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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review - Everyday Cooking

 
 
Everyday Cooking

Cost:  $14.99 ebook, $17.99 print

I love recipes – recipe books, recipe magazines, recipe web sites, you name it.  I’m not one to enjoy the same meal week after week – variety is the spice of life (especially while test driving new spices!). 
My family, however, is just the opposite.  The hubby always tells me he’d be just as happy if I’d set up a weekly meal plan with the same meal each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.  Then, he’d know what to look forward to and it’d be easier on me.  Well, except that I’d die of food boredom!

So, I compromise.  I try to find recipes that include the foods they like, but are used in different ways.  We do have a repertoire of foods everyone loves that we cycle through throughout the month, but throwing something new in from time to time keeps me happy.
My boys are growing up and their palates are maturing.  They are discovering new tastes and likes – this makes me quite happy!  My youngest has always had an interest in cooking, so when I received the Everyday Cooking e-book from Everyday Homemaking, I knew I wanted to get him involved.

What I really like is that the recipes are simple.  They appeal to my families palate and make my hubby happy.  Most of the recipes I’ve tried or considered have ingredients found right in my pantry.  None of this fancy stuff I have to go to some specialty food store to find knowing full well I’ll probably get a “What’s this? Yuck!” when I serve it.  Want to see what I mean?  Check out their web site where a few sample recipes from the cookbook are featured. 
So, back to my son.  I told him to open the e-book on my computer and pick his three favorite recipes to try.  Later that day, he gave me his list.  I was surprised to see they were all entrees.  The recipe book includes appetizers, breads, main dishes and desserts.  If you would like to see the full table of contents, you can view sample pages from the book here.  He picked Chicken Quesadillas, Chicken and Dumplings, and Stuffed Shells. 


All three of his choices were super simple and made for an entertaining time in the kitchen for both of us.  I got to teach him more about cooking, and he got to do the driving and put the meal on the table for our family.  We loved the quesadillas – we’re all big time fans of Mexican food.  In fact, he invited his big brother and his brother’s girlfriend over another night to join us and made them again.  They were a hit!

 
Chicken and dumplings were a lot of fun and an education for my Southern born family.  Here in the South, dumplings are large doughy noodles.  I’m not a fan.  Where I come from, out West, dumplings were biscuits that are cooked right on top of the chicken stew.  The recipe in this book is Western style.  The dumplings (or biscuits) came out perfect and gave my hubby and boys an appreciation for the non-Southern variety.
PhotobucketStuffed shells turned out great as well.  I showed him how to put the filling in a Ziplock bag and cut the corner so all you have to do is squeeze the filling in instead of spooning it. 

I really like this cookbook as a go-to family friendly option.  As I said, the recipes are simple and use ingredients right from the pantry.  Plus, anything that gets me and my boys working together to make something wonderful for the family has my seal of approval.  He’s been assigned to pick three more – I can’t wait to find out what we’ll be dining on next week!

If you would like to see reviews by other Schoolhouse Molly Review Crew members – click here.

*** Disclaimer – I received this e-book free of charge as a member of the Molly Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review - Notable Novelists Card Game

Notable Novelists of the 20th Century

Web Site:  http://www.notablenovelists.com

Cost:  $10.95

Age:  Elementary and Up

Notable Novelists is a modern and educational version of Go-Fish.  I decided to break it out on vacation at the beach.  We needed a little family time while hanging out and resting in the hotel.  We always enjoyed Go-Fish when the boys were younger, so, why not now?

Everyone was willing to play – yay!  It is just as simple as it sounds – deal the cards, work towards getting matches.  At the end, the most matches wins.  To see the directions – click here.   The cool thing is that instead of matching cartoon-like fish, you are matching novelists with their mini-biography and their works.  Each match has an Author, Bio and Library Card.  

What I liked about it is that we were learning while just playing a game. Some of the authors we didn’t recognize like Nabokov or Cheever until we saw what they had written.  The Bio tidbits offer small insights into the life of the author you otherwise wouldn’t know.  You can see all the authors listed – here.  

We had a lot of fun playing.  “So, Dad, do you have a Nabokov (imagined this name butchered) bio?” followed by a chuckle.  When a match was made, the person getting the match would then read the cards aloud.  This helped us learn and start to remember which author was responsible for which work.

