Negative Comments about

Wisdom's Way of Learning


Lifestyle of Learning


by Barb Shelton



If you have ever

read a negative review of this

book or this message, and

"wondered" about it, or

it kept you from reading

Marilyn's materials, then







In response to some negative reviews of Wisdom's Way of Learning (and the Lifestyle of Learning message in general), someone said: "I'm thinking probably these people just didn't 'get it'." I would respond:  Yes, you are absolutely correct!!! The writers of these reviews not only "didn't get it"; their hearts are clearly closed to the message!!  Of course, being closed to a message would contribute greatly to "not getting it," wouldn't it?!?!?   ;-D

Next I would like to respond to some specific things that were said in the review:

{{When I first read Marilyn Howshall's writings, they were all contained in 1 great spiral bound book (no longer sold, but once in awhile can be found on ebay). It contained not only the 4 booklets, but most of the other booklets she's written ~ including Katherine's bird book. I would say that each one booklet = 1 chapter in her WWOL book.}}....................This is not true. The 4 new books have almost as much information; it's just formatted and organized differently. Made more concise in some places; added to and explained in more depth in others.

{{Now called LOL}}...................The ministry is, and always has been, called "Lifestyle of Learning." The book that presents the foundation of the message is (and always has been) called "Wisdom's Way of Learning. For a further explanation, please read this at my website.

{{you get just a small fraction of what was in the WWOL book and you pay a whole lot more money.}}.....................This is simply not true. I would actually say it's an outright lie, but I know the heart and intent of this woman was not to lie. So I'll just settle with "This is an outright untruth." The price of the four smaller booklets is $10 less! (The original book was $39!)

{{ And the writing makes less sense.}}..................This comment indicates MUCH more about the one who wrote it than it should about Marilyn or her message. Marilyn carefully and lovingly edited her first book, so to one with understanding and a heart to hear, the new books are going to make even MORE sense.

{{ These little booklets, as stated below by someone else here, are not worth what little information is contained in them.}}..................Wow; I absolutely disagree. (I'm actually feeling sicker and sicker the more I read these reviews.) My answer to this is on my page of Q's and A's about LoL: [click here]

{{ In a nutshell they say: Marilyn's methods turn out sweet, but 'odd', ignorant children}}......................To which I (Barb) respond: This statement is very revealing of the one making it. First, you have to actually read and apply the truths in the books for any of it to "work." And who determines what exactly is "odd" or "not odd"? Our children should be turning out "peculiar" as the Word states. You might want to read my article called "Are You Eccentric?" I'll say more about this a bit later.

{{There is less info, in a more confusing format, for more money now that the book has been divided into booklets.}}....................The reason Marilyn divided it into smaller books was because people expressed being overwhelmed with SOOO much in ONE BIG volume!!!! ... You just can't win, can you?!?

{{It's a rip-off}}....................Absolutely not!!!  The $29 price for all four smaller books is well worth every penny.

{{You're better off with Dorothy Sayers' essay}}....................No, you actually aren't.

{{ The writing is dry, tedious, and mostly common sense}}....................Only to those who are not reading it from the heart, or with a spirit alive to what God is doing in them. It is rich to those who do!

I sickens me when people talk off the top of their head, but haven't really looked into something. Or, if they have looked into it, but (obviously) don't "get it," when they speak negatively of a ministry that is obviously Spirit-led and God-based. This is tearing down the work of God, and they have no business doing it. The enemy has used these inaccurate, filled-with-untruth-and-foolish-thinking reviews to do a lot of damage to the reputation of this priceless message which, if read with heart to hear, will only set people free and enable them to hear God better for their own families! This is a grievous thing ~ to the Howshall's, but mostly to the Holy Spirit. I am deeply saddened by them, and hope you will do five things:

1) Choose to ignore them, and...

2) Read everything at my site about this message: I have a LOT on all this starting at this page.
3) Read everything at the Howshall's site at this archived website.  (The Howshalls' original website,, is no longer active.)
4) Stop seeking out further reviews of this message.
5) And if you do see another bad review, (and I'm sure you will!), do not let it penetrate your heart, but instead present the reviewer ~ or those hearing it ~ with the TRUTH.

Similarly, at the same website, here is what one mom said about my book (Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La):
"There were parts of Barb Shelton's book that were helpful.  She's got a newer version out, and I hope she got an editor (speaking as one who also needs an editor). Her earlier editions were wordy. But they gave some good ideas on forms."
Is that how you feel about the book?  If so, great.  If not, my point is that just because something is in print, online or anywhere, it does NOT mean it is the truth, or "the bottom line." I'm not saying I don't need an editor!!! But if that was the first thing out of her mouth (fingers) about this book, what does it tell you about her??? If she only found parts of my book helpful, then it means one (or all) of three things:

1) She did not truly reeeeead the whooooole book. This is the most common one; they just flip right to the forms and skip the most important foundational first two chapters.) Or...
2) She is much more interested in the external forms than the internal foundation of my message. Or...
3) She truly didn't need the rest of the book... because those who need it are able to look past the imperfections. (Plus, I didn't write the book for everyone; there's no way an author can do that. So it's like they are "reading someone else's mail.")

