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Called to Influence: A New Approach to Life, Education and College Admissions Review by Krystin Corneilson

Jeannette, Austin, and Natalie Webb
Aiming Higher Consultants

Called to Influence is an extensive collection of columns or articles focused on the goal of raising children who would influence others rather than being influenced by culture. The book is specifically aimed at homeschool families who are prepping their children for college. In fact, the authors are veteran homeschoolers--teacher and students--so their viewpoints are relevant and balanced for an entire homeschool family. I received an ebook version that had been printed out and placed in a binder.

The book starts off with an article by Austin, a homeschool graduate. He offers a broad overview of setting high goals and finding the right college. He says to set the expectations bar high for your student(s), but notes that pushy, "artificially accelerated education" (SAT prep in kindergarten, for example) does not produce a successful, functioning adult.

Leadership is a recurring theme throughout the rest of the book. Jeannette shares that she required her children to complete a leadership project in high school and gave an example of what that would look like. She talked about the importance of mentors (parents and otherwise) in the development of leadership.

"Raising gifted children the right way" was perhaps the most interesting subject covered, because the hints offered really applied to all students, from the benefits of sacrificial service (outside their giftedness), finding something difficult to tackle, and relating in the adult world.

Getting down the to the nitty gritty, there is a section on navigating high school by eliminating distractions and learning through world experiences, and then separate chapters on the focus points of each high school grade. There are additional articles on building an academic profile, handling standardized testing, and choosing the best high school activities.

The last third of the book is dedicated to the college process: developing a college resume, picking and applying to a college, selling yourself to colleges (in person and on paper), and actually filling out the application (paper or online). There are separate chapters on essays, interviews, and getting recommendations (for the student) and the counselor letter (for the parent teacher). The final column is a college preview, and that's for both the student and parents.

Many of the articles recommend additional resources and the complete listing of suggestions are in a dedicated section in the back of the book.

Pros: Because the book is written by homeschoolers, I trust the content. Also, and this might seem trivial, but at the end of each article, there was space left to encourage the reader(s) to jot down some notes. Since it's a guidebook for parents and students, I thought that space was thoughtful. I also appreciated the handy resource section.

Cons: The letter of introduction is in the back of the book. Because of the unorthodox presentation of the book (articles in a binder), I believe the introduction would have been better as a preface or forward. I also think it would have been appropriate to include the author bios in the front as well. When I first started reading, the tone was almost preachy and I thought, "Oh, no! Jeannette sounded like she didn't ever make a mistake in her teaching." However, as I kept reading, she admitted shortcomings and described how she handled challenges--and I liked her even more!

When I first opened this book, I was expecting checklists of "to do's" and "don't do's." I didn't expect it to challenge my preconceived notions of raising a successful adult. Well, it did challenge me--in a good way! I am going to share this book with my hubby and teen daughter and use the resources as we make our way through the high school-to-college journey.

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010