I can see pulling this game out from time to time – we got pretty sneaky with our strategies for figuring out who had which cards to make our matches.  You wouldn’t think a child’s game of go-fish could become an adult strategy game.  ha!
I think, too, I’m going to bring it in to the homeschool co-op English class I teach.  It’ll be a fun game to play at the end of the semester. 

If you’d like to see reviews by other Schoolhouse Review Crew members – click here.


*** Disclaimer:  I received this card game free of charge as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Blog Cruise - The Homeschool Juggling Act

PhotobucketWe have found homeschooling to be quite the juggling act.  Contrary to the old misconception that homeschoolers are unsocialized, we find that we have to pick and choose just what it is we can make time to be a part of.  There are so many great opportunities and activities out there that school can take a back seat if we aren’t careful.

First the question isn’t, “How do you do it all?”   Because, put simply, we don’t.  We can’t.  School is first – everything else must fit around it.
One thing I love about homeschool is allowing the boys to follow their passions.  I make it a point to only participate in things that either I know will further their education or help them grow, or things that they are passionate about.  Often, these two overlap.

School is first – we “do school” formally from 8:30 in the morning until it’s done.  This can be anywhere between 1:00 and 4:00 depending on the day and what needs to be accomplished.  It’s never a rush – the focus is on doing it right and learning, not on just getting done.  Yes, sometimes this is a battle, but, most of the time, they embrace the fact that their education is important.
We are blessed to be in two co-ops.  I blogged about these this summer – you can check them out here.
In the co-ops, we not only have academics, but much of their social activities come from these. 

Youngest is in yearbook, filmmaking, gavel and newspaper.

Middle is in yearbook, student government, speech and debate, and newspaper.


One of our co-ops also involves a lot of social time.  Each Friday the kids meet to do something fun be it game night, a movie, laser tag, etc.  We also do group activities like camping, festivals, kayaking, you name it.  This group is wonderful because there are tons of activities – the boys pick the ones they are most interested in to go.
Middle is also very active in taekwondo earning his black belt this year.  We use TKD as our PE for high school.  Life is learning.


I love all that is available to homeschoolers – sports, Key club, ROTC, engineers clubs, artistic classes, etc.  They really don’t “miss out” on anything they could be doing in public school.  It’s all about balance – finding the best balance between academics and activities.
My advice?  Set your priorities.  Anything that fits in around those priorities and benefits your student is great.  Anything that doesn’t, no matter how cool is sounds, you have to pass on. 


On another note – take care of mom and dad!  I know from experience that mom can run herself ragged making sure her kids get to all their events and activities while also teaching in the home.  Mom has a threshold.  If the kids have to miss out on something so that mom has one night of peace, then so be it! 
Mom and Dad need time together too.  Dad is often the financier of the homeschool.  He needs time and attention.  Don’t let dad fall through the cracks.  Keep him involved and make sure he knows he’s loved too. 

There is a lot to balance, but it's all worth it in the end.  Priorities!  That's the key - God, family, education, activites, fun.  In that order, things will all work out.


How do you juggle your busy homeschooling life?

Interested in how other Schoolhouse Review Crew members fit it all in?  Click here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review - Golden Prairie Press - Costumes with Character

Costumes with Character
Golden Prairie Press

Author:  Amy Puetz
Web Sitehttp://amypuetz.com/
Cost:  ebook - $21.95, printed - $37.00, patterns - $15.00
Ages:  Elementary to High School
I agreed to review Costumes with Character because I wanted ideas to make a dress up box for my two twin nieces.  What I didn’t realize was that this e-book is so much more than just a set of ideas for making costumes! 

