In these hyperactive times of political and societal discord, sometimes we need a bit of silliness to remind us not to take life so seriously. The Struggle Bus: The Van. The Myth. The Legend is part memoir, part parenting advice, and part friendly conversation. If you’ve ever started doing a project—say, writing a book review—and been disrupted by a small person doing something that completely reroutes your resolve—say, beginning to sing the dreaded “Baby Shark” song— then you’ll sympathize with the foibles in this book!
This book is what would happen if somehow the dry bar comedy of Kellen Erksine was mixed up with the books of the “World’s Funniest Mom,” suburbanite Erma Bombeck. It also follows the familiar dad humor path of early 90’s Tim Allen but with a much less self-deprecating tone and with the added distinctiveness of Josh Wood’s choices to be a homeschooling dad of a large family. The term “struggle bus” is slang for “a situation, task, etc., that seems difficult or frustrating” and Josh uses it ironically as the name of the family’s large 15-passenger van that encounters its own struggles and craziness throughout the years covered in the anecdotes.
Josh and his family homeschool in Amarillo, Texas and the book also has ties to College Station, Texas and the Aggieland traditions therein as he and his wife, Careese, are graduates of Texas A&M University. Josh then went on to obtain his MBA from Baylor University. The book is distinctly Texan in tone and also doesn’t shy away from making a few jokes in the vein of Baptist vs. Church of Christ worship styles, extreme July 4th clothing fashions, etc., but is always light-toned and never mean-spirited in its humor.
The idea for the book came from a Craigslist advertisement that Josh and his wife Careese wrote in an attempt to comically and ironically nip in the bud any questions about the condition of their van before receiving a barrage of emails about it. The Craigslist ad went viral and so his inspiration for this book was in creating each chapter to be themed around one part of the ad. It makes sense once you get into it!
For instance, chapter titles include “The Speaker Hole and the AV System,” “The Stupid Door Liner,” and, not for the faint of heart, “The Ghost of Vomit Past.” Josh uses each chapter to tell stories of adventures and misadventures of his large family of 11. You’ll learn about an accidental vacation side tour that was more fun than the planned one, a fireworks show that all went off at once with a gigantic “boom,” an almost ER visit that turned out okay with the help of kindly neighbors, and how to get the courage to have new friends over for dinner and overcome that nagging feeling that your hosting skills are up for the task! He also illustrates practical ways to educate your kids about different world cultures and help them competently engage with others who might see the world in a different light than they do.
Josh writes, “Fortunately, I’ve discovered that one of the keys to living (and enjoying) life in a large family is this: imperfectly trying over and over again is better than inertia. You can’t let a fear of being imperfect or of reliving a previous failure rob you or your family of the joys of action. I believe God honors our imperfect attempts more than our perfect procrastination.”
Though not specifically about the practice of homeschooling per se, homeschooling is throughout the book in the heart of the Wood family as you get to know them. Josh reminds you how to pray with your children, giving them room to expand their prayers above your expectations sometimes, and how to not neglect family devotion time—even if it gets a little chaotic at times! The Struggle Bus reminds you to count your spouse as your best friend and as a blessing and to remember that the daily happenings of life are the ones that give you a glimpse of the glory of God. As the van itself becomes a metaphor for life, the book also reminds you to not be afraid to embark on the journeys that present themselves to you.
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