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What Is a Family?
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What Is a Family?

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  353 ratings  ·  51 reviews
All the moving, changing shapes of a family, ever in need of work, are shown in Edith Schaeffer's imaginative reflections on infancy to grandmotherhood. ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Baker Books (first published 1975)
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  353 ratings  ·  51 reviews

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Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In a society where many young women have never been taught how to make a home, this is a wonderful tool for getting started. It's pro-family and pro-motherhood, but will probably be offensive to those who have been raised to believe that self-sacrifice is a dirty word. A very enriching book. ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Among the best and most comprehensive Christian books painting a beautiful portrait of Christian family life.
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a book club book. This is another book that falls into the category of, I’m glad I read it, but I probably wouldn’t reread it. On the plus side, there were a couple of chapters where I wanted to to stand up and cheer,”Yes!” (The 2nd and last chapters concerning balance). But most of the others didn’t resonate with me as much and I didn’t connect with her metaphors most of the time.
Natalie Weber
Oct 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
I loved this book! Mrs. Schaeffer’s writing style is vivid and poignant. I was immediately drawn into the very scenes she described, watching their family dynamics unfold before me. She captures the essence of family life and the purpose of family in a way I’ve never contemplated before. Each chapter is full of the beautiful possibilities that exist in a family environment, without neglecting the realities of the effects of our sinful natures and the sinful influences of the world around us. The ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
As expected, Edith Schaeffer offers wise counsel for parents raising the next generation. Using Scripture, personal stories, and illustrations (I loved the metaphor of the home being a museum of memories and we are the curators-beautiful), Schaeffer points to the importance of biblical homemaking in shaping the lives of our children. The book was written in 1975, so it is a little dated. Still, the principles are timeless, and if we needed to hear them then, how much more do we need to hear them ...more
Elizabeth Peterson
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is such a thoughtful admonition to be mindful of the "little" things. As a stay at home mother, it's a refreshing reminder of all of the reasons that staying at home is a GOOD choice--even when difficult--in a time when the mothering community has reached record breaking levels of divisive opinions and judgment. ...more
Lauren Fee
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book lived on my nightstand for way too long as I would only ever pick it up to wind down when I was way too tired to read so I never really made any progress. I finally intentionally picked up the book again because I needed to give it back to my friend and I am so thankful that I did because this book has become one of my most treasured recent reads. At first, her writing sort of bothered me because she initially compared a family to a changing mobile and I just could not connect with her ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I started this book whilst participating in a Christian book club with friends. While it wasn't my first pick, I was willing to give it a try. There were some gems in this book that I wholeheartedly agreed with and some analogies that could've been worded differently. The book was worth reading, but not necessarily one I would recommend. *3 1/2 stars* ...more
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, mops
Not that I've read a lot of books about "family," but I'd have to rate Edith Schaeffer's What is a Family? as a really unique and valuable find. When I picture your typical book that sets out to both define and celebrate the idea of "family," I get the picture in my mind of a "too perfect" happy nuclear family -- Dad, Mom, 2 kids, and the family dog in their mini-van. A book with parenting tips and little ideas for rainy-day activities for your pre-schoolers, etc, etc.

