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The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years

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From the bestselling author of CRIBSHEET and EXPECTING BETTER, the next step in data driven parenting from economist Emily Oster In The Family Firm, Brown professor of economics and mom of two Emily Oster offers a classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years: school, health, extracurricular From the bestselling author of CRIBSHEET and EXPECTING BETTER, the next step in data driven parenting from economist Emily Oster In The Family Firm, Brown professor of economics and mom of two Emily Oster offers a classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years: school, health, extracurricular activities, and more. Unlike the hourly challenges of infant parenting, the big questions in this age come up less frequently. But we live with the consequences of our decisions for much longer. What's the right kind of school and at what age should a particular kid start? How do you encourage a healthy diet? Should kids play a sport and how seriously? How do you think smartly about encouraging children's independence? Along with these bigger questions, Oster investigates how to navigate the complexity of day-to-day family logistics. Making these decisions is less about finding the specific answer and more about taking the right approach. Parents of this age are often still working in baby mode, which is to say, under stress and on the fly. That is a classic management problem, and Oster takes a page from her time as a business school professor at the University of Chicago to show us that thoughtful business process can help smooth out tough family decisions. The Family Firm is a smart and winning guide to how to think clearly--and with less ambient stress--about the key decisions of the elementary school years. We all know parenting is a full-time job, so maybe it's time we start treating it like one.


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From the bestselling author of CRIBSHEET and EXPECTING BETTER, the next step in data driven parenting from economist Emily Oster In The Family Firm, Brown professor of economics and mom of two Emily Oster offers a classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years: school, health, extracurricular From the bestselling author of CRIBSHEET and EXPECTING BETTER, the next step in data driven parenting from economist Emily Oster In The Family Firm, Brown professor of economics and mom of two Emily Oster offers a classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years: school, health, extracurricular activities, and more. Unlike the hourly challenges of infant parenting, the big questions in this age come up less frequently. But we live with the consequences of our decisions for much longer. What's the right kind of school and at what age should a particular kid start? How do you encourage a healthy diet? Should kids play a sport and how seriously? How do you think smartly about encouraging children's independence? Along with these bigger questions, Oster investigates how to navigate the complexity of day-to-day family logistics. Making these decisions is less about finding the specific answer and more about taking the right approach. Parents of this age are often still working in baby mode, which is to say, under stress and on the fly. That is a classic management problem, and Oster takes a page from her time as a business school professor at the University of Chicago to show us that thoughtful business process can help smooth out tough family decisions. The Family Firm is a smart and winning guide to how to think clearly--and with less ambient stress--about the key decisions of the elementary school years. We all know parenting is a full-time job, so maybe it's time we start treating it like one.

30 review for The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years

  1. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    If I took notes on this book, am I the right demographic for this book? Probably yes. However I haven’t read her previous books (my kids were too old for their advice at the time) and I thought some of her Covid analysis was just so-so, so I went into this open-minded but not like, overeager. The biggest takeaway from the book is that there isn’t a lot of data out there that will tell you there is One True Way to do something as a parent of elementary age kids/tweens. So for better or worse, a l If I took notes on this book, am I the right demographic for this book? Probably yes. However I haven’t read her previous books (my kids were too old for their advice at the time) and I thought some of her Covid analysis was just so-so, so I went into this open-minded but not like, overeager. The biggest takeaway from the book is that there isn’t a lot of data out there that will tell you there is One True Way to do something as a parent of elementary age kids/tweens. So for better or worse, a lot of the conclusions were roughly: Some kids report a benefit from X. Other kids can be harmed by X. The evidence is sparse / weak / out of date / irrelevant. So use your brain and think through what works for your family based on what you care about. P.S. Use Google Docs to be organized. On the list of things that *did* feel relevant to me (again, you might pull out different pieces for you; we aren’t currently thinking about red-shirting our kindergartener or switching to a private or charter school): * Sleep is important. (This is one of the most clear cut things.) Screens before bed can impact sleep. * Picky eating can be helped by exposure (repeated, no pressure). * Involved parenting is good, but independence is good too. Over-involvement can lead to later anxiety. But a happy home life can be a buffer against negative peer experiences that come up. * Extracurriculars like sports, lessons, or camps are mostly good if the kid enjoys them and when it increases their sense of belonging. * Data on screen time is quite outdated so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (okay, she doesn't really stop there, but you have to set limits based on your family preferences and opportunity costs. Even kids need time to "stare at the wall.") * You don’t need your kid to be thinking about college or being super good at a sport when they are in elementary school; seriously the data just doesn’t support it. * COVID made a lot of families go into hyperdrive for decision making, analyzing, adapting, and being organized. We all just got a major crash course in a lot of what she talks about in the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Candice W.

