Monday, July 5, 2010

Blog Walking---Week Four

1. King Alfred Academy--Please visit and pray for their extended family.

2. Confessions of An Organized Homeschool Mom--Funny cartoons! The one about organizing books is totally me!!

3. Curriculum Reviews from Oak Creek Farmhouse

4. I Can't Decide---I know. Me neither! It's all so wonderful!

5. My Life on A Taffy Pull---I love the name of this blog. I love her write up about why she named her blog what she did. You should check it out.

6. Losing My Tale

7. Made in His Image

8. Serenades and Solace

9. Our Village is a Little Different

10. SisterTipster's Tell'n It!---She's got some good stuff and a nice way of sharing it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An awesome deal from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

One of my favorite ways to keep up on new curriculum choices and teaching ideas is to read homeschooling magazines. So far, my favorite homeschooling magazine is The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) Magazine. I have been a subscriber for many years now, and still look through my old issues when I have some free time (like in doctor's offices, waiting for the kids, etc.) Some of my favorite days are the four days each year that I receive the magazine in my mailbox. Sometimes I tear open the plastic protective wrapper and dive right in. Other times, I save it for a special occassion and savor the knowledge that it is waiting for me to brew a cup of Earl Grey, find a quiet chair, and curl up with it for a few hours...Weird, I know, but us homeschooling moms take our moments where we can find them...and we really do appreciate the effort that is put into this colorful and professional publication.

Each issue is packed with great information and advice from homeschooling experts. From those product reviews to tips for the homeschool beginner, every homeschooling parent or grandparent can find something to enjoy. Other regular features include lessons on art and science, a Freebie Directory, information on the ABCs of homeschooling, write ups and interviews about different homeschooling styles and topics, and a homeschool show and tell column. The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has a decidedly Christian tone, which I very much appreciate. Many of the column writers have challenged me on a personal level on different occassions, and I appreciate that, too.

Yes, I AM part of the TOS Homeschool Crew this year and YES, I do receive some free products through them for review purposes, but I promise you that they are NOT paying me to say nice things about their magazine. I just LOVE it!! I really do!!

So, if you are new to homeschooling, or if you are a veteran who has somehow missed out on this gem in years past, this is a deal you will not want to miss. For one day only, you get a two year subscription for $17.76 AND a free Homeschooling With Heart book bag PLUS five free downloadable e-books from TOS. HERE is a link to the offer page where you can see the titles of the five e-books and get more information about them. HERE is a nice picture of the free bag. ENJOY!!

**The sale continues on through July 4th, but the best deals and the most FREE stuff are what is available today, July 1st, only, so if you think you might be interested in claiming one of these subscriptions, ORDER TODAY!!

1776 was a spectacular year, and it's a smashing, save-more-money price! Grab your subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine during their four-day Fourth of July sale, and check out the craziest price on July 1 only! Receive a 2-year subscription, free Homeschooling with Heart tote bag, and five FREE E-Books for just $17.76! While supplies last. U.S. and Canadian residents. July 2 through July 4 the unprecedented savings continue. The sparks are flying at TOS Magazine . . . join in the celebration and savings! Get the details HERE.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blog Walking---Week Three

Blog Walk Week 3 June 28 - July 3

Here are the links for this week's blog walk. I am enjoying visiting new blogs each week, and joining the ones with authors whose educational philosophy seems similar to mine. I am even picking up a few followers myself, since some folks have a courtesy policy of joining anyone's blog who connects to theirs. Awesome! (and thank you!).

With our heat index up near the hundreds today, it is a fine day for catching up on a little indoor "exercise." I hope you will join me on this walk. I'd love to have a bit of friendly conversation about it, so if you have a comment about some gem you find, please feel free to leave it. At lease wave when you pass by!

1. All American Family

2. Growing Fruit --if you have an autistic child, this blog may be for you. Even if you don't, you should check out some of her thoughts. She's quite fun. So is her autistic son. He reminds me of my friend's autistic boy who walked up to me the other day and said, "You are Superwoman. Can you fly?" He's awesome!

3. Learning to Teach

4. Codex Young Author's Publishing Program

5. Stairsteps Homeschool Academy

6. Kingdom Academy

7. Living Sola Gratia

8. Wynfield Christian Academy

9. The Cow Queen-- I wish she could send some of her cows' hay over here for my horses. Or at least just the haying machine!

10. Peace Creek on the Prairie--She has six kids, just like I do. She is co-hosting an online book study group called Holy Housewives. You should jump over to her blog and check it out. They just started studying Holy Housewives by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald on June 21st, so you haven't missed much. This sounds like a lot of fun. If I can find a copy of the book, I think I will join up, too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's a REAL Curriculum Fair!

