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For me, this had been an exciting post to write. In order to write this, I had to take some chances, make some changes, and expand my knowledge of homeschool curriculums. It has been an amazing journey though, one that I am looking forward to continuing for you.
Today is the first of what I hope to be many curriculum reviews I get to publish for you. Reviews that are more than just “hey that company is great.” Rather, these are reviews I am completing after exploring and testing out new curriculums in my own home with my own children. Honest reviews with our true feelings and impressions of the companies we will be working because even though I allowed access to the materials at no cost to me, I owe it to you, my reader, to give feedback that is truthful. Today I am excited because I get to tell you all about my review of the Yearly Membership available from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
A New Journey, Reviewing Homeschool Curriculum
One of the things I love to do is check out new curriculum. Actually, I may have a slight problem with new curriculum. For me, it’s better than Christmas looking at all the options available, reading reviews, checking out what other homeschoolers think, and actually trying out the materials.
It’s also a bit stressful.
Why the double feelings? Mainly, it’s because I don’t like change and I don’t like a failure. But, I do like new and I love the possibilities brand new curriculum offers. I love getting a new curriculum and reading the parent materials. I love cracking open the books or perusing the parent instructions online. It’s completely enjoyable for me to dig in and get to know the curriculum as well as I can before I start using something with my kids.
Because that’s what this is all about – educating my children to the best of my ability.
So a few months ago when an opportunity arose to join a crew of homeschool reviewers I jumped at it! Late at night while my family was sleeping I submitted an application and waited to hear back. The pessimist in me expected to be rejected…
So when the email came welcoming me to the crew, I was pumped! Our first assignment was SchoolhouseTeachers.com and honestly, I was a little nervous (more on that later). Unlike any other time I looked into a curriculum though, I refrained from reading reviews and looking for feedback from other users. I wanted to approach this with an open mind and truly form my opinions on the product.
What Is SchoolhouseTeachers.com?
The next thing I found was a great list of what SchoolhouseTeachers.com is and is not. Rather than simply summarize that information, I captured an image for you to read for yourself.
As you can see, this is not your ordinary online curriculum. In fact, we’ve used other online curriculums in the past that have left us with a bad taste and a worse experience. Honestly, due to our prior experiences with online curriculums, I was slightly apprehensive that this program would be worth our time or our effort. However, the in-depth information I found on the site put me at ease slightly and I began exploring.
First Stop, Scope and Sequence
Now every curriculum I have ever dealt with in the past has varied with what they place in a scope and sequence. And every educational website I look at also has a wide variety of information. But, I love to know what companies are saying is their standard. I compare what they say with what other companies say. I look to see how the programs we use stand up with the one I am looking at. And, most importantly, I look to see how well (or poorly) my children are performing in regards to this particular set of standards.
It’s at this point, that I will insert my own two cents here – while I value the information available in a scope and sequence, I by no means believe they are the gold standard. Too many variances within them and a few years of homeschooling in the trenches have taught me that all children are different. And just like they all crawl, walk, and talk when they are ready, they will all achieve certain academic levels at their own pace as well. So as much as I enjoy the information available in a scope and sequence, I don’t want you to read through and start thinking you may be somehow doing too little or too much with your child.
However, if you are new to homeschooling or if it has been a while since you evaluated your child’s educational path this could be a great resource to start with. Since SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers a wide variety of options it can also help you in making sure you are placing them in the correct courses.
How did my kids fare when I stacked them in in the scope and sequence? All in all, just as I thought. In some areas the kids are excelling, in others they are right on par, and in a few we have some work to do.
Second Stop, Electives
For the majority of our learning the kids and I focus on our core subjects of math, science, language arts, and history. The older two both participate in extra-curricular activities that cover band and music. I have one in particular who loves art, so she is always drawing, doodling, and researching to expand her craft.
But sadly, we don’t spend a ton of time on elective courses. So when I started looking at the full scope and sequence of SchoolhouseTeachers.com I was drawn to the electives. I started thinking about which child would enjoy which program. Contemplating how we could go about possibly adding in a course or two to our already jam-packed schedule.
The one that really got my attention was the computer and technology course titled How To Use Microsoft Word. This is something I have been thinking about teaching my older children. They both have previously completed some typing courses, and they can type up a report, but when it comes down to formatting and editing they still need some assistance.
So we started the first lesson of the course. It’s only nine minutes long and includes a quick worksheet. I had the kids watch the video presentation without watching it myself. I wanted them to come into this fresh and without any input from me. They watched it and both completed the worksheet correctly. When I asked for feedback, however, it was not great. My oldest stated that it was boring, and the other one said it was only “ok”…
Huh. Well, this was not what I expected from both of the kids so I sat down to watch the lesson myself. My opinion – useful and informative, but not very engaging. However, the material was simply about the program not how to use it. Lesson 2 was a little more involved and started teaching the kids how to actually use the program and was a little better. I sat through the next few lessons and decided the kids will be adding this to their current curriculum.