    Couldn’t finish. Turns out I don’t sweat parenting decisions on a level that warrants a bunch of data and b-school paradigms.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Emily Oster feels like the “smart friend” who will do all your research for you and then help you make really important parenting decisions while also not making you feel like you are completely dumb/ incompetent. While I probably won’t be holding family meetings with prepared agendas any time soon (not that I judge it - I love a good agenda), I thoroughly enjoyed The Family Firm! Though it is chock full of facts, numbers, and studies, the tone is conversational, and the information is easy to d Emily Oster feels like the “smart friend” who will do all your research for you and then help you make really important parenting decisions while also not making you feel like you are completely dumb/ incompetent. While I probably won’t be holding family meetings with prepared agendas any time soon (not that I judge it - I love a good agenda), I thoroughly enjoyed The Family Firm! Though it is chock full of facts, numbers, and studies, the tone is conversational, and the information is easy to digest. As an economist and a mom, Oster talked me through many of the questions I’m already asking about raising school-age kids (How much screen time is too much? Should my kids play an instrument? Do travel sports make sense for a ten year old? Is six too young for sleep away camp?) and many I hadn’t really thought about yet (When should I let my kids have social media accounts and/or a cell phone? Should I intervene if my kid is being bullied? How will I know if a school/sport/activity isn’t the right fit for a kid? Etc.) with logic *and* compassion. She doesn’t make the decisions for you, but she does give you the information you need to consider and a framework for making good choices for your unique family. (Also, as a bonus, Jeff really appreciates data and facts, so this book was a great catalyst for good, productive conversation between us!) I don’t read a ton of parenting books these days, but this was one VERY relevant to my life, and I can see myself going back to its pages again and again over the next 5 or 6 years. If you have a 3 - 13 year old, this book is for you!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    My kid just turned five, and I feel like I’m at the perfect time for this one. We’re making lots of decisions right now (which school? should we redshirt him for Kindergarten? should we start him in extra-curricular activities?), and this book provides a framework for making these decisions and also offers up summaries of existing research. The framework isn’t for everyone, but as the person at work responsible for strategy and project management to execute that strategy, ooooh, I thought this w My kid just turned five, and I feel like I’m at the perfect time for this one. We’re making lots of decisions right now (which school? should we redshirt him for Kindergarten? should we start him in extra-curricular activities?), and this book provides a framework for making these decisions and also offers up summaries of existing research. The framework isn’t for everyone, but as the person at work responsible for strategy and project management to execute that strategy, ooooh, I thought this was so much fun. Emily Oster is able to distill research into its salient points in a straightforward, fun way. If I knew her in real life, I’d want to be her friend (I might not be academic enough for her to be my friend, but that’s a different story).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I was really excited for this book because I am familiar with the author and I love both research and parenting, especially researching anything parenting related.. Since I feel compelled to read any and every new book that focuses on both, this book was naturally on my radar. Overall, it was an enjoyable book. I didn't love it as much as I expected though. For being data driven, I felt there were many parts that were heavily dependent on her opinion and unconscious bias. Statistics can always b I was really excited for this book because I am familiar with the author and I love both research and parenting, especially researching anything parenting related.. Since I feel compelled to read any and every new book that focuses on both, this book was naturally on my radar. Overall, it was an enjoyable book. I didn't love it as much as I expected though. For being data driven, I felt there were many parts that were heavily dependent on her opinion and unconscious bias. Statistics can always be spun to what you want them to say, so I found that some of her conclusions were based on specific studies that she had decided to use and not indicative of what is valid for another. I get it, parenting style is highly subjective and what works for one does not always work for another. She has a lot of side commentary throughout and sometimes I found it entertaining and other times I found it kind of grating or overdone. Also, I'm very much a Type A, plan everything to the minute, type of person, but some the interactions she relays in the story just make her family seem so stiff and unrelatable. Perhaps she was really trying to play up how she runs her home like a firm, but it just came off cold to me. Perhaps the most disappointing thing was that I learned nothing new in this book. Most conclusions pointed to the obvious while a few were just based on her personal conclusions via her research. The book was fine, but I don't feel like it is worth the hype. For the good, a number of the things she discusses are interesting, but just pretty obvious. So this book may appeal more to those who are novices in the parenting book arena. The writing itself was good and read well. I would lean more toward 3- 3 1/2 stars, but maybe a 4 star for the mentioned demographic, so rounding up to 4.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Moira Burke