The ones I wrote the book for are those who are wanting to get OFF the well-worn path of "school at home" but who are scared to death to do it because of how loud the world's voices are yelling at them! It's also for those wanting to document their children's real-life (and traditional) learning or organize and structure it. Many moms have husbands who are very tied to traditional ways; my book has enabled many of these to pursue more freedom in educating their children while still satisfying a husband wanting more structure.
Sisters (and brothers), we MUST be discerning when we read reviews like this. :-) We need to be sure we are seeing the whole picture before we "believe" something; especially something as negative as what we have read at this site. If you read the reviews of either Marilyn's or my books, and connect ~ in the spirit and in the "thinking" ~ with the message, and with the women on the list (mine and/or Marilyn's), then that is what you need to just plant your heart in and stay with. Choose to let all other "voices" be silent (to YOU), so that you will not be "tossed to and fro" by everything you hear! ;-)
On a personal note, I am very (sick and) tired of flippant reviews. Every one of my books, especially Form+U+la, was a LABOR OF LOVE, purchased with blood, sweat, tears, not to mention inheritance money that could have gone elsewhere, at GREAT price to myself and my family. (I know the Howshall's have paid ~ and continue to pay ~ just as great a price to produce their resources and continue their ministry.) I did not have the funds to pay for an editor, so I had 12 homeschool moms edit it for me, which took MUCH time to go back and work all their hundreds of edits and suggestions into the final copy. It is SOOOO easy to just flippantly make comments that make the reviewer sound like they really have some wisdom and insight, when in reality they don't have a clue as to what they are talking about, especially if they haven't really read the book. Even if they don't need the book themselves, a person has to be lacking in spiritual insight if the main thing they comment on is the author needing an editor or how dry the writing is! The book ~ and even more so, Marilyn's books ~ have pulled thousands of grateful homeschool moms out of the burning house of "school at home"! Such glib and critical comments are like a person who has just been rescued from the fire criticizing the fire-fighter who just rescued them for having on an older model, sooty fire hat!!! Of course, the problem is that they don't realize they are in a burning house, and are therefore not wanting to get rescued!

I will now finish responding to specific parts of the statements about Wisdom's Way of Learning...  (which, by the way, is now out of print, I am sad to say.)

{{Marilyn Howshall has (or had ~ this has been 4 years ago) good newsletters. They are not as dry as the 4 booklets with the strange titles, such as: Unit of Life Learning Model; Seasons: God's Time Design; The Art, Science, and Tools of Learning; and the 4th booklet which I can't remember the name of (something about a Child's Life Message).}}...................."Strange titles"?!?   *I* think they are INTRIGUING!  Her viewing them as "strange" only indicates that she is not familiar with these terms and doesn't understand them. Again, this says more about the reviewer than it does the reviewed.

{{The titles, as well as the writings within, are strange ~ and I am a very educated person.}}...................BINGO!!!  We can now see where part of the blockage in "getting" this message lies.  I am going to quote something (in blue) from this page at my website.  (This is one of the pages explaining my Homeschool Course, so it is presented in that context):

{{ I am NOT saying that just because you are a teacher, are "educated", or have [any amount of] college under your belt, you are automatically not capable of homeschooling!  What I AM saying is that what it takes to truly educate your children has NOTHING to do with college!  In fact, I personally feel that what ~ and HOW ~ you learned in college is actually a hindrance to your being able and free to see and operate as God would have you. The more worldly education you have, the more you think that's what education is! The fact is that what it truly takes is probably already IN you, but very deeply buried in worldly thinking!  That's why a huge part of my course involves UNdoing and DISmantling of old thinking so that what has been, so to speak, "buried alive" can come (back) to life!!! It's time to unearth what God put in you, in your heart, in the first place!

I have often observed that those who are [college-trained] teachers (all parents are "true teachers" whether they know it or not), feel that, because they have a degree and/or college, they don't need to put themselves through a season of re-education.  This grieves my heart!!!!!!!  They are actually doing their children and themselves a grave injustice! In fact, please forgive me if I seem insolent, but in some ~ I'd even say many ~ ways, those who are college-educated (schooled) are in even greater ~ or at least just as much ~ need of this "season of re-education" than (as) are those who have never gone to college!

