real encouragement for real homeschool moms
elsie dinsmore
“It is puzzling to know why the Elsie Dinsmore books continue to be so revered but are being removed from the Vision Forum shelves. Whatever the reason, here’s hoping their daughters and granddaughters will now be introduced to genuine godly womanhood through the biographies of women like Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, Betty Greene, Mary Slessor, and their feminine role models from the pages of Scripture. No more Elsie Dinsmore: That’s the very good end of an era.”
Read more of my Breakpoint article here.


25 Responses to no more Elsie Dinsmore

  • Laura (old OR vintage) says:

    Amen to this! These books are terrible and my daughters and I were horrified when they read them years ago. You are right- they are replete with racism and weirdness between little girls and grown men…not to mention bigotry, child abuse, emotional abuse…

    Thanks Karen for focusing on this!

  • Anthea says:

    Thanks for the link to the website. I was always puzzled by ‘Gone With The Wind’, in that it was presented as a romance between Rhett and Scarlet. Even on first viewing as a v young woman, I could see the romanticised view of slavery. I have never read the novel, however.

    Could anyone suggest good reading matter as a positive alternative to Elsie Dinsmore? I have my own favourites, but what about ‘’ readers?

  • Kris says:

    I don’t have a daughter, but we read the YWAM biographies about women and men such as Mary Slessor, Corrie Ten Boom, Lottie Moon, Clara Barton, Nate Saint, Ronald Reagan and the list goes on. They are much loved reading and you can find them on the YWAM Publishing website and they are called Christian Heroes I think and Heroes of History.

  • Pressing On says:

    Yes, it seems *very* strange that they are pulling a set of books that was so popular with no explanation. It would be nice indeed to know why.

    Did they finally cave to criticism? Will they admit that Elsie is not really a role model?

    One has to wonder…

  • Vangie says:

    Thanks for sharing. As an auntie to three nieces, I’ve been looking for good lit…Glad I don’t have to wade through Elsie since you’ve done it:)

  • Gayle says:

    If you are looking for older literature I highly recommend the Little House Books and Anne of Green Gables books for a start I loved them dearly as a young girl and don’t regret reading them at all.

  • thatmom says:

    To be very clear, Vision Forum has made no statement or even a gesture that indicates that they have had a change of heart about these books. In fact, they are still saying that Elsie is a godly role model and are continuing to produce the CD’s and other amenities.

    “In the nineteenth century, millions of readers learned the meaning of godly womanhood from a little girl named Elsie. Her commitment to principle in the midst of adversity and her passionate love for Jesus Christ were the theme of twenty-eight volumes spanning her life. Elsie raises the standard of godly womanhood to new heights. Feminists will not be happy with Elsie. She is a God honoring young woman who strives to solve problems while working through biblical authority structures.”

  • thatmom says:

    Yes yes yes to the Little House series! I still try to read through the series every few years! I remember when my mom and dad had an interest in planting a plot of prairie grass, I brought them copies of the books to read and they couldn’t put them down. Great living history! Love the Anne series too!!!

  • thatmom says:
  • Peggy Mears says:


    Fantastic article! I found your blog some time back and always enjoy reading it. I am a 52 year old mother of three sons who has been homeschooling for the last 20 years. Like you, I have seen first hand the legalistic and patriarchal underworld of homeschooling which dominated homeschooling magazines and conferences for too many years (and regrettably some of which I dabbled in).

    God bless you as you courageously tell the truth and offer a healing balm to many of us that have built an “unsure” foundation on the advice of many who were much more concerned with power than truth and grace.

  • thatmom says:

    Peggy, thanks for your kind words! As a veteran homeschooling mom, you have a voice that needs to be heard and I am praying that the Lord will give you many opportunities.

  • Kh says:

    I honestly had no idea that these books contained this. My daughters have had them on their shelves for years. They came highly recommended. I think I’m going to go pull them off and scan them over. I’m really very careful about reading materials..These came highly recommended in home school circles..