    Unlike “Expecting Better,” there’s little causal data on parental decision-making about older kids: how many after school activities to engage in, whether to enter first grade late, how much screen time is okay. Even the observational studies are typically small and inconclusive. However, the survey of relevant data is still useful as a parent, and in most cases the answer is a reassuring “it probably doesn’t matter much.” I hadn’t been expecting the B-school toolbox chapter at the beginning — w Unlike “Expecting Better,” there’s little causal data on parental decision-making about older kids: how many after school activities to engage in, whether to enter first grade late, how much screen time is okay. Even the observational studies are typically small and inconclusive. However, the survey of relevant data is still useful as a parent, and in most cases the answer is a reassuring “it probably doesn’t matter much.” I hadn’t been expecting the B-school toolbox chapter at the beginning — writing a family mission statement, developing a process for fact-finding, discussion, and follow-up. Reading that section was stressful, making me feel like there was yet another thing I’d need to coordinate, but Oster makes a good case for its psychological usefulness and future time-saving.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kessler

    So far Cribsheet is still my favorite data-driven parenting title by economist Emily Oster, but this latest one is a solid self-help book for household organizing and thorny decision-making about raising kids particularly in the five-to-twelve-year-old range. As always, the author offers valuable scientific findings on the arena of dilemmas facing modern parents, from nutrition to screentime to homework to extracurricular activities. The good news is that these studies can be reassuring; the bad So far Cribsheet is still my favorite data-driven parenting title by economist Emily Oster, but this latest one is a solid self-help book for household organizing and thorny decision-making about raising kids particularly in the five-to-twelve-year-old range. As always, the author offers valuable scientific findings on the arena of dilemmas facing modern parents, from nutrition to screentime to homework to extracurricular activities. The good news is that these studies can be reassuring; the bad news is that they are often inconclusive, with Oster quick to point out that correlation doesn't imply causation. (Are children who sit down for family dinners each night healthier on average because of that communal experience, or because families who are able to reliably make the joint evening meal happen tend to differ in other ways from those who can't?) There's a lot of such vacillating in these pages, along with an unfortunate reliance on problematic rough measures like IQ, BMI, and standardized test scores without necessarily unpacking their known limitations. The occasional insights are legitimately great, though, and I especially like the idea of pre-planning with your partner -- if you have one -- to discuss priorities and maybe even craft a business-like mission statement for the house in advance of working through a problem together. Figuring out the big picture ahead of time so that smaller choices in the moment become easier if not essentially automatic strikes me as a really smart framework to adopt. But overall, this text probably could have been a lot shorter, as I'm not sure we need to be told on topic after topic that the experts simply don't know the best approach. Find me on Patreon | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter

  8. 5 out of 5

    Talia

    This book, like Emily Oster's other books, tackles various parenting decisions while looking at the data from the valid studies that are available. Oster takes this age group a step further by introducing the concept that parenting decisions should be made "business-style" by using good data and balancing what's good for the family/child as a whole. Now, Emily Oster is NOT educated in child development nor education (I saw her described elsewhere as "parenting guru"?); her specialty is economics This book, like Emily Oster's other books, tackles various parenting decisions while looking at the data from the valid studies that are available. Oster takes this age group a step further by introducing the concept that parenting decisions should be made "business-style" by using good data and balancing what's good for the family/child as a whole. Now, Emily Oster is NOT educated in child development nor education (I saw her described elsewhere as "parenting guru"?); her specialty is economics, as well as analyzing data and determining what child/parenting studies as valid or "good" as opposed to news sites spouting off one half-truth from a poorly run study. I, for one, enjoyed the book. There were a few conclusions that I had already knew about, and a few conclusions that made me go "really? Huh." For many of these parenting choices, it comes down to "whatever works the best for your family"...did you really need a whole book for that? I look forward to her book on teens when it comes out in a few more years (this is happening, right?) Emily Oster also narrates her own audiobook, which was a nice surprise, as her humor really comes through this way; I actually laughed out loud a few times!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    2.5 - I like and respect Emily Oster quite a bit and maybe I'm just not in the thick of the elementary years yet and therefore some of the concerns seem a bit..."who cares" (signing kids up for the best sleep away camp in January for example) and the data is sparse--far sparser than Cribsheet. Her framing is certainly useful but this rubric doesn't need to be a whole book. 2.5 - I like and respect Emily Oster quite a bit and maybe I'm just not in the thick of the elementary years yet and therefore some of the concerns seem a bit..."who cares" (signing kids up for the best sleep away camp in January for example) and the data is sparse--far sparser than Cribsheet. Her framing is certainly useful but this rubric doesn't need to be a whole book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Emily Oster is my dream big sister who has such wisdom and strategy. So glad this book came out as we're in the early school years, and looking forward to the middle and high school editions in time! I've said it before and I'll say it again, Emily Oster is my dream big sister who has such wisdom and strategy. So glad this book came out as we're in the early school years, and looking forward to the middle and high school editions in time!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lily Pan