If you think surfing the net and looking at vendors' curriculum choices is fun, you should try going to a REAL curriculum fair. "Fair" warning, need to either walk in with a budgeted amount that you MUST spend (lol) or you might walk out with your wallet uncomfortably lighter (and your charge card burden uncomfortably heavier). This year we are going through a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Seminar, so we had the foresight to budget for the HEAV Convention ahead of time. The budget wasn't as large as I would have liked, but the money was free and clear, set aside for JUST curriculum. What a wonderful concept that is. It was as if I HAD to spend that money. No worrying about if it was too much, or if I was taking money from somewhere I needed it more (like the dinner table, for example). Just free and clear license to use it all up (and I did!).

In any case, along with my envelope of carefully budgeted money, I also went in armed with my "List." It is a much thought out list of all the things I needed to find at the convention that are much harder to find anywhere else, such as planners and manipulatives and some reading materials our library does not carry. I am all for free (you can check out my site homeschool-for-free if you doubt me), but some things are not made cheaper by getting them off the internet (such as planning pages), more long lasting by buying them at the dollar store (like counting teddies), and some things are just worth having in print (like certain books you will use again and again, especially ones you want to carry out of the house). "The List" made it much easier for me to NOT get too distracted by the many neat booths just filled with loads of cool educational materials GUARANTEED to make my homeschooling year better. I didn't realize how much easier it was until later when I realized that the usual anxiety over not having been to see absolutely EVERYTHING before closing time was missing. I zoomed in, surveyed what was there, made my choices, and I was outta there!

Here's what I accomplished at the REAL Curriculum Fair: I was able to cross a few things off my list of possibilities for next year after having seen them enough to know they would not quite work for me and my family (catalogues are great, but can't tell you the whole story). I was able to choose from several types of planners for next year and get what I really wanted, knowing I had seen almost every possibility. I was able to get a few freebies and to get an evaluation test to administer to one of my students to determine his math level for a later purchase. And finally, I was able to affirm a few choices I had previously made and take advantage of convention prices and no shipping costs. It was a real win-win situation.

Actually, it turned out that my adherence to my list was not only beneficial to my pocketbook and to my health, but as it turns out, my restraint was also rewarded. Can you imagine my excitement, when having walked out of the Used Curriculum Sale (conveniently located next door to the New Curriculum Vending Hall) having made only about forty dollars worth of purchases (and I got a LOT I can use for that much) AND feeling pretty darn good about not spending money I didn't need to spend, I later found out that they had opened the doors after final pick up to allow folks a chance to "glean" from the remaining items (rather than donating them or throwing them away)? AWESOME!! I was in the middle of a conversation when someone told me and believe me, my friend (who IS still my friend) is probably wondering if I have super-speed as a super power because I ran-walked down the hall and started looking for treasures faster than the speed of...something fast. Zooooooooooom! Now you see her, now you...hey, where is she going?

My oldest son thankfully found me immersed in a pile of potential freebie finds and followed me around carrying a box, good-naturedly ribbing me about dragging home more than our sagging bookshleves could hold...but don't think I didn't notice the two or five books he slipped into my box for himself! My number one best find of the day was a box of tapes from previous HEAV conventions and other convention speakers that apparently nobody else wanted (I was in there pretty close to the end of the line), so I grabbed the whole thing up and have been happily listening to the tapes as I drive along ever since. What a fun surprise and a fantastic end to a great convention. God is so good to us in so many ways. All thanks go to Him for that sweet treat!! (and to the organizers of the HEAV Convention Used Curriculum Sale).

Here are my top tips for surviving a REAL Curriculum Fair:

1. Budget ahead of time. It is so much nicer to spend money on what you need (or just want) when you are not causing a shortfall somewhere else. Talk it out with your husband and decide a reasonable amount to invest per child and determine how much you will need to set aside monthly to meet your goals. Find creative places to pull the money from, such as the grocery budget, by using coupons and putting the money you saved in the "Curriculum Account" instead. Sell old stuff you didn't like or use and put that money away, too. Clean a neighbor's guesthouse or watch someone's pet and save your pay. Let the kids start their own fund using money they earn doing jobs you want done around the house or by working for trusted friends and family. They'll have more fun shopping in your wake if they can keep their eyes peeled for a bargain, too.

