Friday, December 7, 2012 (a Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Photobucket Being so new to homeschooling, I am always looking at different curriculum options.  While I have been successful and we have settled into math and phonics curricula that Jude can both enjoy and be successful at, they do not an entire schoolday make.  I would like him to have a more rounded experience, and finding activities that encompass sciences, arts, etc. can be difficult, especially for a child on a K/PreK level.  I was very happy to review the website,  Schoolhouse Teachers is maintained/owned by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. You may remember them from my last Crew Review, and after finding so much useful information there, I was very optimistic that I would finds some helpful tips.  I am happy to say I was not disappointed.  While the site is not necessarily a curriculum program, it does provide a number of activities that can be used to either fill in some areas that need extra work, or can be used as the "program" for a subject.  "Everything you need" isn't really a hyperbole --  I found a lot of great ideas!

I really like the layout of the site, especially how it is divided in multiple ways.  You can look at activities with grade level (PK/Early Elementary, Middle Grades, High School) as a sorting criteria, or via the "Dailies" header, which sorted by subject.  I found both ways beneficial.  When originally looking at this with a "How will this benefit Jude" eye, I liked being able to sort by grade level.  Yes, there are spelling words for Kindergarten through High School, but I liked that I could look at the words at Jude's level easily. However, I also like that I can look at other levels easily.  We will likely start using the PK/K words for Jude in his "normal" school day soon after Christmas.  However, I think I will also start working on the high school words with my oldest.  Luke's middle school Language Arts teachers alternated focus on vocabulary and writing, so he does have a strong, diverse vocabulary.  However, with SATs not that far away, extra practice now can only help him.  I don't know if I would do the entire week's lesson with him after school, but we could pick/choose activities so that he could learn the words now at his own pace, rather than feeling the pressure to cram in as much vocabulary as he could during his school's required SAT prep course.

Some of the subjects were above Jude's level.  For example, one of the current Math worksheet sets is focused on multiplication & division facts.  I printed those out for my 3rd grader -- she is just finishing up learning times tables and starting basic division.  They are great for her to practice her new skills. When I had her try one out, she said they were "Just like the ones Mrs. M gave us!" Since there were a number of math topics being addressed in the Elementary Math section, I am hopeful that at some point there will be something that is basic enough for Jude. 

The third subject area that I really was interested in was Science.  It is a subject that I would like to include in Jude's week.  (Perhaps not daily science lessons, but at least 1-2 days a week that touch on a concept, at his level.)   There are weekly science experiments posted. The current one looks like lots of fun -  it involves popcorn and Christmas tree ornaments.  I was also able to look at the lessons posted for the month of November and look at several other experiments. While not all are appropriate for him at this moment (there was a great one that explains how Santa fits down the chimney, but involves matches and glass bottles, so perhaps better saved for another year), there was one about how salt melts ice. This looks like one he would enjoy, so I think we will give it a try after the holidays -- I have some ideas for a snowman themed unit, so we can try melting snowmen.  Matthew will need a project for the local County College-sponsored science fair, and I think this is probably one we can consider placing on his short list of potential experiments. While it is basic enough for Jude, it is something we can advance for Matthew's level (possibly by asking "What grind of salt is most effective at melting ice?").  It is easily adaptable for many grade levels.

Speaking of "adapting," I like the section on schooling a special needs child. While there is a new topic each month, there is also access to prior discussions.  I like this so I can go back through them and start at the "beginning." (Each of the last few months has built upon the prior article.) It also includes ideas on how to adapt to curriculum, and how to adapt it to fit our needs.  We will soon need to consider where to go for next year.  I've spent a lot of time reviewing curriculum but never am quite sure if it's going to work -- for some the concept has been great but it hasn't worked for us (ie FIAR, Sonlight science, etc.) so this is a great series for me to read as we decide what to do next.    I'm hopeful the suggestions for adapting will help us - part of our struggle is Jude doesn't necessarily need lessons "dumbed down" so much as made into "bite size" chunks - ie, a book on machines including pulleys AND levers AND wedges is too much at one time, but it's hard to find a book on "just" one of them. Hopefully with practice and some guidance we can learn how to adjust things so lessons are less overwhelming.  One idea I will implement immediately is the concept of short term goals.  Until now, I've focused more on "what are we going to do" vs. "where do we want to be?"  Since I try to write lesson plans out a month at a time,  I think I'm going to try to start setting out monthly goals, and using lessons as a road map, rather than just being more of a "what will we do each day?" exercise.

Other areas that I am looking forward to exploring more include the "this month's e-book" link.  November's free e-book was entitled Homespun Holidays.  It's filled with fall and winter themed activities and recipes. Jude and I may be making some of the recipes for Christmas dinner!

December's book, Homeschool Dialogues, takes a totally different turn. It's a compilation of past interviews with a variety of people. As a new homeschooler, I didn't recognize all of the names, but still enjoyed the interviews with Douglas Gresham, stepson to author C. S. Lewis who speaks on the effect of Lewis' books, Lisa Welchel (yes, "Blair from 'The Facts of Life' who is on the current season of 'Survivor' Lisa Welchel") and how homeschooling is what you make it, not what you perceive of it, and a lighthearted inverview with Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber of VeggieTales (What's a homeschooled vegetable called? A house plant!)  I am enjoying the diversity of the two books, and already looking forward to seeing the choice published in January.

There is a membership fee for using the site: it is  $1 for the first month, then $5.95/month thereafter.  For all of the resources available,  I think it is a bargain.  Not only are there things "currently" available, but there are also virtual "shelves" of e-books that become available after each month of membership.   I think it is a site that has a lot of useful tools for Jude's level (my primary reason for appreciating the site), but in perusing the sections for older students, it is also something we can use as a family.

Disclaimer: I received a free membership to as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation.  In exchange, I agreed to give an honest review of how this website worked for our family.

Several families have been checking out 


  1. Great review!

    Celia doesn't look too happy that you found extra practice for her! I'll have to take a closer look at the science activities -- that's one area that always lacking for my two younger students.

    1. Thanks!

      Most are more "demonstration" variety experiments, but I think that's because of the age they are geared to. They could very easily become "form a hypothesis" types for an older elementary student, complete with lab report.

  2. Just found you through the Review link up. :o)

    I'm also looking forward to their ebooks throughout the year.

    The Paper Maid

  3. Enjoyed your review! Blessings!

  4. Good review. I'm stopping by from the Crew to say hi and make sure I'm following your blog. :-)

  5. Great review ! Blessings from a new Crew mate :)
    (your newest follower ;-) )


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