    Probably could have been an article. She suggestions a good approach (system) for making decisions if the reader feels overwhelmed and doesn’t have one already. None of the references to data were that interesting and everything is super nuanced that this book has a narrower audience than her previous ones. 2.5 stars but giving it 3 as I can see how it’s helpful to others.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Another Emily Oster book coming out you in August! If you have been following Oster’s books during parenthood starting with Expecting Better in pregnancy and Cribsheet postpartum, you are going to want to get your hands on The Family Firm, her next parenting book for ages 5-12 years. In this book Oster offers a “classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years.” We are overwrought with input on parenting advise, lea Another Emily Oster book coming out you in August! If you have been following Oster’s books during parenthood starting with Expecting Better in pregnancy and Cribsheet postpartum, you are going to want to get your hands on The Family Firm, her next parenting book for ages 5-12 years. In this book Oster offers a “classic business school framework for data-driven parents to think more deliberately about the key issues of the elementary years.” We are overwrought with input on parenting advise, leading us to anxiety and uncertainty on what is actually best for our kids. The author does the research for you, deep diving into the evidence-based research on the next big decisions in parentland for your youngsters. When to start kindergarten? Is good to start early or wait a year and have your child be a bit older? Private, Public, Charter? And what even makes a good school? Extracurricular activities? Does tutoring make a difference in long term advantages? What about teaching your kids to read at an early age? What makes a child happy and confident? How do we raise kids to be nice and effectively interact with others? Electronics. Learning Based Apps. When to give the phone? How much screen time? Good stuff, right? If you tend to struggle with decision making and want more data to help you do that- this is the book. One of the things I enjoyed the most was her tips and tricks to making these decisions in an organized way, and how to engage your partner in the decision-making process, so you (typically the mother) do not have to hold all the emotional load of remembering things, activities, grocery lists, etc. and for that, this was gold for me. If you are the CEO of your Family Firm go grab this book, out August 3rd. Thank you to NetGalley and to Peguin Press for the Advanced Read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I was really excited for this book. Having read both Expecting Better and Cribsheet, I expected to learn a lot about which commonly-repeated parenting truisms are supported by the data and which are not. Having followed Oster's newsletter since its inception, I also expected to learn more about some analytic and perhaps technological tools that would help my family make better decisions. I was a little bit disappointed. Part of the problem is that - as Oster repeats a number of times - there just I was really excited for this book. Having read both Expecting Better and Cribsheet, I expected to learn a lot about which commonly-repeated parenting truisms are supported by the data and which are not. Having followed Oster's newsletter since its inception, I also expected to learn more about some analytic and perhaps technological tools that would help my family make better decisions. I was a little bit disappointed. Part of the problem is that - as Oster repeats a number of times - there just isn't data for a lot of the things parents want to know, because kids and families and the decisions they face vary so broadly. The question of whether private school is better for your kid than public school depends on which private school and which public school and on your particular kid, and on what "better" means to you. So the kind of counter-to-common-wisdom revelations that filled Expecting Better (coffee in reasonable amounts is okay! also most soft cheese!) simply aren't available for this subject matter. But I do think Oster could have delved further into the material that exists. There is a lot of real estate devoted to extreme consequences of one's decisions (will your child get a concussion if they play sports?) but much less to more quotidian outcomes (will their grades be better or worse?). I would have also liked to see more on the topic advertised in the title: how to make decisions. The framework Oster outlines is simple but, in the face of emotional issues, powerful, and I thought it should have been elaborated further, with more detailed discussion of specific software and tools and more nuanced case studies. 3.5 stars - worth reading if you like this kind of thing. Rounded up because it's so much more rational than most parenting books.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    I've described myself as a "ride or die" Oster fan, but I do think it's important to say that I more think we would get along really well, and that I find her an entertaining writer, than that this is a great book. I thought the decision-making framework she lays out is a bit pedantic and frankly, business school textbook-ish (which she acknowledges)...but at the same time, some of the questions she poses I thought were super useful--things I had thought about but less formally, and which my hus I've described myself as a "ride or die" Oster fan, but I do think it's important to say that I more think we would get along really well, and that I find her an entertaining writer, than that this is a great book. I thought the decision-making framework she lays out is a bit pedantic and frankly, business school textbook-ish (which she acknowledges)...but at the same time, some of the questions she poses I thought were super useful--things I had thought about but less formally, and which my husband (a great dad but not a big philosophical thinker) surely hasn't. Most problematic (unsurprisingly) is her section on race and education, which is a super ham-handed "of course racism is real and Black people's experience in education is super different blah blah" liberal trope rather than any attempt to engage with the (plentiful) research around what "good schools" even means...that schools have very little impact, if any, on college or life outcomes for well-off kids...that often what white parents mean (as revealed by the schools they choose) when they say "good schools" is "ones with more white kids" rather than "ones with strong value-added outcomes" or even "ones with better scores." I'm sure Oster's audience is overwhelmingly white college graduates, so she has a chance to take on some of these shibboleths but instead had a boilerplate disclaimer that basically runs scared from any work on this topic. Makes me appreciate the book The Cult of Smart, which does try to get at these issues. I think The Genetic Lottery (on my list) will too, in a different way. Anyway, you know what you're getting with these. I like them, but they aren't for everyone.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bailey Surtees