Michael Farris was once asked by a reporter if his wife had a teaching degree and was therefore qualified to homeschool their children. His response (which I'm quoting only from memory) was "Yes, she does have a teaching degree. But fortunately she has been able to overcome that handicap and is able to actually homeschool our children." That might seem like merely a humorous response, but it is actually very true!!!  So, it is for any and all homeschoolers that I have designed this course, if not especially for those with college degrees who need some UNdoing to take place in their thinking before they are totally ready for God to do the NEW thing in them.}}


So this puts the idea of being "very educated" into a different context.  I do not mean to DE-value it; only to RE-value ~ and correctly view ~ it.  The tendency is to give FAR too much value to "education" ~ which is really just "institutional schooling", not "true education" according to God's view of it.

{{ I read difficult books all the time. The newsletters are much more practical (or they used to be; I haven't seen any for a few years).}}....................Hmmm, and yet we are an expert on this ministry?!?!?!

{{This "method-less method"}}....................The problem is that this mom has "understandingless understanding." The problem is not Marilyn's message; the eyes of this woman's heart and understanding are simply darkened in this arena. She is trying to come across as having understanding of it when she doesn't even have a clue about what it is. This is only to her own shame ~ to be broadcasting her lack of understanding.

{{...was introduced to me by a lady in town who had young girls. I've watched them grow up. At age 11 they could not read much or tell time, and now they are nearly grown and I see no signs of intelligence in the girls. Very sweet, yes! Godly girls, but extremely ignorant about everything except the latest fashions and the Bible. And their behavior in general is just very... odd.}}...................First, if these girls are "very sweet and godly", and are not ignorant of the Bible, then they are already miles ahead of most public schooled kids, and MANY homeschooled kids, probably including this woman's own children. But, judging from everything else I have read from this particular reviewer, I would have to see the girls in action myself before I would believe a word of whether or not they are "extremely ignorant about everything except the latest fashions and the Bible."  How does this woman know?  It's very possible that, being humble, they just don't flaunt it.

Also, if she thinks the titles of Marilyn's book are "strange" (when *I* think they are intriguing and RICH), there's no way I'm going to buy her pronouncement of "odd" upon these girls.

And if it truly IS true that these girls' focus is too heavily on the latest fashions, then that is the mom's fault; it is NOT something to judge this message for!!! Because that is the LAST thing that Marilyn focuses on or would suggest.

{{ I find Katherine Howshall to be a bit odd as well, so this kind of homeschooling must turn out this kind of person.}}....................Let me first comment on the foolishness of this statement... She is making a blanket conclusion of an entire ministry based on three kids, all of whom she only knows "from a distance." Especially Kathryn. I had some in-depth, in-their-home contact with the Howshall's several years ago, when they lived not too far from us, and when Marilyn was getting her message going and wanted my help in doing so. I assure you that Kathryn is a sweetheart! She is also very productive, very intelligent, very talented, and very gracious and kind-hearted ~ to her siblings, her parents, and to me as a guest in their home. She does not have the "wordly savvy" or "coolness" that kids today have, but I see that only as a "plus"!!! NOT a minus!!! SHE IS A GEM in every sense of the word.

{{ In my opinion, Dorothy Sayer's writing, "The Lost Tools of Learning" is much more useful, and is not very long.}}.....................This is further revelation of the criteria she uses to come to her conclusions: "Not very long."

{{ I am afraid I cannot recommend Marilyn Howshall's books, nor her daughter's books, really. And perhaps Marilyn's personality isn't as cold as her writings are, but usually one says something about the other. In one newsletter (as I said they are normally better than the books) she wrote bluntly, "I don't have time to be everybody's best friend." (referring to some homeschool moms who had written her).}}......................Indeed, she did say that; but how about if we present the full context of what she was responding to?!?!? This reviewer didn't bother to do that because it is clear that her intent is to malign this ministry. ... So *I* will explain... It is very unfair and unkind to pull out one comment like that. Marilyn has a very kind and gracious heart (which this gal doesn't bother to present a smidgeon of.) You need only read one of Marilyn's responses to the questions she has received (in her publication) to see this. She gives her LIFE away; that is the foundation of their ministry. If she said that she "doesn't have time to be everybody's best friend," there was a specific reason behind this... In fact, there are probably thousands of reasons, to the tune of many moms asking and expecting that Marilyn call them, or read their many-page letters and respond to them personally. She has received literally *thousands* of such requests. It is totally fine to *ask*, of course! But to EXPECT (or demand) this from someone is thoughtless at best; inconsiderate at worse. Perhaps the comment ("I don't have time to be everybody's best friend.") could possibly have been worded more graciously, but how many nice ways are there to say that?

{{Perhaps she doesn't. (have time to be everybody's best friend.") But somebody needs to be on board to soften some of her hard lines ~ and make some sense of the rest of it.}}...................That "somebody" ~ and this is true for any situation ~ would be the Holy Spirit. That is His job in ALL of us, for whatever circumstance we find ourselves in.