Costumes with character is written by Amy Puetz – a homeschool graduate who is passionate about history.  I’m so impressed with this young lady’s store – she has several books all pertaining to history in some way that she has developed.  You can read all about her and her online store at http://amypuetz.com/Aboutus.html


So, back to the e-book.  I expected to see ideas for patterns for different costumes representing genres in history.  What I didn’t expect was to find a curriculum.  She starts with a basic dress.  What a great idea!  One dress that you then add different embellishments to to transform it into the period costume.  The directions for each embellishment are clear and concise.  You don’t need to be a seamstress to follow along.  They are simple enough that most anyone can do it.  She provides clear details to ensure you are creating a costume that will fit your child or you. 
  When my boys were younger, they loved being in the moment.  In fact, my middle son used to say he was “being” not “pretending”.  This meant he needed full garb and tools to actually “be” the character, not just pretend.  This is what these costumes are about – being, not pretending.  This book offers costumes covering ten different periods from Colonial to Turn of the Century and ends with the makings of a lovely tea party.  (My daughter loved her tea parties when she was young!)

But that’s not all…  Remember I said it was so much more than just a book of sewing ideas – it’s a curriculum?  Not only does she include the ideas for making the costumes, but each section is a history lesson where she describes what the dress of that period was and why.  What was its function, how did the men dress?  How did it identify them in society? 

Adding to her own insights are quotes from the period, beautiful illustrations and Recommended Resources to allow your student to really immerse herself in the period through literature.  Each period also includes a section of questions for the reader to respond to – questions like “Name the first governor of Plymouth Plantation.”  A little research goes a long way to really developing a rounded understanding of the period being covered.  (Answers are provided.)  To see what I’m talking about, view a sample of the book here - http://amypuetz.com/CostumesWithCharacterAmyPuetzSample.pdf. 
I LOVE this concept.  We like to be a school of experience – live it to learn it.  We enjoy cooking period food, reading period pieces, or even visiting sites that help us develop a better understanding of life during that timeframe.  How wonderful to be able to take one dress and with your daughter embellish each one to fit the period you are studying.  Makes me want a little girl of my own to do this with! 

As your daughter makes her outfits, the sewing does progress.  For example, in the Romantic Era she’ll add simple embroidery to a small letter case and create a bonnet.  Several hats are created to go along with the time of the Pioneers, Civil War and Sailors.  What fun!  In the end, she’ll have a tea party complete with homemade invitations, games and suggested foods.  If your daughter is like mine, she has a favorite American Doll.  The book suggests making costumes to fit the doll along with the ones your child makes for herself.  You know she’ll love that!

Amy has just posted a book of patterns to her web site as well.  If you prefer to simply print out patterns instead of using the measurements to create your own – this is a great addition at only $12.00, on sale now!  The patterns print to legal paper.  Some are larger and require you to cut them out and paste them together.  Easy! 

I just love the creativity and inspiration that went into creating this book.  If you have daughters at home that love “being” instead of “pretending”, give Amy’s books a try.  You’ll have a great time not only learning history, but learning about sewing and developing a fun mini-wardrobe that your children can use to create small plays, or just live in the past for a little while. 
To see reviews by other Schoolhouse Review Crew members – click here.


*** Disclaimer:  I received these e-books free of charge as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Week 1, Year 5 - Half Way to Graduation... Time So Does Fly!

I was thinking just this morning that I cannot believe we’ve been homeschooling for five years!  It feels like we just started!  Wow!  My youngest had now officially been homeschooling the same amount of time he spent in public school. 

This is our first week.  We’ve started slow, just doing half days.  Our co-op where they each take three classes had some pre-start work to get done, so we’re focusing on that.  Next week, it’ll be full days.
What I love is the boys positive attitude.  They were ready to start.  I’ve been sick all week, and they’ve just gotten up each morning and hit the ground running.  I think we’ve finally reached that panacea I dreamed of when we started homeschoolng.  They love to learn! 

After five years of homeschooling,  I can still honestly say I’ve never woken up a single day and wished we weren’t doing school here at home.  It’s such a joy.  What makes me sad is that we are now at the half way point, five years from now, they will both have graduated.   Sigh!
How long have you been homeschooling?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

There is No Such Thing as Normal

I had a really interesting conversation the other day with a friend of mine.  She has two beautiful boys.  She used to introduce herself and her family by saying who she was, saying who her oldest son was and then stating that he has autism.  One day she realized, even if he wasn’t with her, she felt compelled to state he had autism.  She decided that day to just say she has two sons.  

Why is it she felt the need to almost apologize or explain her son’s condition?  I think it’s because as humans were overly focused on what is “normal”.  Anything out of the usual stands out.  The problem is that I can’t really find normal.  We’re all weird.  Just some of us have a better facade than others. 