    I’m a huge nerd, I love data, I love working with children, and I think cognitive development is fascinating. Obviously this was going to be a win from the start. While missing the clearer data driven answers of some of the previous books (and less time given to nitpicking various studies, which, again I’m here for) it also makes sense and was expected going in. Decisions parents face as kids get older get more complex and nuanced and significantly harder to study for causal relationships. One thi I’m a huge nerd, I love data, I love working with children, and I think cognitive development is fascinating. Obviously this was going to be a win from the start. While missing the clearer data driven answers of some of the previous books (and less time given to nitpicking various studies, which, again I’m here for) it also makes sense and was expected going in. Decisions parents face as kids get older get more complex and nuanced and significantly harder to study for causal relationships. One thing I really enjoyed was the decision making structure breakdown. It’s very much in line with “design thinking” frameworks that I’ve used in school, professionally, and while teaching. I think it’s a powerful and under-taught way of approaching complex problem solving, so seeing it used in a new space was a big win for me. Something that could have been better: The issue of being able to weigh options that aren’t easily quantifiable comes up many times. Indeed, I’ve seen it raised in all areas that I’ve utilized other design thinking based problem solving. However, with that, there are some really great tools and ways to approach making non easy to measure or quantify options quantifiable (decision matrices are great for teaching the utility of this but off putting to many with the word “matricies”). I’m sure the author has used many tools of this sort before and I also imagine that it was left out as being difficult to describe or overly nitty gritty to get into in the scope of the book. However, it would’ve been great to reference that there are ways to do that and include a link in the references or toolbox sections at the back of the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I like Emily Oster. I mean, I like the her she puts in the books, the bits of her personality she includes in the writing. But I also like her method of looking at things. Rather than just relying on whatever you last heard or read online, she goes into the data and finds out what it really says. It’s reassuring, usually, to find that things really aren’t as dire as they seem from all the stuff with five exclamation points you read elsewhere (“Screen time will destroy your baby’s brain!!!!!”). T I like Emily Oster. I mean, I like the her she puts in the books, the bits of her personality she includes in the writing. But I also like her method of looking at things. Rather than just relying on whatever you last heard or read online, she goes into the data and finds out what it really says. It’s reassuring, usually, to find that things really aren’t as dire as they seem from all the stuff with five exclamation points you read elsewhere (“Screen time will destroy your baby’s brain!!!!!”). This book is, most importantly, a framework for how to make decisions as your kids grow. She calls it the Four Fs, and these steps (and lots of meetings) help you to make more informed and deliberate decisions. It’s a good framework, and very unlike how I naturally make decisions. And that’s a good thing, because I usually just make a decision based on how I feel in exactly that moment (and then defend it to the death when challenged (I’m a mess)). My wife, on the other hand, is much more deliberate about things. She’s going to love this book. We will definitely be implementing this framework for ourselves. The rest of the book, the discussion on different topics and their related data, is good but (as Oster warns in the beginning) there isn’t actually a whole lot of specific data for a lot of it. And specific decisions are so very specific for each family. Thankfully, that’s where the four Fs come in.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    I was intrigued by the subtitle of this book, “A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years” and wanted to see what types of decisions might be anticipated. What I liked about this book was the framing questions that Oster provides and the ways in which she suggests having conversations about topics such as family schedules and mission statements, sleep, childcare and parental work, nutrition, parenting style, extracurriculars, and even, the right age for a child to ge I was intrigued by the subtitle of this book, “A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years” and wanted to see what types of decisions might be anticipated. What I liked about this book was the framing questions that Oster provides and the ways in which she suggests having conversations about topics such as family schedules and mission statements, sleep, childcare and parental work, nutrition, parenting style, extracurriculars, and even, the right age for a child to get a phone. The data is presented, and some applications are suggested. The first topic, of redshirting, was specific to parents whose children are born around school cut-off dates, but the rest of the book addresses more general decisions and styles. I thought it was helpful for Oster to consider different scenarios (i.e. performing in a musical, attending a summer camp, club soccer), the tradeoffs, and how to revisit and assess how the decision-making went and how future decisions can be informed. The author touches briefly on race and other topics that can play into private school vs. public school, and the author is direct in saying that other experts and many other books have been written about these topics; still, I think her framing questions could have been more inclusive of these values.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna Hawes

