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The Well-Trained Heart Review by Kathy Gelzer

By Ray and Donna Reish
Training for Triumph Publishing
6546 E. US 224
Craigville, IN 46731

The title of this book, The Well-Trained Heart, immediately brings to mind another book with a very similar title. I will let the authors explain from their front notes: "Lastly, a word about the title. We began taking notes for this book several years ago, some thoughts here, some examples and ideas there. It had a working title of The Relational Homeschooler, which I never thought adequately described this heart training approach. Around that same time, I read Susan Wise Bauer's helpful book, The Well-Trained Mind (WTM). After reading the WTM, I thought to myself that the homeschooling community needs information about not only training the mind well but also training the heart well--then realized that our approach to homeschooling is just that, the well-trained heart. So, in titling this book The Well-Trained Heart, I in no way wish to diminish the WTM's message but rather desire to supplement it. Let's help homeschoolers in training the mind well and training the heart well. And if these two should ever be incompatible, let's focus on the heart." I have read The Well-Trained Mind, and I think Susan Wise Bauer would agree with these sentiments.

The authors of this book have seven children and have been homeschooling for 24 years. The introductory pages of the book include a short introduction as well as "front notes" and a description of every member of the Reish family. Reading this helps you understand the authors' perspective and gives credence to their premise. The Well-Trained Heart was written in response to an "unbalanced focus on academics."

The book is divided into four sections and 14 chapters. (The table of contents lists 15 chapters. This is a typo.) The four sections are "An Introduction to the Well-Trained Heart," "Hindrances to the Well-Trained Heart," "Well-Trained Heart How To's," and "Homeschooling With The Well-Trained Heart Approach." Plenty of endnotes provide documentation for every chapter. I would have appreciated the inclusion of an index for ease in finding specific information.

A common motif in the book is little boxes of text that serve as reminders for the reader. For example, a "Recipe for Rebellion" box includes these four "ingredients": Rules Without Reasons, Rules Without Response, Rules Without Repetition, and Rules Without Relationship. Another clever one is titled "Obedience Math." It shows four "equations," one of which is Obedience + Delay = Disobedience.

I appreciated that the chapter on discipline has lots of specifics and examples. Many parenting books on discipline are heavy on theory but light on application. The Well-Trained Heart corrects the balance. The authors are proponents of spanking and give plenty of Biblical explanation for this method of discipline.

There is a whole chapter devoted to training children to be others-oriented. Another chapter focuses on teaching children to be empathetic. These two topics are not unrelated, and it goes to show how comprehensive the book is as well as how heavily the authors weigh this particular topic.

"Socialization and the Well-Trained Heart" is a chapter that discusses the two extremes regarding socialization--total isolation and "normal" socialization--and the dangers of each. I would characterize the Reish's perspective on this topic as conservative. There is a lot of wisdom here and practical suggestions on how to achieve an appropriate, non-offensive level of protection.

A common theme throughout the book is that heart training begins with mom and dad. It is not a simple matter of taking new approaches with our children. We as parents need to check our own attitudes and actions first. I appreciate this important element being included in The Well-Trained Heart.

Personal stories make this book real, and practical suggestions make this book applicable. I think heart training is universally important to homeschool parents. The Well-Trained Heart will be a big help to parents working on this aspect of parenting. One especially nice feature is the discussion/application questions at the end of every chapter. These questions are meaty, thought provoking, and pointed. The book lends itself beautifully to a homeschool book study group. It would also be a great book to read as a homeschooling couple. What a wonderful way to involve the husbands more in the homeschool adventure!

Product review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2009