When I started my blog two years ago, I had no idea how it would change the way we homeschool. A few weeks after I began blogging, I applied to join the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschool Review Crew. Although I thought it was a longshot, I was thrilled to receive a “Welcome to the Crew” email later that month.
Being part of the Homeschool Review Crew was the best thing I could do for my blog. Read on to discover ways it has helped me grow—both as a blogger and as a homeschool mom.
Since Crew members are required to post at least one non-sponsored blog each week, I immediately developed a habit of writing. Early on, I was an over-achiever, often posting two or three blogs in a week. During hectic weeks, however, posting new material can be a challenge. Knowing that the Crew requires a weekly blog post helps me to write regularly.
When I receive a review product, I can’t just add it to my curriculum collection. I have to use it consistently during a one to two month review period. If we don’t like it, we press through and use it anyway, knowing that we can move on to something more appealing later. Thankfully, we’ve enjoyed most of the products we’ve tried.
After using each resource, I must post a review on my blog during a 3-day window. Writing a review requires my kids and me to think more deeply about the curriculum we’ve used. Because I know that my writing quality will reflect on me as a blogger and the Review Crew as a whole, I strive for honesty and excellence. I am never required to post a positive review. However, if an item is not a good fit for our family, I point out aspects that may be attractive to other homeschoolers.
Over the past two years, I’ve posted 170 blog entries. I’m genuinely amazed at the quantity and variety of information I’ve shared. Much of the content is the result of being on the Review Crew.
Search engines like to discover new material on my blog, so they index my blog more often when I update it regularly. The more I write, the easier it is for readers like you to find what I’ve written when they do a web search.
Every time I post a review, I link it up in several places. First, I add it to a page on the Homeschool Review Crew website. Then I share it on Facebook, Instagram, and MeWe. After sharing reviews through these channels, I often see a spike in visits to my blog.
The fun part of being on the Crew is being able to use a variety of homeschool products in exchange for posting a review. If I hadn’t been on the Crew, I would not have known about several of these newly-released resources. Last year, we enjoyed learning about Bible history using the new Drive Thru Adventures series. This year, Crosswired Science, a new science curriculum website, introduced our family to deep science in a fun way.
We’ve also sampled resources that would ordinarily be outside our budget. Last spring, we were thrilled to use the CLEP prep tools on Study.com, and they helped my high schooler earn her first college credit.
When Lightning Lit was offered as a review product, it looked appealing to me. However, some friends who had used it gave me negative feedback. Based on their input, I would have hesitated to purchase the program. Thankfully, we were able to try it for free since I’m on the Review Crew.
Initially, I was reluctant to review Apologia’s Health and Nutrition course. Having experienced little success with their science curriculum in the past, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My high schooler’s enthusiasm tipped the balance, and we reviewed it despite my fears. She loved the format of the curriculum and completed the entire course.
We have tried so many math programs that I was unwilling to shell out a penny for another Algebra program. Nothing seemed to work well for my struggling high school daughter. When a review opportunity for CTCMath came up, it was a godsend. My daughter needed an algebra curriculum, and some of my good friends were having success with CTCMath. Using the free membership we received in exchange for our review, my daughter took diagnostic tests to identify trouble spots. After she mastered those challenging skills, she earned her Algebra 1 credit.
Sometimes a review item recommended for my kids’ ages has seemed a bit juvenile at first glance. I’ve questioned whether products like these would be appropriate for my advanced middle school twins. After presenting the opportunity to them and seeing their excitement, we often review the product anyway. These resources always add fun and enrichment to our homeschool. I was impressed with how much we all learned while studying Forensic Faith for Kids—a book that I had worried would be too immature for my 12-year-olds.
I am absolutely amazed at the variety of homeschool resources we get to review. Although some items don’t fit my definition of curriculum, they all have tremendous educational value.
Last year, we reviewed The Princess Cut, a movie that highlights biblical standards for dating and marriage.
We’ve reviewed several novels that my girls have loved. Recently, we enjoyed Britfield & the Lost Crown, which also introduced the twins to British history and geography.
Although we rarely listen to audio programs, we have tried several as part of the Homeschool Review Crew. We all appreciated learning about missions while listening to the Brinkman Adventures last year.
Craft products seldom find their way into our homeschool, but last year they did. The girls made spinning tops using a kit from Super Beads. They eagerly arranged beads in a pattern, spritzed them with water, allowed them to fuse, then attached their creations to spinners. It was fun to watch their colorful tops whirl.
We also have many opportunities to review traditional curriculum. Some are available in electronic format or as an online program, and others are text-based.
I never imagined that being part of the Review Crew would add so much variety to our homeschool study topics. In addition to the core academic subjects, we’ve been able to include practical skills such as typing and coding. We’ve explored life skills like dating and courtship; the girls even checked out some career options. By learning more about missionaries and studying apologetics, they have expanded their biblical foundation as well.
As 2019 draws to a close, I’m finishing up the year’s final reviews and anticipating 2020. What products will the Crew get to review next year? I’m excited to explore them.
Have you ever considered writing for the Homeschool Review Crew? If you have an active blog or vlog and would like to evaluate homeschool products, now is the time to join. Check out the details and fill in the online application.