Saturday, June 30, 2012

Living Large -- A Review of "Large Family Logistics" by Kim Brenneman

My sweet mother gave me a copy of Large Family Logistics: The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family for my birthday -- at my request, so it wasn't a hint on her part! *wink*

I was really curious about this book, though I thought I was probably getting ahead of myself. After all, though we hope the Lord blesses us with many children, we currently only have one child and one-on-the-way! I wondered if any of its contents would be applicable now, or if I'd have to stow it on the shelf in the hopes that one day I'd actually need it.

However, Kim opens up the preface with this:

"Many years ago, I was the mother of one small baby boy in a little rental house. My husband and I were committed to having me stay at home to raise our little boy. I remember being embarrassed because of the dust, laundry piled up, and dirty dishes, and I scrambled to make something for supper just minutes before my hard-working husband came home. Why couldn't I handle the basics? My shortcomings as a homemaker frustrated me... I was rich compared to women throughout the ages, and I knew it. What was wrong with me?"

As soon as I read that, I knew I was in the right place!

I really appreciate that Mrs. Brenneman starts out with Scriptural examples, attitude, and self-discipline. This is not a gimmicky "Revamp your life in three easy steps" book! There is Scripture sprinkled generously throughout the book, which helped me stay on track as to why these things are important.

Once the foundation has been laid, Mrs. Brenneman goes on to provide advice and ideas on virtually every area of family life. Laundry, cleaning bathrooms, homeschooling, gardening -- it seems that nothing escapes her notice! Much of what she writes is definitely geared for families with many children (as the title suggests), but I found that most of it was still helpful for me. I'd rather implement many of these practices and systems at the beginning, so that should the Lord bless us with many children, our household will continue to function smoothly (apart from the inevitable "bumps" of life, of course). The chapters are generally short and easy to digest, making it simple to either read the book cover to cover or to find a specific topic.

Personally, the book convicted me in a number of areas where I have been falling short due to lack of self-control. I don't mind work per say, but I don't much like work that I find disagreeable! Laundry I can handle, because I like it. I don't generally fall behind. Cleaning bathrooms? Not so much my thing.

There's also the token section on decluttering, which seems to find its way into every book on homemaking these days!  Quite honestly, despite the fact that we're just starting out and don't have a large house, I'm just tired of having so much stuff. Or rather, having more stuff than we need or use is hindering, not helpful. So encouragement in that direction was appreciated.

One aspect of the book that I liked was Kim's flexibility. By that I mean that she doesn't set up some Martha Stewart utopia of perfect housekeeping. She talks about stages in life where disposable plates and cutlery might be what your family needs, or how the systems she describes will need to be tweaked for individual families. I didn't feel that there was a "one right way" mentality to the book, and Kim doesn't put you on a guilt trip if you can't "do it all."

Okay, now for my critiques! Most of them fall under the "trivial" category, in that they don't affect the message of the book.

First, this thing is huge -- I found the layout strange, and the plethora of entirely empty pages was a bit annoying. I love the cover design, but the 8 1/2" by 11" size is rather inconvenient. Insignificant, perhaps, but it made on-the-go reading an impossibility. Forget large family logistics -- let's give a little attention to large book logistics!

Probably my biggest critique was actually the editing! Really, I was astonished by the number of grammatical errors in this book. The most glaring was probably the plural of baby being spelled baby's. But that's just one of many, many errors. I've never seen so many grammatical errors in a published work. I don't blame Kim for this (I don't think being a grammarian should be a prerequisite for writing a book!), but whoever was responsible for editing was very negligent.

My only content-related critique is that I thought the book occasionally falls into an unnecessarily dogmatic tone about areas that really come down to personal preference. As I mentioned before, Kim's advice is generally quite flexible. But there were a few sections that seemed to elevate the author's preferences a tad too high, in my opinion (even when I personally agreed with her preferences). A "this is the only way to do it" attitude tends to rub me the wrong way. Still, I wouldn't consider it a very serious issue, especially since the majority of the book does not come across that way -- and perhaps others would not even agree with me that this is even present in the book. Still, I suppose a book review is inevitably influenced by the reviewer's opinions. *wink*

Now that it's been a while since I read the book (this review has been sitting in my drafts for some time...), I think a re-read is in order. For me, there is no such thing as too much encouragement in the right direction when it comes to homemaking!


  1. Thanks for your thorough review Shannon! As a single lady it sounds like the book would be worth the read for me even right with getting ready and helping my family now. Too bad about the typos though! That annoys me too and the book size and poor layout.

    In Christ,

  2. A very good, honest review! I have this book but I haven't actually sat down and completely soaked it all in yet. I hope to, soon though! :)

  3. I have this book and enjoy it too. I agree, you do not need a large family to benefit from it! (I initially read it when my firstborn was a little over one year old, I think.) I've most appreciated her suggestion to assign different household tasks to different days of the week. During the times when I've been able to stick with such a routine, it seems like life runs more smoothly.
    I guess it's been too long since I've read it since I don't remember the horrible editing, although I am usually bothered by misspellings and such, too! Nor do I recall an overly dogmatic tone (actually, I was relieved that she doesn't take a hard line on certain parenting choices). It's probably just time for me to read through it again, too! Now that I'm mothering two kiddos I might pick up some new ideas that will be helpful.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. I found a copy second hand and am reading it. As the busy Mom of 5 kiddoes who range in age from 19 down to our newest young'un who was added through adoption to our family a little over a year ago at age 6.5, I'm looking for some ideas and help. I agree with the clunky-ness of the book, the errors, and I also was a bit concerned with some of her statements about discipline. I (so far) am getting a vibe about a lot of discipline, and not too much about mercy and grace being shown. I realize the focus of the book is NOT discipline per-say, but there are enough references to it that I am concerned that parents not forget that God does treat us with mercy and grace, even when we flub up or fail. My husband and I strive to be grace-based in our parenting, even while teaching obedience to God and parents, because we believe that is how God "parents" us. So I do have that additional concern. Having said all that, I'm still glad I found the book at the thrift store as I was curious to read it, and the price new was not affordable for us. I'm finding that I "know" much of what she says, but also finding new ideas and thoughts. Thanks for sharing your review about the book--it was interesting to me to read yours. ;-)

  5. It sounds like the dogmatic issue depends on the reader! Laura, I'm glad it's been such a help to you. I like the idea of having a day for each task, too -- though I've not been the best about keeping that up! I read Tsh Oxenrider's "Organized Simplicity," and I think I like a combination of the two approaches (Tsh has a daily schedule approach, with a checklist, etc.)

    Hope Anne, it's been so long since I've read the book that I can't recall the author's stance on discipline, but I certainly agree with you that parenting *must* be grace-oriented. While good behavior is certainly a desire, I think the ultimate goal of any discipline should be to model the gospel to our children. I'll be interested to re-read the book with that in mind...



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