A Parents' Back-to-School Book Guide

Coordinating School Kids' Schedules

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families: Building a Beautiful Family Culture in a Turbulent World by Stephen R. Covey and Sandra Merrill Covey (Golden Books Pub Co., 1998, 390 pages, $15)

It's back to school, and for many families this means back to car-pooling, the homework wars, and sports and extracurricular schedules that would challenge even Gen. Patton's strategic planning abilities. Families today are faced with conflicting demands on their time, an aggressive culture, a complex society and fast-paced lives.

Time management guru Stephen Covey brings his seven habits to the family arena to help families find their unique vision, set goals and priorities, and stay on track. In fact, Covey's own family, with nine children, is where he first developed the seven habits material, and where the principles are most significantly applied. Covey's seven habits show parents how to take control of the direction and formation of their families. With many examples from his own family, he vividly portrays the principles: being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, putting first things first, thinking win-win, seeking first to understand, synergizing, and sharpening the saw.

Covey shows how parents can gain the cooperation of their kids and have a unified family vision by developing a “family mission statement.” He encourages families to think through questions such as: What kind of family do we want to be? What things are truly important to us as a family? What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home? What are the unique gifts of each family member? What are the principles we want our family to follow?

Covey offers many practical suggestions for encouraging cooperative and happy family interactions; for example, implementation of the “emotional bank account,” one-on one bonding times, and family nights. Each chapter includes practical tips for sharing each of the principles with children, and with adults and teens.

Laraine Bennett edits the Family 2000 newsletter in Bethesda, Maryland.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.