    I haven't read her other books but my impression is that she digs into studies to answer parenting questions with data. This one isn't like that. She discusses some studies but the conclusion for most of them is that we don't have the strong causal data to draw meaningful conclusions. Instead of providing data-proven, one-size-fits-all recommendations, the value of this book is that it offers a framework to make the best choice for your family circumstances. I appreciated the big picture focus; I haven't read her other books but my impression is that she digs into studies to answer parenting questions with data. This one isn't like that. She discusses some studies but the conclusion for most of them is that we don't have the strong causal data to draw meaningful conclusions. Instead of providing data-proven, one-size-fits-all recommendations, the value of this book is that it offers a framework to make the best choice for your family circumstances. I appreciated the big picture focus; it showed me that while I was tackling questions like screen time, sports, and school in isolation, I really needed to consider how these choices affected our family life as a whole. For example, if Sundays are family days and family dinners are important to us, then that makes the decision for many extracurriculars that would conflict with those priorities. It's helpful to stop and think about what our family priorities are and how our day-to-day is or isn't reflecting those. The book is a quick read but the discussions I'll be having with my husband will probably be pretty lengthy. There are guides/worksheets for discussions in setting up big picture family priorities but also for tackling individual choices that come up. It provides some helpful structure to make intentional choices about parenting.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review! I really enjoyed this book, probably because I’m currently existing in the space that this book tries to prepare you for. It calmed my nerves about things (screen time, extracurriculars, kindergarten start times, oh my!) and it gave me real data to mull over, not just one mom’s opinion. Hallelujah! I really liked the idea of setting a family mission statement, and as someone who literally helps bus Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review! I really enjoyed this book, probably because I’m currently existing in the space that this book tries to prepare you for. It calmed my nerves about things (screen time, extracurriculars, kindergarten start times, oh my!) and it gave me real data to mull over, not just one mom’s opinion. Hallelujah! I really liked the idea of setting a family mission statement, and as someone who literally helps businesses develop this kind of thing for a living, it’s something I’ve considered but haven’t gotten around to yet. I appreciated the provided framework and how to use it once you’ve created it. It may just have been the kick in the pants I need to develop one with my own family. All in all, I consider myself fairly organized and Type A to a point, but I am definitely not as much so as this author, and would prefer not to consider my family as a business, and to leave room for a bit more flexibility and fewer google docs. If you are a reader who is craving more structure and less stress, you may find this to be the answer for you, though! I’ll keep reading Emily Oster’s books, and I hope they’ll keep lining up at the right time in my parenting life!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cari