My conclusion: Don't let yourself be tossed around by "foolish discussions" or reviews. (from this point on) You will find good and bad on ANYthing out there, but what you need to seek for (and you have already found!) Spirit-led, likeminded women who walk in wisdom and grace (which these lists are FULL of!), and then REST in what they have to say. Let the rest of it fall on deaf ears. (Not that a woman who doesn't like WWOL or my books isn't Spirit-led, but she is obviously lacking in understanding of this matter.)

With a big hug,



Response from homeschool

       mom, LoriAnn:


     "Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this matter.  As a pastor's wife, it tore my heart to read the original reviews.  I know how much it can hurt to have your character and your children (in this case, Marilyn Howshall's) maligned by those who for one reason or another cannot see your heart in ministry.  Although at the end of the day we have to rest in knowing that we are serving the Lord and that there will always be people who don't like something, we're still human and it still stings.  The worst part is when it hinders the ministry God wants to work through us.  But then again, we have to remember that He is the one who will open and prepare hearts to receive.

I have read the first four books of Marilyn's and found them to really be eye-opening.  We aren't doing everything the way her family has, but I don't think that is the message. 
[from Barb:  That is totally correct, Lori!!!  It's actually the last thing she would want!]  I took away a renewed vision for the wisdom of the Lord being the priority in our training and education in our home.  I plan to re-read the booklets this fall, as I finished rereading Senior High Formula this summer.

As far as your book, it is so much more than the forms.  I do use a few of the forms, but for me the treasure of this book is in the message.  I recommend your book everywhere, even if they don't have high schoolers yet. (My homeschool group may be tired of my glowing recommendations, but oh well!)  And I tell people to just sit down and read it, and not to even worry about forms or anything until after the first read-through.  Your book is like a devotional to me and I love the wordiness.  You just share your heart for the Lord through every page, and I laugh and cry and thank the Lord for bringing me to this book every time I read it. 

I just wanted to publicly thank the Lord for both of your ministries to homeschoolers (and it even goes far beyond homeschooling!).  God has worked in my life (extended into my children's lives and even my church's as they draw me closer to the Lord) through them. 

Thank you! 
Lori Watson; Homeschool Mom of 7 for 10 years; Cape Cod, MA (




Response from homeschool

       mom, Catherine Mullaney:


     "I took the time to read through your response and I am grateful for your willingness to continue to stand up for the truth.  Years ago I heard a word from Jay Vernon McGee on the radio.  He said, and I paraphrase, "If you don't have any enemies then I wonder how well you are walking with the Lord. The Lord's children will be opposed and when we are opposed we need to remember that we must be doing something right."  So my dear sister, Barb, I perceive that you are continuing to do right, walking in the truth, speaking up for Spirit-led living.  I am counting it as confirmation that your leadership is indeed inspired by the Holy One.  Jesus also said, 10"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5)

~ Catherine Mullaney; homeschool Mum of 3 for 11 years, Marlborough, MA





Response from

    homeschool mom, Doreen:



I thank you for refuting the negative reviews of Wisdom's Way of Learning and your teachings. It is very easy to get caught up in the world's way of thinking. It is a daily effort to choose to be set apart. Therefore, if any of us homeschoolers are in a struggle, Satan uses reviews such as these to divide and conquer. We need constant reminding that we are chosen by God and that His way is always better. Yes, that way is different for each homeschooling family. I would rather choose the narrow way (and look odd) than to be lost without a Shepherd. We began homeschooling six years ago and this verse:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is ~ his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2  Click here)

This has freed me from the bondage of worldly thinking! Yes, I can be different. God has a plan for each of us ~ each homeschooling family. We are each parts of the body and have unique gifts to offer our children and the body!

Your teachings have allowed me to implement God's will for our family. The Bible also says that when one suffers, we all suffer. It hurts all of us when negativity comes your way!! Thank you for "standing" against the fiery darts! I for one stand with you!!

Doreen Arteaga; Homeschool Mom of 2 for 6 years; Jacksonville, FL




Response from

      homeschool mom, Melody:


To the reviewer who said the Wisdom's Way of Learning books "bored her and she had to fight to stay awake to read them", I would say...

I find my self having to fight to stay awake during my Bible study times from time to time.  When this happens, I feel that the enemy is trying to distract me from something I REALLY NEED TO HEAR MORE THAN ANYTHING, so I know it is a good idea to go back and re-read that passage again.
Not that I am holding Wisdom's Way of Learning up to the Bible, but it is an extremely godly message, and I feel if someone is getting really bored reading it, they might want to pray about it and specifically re-read that section over for a while, as a "cunning lion" may be trying to block you from getting something your family really needs for your homeschool to be successful ~ in the Lord's eyes anyway.


In my humble opinion,

The disciple Jesus loves anyway,
Melody P.





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