THSC Review - August 2013 * Volume 17, Issue 3 - page 26

August 2013
26 •
Texas Home School Coalition Review
Two Approaches to the Prodigal
A Growing Phenomenon Among Christian Home School Families
Suzanne Re id
many of us are striving to dodge is the prodigal child. As we
parents scan the landscape, we find it dismal, if not frightening! We
see teens more familiar with STDs than ABCs. They connect with many friends
on the computer via social media but are often lonely, feeling disconnected and
often suicidal. They resort to cutting and other hurtful practices. Searching for a
better life for our children, we often fall prey to the notion that we can protect
them from this sorrow by finding that perfect parenting formula.
Sadly, statistics do not suggest that we are succeeding. Instead, a growing
number of home schooled adults are leaving the church and pursuing their own
agendas. This is a painful topic because it affects many of us and many of our
friends at church. With the intention of providing some helpful resources, this ar-
ticle reviews two books with vastly different perspectives on the topic. As always,
the reader must discern the truth for himself and decide the best parenting meth-
ods for his own family.
The two books are
Engaging Today’s Prodigal
by Carol Barnier and
by Michael and Debi Pearl. Both books deal with the rising rate of children
rejecting their parents and becoming apostates. Barnier calls this adult child a
“prodigal,” which leaves hope for the child’s return. The Pearls use the word
“divorce” to describe the damaged relationship, with its deep wounds and pain.
Both books attempt to help the growing number of parents who are stunned to
find themselves in this spot, searching for answers.
While both authors desire to bring clarity and healing to wounded families,
they approach the prodigal from very different backgrounds. Having been a
prodigal herself, Barnier draws from her own personal experiences to pro-
vide parents with tips for reaching the prodigal. Michael Pearl explains that he
broaches this topic after receiving many painful letters and calls from home
school families in crisis. Having raised his own five children and currently par-
ticipating in the raising of his eighteen grandchildren, he shares parenting ideas
from his life as a pastor and home school father.
Engaging Today’s Prodigal
by Carol Barnier
Barnier explains that her book “does not focus on the why” but rather
on the “What do we do now?” Her goal is to help parents deal with a
prodigal, now that they have one. This book provides neither insight into
the mind of a prodigal nor the contributing factors that lead a child to
abandon his parents’ faith and worldview.
Dealing with the “What do we do now?” question, Barnier delivers her
content in three sections. The first addresses seven myths that Barnier
clarifies for the reader. In Part Two she expounds on the “Do’s and
Don’ts” of relating to prodigals. Part Three is titled “Holding Out Hope,”
in which Barnier shares her own prodigal experience.
A recurring message throughout this book is that children must be
held responsible for their own decisions. Barnier reminds parents not to
make their children their identities as they struggle through difficulties
with a prodigal. She instructs parents to practice healthy boundaries,
which will help children understand their growing responsibilities. She
encourages parents to improve their relationships with their prodigals by
instructing them to realize that they, as parents, are not responsible for
their prodigal’s behavior.
Other positive messages for par-
ents and the church are found in this
book. Barnier reminds parents to keep
a vigil of prayer for their prodigals,
to be active in the recovery of other
prodigal children outside of their own
families, to participate in recovery
groups within their churches, and
to begin sharing their process with
others. She encourages the church
to teach the Christian worldview to
help children understand what they
believe and why. She explains that
if she had been better instructed in
the Christian worldview, she may
not have wandered into philosophy
and atheism for the answers to her
The book ends with some
thoughts from other prodigals and
a resource list, which is also avail-
able online at
1...,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25 27,28,29,30,31,32
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