2. Get informed. Do your primary initial research ahead of time. Do NOT wait until the day of the convention to get ideas on how you want to teach math to your third grader. Ask friends what they use, inquire at co-op or support group meetings, or post a query on a forum online, then take all the suggestions and start looking them up. Many sites offer trial versions, trial periods, or at least sample pages for you to look at. Request catalogues, compare prices, and see how much of any of the supplemental materials you need for any given program are available at your library (the more you can borrow for free, the better). You may wish to visit your local homeschool second-hand store (if you have one) or check out Craig's List or e-bay (or any other online vendor) before deciding to pay full-price at a Curriculum Fair. Swap meets, library sales, yard sales, thrift stores, and sometimes even public school discard boxes are good sources of cheaper (or possibly free) materials that may meet the needs you have.

3. Make a list. After you have compiled a list of "wants" that you haven't found yet, whittle it down to your actual "needs." Don't discard the "want" list. Just keep in mind that every bank account has a limit and even the strongest-willed person in the world can be sorely tempted to go overboard at a Curriculum Fair. It all looks so GOOD! Go to the fair armed with your two lists, shop for the "needs" first, then with what is left, HAVE FUN! I highly recommend taking a suitcase or rolling basket to carry your purchases so you don't break your back (or the back of your teenager). Take a bottle of is thirsty work...and PLEASE remember to give your kids a break once in a while by stopping at the booth with the cool science gadgetry. ;-)

Let me know how you made out at your REAL Curriculum Fair this year. I'd really love to know what cool stuff you found. I might want to get one, too.

Blog Walking---Week Two

Here's the Blog Walk List for the Week of June 21st- 27th. I hope you are enjoying seeing what others are up to this summer. I sure am.

1. Second Star to the Right and Straight On Till Morning

2. Surviving The Testosterone

3. Family Style School

4. School Around The Table

5. 1628 The Story of The Goebels 5

6. Morris Family Madness

7. Homeschool Musings

8. Homeschooling (and then some!)

9. Heartfelt Homeschooling

10. following Him home

Blog Walking---Week One

There are over 200 members of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew. That is a LOT of bloggers, homeschoolers, excited reviewers, potential friends...One way to get to know them all (in a small way) and to see what other folks out there are doing with what they have is to take a weekly "Blog Walk" of ten of the Crewmember's blogs. Here is the list for Week One. I hope you will enjoy "walking" with me.
1.  Reaping a Harvest
2.  Pink & Orange Coffee
3.  Live, Laugh, Learn!
4.  Mrs. Mandy's Musings
5.  The Fantastic Five
6.  Refined Metals Academy
7.  Just A Moment in Time
8.  Providence Farm
9.  My Journey
10.Petra School

I made the TOS Homeschool Crew!

A few months ago I noticed that TOS (The Old Schoolhouse Magazine) was having "auditions" for their 2010-2011 Homeschool Crew and I wistfully thought how much fun it would be to try out new products and give my opinions about them. Now, I like to write. If you have read any of my reviews here, you will be able to tell that. And I like to share my opinions...who doesn't? I even enjoy using the internet. Truth be told, the whole appeal of the "blog" idea didn't really sink in for me until during my last pregnancy when I was on limited activity and had extra time on my hands (you can visit my Blessing Farm blog if you want the details about that), but after watching the movie Julie and Julia, I had to admit that blogging might be fun to try.

However, busy as I am with six kids, managing a 15 acre hobby farm complete with animals and gardens, and trying to set up my homeschool-for-free website (PLEASE go check it out by clicking on the link in the sidebar), I wondered if I had time to even think about trying out. Finally, I decided that if I tried, and made it, that would be like God giving me his approval. If I tried and didn't make it, then that would be like God saying "maybe next year." I put time praying into this to keep the ball in His court, asking Him to move or not move, and set about the business of filling out the initial demographics sheet.

A few weeks later, much to my surprise, I received a notice that I had made the first cut. Wow! It was even better than when I made the Cross Country team in High School, because then they were so hard up for female runners, they took anybody, and I was still very excited about it! This time it was somthing in my demographics, I guess, that worked in my favor and gave me the opportunity to show what I could do when it came time to review a real product.

So I reviewed the test-products and those are the first two reviews you see here. I did not review them in a positive light on purpose, in case you are wondering. I reviewed them fairly, based on my use of them, and the benefit to my family. What would be the point of doing a review if it is not unbiased? That, my friends, is called ADVERTISING. In any case, I sent in my reviews after proofreading them at least a dozen times each (yeah, that was overkill, but I was nervous) and then I waited and waited and waited for what I figured must have been the usual amount of time for notifications of acceptance to be made and still I hadn't heard one way or another.

