Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling

Product: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell
Company: Apologia Press
Price: $20.00US

Anyone who has been a Christian homeschooler for any amount of time has likely heard of Apologia Educational Ministries Inc. because they are well known for their creation based science curriculum. Not knowing what we were going to do for science this year, I decided to hold out on science altogether when I noticed that Apologia was on our review list for the TOS Homeschool Crew. Imagine my shock when I received The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell instead of a science textbook! I'll admit that not only was I shocked but I was a little bit distressed! What was I going to do for science now?

After scrambling around to come up with an alternate resource for science, I settled down with The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. This 500+ page book has a wealth of information to share with new and even veteran homeschoolers. There are parts covering everything from deciding whether homeschooling is right for you and selecting a curriculum to working with reluctant students and dealing with/avoiding burn out. There are new sections dealing with older students and how to use computers in your homeschool. What to teach, when to teach it and how to measure progress is another topic covered in depth in this book. Written from a Christian perspective in an easy conversational tone this book is actually a much quicker read than it appears to be. In the fashion on the "...For Dummies" books, the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling has icons that alert you to important information and resources such as:

  • Suggested Reading

  • Websites

  • From the Bell Files (personal stories from the author)

  • Voices of Experience (stories from other homeschoolers)

  • Buying and Resource Information

The parts, chapters and sections are organized in a logical manner and the icons make it especially easy to find what you are looking for. There is a wealth of information in this book and the many numerous resources pointed out in this book make the $20US almost worth it.

I did, however, find that this book was lacking. If you homeschool using the same method as she does, and share the same values and beliefs then this is the perfect book, however, if not then you may be better looking elsewhere. Written from a Christian perspective, I believe that many secular homeschoolers would benefit from choosing a different guide book. There was a lot of mention of putting fate in God in helping you make decisions and well, if that isn't your cup of tea then this book and actually be off putting. I was hoping to see more information on different homeschooling styles (Waldorf, Montessori, Classical/Charlotte Mason/Unschooling) but was disappointed to see that the author stuck to her type of homeschooling and didn't go through the trouble of speaking about other styles. I was also put off a little but the amount of emphasis that was put on homeschooling co-ops and being involved with other homeschoolers through lessons outside of the home and other events. At one point, I even got to the point of questioning my ability to successfully homeschool my children in an area of Canada where there are literally 5 homeschooling families all spread in different directions from each other. Not too many opportunities for a homeschooling community here! Reading about the accomplishments of the author's children (they've done incredibly well for themselves and for the world) was also somewhat depressing because while I strive to have children that are as successful as hers sometimes the resources just aren't available to me or I question my abilities when I hear such incredible success stories (ah, yes, I struggle sometimes to see the light at the end of the tunnel when we are going through a particularly trying period in our homeschool!).

While there was a wealth of information in this book and I would recommend buying it, if only for the lists of resources peppered throughout the book (and the 61 pages of various resources listed at the end of the book), I think that you have to take what you can from the information and be able to leave the rest behind. As mentioned, there were certain aspects that did bother me but for the most part, after talking to my online homeschooling community (thank you TOS!), I was able to see that I was doing to best I can for my family and there are many, MANY families out there that are unable, or do not feel the need to, take advantage of some of the things that this author credits her homeschooling success to. Overall, a good resource book with some really interesting sections that make it well worth the $20US price tag.

To see what other Crew members think of this book be sure to check out the Crew Blog.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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