This particular course is only eight lessons long, easy to understand, and for us, super helpful. Even though it does not rank on the list of the kids’ favorite course, it’s relevant to their education. And even though my 8th grader did not fully enjoy this course, he was curious as to the other technology courses offered so we will be digging into those more in the future.
Step Three, Browsing the World Book
From what I understand, World Book is a new feature to SchoolhouseTeachers.com and one that I was quite intrigued about. When I think about World Book I think of encyclopedias, hours of research in the library, and a pre-Google world. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that this version of World Book is exactly what I thought and more.
Upon accessing the World Book feature I was given 10 different options including e-books. So naturally, I started there. In our home we are avid readers and enjoy both traditional and e-books. I was pleasantly surprised to find hundreds of book options from easy readers to classics, from weather to history, and everything in between. For me, this is an amazing resource simply because our local library is small and limited. Having access to an even wider selection of books that will interest everyone is huge!
While I was checking out some of the other features of World Book my seven-year-old came in and his interests where immediately piqued. Bright colors, engaging images, and the ability to read helped him decide immediately that he had to know what I was doing. I invited him to start clicking on things he was interested in.
His first stop was kids, naturally. This brought him to a wide variety of options and as a science-loving kid, he clicked on science projects where he was offered eight different categories to choose from. He chose from the matter and energy category and before I knew it he was asking how to make a dancing snake. The dancing snake experiment is designed to show kids that warm air moves faster. So we crafted a dancing snake in the kitchen and had a great time.
The best thing about this was that it was natural. It was just an ordinary Saturday afternoon and we are still technically on our Christmas vacation. But this boy was so excited about trying something that seemed fun rather than education he jumped at the chance.
After our impromptu science experiment, we went back to the computer where he decided he wanted to try out the games section. A game titled Uniting the States jumped right out at him as he fascinated by the states. This year, we are learning about the states in order of statehood, so not only would this be fun, it would go along great with our current lessons.
He played round after round of the game. Part of it was simply for the fun of it. Part of it was his competitive side. After each round of 20 states you get a score and he was determined to beat his prior scores every time. Finally, I had to boot him off the computer because, well, Mommy has work to do too.
Final Stop, Video Library
The video library is just what it sounds like – a library of videos. Many of these videos are already included in the courses available on SchoolhouseTeachers.com, but having them in the library allows you to easily access a video that may be of interest to you or your student. It also allows you to simply find a video that may be helpful with a curriculum you might be using outside of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
And as with all of the other features I have written about, the video library is included in your SchoolhouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership. There are no additional fees or sneaky subscriptions to pay outside of the annual membership cost. This is just one more item that adds to the value of SchoolhouseTeachers.com
My Honest Thoughts on SchoolhouseTeachers.com
Initially, I was a little leery of reviewing it. In the past, we have not had good experiences with online curriculums and currently, nearly all of our lessons and curriculum choices are offline. We simply prefer books and paper learning. Part of this is due to our schedule – books and paper travel much better.
However, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with SchoolhouseTeachers.com. For a family looking for a budget-friendly curriculum choice, this is a great way to go. You can access hundreds of classes, book, videos, and experiments to help educate children of all ages and grade levels.
Parental support is also included, as is grading ideas and help with planning.
The number of core classes and electives is more than enough to keep your children busy, learning, and focused. And the additional value of electives such as art and technology helps you to ensure you children have a well-rounded education. Whether you are looking for a new curriculum altogether or simply access to additional resources, a subscription to the Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com should be on your radar (oh, and there is a coupon code below to help you save big on membership!).
As for us, we will continue to use SchoolhouseTeachers.com for electives and additional learning. At this point in our school year we will not be switching out our core curriculums, but I will be having the older kids continue their intro to Microsoft Word course, have them access the e-book features of World Book, and of course my 2nd-grader will continue to dig into the kids section of World Book as well.
Additionally, I am looking at our January course calendar to see how we can add in some of the Daily Grammar from the Language Arts section. Our current Language Arts program focuses mainly on writing, and while it’s an amazing program, the addition of some grammar lessons I know will be beneficial. This is something I have been considering doing for a couple of months now, so finding it laid out in an easy to use format was a great find.
And we will definitely be keeping SchoolhouseTeachers.com in mind when planning for next year.
Ready To Try SchoolhouseTeacher.com Now?
You’re in luck! You can sign up here and use promo code NEWYEAR18 to save $89.00 of the Yearly Membership! (Or if you want to just try it for a month, use promo code MONTHNEWYEAR18 and save $10.00 on one month.) This sale ends on January 31, 2017 and is only for new members.
Have you ever used SchoolhouseTeachers.com? Comment below and let me know how it worked for your family!