Awwwww, I told myself. I guess you didn't make it this time. Bummer. Oh well. I told myself that it was all right to not make it, because it just meant that God decided I wasn't ready for this. Too much to do, too little time, and all that. I was still a bit sad. Wouldn't you be? But I decided to be patient, to learn more about blogging and the internet, and then maybe next year I could try, try again. So I stopped checking my emails every day, twice a day for that acceptance e-mail, got busy putting in gardens and playing outside with the kids. My husband's grandmother passed away and he went away for a week, which made our schedules here that much more crazy and I spent a whole week without even loggin on once.

Then one night, when I was having trouble sleeping, I happened to check my BILLIONS of emails (okay, that is an exaggeration, but there were at least three hundered), and lo and behold, there it email telling me I made the TOS Crew. Yahoooooo! I can't tell you, how excited I was. Yippeeeee!! I was nearly doing cartwheels in the upstairs hallway, but our hallway is pretty short and I would have wound up falling down the stairs instead, so I thankully refrained. It was at least midnight when I found out, so I couldn't call anybody and share my good news. How frustrating!

Instead, I sent a prayer up to heaven thanking God, because I figured He had decided it was a good time to take this task on and made this opportunity possible. Wasn't that nice of Him? He does the nicest things for us, both big and small. I pray that I will always be mindful of the things He does for me and not forget to thank Him. I am so grateful that as my site, homeschool-for-free is growing, I will also be sticking my toes in the waters of this new forum. I am thinking this will be a good year in our homeschool. Adventures await around every corner!

In any case, here I am, suited up and ready to take on the waves...of curriculum samples, new ideas, enrichement activities, and so on. My mailboxes, both physical and virtual are open and waiting for things to inspect, examine, and ponder. Be prepared for some fun reviews and I hope some interesting dialogue. I'd love if folks would feel free to toss in their two or three cents on the products I am reviewing, or if anyone has a particular interest in a book or topic we come across, perhaps you can give me a heads up and we can do a virtual discussion group centered around it.

The possibilites are endless...don't you just love that? I do.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Molly's Money-Saving Digest---January 2010

Some people say that e-books and magazines are the wave of the future. Now I finally understand why. I saw a lady at Physical Therapy the other day lying on one of the tables reading her Kindle ( a digital book reader from Amazon) while they had her hooked up to one of those tens machines. I have a laptop and think it's fun to take it to Barnes and Noble or Panera and work for a few hours, kid-free, but the thought of reading an entire magazine or book off of a small screen never seemed interesting to me. I am one of those die hard give-it-to-me-in-print types of people. I love my Old Schoolhouse issues to death-by-dog-earing. At that moment, however, as I looked at my HEAVY book bag on the floor (it was heavy because who can ever pick out just one book to take? What if I am not in the mood for that book when I need a diversion? Better take five more just to be sure!), I finally got it. I could load ALL of the books I am currently reading onto one book-sized machine that would fit tidily into my purse. Oh my. Now I know what is going on my Christmas wish list. Money for a Kindle.

On to Molly's Money-Saving Digest...I checked and it CAN be loaded onto a Kindle. Imagine that. Being able to "page through" and read any of them any time you are out and about without lugging them all around with you...On the other hand, if you are still currently Kindle-free like me, you can set up a file on your desktop (or where ever) for all of your Digests and refer to them whenever you need to find a recipe or a printable form. One of the nicer features of the Digests is that many of the pages are printables revolving around whatever theme they cover that issue. So, if you have an interest in getting organized, not only does Molly discuss effective ways to get organized, she also provides you with the tools you need to do so, and she lists quite a few links to websites that cover similar issues.

The current price for Molly's Money-Saving Digests is $4.95 at the Old Schoolhouse Store for about fifty pages of articles, recipes, printables, and frugal ideas. This newsletter/digest is published by The Schoolhouse Magazine, with the symbol of Molly Green being used to represent "every woman." Did you catch that I said "symbol" of Molly Green? Maybe I am the only person who didn't already know this, but I was somewhat disappointed to find out that Molly is not a real person. I had imagined her ponytail bouncing (like mine) as she jumped out of her car to race toward the bargain table at yard sales and flea markets (like me), bargaining down an already pretty good bargain (like me!). However, I was pleased to discover that the adorable watercolor of "Molly" was done by talented artist, Kim Spitznaugle, with the intention of representing the spunkiness and creativity we all have to employ as moms, especially in a strained economy. I can be spunky and creative. Cool! There are, in reality, many contributors who share in the making of the Digests. My favorite in this issue was Marmee Dear of the Homemaker's Mentor in the Back to the Basics column. (Please don't tell me she's not a real person either. Is she? Because her last name is Greene, too. No, don't tell me!!)

