Making the decision to homeschool can be a life changing experience that opens doors to so many wonderful possibilities. Of course, being a first time homeschooler can be very overwhelming. Where to start? Can I really do this? What are the appropriate courses that I should be teaching? Luckily, there are many amazing resources out there to help both new and current homeschooling parents. Being part of the Homeschool Review Crew, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to receive a Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com, a homeschool curriculum website that's owned by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
A membership to their website includes access to a variety of over 300 online courses (with new ones added regularly) that range from preschool level all the way up through high school, and even some extras for parents. That's not all, there are a slew of other extremely valuable tools and resources that are a true asset to any homeschooling family out there.
I've been giving the site a test run for the past few weeks, and I must say that I'm beyond thrilled with all that it has to offer. Let's start with the main benefit of a membership, and that's the courses that are available in a broad range of subjects. These are all taught by homeschoolers, professors, teachers, engineers, scientists and other professionals who specialize in the respective field or subject. If your child is interested in filmmaking, they can take a course taught by a director. How about a geology course taught by an actual geologist who had a passion for the study since he was a child? Want to learn the violin? There's a course for that, too!
We all know life can bring about the unexpected, sometimes we have to move things around in our schedule. Other times, we have to go at a varied pace depending on our own child's learning capabilities. Each and every class that's offered is self-paced, which means you are not restricted to a specific timeline. You have the flexibility to progress at a speed that's appropriate for you and your family.
They say first impressions are everything, and they did not disappoint. One of the things that initially stood out for me upon visiting, was how well-organized it was. I'm currently in the process of putting together a new system with all of our own digital homeschool content. I thrive on organization, so I was in my glory with how simple it was to navigate through the site.
You see, everything is categorized by grade and/or subject. If you are a new member, there's a "Start Here" page that shows you the ropes. Another area called "Quick Links" provides a complete one-page outline of each course that's offered. There are also "Browse by Subject" and "Browse by Grade" areas. So let's say you want to search for high school homeschool courses for the tenth grade level, you can visit the "Tenth Grade" section under "High School" and this will pop up:
Click on one of these subject areas, and that opens up a new
window with all of the course offerings for that grade level.
window with all of the course offerings for that grade level.
Perhaps, you'd rather look at the course offering by subject. If you click on "Art" for instance, you will be taken to a page that offers a complete selection of classes (Drawing with Realism, Art Techniques, etc.), as well as an area that breaks them down by grade. It doesn't get more efficient than that! Plus, their website has just gone through a complete overhaul, which makes it even more user-friendly.
Members can also receive access to the Applecore homeschool recordkeeping system (silver status for monthly members/gold status for yearly members), which helps keep track of courses/grades. You can even create report cards and transcripts. What a great tool to have!
So now that I've given you a little rundown of what SchoolhouseTeachers.com is all about, I'd love to share how we personally started using our new membership. Ever since my son was a baby, we've been teaching him the preschool basics. Now that he's older, I wanted to give him a more structured approach, so I recently began formally preschooling him at home. There is a wonderful place just for us, called the Preschool Playground. This is an area that solely focuses on preschool homeschool courses, as well as Pre-K. What better place to start!
Everything in this area is broken down by subject. There is even a scope and sequence printout, which offers an outline of the academic objectives that should be typically met at a preschool level. I personally found this to be extremely helpful (reference sheets are also offered for each subsequent grade). I can't stress the many bonuses of a self-paced course, especially when homeschooling little ones, because you never know what the day is going to bring. There's a lot offered in the Preschool Playground, but since we were just getting our feet wet over the holiday season, I decided to start with some of the basics, as well as a few additional lessons that I knew my son would enjoy.
Here's what we decided to try out:
- Manners and Healthy Habits for Preschool
- Numbers, Patterns, and Cognitive Skills
- All About Shapes
- Language Arts
- Arts, Crafts, and Music
- Read and Play
My son is crazy about his alphabet, shapes, and numbers. He loves learning games, which is a real treat for me. Picking a few lessons out of the All About Shapes, Language Arts, and Numbers, Patterns, and Cognitive Skills classes, provided me with several new ideas to help enhance his educational play.