That’s the conclusion my friend and I came to – there is no normal.

Some of us, like her son, have more obvious unique characteristics; however, all of us have those eccentricities that make us out of the norm.  It might be your superstitions, or your anxieties, or your ritual for going to bed at night.  Some of us live and breathe by the number of comments we get on Facebook while others spend their time waving their hands around screaming look at me!  Then there are those of us that just want to hide. 
School starts back this week here in NC.  Many have already started back.  One thing I remember hating about school back in my day was the cliques and always worrying what someone might decide to pick on me for.  Too smart, too dumb, too pretty, too ugly, four-eyes, brace face, walks funny, talks funny – you name it.  Kids have a way of finding those little quirks and exposing them to the world.  The meaner ones do it so that it makes them look more normal by making their prey look, gasp, weird. 

Why do we spend so much time trying to fit in?  I'm a democrat, I’m a Republican, I’m a Christian, I’m a Muslim.  Sure, there are times when labels fit the bill, but I think it’s important to embrace our differences not let them separate us from one another.  Are we just grown up bullies, or are we people ready to embrace the fact there is no normal and enjoy our differences?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Review: Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers


Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers – PDF

Author:  Douglas Bond
Publisher: Christian Liberty Press
Web Site:  http://www.shopchristianliberty.com/mr-pipes-and-the-british-hymn-makers-pdf/
Grade:  7th-10th
Cost:  $8.79
Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is the first book in a series written by Douglas Bond.  According to the preface, the purpose for writing these books is as follows:

“Many Christians at the opening of the twenty-first century, including young believers, have never understood the importance of approaching God with awesome reference and majestic praise.  As readers move through Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, however, they will not only learn about the fascinating lives of famous hymn writers but will also be encouraged to cultivate an attitude of humble adoration as they approach their Maker.”

I don’t know that I fully agree with his assessment that young believers don’t understand reverence; however, I do know that many youth have not grown up with the hymns that are a large part of traditional worship.  Nowadays, contemporary worship seems to appeal more to the younger crowd.  I woulnd’t call it irreverent, but I would say that we are losing some connection with the history that represents many of the hymn writers.

The book itself is well written.  Personally, I would lower the age range from 7th to 10th grade to more around 5th to 8th grade.  The book format reminds me a bit of the Tree House series in the sense that two children are the focus and have adventures.  However, these “adventures” are quite different from other series.  Instead of fantastical journeys, they spend time with Mr. Pipes learning to fish or sail or visiting London.  During their down time, Mr. Pipes tells them stories about hymn makers of the past and encourages them to sing with him.  The premise is endearing.

What I really liked about this approach is that the reader is really getting a history lesson under the guise of a fictional story.  As Mr. Pipes weaves the tale about the hymn maker(s), he also helps the children understand the foundations of their faith and the importance of worship.  Additionally, I found the artists renderings throughout the book to have that old world feel that fits with the location and the study of historical hymn writers.

Having a male and a female teen as main characters, this story can appeal to both males and females.   I was a little uncomfortable with the children roaming around an unfamiliar town alone and making friends with strangers; however, the age range indicated for the book would ensure the children understand this is fiction and not safe in the “real world”.  Younger students might need this reminder.

I find this to be a fun read that would be an excellent supplement to a course on music, hymns or even worship.  To see the first thirty pages – click here.

If you would like to read additional reviews by members of the TOS Schoolhouse Review Crew – click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a PDF of this book free at a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Apologia's I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist
Book and Workbook Review
Age:  High School
Cost:  Workbook - $33.00  Text – $16.00 or via Amazon

When I was asked to review the I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist curriculum through Apologia, I thought it would be an interesting addition to our schooling.  Both my boys seek logic as a way to explain their faith to others.  What I didn’t realize is that it uses the book written by Norman Giesler and Frank Turek of the same name.  (I know – duh! )

I have tremendous respect for Geisler; however, I have already assisted in a year-long high school course involving his twelve step approach to apologetics and found it to be confusing at times and not very engaging for teenagers. 