Seriously, the pie baking lesson by Marmee Dear was my favorite part of the newsletter. It made me want to go flour up my center island immediately and start the dough a rollin'. I will readily admit that I like cooking quite a lot, so this column's clear instructions, appealing pictures, mouth-watering recipes, and country kitchen advice won me over easily. A few weeks ago, I spent every morning in the pursuit of baking the "perfect" fluffy biscuit. It took about a week of adjusting recipes before I was really pleased with the result, so anything that would shorten that trial and error process would make both me and my kids happy (they had to eat the rejects, "perfect" or not)! I absolutely can't wait to try the "fancy topping with pecans."  It sounds divine. I think I will look in the cupboard tonight and see if I have anything that can go in a pie, just so I can try this topping. Yum.

The "Summer Fruit Pie Secret" had me thinking ahead to this season's crop of blackberries and blueberries with much enthusiasm. Just today I noticed that the flowers have come out on those prickly vines you love to hate. We finally decided to rid our own yard of the nuisances, since there are plenty along the side of the country roads out here that nobody picks. Last year I could have picked a bucket of berries every day and there still would have been more. Perhaps a future issue of the Digest will have some useful tips on canning pie fillings. Or maybe one already has.

I am definitely in need of the "In-a-Pinch" pie crust. I made an "egg pie" (quiche to grown-ups) about a month ago and thought it was great, except for the crust. Dry. Blah! I never would have thought of using mayo in a pie crust recipe, but I am willing to try. I am willing to bet it will be a good deal more moist than the one I made. I also enjoyed reading about Marmee's grandmother doing the bulk of the baking once a week on Saturdays. I'd love to get to that point, but not just yet. It sure would help with the rest of the week, though. Maybe, taking that step would help me make the next one happen instead of the other way around, if you know what I mean. That's certainly food for thought...

The forms for budgeting, calendars, and lists look useful as well. We are enrolled in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace seminar this quarter and these forms are pretty similar to his basic set of budgeting forms, which we have used since week one of the program. I do have my own templates for some of the other forms, such as the daily to-do list and the calendar, but I thought that the Family Clothing Inventory List was something that I would like to print up and use right away. I have all the kids' shirts stacked in piles on the floor of our master bedroom and the PLAN is to pull out the too small stuff and the majority of the long sleeved shirts to give their drawers a more less-cluttered feel. I keep waiting for all the clothes to get washed so that I can see everything at once. I have finally decided that this is a mistake. In a family of eight, the clothes will NEVER all be washed at the same time. Why did I think that somehow I would be able to accomplish this super-woman like feat?

In any case, in the course of coming to this conclusion I realized that the reason there is so much chaos with my laundry is that there are sometimes (often) too many shirts and pants per child. My habit is to buy shirts as I see them on the 50 cents rack at the local consignment store. Sometimes one of the kids won't grow into an available shirt for a year, but at 50 cents each I am willing to wait. In the meantime, they can use it as a nightshirt! Then we store the shirts by color in large, stackable clear organizer drawers and once a week, one of the kids gets to pick the color for the day. I was expecting extras in the white category, but instead I found I had too many shirts in every category. Oooops. Now I need to weed out the worn out ones (there are shirts in there from my 18 year-old's toddler days...I am all for thrifty, but there is also ridiculous). During the process of folding those many shirts, I noticed that my third youngest is rather lacking in the shorts/skirts department and my fifth youngest needs new shoes. These printable pages would be a great way to keep track of that sort of thing and I could carry them with me when I go to thrift stores and yard sales, instead of passing up good bargains because a child is unavailable for try-on, AND I might save myself some laundry duty time by cutting down on excessive duplication of inventory (ie. clutter).

"Molly's Menu" was one of my favorite parts of the newsletter (did you notice I seem to appreciate food things the most? Hmmm.) Several of the recipes were right up my harried-homemaker-six-o-clock-was-an-hour-ago alley...five ingredients or less, thank you! I shared the newsletter with my second-born, and he wants to try the chocolate chip cake recipe and the vegetable soup recipe on his day to cook next week. Very semi-homemade, yet looks delicious. Being inspired by this menu is one of the reasons that for the last two weeks I have actually done a good job planning (and executing!) a menu. I used to do this all the time, but fell out of the habit when my husband went on crazy shift work for the military. It turns out the kids missed the menu-making and I was presented with a long list of favorite menu-items they wanted me to prepare. I have also done a better job of keeping up with the shopping since making our menus, and the corresponding shopping list based off of Molly's example, so if there is more peace in my home around mealtime these days, I will have to give "her" the credit.