In one activity, we used shaving cream and baby powder filled bags
to partake in letter and number scavenger hunts
The letter of the day lessons were a blast and one of my son's favorite activities within the Language Arts course. We'd pick one random letter for each day, and went around finding objects that began with that letter. We also engaged in fun activities and physical actions (like clapping hands) when the letter was said throughout the day.
As you can see below, we really took our letter of the day scavenger hunts seriously. We read books and collected objects around the house that began with the letter of the day. Here are some of the items we corralled for "S" day:
For Arts, Crafts, and Music, we've been engaging in mostly the music activities, some of these involved a lot of dancing and playing musical instruments. Both my husband and I have a background in music, so these types of lessons are always fun for us. (Note the plastic milk jug and bottle. I've always enjoyed making our own instruments using beans and rice in various containers to help create different sounds.)
Incorporating healthy habits and manners are a vital part of everyday life, so a little refresher in the importance of these things is always nice. To start off our Manners and Healthy Habits for Preschool lessons, I created a helpful "Did you remember to?" chart that names off just a few important reminders about hygiene and etiquette. I laminated the chart and put it up on the fridge for my son to reference when we're not reading over the lessons.
The one course that we really spent most of our time on was Read and Play. It's no secret that we are a bunch of bookworms here in my home, so we had a blast with this one. The whole idea behind the Read and Play lessons is to take a book and pair it with a bunch of fun learning activities. I was especially happy to see that we already owned some of the books in the lesson plan, including one of my son's favorites, Giraffe's Can't Dance. After reading a story, we'd watch documentaries or other short films, play with themed toys, read educational articles (including those found in the World Book Library–another great feature included in our membership), color activity pages, and even incorporate edible treats from the kitchen.
During our Giraffe's Can't Dance lesson, we had a full-on "Giraffe Week" to expand my son's learning experience. To be honest this lesson actually ended up extending out to two weeks. We learned all about giraffes, their habitats, and even had a healthy giraffe snack! One of the things that I really liked about this lesson plan is that it also involved some Biblical elements. Since the story revolves around a giraffe named Gerald, who becomes easily discouraged by his lack of dancing skills, there's also an activity that includes memorizing Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Membership also includes special access to streaming services such as Video Vision and RightNow Media. As a treat, we watched a few episodes of The Adventures of Carlos Caterpillar. This is a fun children's cartoon that touches up on many life lessons. Some of the show themes include responsibility, being yourself, appreciating what you have, and the importance of teamwork.
The beauty of having a membership doesn't just stop with courses for children and teens. One paid membership is good for the entire family, including parents. Yes, you read that right! There are tons of resources for parents to take advantage of, including full access to homeschool planners and schedules (I personally love that you can even customize your own), encouraging articles, and even special classes. I've been wanting to learn more about the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, so I was really excited to take an informative course that was offered on the site.
Currently, a full-year membership costs $139 (Note this price will increase to $180 at the end of January 2017). While a Yearly Membership saves you some money in the long run, there's a convenient monthly payment option that's also available. This is nice for those who are looking to give the site a test run or perhaps can't currently fit a full year's cost in their budget. Plus, new members can receive their first month for only a $1.00, by entering promo code TRIAL at checkout. Once you give it a try for a month or two, you may decide that you like it so much that a full year's membership is totally worth it (I know for me it definitely is!). Either way, it's quite an economical way to save on homeschooling expenses, considering how much just one curriculum could cost.
There really is so much more that SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers, but honestly if I were to include everything here, then this blog post would go on and on forever. As a mom who's new to homeschooling, it's encouraging to see such an incredible resource available. I'm beyond impressed with how much you receive as a member. The site is just that comprehensive. This is a resource that's wonderful for both new and seasoned homeschoolers alike, and one that I can personally see our family using for years and years to come.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com is currently offering a special extended holiday promotion. Right now, you can sign up for a monthly membership for only $9.95 a month by entering promo code CHRISTMAS, or grab a full year membership for $90 by entering CHRISTMASYEAR at checkout. This is the perfect chance to lock in a great rate before the price increase at the end of the month, but hurry, because this offer ends on January 15, 2017.
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