    I am a big fan of Emily Oster and recommend everything she writes, particularly EXPECTING BETTER. I was excited to have an advanced reader copy of this book through Edelweiss. When Oster's last book, CRIBSHEET, came out, my children were already both past the stages covered, so I didn't read it. But as my children are both elementary aged, I dove right into this one. Oster gives a framework for families to make difficult decisions, plus the usual data and statistics to help with some of those ch I am a big fan of Emily Oster and recommend everything she writes, particularly EXPECTING BETTER. I was excited to have an advanced reader copy of this book through Edelweiss. When Oster's last book, CRIBSHEET, came out, my children were already both past the stages covered, so I didn't read it. But as my children are both elementary aged, I dove right into this one. Oster gives a framework for families to make difficult decisions, plus the usual data and statistics to help with some of those choices. While the section on using Google Docs and Calendar was old hat to me - my kids had calendars and schedules before they were born - if you are new to this way of planning, it is really helpful. I also thought the parts explaining different studies were fascinating, and Oster's dry humor makes this book more than chapter after chapter of statistics. Not every reader will gravitate to this kind of parenting book, but it's a good choice to have in any library collection.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    *I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review* I really enjoyed Expecting Better and Cribsheet so I was excited when I saw that Oster had a new book coming out covering the Elementary School years I was very excited. This book is different than the previous ones, but that is because the data because more complicated as kids get older and what works for one family is completely different than others. I really liked how she laid this book out however; with broad ideas and then m *I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review* I really enjoyed Expecting Better and Cribsheet so I was excited when I saw that Oster had a new book coming out covering the Elementary School years I was very excited. This book is different than the previous ones, but that is because the data because more complicated as kids get older and what works for one family is completely different than others. I really liked how she laid this book out however; with broad ideas and then more specific examples such as when your kids start school (should you hold them back a year if they are born later in the year), or how many after school activities should they be in, and when they should get their own phone. This book covers a lot of important topics and like always is written in a way that is very easy to read and enjoy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    - [ ] Tutors help - [ ] School choice makes a bigger difference at the margins, and probably not in the middle - [ ] Homework probably helps, as long as it’s done “right”. “Right” is hard to define… - [ ] Sleep is necessary - [ ] Childcare vs parental work - work is a little less beneficial overall for health (obesity), so make sure that you’re focusing on healthy behaviors - [ ] Kids learning independence a little earlier is probably better, vs helicopter parenting - [ ] Offer foods multiple times b - [ ] Tutors help - [ ] School choice makes a bigger difference at the margins, and probably not in the middle - [ ] Homework probably helps, as long as it’s done “right”. “Right” is hard to define… - [ ] Sleep is necessary - [ ] Childcare vs parental work - work is a little less beneficial overall for health (obesity), so make sure that you’re focusing on healthy behaviors - [ ] Kids learning independence a little earlier is probably better, vs helicopter parenting - [ ] Offer foods multiple times before kids will enjoy them - [ ] Family dinner - 5-7 times per week were much less likely to drink, have sex, etc, than 0-1 times per week - [ ] Instilling a love of reading: let them choose what they read in order to increase comprehension, e-readers are fine, phonics-based reading learning is the way to go, audiobooks help with story comprehension

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christy

    Oster uses her experience as an economist to help with parenting decision making. The Four Fs: Frame the Question (what's the actual decision you need to make), Fact-Find (gather evidence), Final Decision (decide) and Follow-Up (review the decision) set up a framework for decision-making structures. She covers such elementary school decisions as: red-shirting for kindergarten, sports, music and extracurriculars, summer camp, technology use, sleep, etc. She also advocates for running your family Oster uses her experience as an economist to help with parenting decision making. The Four Fs: Frame the Question (what's the actual decision you need to make), Fact-Find (gather evidence), Final Decision (decide) and Follow-Up (review the decision) set up a framework for decision-making structures. She covers such elementary school decisions as: red-shirting for kindergarten, sports, music and extracurriculars, summer camp, technology use, sleep, etc. She also advocates for running your family like a firm, to include a mission statement to drive your priorities, time and budget. "What your kids (and you!) do with each hour of each day will affect your budget, your time, how your feel about your connection with your kid."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I thought her first two books were more helpful for me. If you have an ounce of common sense, you have probably already put a lot of her advice into practice making sure that your family doesn’t collapse under the weight of organizing itself. But if you find yourself really struggling to manage things and actually make decisions without freaking out / not being introspective enough to tell whether it was a good decision, the tools in this book will be helpful for you. Sometimes it really is usef I thought her first two books were more helpful for me. If you have an ounce of common sense, you have probably already put a lot of her advice into practice making sure that your family doesn’t collapse under the weight of organizing itself. But if you find yourself really struggling to manage things and actually make decisions without freaking out / not being introspective enough to tell whether it was a good decision, the tools in this book will be helpful for you. Sometimes it really is useful to step back and ask yourself simply, what is the question I am really asking here? What’s my goal? We can lose sight of that big stuff in the rush of trying to make decisions so we can get through the day.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bruin Mccon