Other features included in the newsletter, but not discussed here, are a Directory of Links to favorite related websites, an article about ways to "Evaluate, Prioritize, and Organize" around your own home, an article about "Feathering Your Nest" frugally (decorating), information and forms needed to teach a lesson on banking to your middle aged children in the Kids Korner (includes mock blank checks and checkbook ledger), and reader tips in "From My Mailbox." I am of the opinion that if you can find one or two things in a publication that really STICK, then it was well worth its price. I found at least three that I am very enthusiastic about, so this one earns its keep. I'll bet you can find plenty to like about Molly's Money-Saving Digest, too.

As an Old Schoolhouse Magazine subscriber, I have seen ads for Molly's Digests before. The main thing that kept me from ordering one the last time I saw the notice was two-fold. First, there is the fact that I am a print-and-carry sort of gal, and the thought of printing all that information PLUS the cost of the Digest seemed more than I could justify. Now I can see that you glean what information you can from an initial reading, then print only what you'd really use, such as the forms, a recipe, or the children's lesson. Second was my inability to choose just one Digest out of the half-dozen or so offered at the time (there are now more than a dozen). Several of them looked like something I and my family would find interesting (Gardening, Making Money From Home, Family Vacations, Photo Treasures) and I just couldn't decide, and then not knowing for sure if I could justify the expense (remember, in my mind I was tallying ink and paper, along with the product cost) and before I knew what happened, I talked myself out of doing anything. Now that I have seen one, I am sure I would like them all. I guess I will have to wait until they do a special and stock up...after I finish saving up for that Kindle to store them all on, of course. =-)

By the way, I checked the Old Schoolhouse Store and found out that there are several specials running right now. One of them is a cd of all 12 of Molly's Money-Saving Digests from 2009 for just $24.98. Sounds like a winner to me!

Visit Molly Green at Econobusters for a link to a free download of Homeschool 101, an extensive e-book about homeschooling. At the same time, sign up for the A Minute With Molly e-newsletter, and receive a free Menu Planning      E-book.

I did receive this product for free from TOS Magazine for review purposes. However, that did not influence my opinion on this product. What you read here is my honest opinion about how the product was useful and relevant to me.

Help, Lord, I'm Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler!

Reality Television is big business these days. Every time you turn on the TV, one channel or another is running a reality program. From Survivor on CBS (does anybody believe that is reality anymore than professional wrestling?) to Ace of Cakes on Food Network, there is a reality show to fit all kinds.  I am a 19 Kids and Counting kind of person. I find it interesting to see what another homeschooling family does to manage their studies and the demands of a large household. Their family atmosphere is something I aspire to, and though most days I feel that they surely do a better job with 19 than I do with 6, they seem so NICE, I never feel bad about that. Best of all, I have seen several things in the show (and in their book The Duggars: 20 and Counting, which is great!) that I have implemented and found very useful, such as the "buddy system" and the idea of the family closet. I suppose some people may wonder why I would need to learn these things from a TVshow, but if you consider that I come from a two child family, you can see why "how to live in a large family" is not one of the skills my mom passed on to me. Unfortunately, our church has only one other large family who homeschools, so I don't have an abundance of real-life examples to turn to for advice. Hence, my interest in using the mothers of books and video to inspire me.

Which leads me to today's review of Help, Lord, I'm getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler! published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. It is a compilation of stories written by homeschoolers about how they navigated the sometimes choppy waters of homeschooling through the high school years. You might think that since your children are years away from high school that this book doesn't apply to you. Instead, consider the fact that sooner or later, God-willing, you WILL get there. You just can't avoid it.

Seriously, it is never too early to start thinking about how you will make it through those challenging times. In fact, earlier is probably better, since making decisions in the middle of a crisis is much more difficult than when they are made ahead of time. The high school years wind up seeming like a looming mountaintop to so many of us because the content is tougher, the demands are higher, and because the END, the GOAL, the NEXT STEP for which you have been preparing all these years is finally in sight. Are you ready?? That is the question all of the parents in this e-book asked themselves, in one form or another, somewhere along their journey. They asked themselves whether they had done enough, whether they were doing the right things, whether they were going the right direction...Does that sound familiar? It did to me.

Since I have homeschooled one son (so far) all the way to graduation, I felt like I saw a lot in this book that resonated with me. I remember asking the same questions the featured families did, and I remember finding many of the same answers along the way. I found myself wishing that this book had been available to me before I entered the high school years with my son because at that time I felt so alone. All of my friends had mostly younger children. The ones who had older children wound up putting their high schoolers back into public or private schools within a year. We thought about it. God had other plans.