Geisler and Turek use logic to show how other ideals/philosophies/religions are illogical while attempting to show the logic in Christianity.  I love logic; in fact, I consider myself a skeptic who thrives on empirical evidence.  However, the approach taken here is not easy for a teen to follow.  For example, in the first chapter, two philosophers, Hume and Kant, are refuted.  I appreciate the refutation, but since Hume and Kant aren’t readily familiar to the typical teenager, these two selections seem arbitrary in a pool of possible targets.  Additionally, in chapter two, the reader runs into terms like the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument and the Anthropic Principle.  I find these approaches very interesting, but a typical teenager feels in over his head.  You can view the introduction to the book – here.
At times, the book seems to get bogged down in trying to explain their principles and criticize other planes of thought to the point that the actual goal of proving Christianity can temporarily get lost in the dialogue.  They do pull it back in, but it takes a lot of mental sorting to keep track of what is being discussed.

Enter the supplementary curriculum provided by Apologia.  I’ve always enjoyed Apologia – they do an excellent job of dealing with tough subjects and providing students with the necessary tools to help them develop an understanding of the concepts.  I feel they've done a good job with this book as well. 
The accompanying workbook is setup chapter by chapter to coincide with the Geisler/Turek book as seen in the Table of Contents.   Each chapter of the workbook includes a Hook, Book, Look and Took section.  Here’s the description from the text:
Hook – This section will remind you what the textbook chapter talked about and often includes a few questions to warm up your brain.
Book – This section takes you deeper into the specific issues covered in each chapter, unpacking the topics and testing your knowledge and comprehension with questions from the textbook.

Look – Don’t just take the authors’ word for it.  Check out the information presented in the book for yourself.  This section helps you build no your new found knowledge with research assignments and other suggested activities.
Took – This section summarizes the material and helps you apply the concepts you’ve studied to your life and witness for Jesus Christ.

I really like this approach.  Throughout the workbook, students are able to better understand the content provided in each chapter and to determine what it means to them.  They are able to research the information and form their opinions based on depth, not just on the content of one text.  Additionally, they are given time to digest each chapter before moving forward. 
Some of the other aspects I liked about the workbook not illustrated above are the vocabulary and the spotlights on people mentioned in the book.  People like Hume and Kant, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Hitler, etc.  These spotlights help students consider the context in which these people are being discussed and give them a better understanding of who they were. 

I feel the workbook is essential to understanding the book.  I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by itself is difficult for educated adults to traverse let alone high school students.  However, with the help of a parent and the workbook, I do feel they help build a foundational and logical understanding of how to defend the faith. 
For Homeschooling Parents:  answers to the workbook can be found on the book extras section of the Apologia web site using a password provided when you purchase the text.  Additionally, chapter tests are included free to help you assess your student’s understanding.

To see reviews by other Schoolhouse Review Crew members – click here.
***  Disclaimer:  I received the book and curriculum free of charge as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest opinion.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trying Out 5-Hour Energy

I received two bottles of 5-Hour Energy as part of a Smiley campaign.  Anything that can give me a little energy is worth a try in my book.  Well, almost anything… 

Anyhoo – I hadn’t tried it before because I don’t like liquids.  Anything medicinal I avoid like the plague, and I was pretty sure this stuff was gonna taste nasty. 
They sent me Pomegranate and Berry flavors.   I’m a sucker for pomegranate, so – bottoms up.  Yep, Yuck!!!  It tasted a little like pomegranate followed by this bitter saccharine taste and then a salty afterglow.  Actually made my tummy do a flip flop.  This had better work!

You know what – it did!  I was really pleasantly surprised.  I needed to go run and had zero energy to do it.  I’d been up way too early and worked way to hard already.  Fifteen minutes after drinking it, I headed to the gym.  I did my run, made it home to change and took in a play with the family that night.  A little over five hours later I was feeling tired, but not before that.  Wow! 
So, I tried Berry next.  Better flavor, same result.  Yay!

You can view the 5-Hour energy site where its contents are described.  They claim to have had the product evaluated by primary care physicians, of which, 73% would recommend 5-Hour Energy to healthy patients.   I'd feel better if that was a higher number, but that's just me. 

I have to say, choking it down isn’t any fun, but having energy for five hours is a real bonus in my book. I want to do more research before I feel comfortable using 5-Hour Energy long term, but, I can honestly say, if I need a boost, I know where I can get it.

