Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (a Schoolhouse Crew Review)

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine via iPad App. 
We're starting on a new homeschool adventure!  I'm hoping to become a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, a homeschooling group that reviews lots of great homeschooling-related products and then blogs about them. We have several homeschooling friends who are members of the crew, and I'm impressed with the products they have reviewed -- we are already looking to incorporate some of them into our own curriculum.  I am starting out by reviewing the November issue of their monthly e-publication, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  I originally read the magazine on my (laptop) computer, but there are also Apps for both Apple and Android devices.  I downloaded the Apple version onto my iPhone and iPad and it's a great interface.  (They are available at, though I downloaded it to my iPad via the App Store.) I enjoy reading the magazine better from my iPad than the iPhone, but that has little to do with the app and everything to do with approaching middle age and needing bigger type! It's easy to access not only this month's edition, but also past editions - great for when I want to go back and revisit something. There are some articles in this month's edition that don't really pertain to us now (like how to write poetry, or some ideas for how to be successful with Unit Studies) but will be great to refer back to when we are ready to do those tasks, so easy access is great. 

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is a free magazine for homeschooling parents that is chock-full of great information.  I admit that I was a little worried that I wouldn't find anything terribly useful in it -- not only are we a new homeschooling family, but starting out at the very early basics -- a PreK/kindergarten hodge-podge for Jude, and a very basic PreK2 program for Damien.  However, I found myself reading it from cover to cover.  Not only was there pertinent information for my homeschoolers, but several articles that will be helpful in "co-schooling" the older kids and working with them on at-home assignments that their teachers have given.  The articles and reviews of writing curricula will be especially useful, because this is an area where the big boys especially need extra help.   While actually an advertisement, there was a link to World Atlas that I immediately linked onto my Pinterest board.  While I would like to use maps with some of the units I have planned for Jude, I also think it will be an invaluable resource for the older ones as well.

One thing I pay close attention to when looking at homeschooling items is the "slant."  Many homeschooling items have a conservative Christian undertone.  This is not something that I am inherently opposed to; being a conservative Catholic and wanting to raise my children in the same manner I am fine with this perspective.  However, I am not interested in items that have a Creationist or other "this denomination is the only right one" viewpoint.  This magazine, while definitely written with a strong base in Biblically principled living, is neither exclusionist nor sectarian.  Someone looking for a purely secular viewpoint will likely be frustrated, because many of the articles do use Bible passages and Christian tenets as examples and/or support, but the tone of this publication is right for us.   

The articles on the cover grabbed my attention, especially the announcement that this month's edition featured articles on the Amish.  Living near and interacting with Amish people on a regular basis (at duPont and when we visit the nearby Lancaster PA "Dutch Country" area), I was definitely interested in reading about the "Plain" people. I found the articles very informative but also very respectful of their culture.  I enjoyed "A Day in the Life of a Young Amish Mom," Liz Lane's interview of Rachel, an Amish wife and mother.  Her morning routine - prayer, breakfast, getting the kids off to school - sounds pretty much like how my day starts, and continues on with chores and child-raising.  While we definitely do things differently (my prayer devotionals download each morning to my iPhone), being an Englisch Mom doesn't sound much different from being Amish Mem.  I also am looking forward to trying Rachel's Brunch Casserole (featured on page 119).  I think that we can very easily substitute some of our allergy-safe versions of milk and cheese to make it work for our family. Trisha Goyer's short story, "On an Amish Farm" is a sweet tale of finding a new friend.  It has a smattering of Pennsylvania Dutch dialect that nicely reflects how the protaganist would think and speak without overwhelming the reader.

There were two sections in particular that are of immediate use to us:

--As parent-teacher of a special needs child,  the column The Struggling Homeschooler by Dianne Craft was very helpful.  The biggest thing that I took away from the article is that when teaching a differently-abled child, the rules need to be rewritten.  If we don't get as far as we "should" in a day or week, that's how it goes; if we need to try a different technique because the current one is not working...that's normal and expected.  Obviously, we will have to take our own journey to find what works for us, but after seeing so much curriculum that does not seem to fit our needs, it's reassuring to read an article that supports the idea that "It's not us, it's the book."

--The section The Classical Homeschooler focuses on music as part of the homeschool curriculum. A music program is something that I have been wanting to add, but really have no idea how to begin. One of the column's suggestions is to just turn on a CD and expose the student to the music.  I can do that!  The article pointed out that music appreciation does not need to be taught through lessons. As Jude gets older we can worry about composers and styles, but for now, just listening is enough. There was also a "spotlight" feature on music that included reviews of several music items.  There were two curriculum-like programs (one for an organized approach to classical music appreciation, one for learning to play the piano) and one featured recording artist (Oasis Chorale) that appealed to me and are on my list of things to find more information about.  The magazine provides hyperlinks to programs featured in it, making further research very simple.

The only item that elicited any strong negative feelings was an advertisement for a book called A Girl's Guide to Home Skills, featuring information "for your daughter" on homekeeping skills. There are so many articles featuring gender-neutral information (including on home skills, chores and discipline) and writers speaking of their sons through the magazine that it was jarring. I realize the book author is responsible for the title of the book, and yes, as I stated, the magazine has a traditional tone. I just was surprised to see something so clearly marketed to a "traditional women's role," when even the article about the Amish mother Rebecca mentioned that she had her own part-time business outside the home. It was the only thing that really was unappealing, and a single half-page ad among nearly 160 pages of otherwise good content is pretty minor, but it is something that really stood apart, so I feel it is worth mentioning.

The Homeschool Review Crew section featured reviews of some items I had already seen (I follow bloggers that reviewed the products) and a few items I had not (they do not have children in the age/gender ranges or with interests that the products are intended for). I now have one book (I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist) on my to-read list, and one for Celia and me to share (Heroines of the Past Bible Study) over next summer.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to explore The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I plan to look at past issues for homeschooling information and support while I wait for next month's edition.

Disclaimer: This magazine and iPhone/iPad app are free items. I was asked to by the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review them and give my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor have I received any compensation for this article. All opinions are my own.

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1 comment:

  1. I love the Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Thanks for reminding me of all the treasures that I'm missing this month. Maybe I'll download a copy so that I can read it during Lauren's OT tomorrow afternoon.


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