Our first major bump in the road was a big one. We struggled painfully through algebra with no sign of a finish line in sight. In retrospect, it was probably too early for him to be taking it, even though he is smart and his father and I had taken algebra at the same age. To make things worse, my son was sure it was because I couldn't teach it well enough for him to understand. On the other hand, I was sure that if he'd just LISTEN and then retain the info for longer than thirty seconds we might just get somewhere, and much to my regret, my impatience occassionally showed. So eventually, we tried another curriculum.

Another six months went by using this one and he hated it, too. I was sure he was just trying to get out of finishing it. The truth was, his brain simply wasn't ready for some of it yet. What is it about ex-public schooled parents that makes us think we have to do everything by the book? If only someone had told me to get out of that way of thinking back then...The only advice I got from friends was "Try Sylvan." That was definitely not in the budget, so we got a tutor. That didn't work either. We tried something else for another several months, doing only the topics he hadn't covered already this time. Finally, he managed to finish the algebra requirement, hating math more every step of the way. Resenting it.

After that, he took a hiatus from school to do a five week long mission trip, then spent another six months doing an apprenticehip in his current field, farriery. Both of those were definitely God things. We moved. Finally, we got back to "doing school," and after evaluating the options with my husband, we took our son off of the college-bound track and gave Consumer Math a try, instead of calculus. Thank goodness for that!! Our son wound up LOVING it and powered through it quickly because it made sense to him and seemed useful. Amazing. And since he owns his own business now,  he does use that math all the time. He did NOT need to learn about sines and cosines and theorems. He did need to learn about accounting, how to stay out of debt, and taxes.

If only someone had told me to seek after God's will for each individual child's leanings earlier, and to take only the classes that fit into that child's life plan, we might have beeen spared the difficulties and hard feelings of those two years. Kelly Rotenberry has a similar story in "Help, Lord!". She says, "We just couldn‘t seem to find that one thing that mattered enough to [our daughter]—that one thing that she was passionate about. Well, guess what we learned! A lot of that comes with maturity.That is something I really wish we had known then. It would have made life easier. I wouldn‘t have felt such pressure to push her toward graduation goals." That advice, heard years ago, might have spared us the pushing about math (and other things) while our son tried to discover what he was passionate about. Once he discovered farriery and set his own goals, everything else came naturally.

That is why I so enjoy books such as Help, Lord, I'm Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler!. This world is not perfect and we do not always have a friend nearby who can give us the information we need. We do not always have a local support system we can turn to for Godly advice. But we can always find a book to read. I am not saying that a book replaces prayer or going to God on our knees, but I do feel God can use many ways to show us things that will help us, such as the Duggar's concept of the family closet (everyone's clothes are kept in the same area instead of different dressers in different rooms), which incidentally, helped me reduce my "getting-four-under-six-dressed-in-the-morning" time by a LOT. Wow. If you only knew how much easier my life has been since that one change.

I think this book will be inspirational to almost anyone who plans to homeschool through high school. On that note, may I please say, with conviction, from experience, that unless GOD tells you LOUDLY and FIRMLY that you should put your child back in public education, or even private education (and I concede that there may be instances where this is true), do NOT give into the temptation to throw your hands up and say, "I just can't do it. I can't teach algebra (calculus, physics, Spanish)." If your child needs that particular subject, GOD will provide a way for them to get it. Give it all up to Him.

That doesn't mean that some sound anecdotal advice about how to accomplish the things a high schooler needs can't be useful. Indeed, sound advice is infinitely useful. Proverbs 19:20 (NIV) tells us, "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise." I believe this collection of real-life stories from thirteen homeschooling moms, one is even a homeschooling graduate turned mom, constitutes wise advice and good instruction. I am listening. Will you?

Help, Lord, I'm Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler! is 116 pages long and contains 13 stories with teaching styles varying from Delight-Directed approaches to more Classical approaches. One writer's son did an extensive apprenticeship like mine. Another's son qualified for early dual-enrollment, graduated from high school with a two-year degree and is now serving as a medic in Iraq. Another had a student with learning disbilities and praises God that their son was able to graduate from an adult home study program, and eventually make an incredibly good income in the field of fiber optics. Had he stayed in public school, he would have quit at age 17 due to problems he was having there. Wow! No two families used the exact same approach to their children's education, and honestly, none of them really used the same thing for every student. That in and of itself should tell you something important. Every homeschooling journey is different; what works for your friend's child may not work for yours.