Have you used 5-Hour Energy?  Does it work for you?  What other things have you tried for energy besides caffeinated drinks?

*** I received two bottles free of charge at a member of Smiley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - First Fondue

Melted cheese, tender meats and white/dark chocolate dipped marshmellows, pound cake and brownie.  A little heaven on earth!  A yummy first fondue experience for my boys!






Friday, August 3, 2012

Review - King Alfred's English


King Alfred's English
A History of the Language We Speak And Why We Should Be Glad We Do

Web Site: http://www.theshorterword.com/king-alfreds-english/
Age: Middle/High School
Cost:  Available on Amazon from $11.51 New or $5.95 Kindle edition

Much like the author, Laurie J. White, I loved the History of the English Language course I took in college.  It was fascinating to trace the roots of the language from its beginnings to where it is today.  I kept my book and have referred to it from time to time; however, it’s a bit dry and a hard read for my kids. 

Getting to review King Alfred’s English was exciting for me.  The author has written the history in a language that is not only enjoyable to read by adults, but is a much easier read for upper middle and high school students that the old college text.

Laurie does and excellent job of tracing the origins of the language from Briton through the invasions of the Latin, Norse, French, Greek and Latin dialects.  Her text focuses heavily on the impact of the Bible on language and the impact of language on translations of the Bible.  A truly fascinating read!

Each chapter helps illuminate words that have become part of the melting pot language that is English.   Additionally, focus on the status of English from once in danger of being exterminated, to a language of the lowly and finally to the most commonly used language in the world is traced.  Contributions of the likes of Wycliffe, Tyndale, King James and Shakespeare provide an engaging backdrop for how the language was proliferated through the Bible, the printing press, and even literature. 

I’m excited to have this text.  My vision is to make this a course that can be taught at our local co-op in the next year.  The author notes it can be taught using materials provided on her website for either 1/2 of a history credit or a combined 1/4 history, 1/4 English credit.

Which leads me to her free resources to help with teaching!  Her web site, www.theshorterword.com, contains resources for both students and teachers.  Student resources include “images, articles, videos, primary sources, and literature related to each chapter.”  Teacher resources include “worksheets, tests and more” that can be used along with the student resources to easily create a strong course.  The only thing I do wish was that the answers to teacher resources weren’t available right on the site – they are too easily accessed by students.  Perhaps password protecting or requiring a teacher email would be better.  

The cost of the book, especially the e-book, makes this text very accessible to all students.  In addition to Amazon, King Alfred's English can be found at the following: CBDRAINBOW RESOURCEGrace and Truth Books.

I know I was excited to once again delve into the English language.  I believe students will be equally motivated to see how the language has been shaped by various cultures and the role Christianity has played in the formation of spoken and written English.

I highly recommend this book! Want to check it out for yourself?  You can read the first chapter - here.

To see reviews by other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew – click here.

*** Disclaimer:  I received this book free of charge as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Co-Op's, Academics, and, gasp, Being Socialized

BacktoHomeschool


Starting homeschooling can be scary – one thing you always hear is how “unsocialized” homeschoolers are.  In fact, just the other day, I had that conversation with two people at our taekwondo class.  Socialization issues, in my view, are a myth.  In fact, there are so many activities and social opportunities to choose from that academics can get pushed aside if you aren’t careful.


One option is the co-op.  We have found that all co-ops are not created equally.  You have to choose one (or two) that fit your family’s approach to education.  We have run into three different types of co-ops in the last four years. 
1.   The academic co-op with parent teachers –is focused on academics and requires parents to teach at least one class.


2.   The academic co-op with hired instructors –pays instructors to teach students core subjects.  Parents pay tuition.


3.   The loosely academic co-op – offers classes, but they aren’t stringent about the level of participation by students.  This type of co-op typically has parent teachers as well.
Co-ops are not to be confused with social groups.  Co-ops offer classes not just activities.  
We have been blessed to participate in types 1 and 3 of co-ops in our four going on five years of homeschooling. 