  • Susan T says:

    We love the Betsy- Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace – these are also fictionalized tales of the author’s childhood in early 1900′s Mankato, MN (Deep Valley in the books) The first four books are excellent read alouds for all children and the next 4 books are about the high school years – so fun to contrast our lives with, as our kids are reaching high school age; then the last two books are about Betsy traveling to Europe just before WW1 and finally Betsy’s wedding. There are also 3 other books in the series which feature Betsy’s friends, more than Betsy – overall these do for early 1900′s small town Midwest, what “Little House” does for homesteading. There is a Betsy-Tacy society online to find more info. The parents are very gracious in these books.

    Another series showcasing gracious parenting are the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. These are also fun to read aloud and the audio versions read by Stockard Channing are a hoot! Then the Ramona movie is a great follow-up, showing grace-based parenting.

  • Could it be that the internet is doing it’s job and word is getting out about the unsavory elements of this series to such an extent that sales have declined to the point that it is no longer cost effective to continue reprinting and promoting them?

  • Anthea says:

    Have any of you read ‘The Railway Children’? It’s a tenderly-told English classic. Everyone goes all misty-eyed at the memory of the book and/or film.

  • Dani says:

    I would like to know if the author of this article has read the Elsie Dinsmore book series? I have read these books to all my daughters and thought them to be great fictional reading that portrayed that time period very well….like it or not. There were several teaching moments throughout the books but, overall, found the books to be quite commendable. I had the books highly recommended to me and I, in turn, have highly recommended this series to many, many moms and daughters, who enjoyed it as well. I find it disturbing that many women who have come to embrace feminism would like to eradicate books such as these.

  • Rosy says:

    I am not the author of this article, but I have read the first several of these books. When my oldest daughter, a voracious reader was 11 or so, she started getting them from the church library, I read them, and was horrified at the bigotry that I found, and very disturbed at the relationship between Elsie and her father. In one of the later books, her father behaves very abusively to a child who was staying with Elsie for the summer, and then after her husband dies, Elsie is still not treated as a fully functioning adult, no, she goes back under her father’s “protection”…Unlike some mothers, I have a pretty loose monitoring system but there is one series of books they are not allowed to read and that is Elsie Dinsmore.

  • Interesting subject, as I am right now purging out Elsie books that I bought without reading (“highly recommended”, etc). I have listened to the first two books on audio and both centre around Elsie’s personal convictions about Sabbath keeping (in the first book, it was about reading a newspaper on Sunday, and in the second, it was about playing a secular piano tune on Sunday). Her father demands her obedience without compassion, and only Elsie’s ensuing deathly illnesses bring him around both times. Same story, basically. Happily, her convictions bring him under conviction in book two, and he receives Jesus.
    The series disturbed me and my children, with my oldest pleading, “no more Elsie!” It did open a wonderful door for discussing the law of liberty and love, and legalism, as Paul puts forward in Romans. We discussed how to respond when another believer holds a different perspective on what is appropriate for a Christian, touching on common controversies such as head coverings and Halloween, (and of course Sabbath keeping). As we all have probably learned, home schoolers (and Christians in general) come in all shapes and colours, but we can have fellowship in God’s grace, as we walk in it ourselves and freely bestow it upon others. Elsie may not be the ideal role model, but she is commendable in her steadfast conviction and quiet patience, and can be a source of great theological discussions with your young ones :)

  • thatmom says:

    Dani, I would love to hear your specifics as to how my critique of Elsie means I have embraced “feminism.” Not sure how you define it and see any application…..seriously confused. Btw, I also read the first couple of books and skimmed others. Could barely handle it.

  • Hester says:

    I suspect they’ve saturated their market and sales are going down. Maybe the same reason they’re coming out with new adventure books for boys – everyone’s already bought the Ballatyne books? Just my theory.

  • A.Roddy says:

    to Dani June 5th, it isn’t just femnists who have problems with these books. Feminsists are easy targets to blame for everything wrong in the world today. Excuse women for not wanting to be little doormats cheerfully obeying every command their masters say. The way Elsie was treated by Horace would be deemed child abuse in modern times and rightfully so. Though Horace changed, he still controlled Elsie. I think positive reviewers have read the watered down version and not the original. Elsie is good for older readers for historical purposes but not much else.

