HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Jumping Ship: What to Do So Your Children Don’t Jump Ship to the World When They Get Older
Authors: Michael and Debi Pearl
Publisher: No Greater Joy Ministries Inc., 2007
Related website: www.nogreaterjoy.org
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading Level: for parents
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Pearl, Michael and Debi. Jumping Ship: What to Do So Your Children Don’t Jump Ship to the World When They Get Older (published in 2007 by No Greater Joy Ministries Inc., 1000 Pearl Rd., Pleasantville, TN 37033). Michael and Debi Pearl have been well known speakers and writers, especially on the subject of parenting, in the homeschool community for a number of years. Their book To Train Up a Child has sold over 500,000 copies, and they publish a bimonthly magazine No Greater Joy. According to the back of this book, “There is a troubling trend that is rising up in some of the ‘back to basics’ homeschool crowd. Their children are discontent and rebellious, jumping ship as soon as they think they can survive without the family–some as young as sixteen years old.” The material in the book is taken from several articles that Michael wrote to address this issue in No Greater Joy Magazine in 2006, with some additional material, including some advice from his daughter and son-in-law. First of all, I wonder how prevalent this phenomenon is. The book seems to imply that it is almost rampant. I know a lot of homeschool families, and among those I know, it seems rather rare. Of course, the Pearls evidently get a lot of letters from families who have experienced the problem, so their view of the situation may be colored by that. In any event, this kind of thing does happen, whether often or not, and so is a legitimate topic for discussion.
However, I always come away from reading a book by the Pearls with a dichotomy of feeling. On the one hand, I usually feel as if I have been given a sound tongue lashing, a beating over the head, and a general raking over the coals. As a preacher of the gospel, I do recognize that there are times when plain, bold, forthright speaking (or writing) is needed. Yet it should not all be “reprove, rebuke,” but there needs to be some “exhort” as well. Parents who are having trouble with a child need some encouragement, yet Michael writes, “My goal is not to encourage you, but to inform you of your failures and to call you to repentance before God.” The implication here is that if children go wrong then the parents are necessarily always at fault. “If you keep your kids on the cutting edge of experience, they will feel sorry for those who do not have their captain and are not on their ship. They will never jump ship….When they are trained right, they walk right.” I have known of parents who seemed from all the evidence available (even the child’s own admissions) to have done everything right–everything the way the Pearls say that it should be done–yet still have a child who “jumps ship.” There may well be other influences in a child’s life besides the parents’ upbringing. Yes, when parents are failing in their responsibilities, they need to be reproved and rebuked, but those parents who have tried to do their best and still have a stubborn and rebellious child do not need to have additional burdens heaped on their already heavy load.
This may not be what the Pearls are trying to say, but I am left with the impression of “this is the way we did it and it worked for us; so if you don’t do it the way that we did it then you are a bad parent.” Without making excuses for obvious failures, I do believe that each child is unique and each situation is different, so there is not just a “one size fits all” guarantee of success. Also, Michael’s rants against “religion,” while on target when applied to mere shallow or formal religion as opposed to a true relationship with the Lord, fail to take into account that there is such a thing as “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. Making it clear that I do not necessarily agree with every observation made or every suggestion offered, on the other hand I also feel that the Pearls do have a lot of wisdom to offer based upon their maturity and experience. The chapter on providing entertainment for children and the need for community is excellent, and the admonitions about “What to Do When Your Child Has Jumped Ship” could be very helpful in trying to reestablish a good relationship with a wayward child. In addition Gabriel Anast’s advice to young people about fornication and pornography is very good. Like any other work by fallible human beings, we can look for that which is in harmony with truth and is therefore beneficial for us, while rejecting that which we do not find applicable.