That thought leads me to the one overarching theme in this e-book that I cannot emphasize enough: Look to the Lord for your answers. Pray over your children as individuals. Listen to your children. Stay active in their lives. Figure out what your student's strengths are and build them up. Plan an individualized course of study for EACH child and help them make their post-high school plans around their particular educational needs and leanings. Don't study something just because someone else told you to, unless it is exactly what your child needs. Be flexible. And definitely feel blessed that you are able, through God's help, to give this gift to your son or daughter because it opens up so many doors. The possibilities are endless.

Homeschooling allowed my oldest son to do two apprenticeships with farrirers, and to have a job training horses and helping run a boarding stable. His other love is landscaping and when he was younger (13-15) he worked as a costumed Junior Interpreter for the Colonial Williamsburg Master Gardener, and put in over two hundred hours working with the Master Gardeners in Florida. When we moved to our current home in Gloucester, VA, he started a landscaping business, earning $15/ hour at age 16. Upon graduation from high school, he completed farrier's school, already has about eighty horses he cares for, and will be able to support himself quite comfortably (debt free) within a year, maybe even six months.

Following a traditional path of public high school would have had him stressing about SATs last year, making a school choice based on his scores and our finances (or financing), and potentially squirming at college this year in crowded freshman classes of 100-500 students, mostly racking up debt. He's a one-on-one, outdoorsy kind of guy, and while he may eventually get his degree in history (his plan, not mine), right now he is happy working with his hands, getiting dirty, meeting interesting new people, and working on building a reputation of reliablilty and skill. I am so proud of him. Can you tell?

What I'll bet you can't tell from all that is that our homeschool high school years had many tense and uncertain moments. We went through a lot of trial and error to get here. What I wouldn't have given to have been relieved of some of the mistakes we made by having had some good advice (other than how to write a transcript for college) on a personal level about homeschooling high school...

I could live in the "If only's" and probably get stuck there, but I'd rather move forward and grasp hold of the reality that is today and look toward where we are going. If I can prepare a bit for the next step in the journey, then that would be great. What works best for me is to see the methodology in action (I guess I am a hands-on learner, just like my son), and this e-book lives up to that style.

In fact, I have already picked out one thing from the book I am doing to use when my next child turns fourteen. PeggySue Wells says that in her family, volunteering is part of the curriculum from age 14, until they get a job or graduate. I like that. We place a heavy emphasis on helping others, and our oldest son always helped out a lot, as an Awana volunteer and on multiple mission trips, but it wasn't a FORMAL part of what we chose for our curriculum. I think making it a formal part of your child's education is a good idea. Formality encourages consistency and committment, which are both good things.

Anyway, if you are at all like me, and you enjoy the occassional fix of reality programming, why not join me and begin preparing for the path you will follow for your potential (or current) high schooler? Download a copy of the e-book, grab a cup of tea, and prepare to be inspired. This e-book is "reality programming" you can actually use!

I have one more idea. If you have a chance, why don't you invite a few friends and start a discussion group, in person or online? This book would be excellent for that purpose, as each chapter covers a different family and is a self-contained learning experience. I find that one chapter is not too difficult to find time to read, even with a busy schedule. Read alone or with friends, this one will challenge you, and hopefully, spur you on to approach your homeschooling high school years with eagerness and enthusiasm instead of uncertainty and dread. If you do wind up reading this e-book, or have already, please feel free to leave some of your thoughts about it on the blog. Maybe we can get a discussion of sorts going here. I still have five more to graduate (so far!) before I am off the hook...

Here is a link to The Old Schoolhouse Store page for Help Lord, I’m Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler!  It retails for $12.45, which seems reasonable since it is 116 pages long, has thirteen chapters, and five pages of the authors' recommended resources. The review at this link gives you more details about the content of the e-book.

You can also preview the product here. This preview includes the Table of Contents, Amanda Bennett's Introduction, and one family's story.

By the way, I wanted to mention that if you wind up enjoying this e-book as much as I did, two of my favorite homeschooling books are Homeschool Open House and Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days by Nancy Lande. These books are very similar in format to Help Lord, I’m Getting Ready to Start Homeschooling My High Schooler! In them, the author/editor collects the stories of homeschoolers from all over the country and shows by anectodal tales (many written by the homeschooling families themselves) how a typical day in their houesholds goes. I've learned so much from those books through the years. How nice it is to see an e-book in a similar style that focuses on the important subject of homeschooling during the high school years.

I am hoping that the editors get a good response from this e-book and start working on one that focues on "homeschooling many young ones in the toddler/prek/k years." Now that's one I could definitely use!

I did receive this product for free from TOS Magazine for review purposes. However, that did not influence my opinion on this product. What you read here is my honest opinion about how the product was useful and relevant to me.