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Three Cheers……..
truth from the Word
"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73: 25-26
Phillip E. Johnson says:
“When pressed in interviews to name my heroes, I have spontaneously responded that they are homeschooling mothers! To me, the heroic mothers who nurture the next generation of faithful Christians are among the leaders of the church.” ~ Phillip E. Johnson
John Stonestreet says:
“C.S. Lewis said that for every new book we read, we ought to read three old ones. But I think for every latest, greatest new homeschooling book you read, go find three old homeschooling moms and ask them what happened and what worked.” ~ John Stonestreet
Oswald Chambers says:
"If we simply preach the effects of redemption in the human life instead of the revealed, divine truth regarding Jesus Himself, the result is not new birth in those who listen. The result is a refined religious lifestyle, and the Spirit of God cannot witness to it because such preaching is in a realm other than His." ~ Oswald Chambers
Carolyn Custis James says:
“The power of our theology comes alive when we take the truth personally. Holding God at arm’s length—no matter how much theology we think we know—will never make us great theologians. We have to learn to write our own names into the plot. God will always be the subject of our theological sentences but our sentences are incomplete until we make ourselves the direct objects of his attributes…..Simply knowing a lot of theological ideas, no matter how orthodox and sound they are, will never turn us into great theologians. Theology isn’t really theology for us until we live it. Not until we learn to make explicit connections between what we know about God and the race we are running will we taste the transforming power of our theology. Fixing our eyes on Jesus means reminding ourselves of all that He is to us now. He brings meaning to our routines and energizes us to tackle the difficult tasks at hand. Fixing our eyes on Jesus gives us hope to offer disheartened husbands and hurting friends, and the wisdom we need to raise children who will fix their eyes on Him, too.” ~ from Carolyn Custis James in When Life and Beliefs Collide
William Carey says:
"Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter."
Tim Keller says:
"God’s love and forgiveness can pardon and restore any and every kind of sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve deliberately oppressed or even murdered people, or how much you’ve abused yourself… There is no evil that the Father’s love cannot pardon and cover, there is no sin that is a match for his grace." ~ Tim Keller
Tim Keller also says:
“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.” ! Tim Keller in The Reason for God.
Anne Ortlund says:
“So what do we do to encourage them to grow inwardly, to become resourceful and creative, to think, to meditate, to lay the foundation for growing up well? Don’t push, but affirm them! Give them the sense that all is well, that their rate of progress is acceptable to you, that you like them just the way they are…..Guide them but be delighted in them. Let them know that life is to be reached for and drunk of deeply…..Enthusiastic, that’s how you want them to grow up! The word comes from “en Theo,” or “in God.” Support them with words of faith, hope, and love, and in that framework “in God,” they’ll be ready to tackle everything. Fears and cautions are built in at an early age but so is courage! Tomorrow’s world will be different if your child has been released to experiment, to risk, to lead others, to pursue righteousness, to be an affecter for good in society, to go courageously after God.” ~ Anne Ortlund in Children Are Wet Cement
J.C Ryle says:
"Kindness, gentleness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, sympathy, a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys, these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily, these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to his heart." ~ J. C. Ryle in The Upper Room
Kathy Thile says:
"I say this gently, as the parent of grown kids, knowing *insert parenting guru* is also the parent of grown kids: we have wonderful children — he does, I’m sure — and so do I. But without even knowing his children I can know this about them: they are not perfect. They hurt. They make mistakes. They struggle. They are prideful and overly simplistic at times; and crippled by shame and hesitancy at others. Yes — they are beautiful examples of human beings, his children (I assume), and mine (I know.) But they are not perfect. If they were, they would not be human. If it were possible to raise children to perfection, then God would have sent a parenting method, not Jesus. Our marching orders are not to raise our children by a method to be like *insert parenting guru* children. Our marching orders are to be Christians to and with our children." ~ Kathy Thile
Clay Clarkson says:
“Many Christian parents, myself included, tend to speak to children as though they were Pharisees. We can speak harshly and with judgment, implying by our manner that their hearts are hard and resistant. But this attitude is not justified by Scripture. There is no record of Jesus ever speaking to a a child in a harsh tone. When the Gospels record Him speaking to a child, it is always with gentleness. Our children are not our adversaries. Though our children’s hearts are corrupted by sin, they are not hardened sinners who have made conscious choices to reject the Savior. Our children are simply immature and childish. That’s why children need love and compassion, not harshness and guilt.” ~ Clay Clarkson in Heartfelt Discipline
Tim Kimmel says:
“Grace can’t be some abstract concept that you talk about in your home. It has to be a real-time action that ultimately imprints itself in your children’s hearts. To talk about grace, sing about grace, and have our children memorize verses about grace – but not give them specific gifts of grace – is to undermine God’s words of grace in their hearts. Grace means that God not only loves them but that He loves them uniquely and specially. The primary way to give our children grace is to offer it in place of our selfish preferences.” ~ Tim Kimmel in Grace-Based Parenting
Chuck Swindoll says:
"You want to mess up the minds of your children? Here's how - guaranteed! Rear them in a legalistic, tight context of external religion, where performance is more important than reality. Fake your faith. Sneak around and pretend your spirituality. Train your children to do the same. Embrace a long list of do's and don'ts publicly but hypocritically practice them privately...yet never own up to the fact that its hypocrisy. Act one way but live another. And you can count on it - emotional and spiritual damage will occur. "
Anna Quindlen says:
“The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less." ~ Anna Quindlen
Winston Churchill says:
“My education was interrupted only by my schooling." ~ Winston Churchill
John Taylor Gatto says:
"The shocking possibility that dumb people don’t exist in sufficient numbers to warrant the millions of careers devoted to tending them will seem incredible to you. Yet that is my central proposition: the mass dumbness which justifies official schooling first had to be dreamed of; it isn’t real." ~ John Taylor Gatto
Fred Rogers say:
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~ Fred Rogers
thatmom says
"The truth is that the way a marriage becomes truly heavenly is for each husband and each wife to pursue, really pursue, a relationship with Jesus Christ, to commit to obey the Word of God, to set aside each of their own agendas and paradigms, and then as they walk in the Holy Spirit, as they are sanctified, a little at a time each day, they will grow closer to one another. Godly wisdom will manifest itself in purity, peace, gentleness, mercy, a willingness to submit to one another, the fruits of the spirit, and no role-playing (the true meaning of hypocrisy). (James 3:17)" ~ thatmom
thatmom says:
"We need to approach our children not as character projects, but rather, we must see them with hearts of sympathy, with compassion and understanding, and with ears that listen. You see, homeschooling is not about lesson plans and research papers and standardized tests. Homeschooling is about building a relationship with our children, friendships that will last our entire lives on earth and clear into eternity. Homeschooling is merely the tool whereby we build those relationships." ~ thatmom
thatmom knows:
As a homeschooling mom, I have realized that everything, ultimately, is outside of my own control. I have learned that the unique circumstances that happen in my family have occurred because God’s plan is so much bigger than my own. It is knowing this truth about God and in experiencing that truth with those in my home that has enabled us to face past challenges and that will prepare us for all those difficulties that still lie before us.
thatmom says:
"Real books from the library, a tub of art supplies, being read stories rich in vocabulary, a variety of good music, the daily discussion of God’s Word and how it relates to the world around him, and the attention of a loving parent who includes him in all the activities of real life are the secrets to a great learning experience for children." ~ thatmom
thatmom realizes:
If I think about nearly 40 years of marriage, times the number of loads of laundry I have done for 2 parents, 6 children and 1 grandma, I am amazed to know that I have washed, dried, folded, (sometimes ironed) and put away roughly 27,526 loads of laundry. That is over 215,000 socks! Or, in that same amount of time, provided 38,324 meals for a family and sometimes guests. Or that I have overseen nearly 21,500 hours of education of one sort or another during that time. Just thinking of these numbers takes my breath away. ~ thatmom
thatmom says:
"Being a mom is sort of like being all the people who crowd into a basketball arena all at once. Sometimes we are the players, the ones who are responsible for everything that is going on and our presence is front and center. Sometimes we are the coaches, giving comfort and encouragement, instructing with a clipboard in hand. Other times we are the referees, no striped shirts required but whistles are a must to break up the disputes when the game isn’t played as per the rules. Still other times we are the fans, cheering wildly from the stands, shouting from a distance but not from the floor. And then there are the days when we are the cheerleaders, the ones who scream 'Yeah, you can do it.' " ~ thatmom
thatmom says:
“The beauty of homeschooling is building relationships within our families and inspiring our children to become lifelong learners, gently leading them into the truth of Scripture and trusting that the work we have begun will be brought to completion by a sovereign God who has a plan for building His heavenly kingdom.” ~ thatmom
thatmom also says:
“After parenting for 36 years, I have come to realize that all paradigms are basically a list of do’s and don’ts that someone has created. Instead of embracing a list, I have discovered that it is best for me to run all ideas, philosophies, and paradigms through my “one-anothering hopper.” I ask myself if the suggestions or ideas I am hearing will serve to build my relationships or will serve to tear them down; will they reflect the one-anothering commands of Scripture? I ask if they are a picture of Christ and His relationship with me as His needy daughter. If not, I am not interested, no matter how much appeal they might have for any number of reasons.” ~ thatmom
thatmom says this, too:
“The word wisdom is used in Exodus to describe the knowledge that the Lord gave to the skilled artisans so they could make Aaron’s garments for worship. We are told that these workers “were given wisdom and understanding in knowledge and all manner of workmanship.” I have never had to sew any garments for a priest to wear for worship. I have not had to sew any draperies or build any walls or prepare any inner sanctuary as per the Lord’s instructions. But I have been called to give all I can toward the goal of building up children in the faith, preparing children for life outside my home, children whose bodies, we are told, are called the very temple of the Holy Spirit, children whose job it is to worship in spirit and in truth." ~ thatmom
what does thatmom believe?
" What is thy only comfort in life and death? "That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him." ~ Heidelberg Catechism
What does it mean to be a Christian?

