When a Review is not a Review

Whenever I’m going to buy something, I like to look at the reviews of the product online first to see what people are saying about it. In general, I think word of mouth is pretty valuable because it’s usually someone’s actual opinion based on their experience, as opposed to hype or advertising from the company that made the item.

Traditionally, a product review is something the product’s creator never pays for (other than the cost of the review copy and shipping); in addition, it’s bad form to ask for a good review. The whole point is for the reviewer to give an unbiased opinion. Obviously, if the review copy were to arrive with a check payable to the reviewer, the review would be biased.

We started Cardamom Publishers, our homeschool publishing business, in 2003, and we’ve never paid for a review or asked for a good review. We just send out review copies and wait. We’ve been gratified to receive good reviews, and we want homeschooling parents to know that those reviews are unbiased.

There are many good homeschool websites and magazines that offer unbiased reviews. But apparently there are others who require creators to pay for something they call a product review, but which is actually an advertisement. I recently received an email from one such site, howtohomeschool.net. They’ve offered to review our products. Here are the details:

Removed at the request of the writer 7/11/17

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, but to claim that a paid ad is a product review is dishonest. Homeschooling parents love hearing the opinions of other parents about homeschool products; I valued that input when I homeschooled my four kids. But there’s a huge difference between an unbiased opinion and a paid ad, and I don’t think it’s fair to imply that there isn’t one, especially when your intended audience is made up of very busy homeschooling parents who have enough to do without trying to figure out when they’re being misled.

 

Should You Co-sign Your Teen’s Student Loans?

These days, most people don’t have enough money saved up for a college education for their child because college has become so ridiculously expensive. Instead, they encourage their offspring to apply for financial aid, which includes grants and loans.

Grants are great, but generally hard to obtain in more than a nominal amount; hence the popularity of loans. But since young people just out of high school (or home school) rarely have a financial track record, their parents are often asked to co-sign loans, especially if the total annual cost of the chosen college is more than several thousand dollars a year.

Should you co-sign your teen’s student loans? If you’re a Christian, you need to be aware that the Bible, while not specifically prohibiting co-signing loans, makes it clear that it is foolish to do so.

Check out Proverbs 17:18 (KJV):

A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.

Surety, in case you’re wondering, is pledging to repay a loan without any sure way to pay it back. Co-signing means you’re taking on that obligation for someone else in case they can’t pay it back. The reason the bank requires them to have a co-signer is because it considers them a bad risk.

It’s possible to borrow money but avoid surety. For instance, if you get a car loan and use the car as collateral, you can sell it and repay the loan if you have to. If you obtain a mortgage and use the house you’re buying as collateral, you can sell it and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage.

But if you pledge to pay your child’s student loans back if they can’t, what do you have to use as collateral? Nothing. Now you’ve plunged yourself into surety, and according to the verse above, have become “void of understanding,” or lacking in good sense, according to other Biblical translations.

To make matters worse, by co-signing a loan for your own child, you have also obligated him or her to extensive debt for which they have no collateral.

Why would this displease God? Larry Burkett explained this in his book, Using Your Money Wisely:

Obviously, surety is not a biblical law— it is a principle. A principle is a biblical guide to keep you on God’s path and out of the world’s traps. You don’t get punished for violating a principle unknowingly; you suffer the consequences. The consequences of violating the principle of surety is that you presume upon the future. In other words, when you sign surety for a debt, you pledge your future. If you have omniscient insights into the future, then there is really no danger. But, since only God has omniscient insight, when you sign surety, you presume upon God’s will.

So if you’re a Christian, you should not co-sign college loans for your teen. Trust me, refusing to do so will not make you popular with your teen or possibly others in your family or social circle. But as Christians, we know that obedience to God trumps the approval of man.

How can you help prepare your teen for the future without co-signing student loans? Well, you could have saved up over the years so you could just give them the money. If that didn’t happen, you can help them research scholarships and grants.

Another option: seriously consider whether your teen even needs to go to college. In homeschooling circles, sending kids off to college has been a way to prove that homeschooling works, so there’s always been a lot of pressure to do so. But the U.S. already has an overabundance of college grads who can’t find work in their field. Do you want your teen to end up in that boat?

In the updated and expanded third edition of Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, available for purchase at all online and brick-and-mortar book sellers and from Cardamom Publishers on June 1, you can learn how to determine if your teen is college material and whether it’s worth sending him or her to college in the first place. Stay tuned for more information!