    Family Firm is a guide to raising your pre-teen, post-toddler kids. Honestly would have been a perfect book if it didn’t start with camp. I never went to camp, doubt my spouse did and can’t get over the knee-jerk reaction that camp is for rich white people even if it’s not 100% the truth. Left me with a bad taste in my mouth that persisted throughout the book. Other than that, there was a lot of good data in here, especially with respect to screen time. Important to note that specific things are n Family Firm is a guide to raising your pre-teen, post-toddler kids. Honestly would have been a perfect book if it didn’t start with camp. I never went to camp, doubt my spouse did and can’t get over the knee-jerk reaction that camp is for rich white people even if it’s not 100% the truth. Left me with a bad taste in my mouth that persisted throughout the book. Other than that, there was a lot of good data in here, especially with respect to screen time. Important to note that specific things are not bad, it’s just that there are a few good things that may be crowded out by other not good things. This is an important point.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    It seems unfair to title a book "a data-driven guide" and then have the book be full of instances where the author throws up her hands and says "hey, there's not much data on this" or "yeah, here are a few mediocre studies, but your mileage will certainly vary". I'm not looking for a silver bullet, but this book wildly underdelivers on the promise of its title. There are a few decent ideas in it and a couple of useful nuggets of insight, but I was left phenomenally disappointed. If you're a data It seems unfair to title a book "a data-driven guide" and then have the book be full of instances where the author throws up her hands and says "hey, there's not much data on this" or "yeah, here are a few mediocre studies, but your mileage will certainly vary". I'm not looking for a silver bullet, but this book wildly underdelivers on the promise of its title. There are a few decent ideas in it and a couple of useful nuggets of insight, but I was left phenomenally disappointed. If you're a data-minded parent looking for a review of the data to influence your thinking on key parenting decisions, look elsewhere.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan Rigetti

    I absolutely loved this book. I’m very into planning and organization for my own work and my own personal goals, and I’ve been trying to find a way to be more organized about family life. This book has a really useful framework for organizing and planning family life and kid things — including helpful worksheets — both for big picture stuff and the day to day. It’s supposed to be for school aged children but my kids are 3 years old and 3 months old and I’m already putting much of this book into I absolutely loved this book. I’m very into planning and organization for my own work and my own personal goals, and I’ve been trying to find a way to be more organized about family life. This book has a really useful framework for organizing and planning family life and kid things — including helpful worksheets — both for big picture stuff and the day to day. It’s supposed to be for school aged children but my kids are 3 years old and 3 months old and I’m already putting much of this book into practice.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I enjoyed "Cribsheets" more than this one, but still a good read. This one felt a little lighter on the research, which is probably fine for the majority of her readers. The framework (the 4 F's) is helpful for thinking through decisions. I appreciate her emphasis on the process more than the outcome. If we can ensure that our decision-making process was intentional and informed, that's a "win" -- regardless of outcome. This message really hits home during COVID where there's so much uncertainty I enjoyed "Cribsheets" more than this one, but still a good read. This one felt a little lighter on the research, which is probably fine for the majority of her readers. The framework (the 4 F's) is helpful for thinking through decisions. I appreciate her emphasis on the process more than the outcome. If we can ensure that our decision-making process was intentional and informed, that's a "win" -- regardless of outcome. This message really hits home during COVID where there's so much uncertainty and so many decisions to make.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    Honestly, I'm pretty tired of Emily Oster's interpreting of parenting data, though I appreciate her efforts, especially for older kids where the data is definitely muddier on these decisions. I did love the idea of a decision making framework. I'm not sure it needs to be so business school/running a business like but the principles of knowing what your family values are so important. Though I could not write up each family member's schedule daily, it would make me want to cry to work it out. But Honestly, I'm pretty tired of Emily Oster's interpreting of parenting data, though I appreciate her efforts, especially for older kids where the data is definitely muddier on these decisions. I did love the idea of a decision making framework. I'm not sure it needs to be so business school/running a business like but the principles of knowing what your family values are so important. Though I could not write up each family member's schedule daily, it would make me want to cry to work it out. But many Oster lovers will love this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katie Heroux

    When I quit my job to stay at home with the kids, I told Jordan my new title was Chief Operating Officer; I have always thought about running a home in terms of managing a business. I didn't find Oster's framework very new, but it was helpful to see some things I already do written out in black and white so I could really consider how well my processes are working.  In that sense, reading this book included a lot of self-reflection. I didn't learn very much new information like I did in her previ When I quit my job to stay at home with the kids, I told Jordan my new title was Chief Operating Officer; I have always thought about running a home in terms of managing a business. I didn't find Oster's framework very new, but it was helpful to see some things I already do written out in black and white so I could really consider how well my processes are working.  In that sense, reading this book included a lot of self-reflection. I didn't learn very much new information like I did in her previous books, but this one was helpful in a different way.

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