1.We must acknowledge that we are all sinners. “For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6) and “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

2.We are all accountable for our own sins before God. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

3.There is only one way to be forgiven of these sins and that is through the blood of Jesus Christ. “Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

4.If we confess our sin to the Lord and repent of it (not allow it to rule in our lives) we can be forgiven and be in right standing with God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousenss.” (1 John 1:9)

5.Genuine salvation will result in living lives of good works but none of those works contribute in any way to our standing before God which is based solely and completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12) and “Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5) and “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

6.We all, men and women, boys and girls, have direct access to the throne of grace because everyone who is a born-again believer in Jesus Christ is called a “priest and king” in God’s economy. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Peter 2:9)

I believe that many of the false teachings within the patriocentric movement are in direct contrast to these Scriptures and I would encourage each of us to first examine what we believe about Jesus and His work on the cross, its implications and its marvelous power.

Secondly, I would challenge anyone reading here to examine your own heart and ask yourself whether you have been trusting in good works….baptism, homeschooling, church attendance, modest dress, the list goes on and on, or if you have placed ALL your faith and hope in Jesus’ blood and righteousness alone.

And finally, I would challenge you to examine the teachings within your own church system, whether it is Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, etc. Ask yourself what your church teaches about ecclesiastical authority and family authority. Does it line up with the Word of God? It is a top down system that requires certain works in exchange for a relationship with Jesus Christ or do you have the assurance that you are saved for eternity by His death on the cross in your stead? Does it teach that the fruits of the spirit and obedience to all the one anothers is what our lives will demonstrate or is there a list of man made rules?

If you desire to talk with me about this, please send me a note to My desire is that no one who visits this website will leave without knowing the glorious truth that we can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and can enjoy a life filled with His goodness and grace!

Adoration of the Home was painted by regional artist, Grant Wood. The original hangs in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Ben Campbell and Lon Eldridge deserve extra cookies for writing, performing, recording, and mixing Mom’s Prairie Song for the podcast intro and outro. Great job, guys. Garrison Keillor would be proud.

Copyright © 2014 ~ ~ Karen Campbell ~ All Rights Reserved.