from someone besides me.
- They are funny. Especially if you parent a boy. I would imagine, though, that even if your children are all girls, some of these stories would hit home.
- And this isn't a long, hard to read book. It is actually a pretty easy read, but with a lot to think about.
To end an already too wordy review, let me tell you about some:
- I started giving the boys to do lists for school. Dale has pushed that (or a schedule) forever. Now all four boys know what is expected of them in order to be "done." Wonderful. I knew I should. The Youngs helped me to see why.
- When we hit the grocery store and only have a dozen or so bags, we had been leaving the cart in the store and dividing up the bags between all of us. I'd insist on taking a bag or two, just like the boys. Now I'm letting them take care of me. I have always made a big deal about their assistance when we're shopping, but now I'm backing off and allowing them to do more.
- For whatever reason, boys cannot walk quietly. I deal with the normal, too high, volume of everything around the house. Except their tromping through like elephants crashing through the underbrush makes me crazy. "Walk! More! Quietly!" is always met by totally blank stares. Thanks to the Youngs, they now know that they need to be commandos when they are indoors. Cover a lot of ground quickly, but quietly. Can't let the enemies know where you are by stomping around. It hasn't worked overnight, but when they revert to their normal slamming down the heels walking style, I say, "Be commandos. Please." and it changes. They GET that. It is MUCH quieter in my house.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free for the purpose of writing this review. No other compensation was received. The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.