Posted by Lorren on February 9, 2010
I was recently sent a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell to review. When I started homeschooling, I think I remember looking at an earlier version of this book, or something like it. Now that I’ve been homeschooling for four years (which is really hard to believe, but I started preschool when dd was 3 1/2, now she’s 7 1/2), it has different things for me than to a new homeschooler. But I think that it can be useful to new homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and even veteran homeschoolers.
Not every person will benefit from every part of this book at all times, but it is a good reference for nearly any homeschooler to keep around.
Prospective homeschoolers are likely to benefit from Part 1: Homeschooling: Is It for You?, although people who have been homeschooling for a while probably have figured out the answer to that. While I think that almost anybody that sincerely wants to homeschool can find a way, I don’t think that it’s right for everyone. It’s a lot of work, and many people don’t want to put in the time and energy to do it. There are alternatives to homeschool, so if you’re not sure about whether you want to do it, this chapter can help. There are parents that pull their kids in and out of school multiple times, and that usually hurts the child (it also can make homeschoolers in general look bad, because often those are the only homeschooled children that public school teachers see).
Part 2: Choosing a Curriculum will help beginning homeschoolers primarily, but it can also help people who are unhappy with whatever they are currently using. I’ve found programs that I really like, but then I’ve also found things that didn’t work quite as well, or programs that are even better than what I’m currently using. For example, my daughter was having difficulty with BJU Spelling, but All About Spelling is great for her. I thought that she would like Switched on Schoolhouse for Language Arts, and that it would save me time, but she was frustrated with it, so we’re going back to BJU next year. Curriculum challenges can occur when you’re just starting out, or if your budget suddenly changes (there’s a chapter on Homeschooling on a Shoestring).
Part 4: Preventing Burnout could help veteran homeschoolers. I used one of the suggestions today. In order to let my daughter have a little more control over her education, I let her pick the order in which she did her school work for the day. I created a 3×5 card, and I told her that when she was finished, we were done with school. She was pleasantly surprised.
Part 6: Homeschooling Teens can be helpful for teachers of older kids (I’m not there yet, dd is 7). There are challenges to homeschooling for high school, including the more advanced material, different social challenges, and preparing for college. It can be done; this chapter helps you decide whether to continue homeschooling through high school (you might even choose different routes for different kids), and then gives information on how to deal with these challenges.
Other parts of the book deal with organizing and planning, what and when to teach, computers, how to deal with reluctant learners, toddler siblings, and bringing kids out of school to the home environment, and measuring success. There is also a Resource Guide at the end with organizations, publishers, and even competitions your child(ren) might be interested in.
Final thoughts: I think that this is a great book, but I have one caveat: parts of this book are opinions, not facts. They may be educated opinions, but like any homeschool book that you buy, you need to take what works for you and adapt it to fit. The methods given to raise independent learners may not all work for you. You may have your own thoughts about whether to give them an allowance or not. While there are plenty of facts to draw upon, your homeschooling goals and philosophy might be a little different than the author’s; don’t feel bad if you disagree with the author at any point.
I did really like this book, and I think that many homeschoolers could benefit from getting a copy to use as a reference in their own homeschool.