For about seven years, my husband and I had the privilege of working with college students at a local university. Developing leaders and watching them mature in their faith and in their skills was a highly satisfying job for me. When I stepped down in 2004, I did so in order to raise up some leaders that were even more near and dear to my heart: my own children. When the opportunity to review Leadership Garden Legacy's books, U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within and U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden, I was very excited. My husband and I have seen great potential for our oldest son as an emerging leader. This was a perfect time to start helping him cultivate those fledgling shoots that we see in him.
Company Information: Leadership Garden Legacy is founded by Debra J. Slover, who is also the author of the books. Through her own struggles and difficulties, Ms. Slover has developed her philosophy and curriculum and has much experience in helping children develop their leadership skills. I think this quote I found on the website is an apt description of Ms. Slover's passion in developing leaders. She writes, "Every person is a unique seed in the world’s garden. Each seed grows a leader from which greatness can blossom. Imagine the future of our planet if we nurture each child to sprout greatness." It is evident that the author has a passion for her topic!
Product Reviewed: For this review, I focused on the U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden book (paperback). The children's book is a full-color, illustrated version of the adult book, written in the form of a fable, so that children would understand it easily. To complete the program, I also received the accompanying Activity Guide and Journal (PDF e-book) and the Audio Book (mp3 download). The activity guide included exercises for the kids to go through in order to apply the lessons in the book. The audio book is meant to enhance the reading of the book. There are page-turning signals so your children can read along.
I also read through the adult version of the book, U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within (paperback), which also included The Leadership Garden Guidebook (paperback) and the Audio Book (mp3 download). Like the children's journal, the Guidebook contains exercises for you to go through and apply what you have just read and learned in the chapter. The audio book contains the Guidebook as a bonus if you prefer to print it out yourself.
U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids: paperback book-- $18.95, Activity Guide and Journal--$8.95, Audio Book--$8.95.
U.N.I.Q.U.E. for adults: paperback book--$18.95, The Leadership Garden Guidebook--$18.95, Audio Book--$14.95
Age Range: Ideally, the kids' version is for children ages 8-12. According to the author, this program was tested with children from K-5th grade, with the "sweet spot" being around ages 7-9. You can tailor it up or down, depending on the age of your children.
For this review, I began by skimming through the books to get the gist of the program. I also looked through the kids' PDF activity guide and (adult) Guidebook to get a sense of what types of activities would accompany the text. Lastly, I set up a plan to work through the book and exercises with my son. I planned for about 2-3 days per chapter (reading, discussion, activities).
How We Used It:
We began by reading the book chapter by chapter and then working through the accompanying exercises, if any, after reading each. As I read, I realized that there was no biblical or Scriptural support in the book, and as I looked again through the site, to be fair, it does not claim to be a Christian program.
Because I do want to impart Christian leadership principles to my children, I found that I needed to either interject what I believed Scripture does teach or sometimes disagree with the author. This got to be a little confusing for both of us after awhile, not to mention a little frustrating.
What We Liked:
- The tone of the children's book is very gentle and encouraging.
- The artwork in the books are beautifully done. The children's book is also in vibrant colors, which make it appealing.
- It is evident that Ms. Slover has put in much thought and care into the design of her program. The audios help give another way for her readers to interact with the material and the exercises are designed to help apply the principles introduced.
- There is an emphasis on love, not control, being key to a good leader (p. 33).
- Our favorite chapter was probably the one on purpose. That is a key principle for my husband and me, which we hope to pass on to our children.
What We Didn't Like:
I'm going to be honest here. Despite the beauty and the thoughtfulness, I had a hard time with this program. I really want to like every review I do, and while the premise of developing the leader within each person still does resonate with me, I am not sure this is the program for our family. I do not believe this is any fault of the author; we simply look at things from a different viewpoint.
Because the text is told as a fable, the reader needs to think in pictures. Admittedly, I am not very good at this. I needed something that was a little more concrete, even if the concepts were presented in a story form. Many times, I wasn't really sure what the point was. I had a hard time tracking with the ideas presented. I would read the adult version of the book on my own in tandem with the children's version so that I could better understand what was shared, but I still didn't "get it." Maybe the emotional and psychological lingo just does not click with my analytical mind.
What I was looking for was something that is grounded in Scripture. As I mentioned earlier, this is not meant to be a Christian curriculum (at least I didn't get that indication from the website), so I cannot expect that. There were points in the book where Matthew and I had a good discussion about leadership, but it was based on what Scripture exemplifies. For example, as I mentioned above, we had a good time talking about how leaders serve out of love, not out of a desire for power, and we discussed how Jesus did that in His own ministry. But you would have to make those connections yourself. That's okay, but I would have to spend some extra time thinking through the presentation instead of just reading it through.
We did some of the exercises (and did no journaling--neither one of us knew quite what to write about!) that came with the program, but didn't feel like it really helped us a lot. Matthew did the Leader Wheel, which was interesting, but we didn't quite know where to go with it from there, even though "Hugh" (the key figure in the story) seemed to understand! Although I totally agree with having a purpose (ch. 5), the exercises provided were not how we would have gone about defining it. I don't think there is one "right way" to do this, but it just wasn't the way we would have approached it. I'm not sure how children younger than 12 were able to understand such abstract concepts, but it was not easy for Matthew or myself!
I think there are good principles and ideas, but I would have to think about how to reword that principle in the light of Scripture. The exercises would likewise have to be tweaked for our family. If this is not an issue for you or if you are also teaching in a public school setting or desiring a non-sectarian approach to leadership development in your business, then perhaps this program would be a good fit for you.
This is only my opinion. I know that not everyone reading this may desire the same thing. If you believe this is something that would be beneficial for your family, school or business, Leadership Garden Legacy is offering a 20% "Spring Special Discount" on all their Empowerment Tools. This includes their Tool Kit Bundles and individual products in their store. The discount is in addition to the already reduced price of the bundled products. At checkout, enter the special code TOS-SS20D. This code is good until May 31, 2013. At this point, products are available in a combination of downloadable and physical items, with plans to release a completely downloadable version in late May.
I hope that this will be of benefit to some of you, even if it was not a good fit for us.