I love how Schaeffer doesn'
Jun 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Schaeffer seeks to define the family in terms of a balanced environment, birthplace of creativity, formation center for relationships, a shelter, a relay of truth, economic unit, educational control, and museum of memories. She uses heartwarming examples from her own family and once again is quite transparent in her personal struggles in various areas over the years. I resonated with so much of what she said in this book...she is an incredibly wise woman.
Barbara Radisavljevic
This explains all that a family means and is in very practical terms. I recommend it to anyone getting married or starting a Christian family. A must read!
Feb 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Great book for wives who do not have a lot of older ladies of wisdom to glean from.
Donna Ives-Kimpel
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
This helped me understand what a family can be
Emily Robinson
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The family as a perpetual relay of truth, a museum of memories, a shelter in the time of storm... just a few of the sweet, inspiring chapters in this book.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I am glad I finally read this book, 30 years after first hearing of it. Though Schaeffer's writing style was a bit of a challenge to work through, her insights about family life, the impact of how we live it on ourselves and on our children, and her suggestions are all just as pertinent in 2018 as when she wrote it in 1975. Some of her ideas would today be thought by some to be antiquated and even politically incorrect but I believe them to be just as true and relevant as ever. Recommended for t ...more
Hayley Grapenthin
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Considering that this book was written in the 70s, it is understandable that there are those who find Edith Shaeffer's writing style and examples outdated. I found those things easily set aside; however, and greatly appreciated the winsome and strong way in which Mrs. Shaeffer painted a picture of what a godly family can be. What is a Family is certainly still relevant today, if not even more necessary then when written. ...more
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It has been several years but I really enjoyed reading this at the time. Edith Schaeffer paints beautiful word pictures and I believe her life showed for a love for God and a love for her family and a love for strangers.
Mandi Gerth
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think I have read this book three times at various points in the building of my family. Each time God is faithful to encourage and remind what all of this is for and how my obedience makes all the difference.
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book about the different facets of family life and what it should be like. I especially liked the part where the author’s daughter learned to read Braille while dealing with an illness for three years.
Tina Williams
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-top-twenty
This book was foundational for me as a young mother. I highly recommend re-reading it every few years as a vision statement for your family!
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: family-life
Great book! I would give it a 3.5/5. I enjoyed it overall. I have been meaning to make a more thorough book review (11/16/2019) because the book was challenging in ways, although outdated in other ways. Skimming through the chapters, I had an idea in my head of what a Christian woman would argue given the chapter titles and my guesses were completely wrong. That being said, I think she could have went in the direction I was thinking for a more comprehensive view. Coming into reading this book, I ...more
Heather Wright
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The last two chapters were worth a book of their own. Super encouraging to hear that even Francis Schaefer got angry.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Not only for little ones, but at every age, the knowledge that there are people close to you - family - who want to 'hear all about it' is a double blessing. First, it is a protection against doing the most devastating thing that occurs to you in the midst of anger, self-pity, the danger of placing the drive to fulfill one's immediate desire above the long-term continuity of life; and second, an inspiration to 'keep on.' It helps to know that somebody, another human being, really cares whether ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pam-s-books-2016
Overall a great book. Often times I felt like I was listening to a wise older grandmother sharing her personal, yet Biblically focused, advice. I would have loved to have met her in person. I had tried reading this a few years back but it was slow in getting started so I never stuck with it past the second chapter. I am glad that I picked it up again and was able to be reminded of various aspects of family. I love her openheartedness and the thoughtful views and personal stories she shares to he ...more
Leandro Dutra
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is a welcome trend on Reformed books about the realities of marriage, but this is a classic on a truly Christian ideal of marriage for the modern times.

It sports a surprising emphasis on creativity, besides the usual — but still countercultural — injunctions & applications of the Bible to the realities of life.

Ms. Schaeffer helped her husband keep an open home for questioning students during the counterculture heyday in Europe, and her insights are refreshing and liberating, but challengin
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Edith's Schaeffer's voice is steady, strong, sage and secure: a life of wisdom written into words. Her practical advice rooted in Scripture inspires me to really 'give thought to my ways' and stick to the priorities we have for our family. I'm was especially challenged to show intentionality in the education of my children and myself--this is an area in which I need to be pushed! Solid book, not as engaging as "The Hidden Art of Homemaking," but useful, encouraging and re-readable! ...more
Josh Robinson
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting book. I felt as though Schaeffer romanticized pre-revolution Agrarianism too much though. I love agrarianism too, but I don't find it to be the blame of fractured families. Sin is the reason for fractured families, not husbands going out to make a living to support their families. There are some good things here though. ...more
Aug 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Every Mom
I haven't looked at this in years and never really finished it. My mistake with the five stars. I give it a two. Schaeffer seems a bit out-of-date with her ideas in the book and I was not able to see the relevance of her ideas in our particular home life/culture. ...more
Jan 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Great book, but I did not finish it in time (due at the library). She gives insight into God's design for families. I resepct her work at L'Abri, but this book is dated. Still, she remains true to God's word. May try to check it out again from the library and finish it. ...more
Jessica Lowery
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christian
I didn't care for some of the flowery metaphors, but I really loved the chapter called "A Family is a Door with a Lock and Hinges". A good book for thinking through a vision for how to conceive of your family in a big picture way. ...more
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EDITH SCHAEFFER is the widow of Francis Schaeffer, and with him co-founder of L'Abri Fellowship. Her many books include A Celebration of Children and The Life of Prayer. She passed away in 2013.

Recognized internationally for his work in Christianity and culture, Francis A. Schaeffer authored more than twenty books, which have been translated into a score of languages and sold millions worldwide. H

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“There needs to be a homemaker exercising some measure of skill, imagination, creativity, desire to fulfill needs and give pleasure to others in the family. How precious a thing is the human family. It it not worth some sacrifice in time, energy, safety, discomfort, work? Does anything come forth without work?” 17 likes
“Human beings are very unbalanced and prone to go off on tangents. In every area of life- with too great emphasis on one thing, leaving out another important thing altogether. None of us will ever be perfectly balanced in our spiritual lives, our intellectual lives, our emotional lives, our family lives, in relationships with other human beings, or in our business lives. BUT WE ARE CHALLENGED TO TRY, WITH THE HELP OF GOD. We are meant to live in the scriptures.” 14 likes
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