Type 1 – Academic Co-op


The second semester of our first year homeschooling, I lucked into being asked to participate in a very academic co-op called the Teen Learning Center.  Their approach is to offer a full schedule of classes one day a week.  Students choose four courses.  We meet at 9:15am and end at 2:00pm.  The focus is on teenagers, but supplementary classes are offered for younger siblings.


This approach fits us to a tee!  We are VERY committed to strong academics.  TLC teachers instruct with rigor and provide a full syllabus and calendar of expectations for students.  Grades are given by teachers.  I’ve had the opportunity to teach Essay & Research, Speech Communication and Computer Programming.  Amazing women attend the co-op; I love getting to take advantage of their expertise in subjects like economics, physics, chemistry, art, etc. Additionally, science labs are offered allowing my boys to investigate science in a group setting.


Membership in the co-op is limited.  We have a committee that governs and ensures everyone is following the rules.  They interview families to make sure they are a good fit for the co-op seeking out parents who can teach courses that have been vacated by graduating families.  TLC currently consists of over 40 families!


In addition to academics, TLC offers a yearbook club and student government.  The student government is for upper-classmen.  They create activities such as special days (crazy hat day, etc.), come up with a few activities (like the annual ski trip), and provide student leadership.  I run the yearbook for now and both my boys participate.  My oldest will also be doing student government this year. 


What I appreciate most about TLC is having my boys in a classroom setting and accountable to someone besides me.  This mirrors what they can expect when they go to college.  Additionally, TLC meets that “socialization” need everyone outside of homeschooling is so worried about.


One thing some might see as a drawback is that we are committed for the duration of the year.  We have to mold our daily routine around the schedule provided by the instructors.  While I’m still the primary teacher for all academics, we have assignments to complete and our pace is set by the classes they take.  Personally, I like this; however, it can be limiting if you want to travel during the year.  TLC runs from September to November and December to May. 


Honestly, it is hard to imagine our homeschooling journey without TLC.


Type 3 – Loosely Academic Co-op


Beginning our first semester of homeschooling, we joined a co-op that was loosely academic.  It is called MASC.  They offered classes like Grossology, American States, Art, etc.  This was a great opportunity for us to meet fellow homeschoolers giving the boys a chance to make friendships and get a break from our daily academics.  We were able to enjoy the classes without feeling pressure to bend our daily schedule around the programs.  Additionally, this co-op offered several outside activities.  It was a good fit our first semester.  Second semester, they changed the timing to mornings, which didn’t work for us so we quit and transitioned to TLC.  This ended up being a great move for us.


We are now back at this co-op in addition to TLC.  At this point, our second co-op also focusses on teens.  My boys participate in Gavel club through MASC.  I can’t say enough good things about Gavel club.  Even if it weren’t part of a co-op, we would be doing Gavel.  Gavel is part of Toastmasters International – it involves public speaking and evaluation.  After delivering ten speeches, the participant earns a certificate.


In addition to Gavel, MASC offers fun classes for the boys.  They will be taking photography and drawing.  I will be teaching basic computer programming using Alice.  More academic offerings like chemistry and SAT Prep are offered as well for additional cost and taught by hired instructors.  This co-op is rife with activities.  Each parent not teaching a class must provide two activities per year.  We are already planning to attend a two-night camping trip that will include a visit to the orchards for fall apple picking.  My youngest loves their filmmaking club and helped act in the first feature film to be screened this week.  He is also a member of their newspaper club honing his writing skills.  Additionally, they have a strong science Olympiad team that we don’t have time to join and a battle of the books team.  (We had our own team last year.)


This co-op is very different from TLC.  It’s about fun activities and enjoying practicing their skills like public speaking, film and writing.  We are blessed to be a part of this co-op as well.  Clearly, socialization is a non-factor.


We meet with this group on Mondays from 12:00pm to 3:00pm.  As this is during our day, we do sometimes have to finish school when the classes are over.


Choosing a Co-Op


Choosing the right co-op for your family is important.  You have to decide what your needs are and then determine which local co-op can meet those needs.  I urge you to test the waters!  Homeschooling all subjects on your own cannot only be a challenge (especially as they hit high school and more difficult subjects), but students benefit from the accountability of another instructor.  One wonderful benefit of the co-op is the opportunity to engage with like-minded parents finding out their methods and sharing yours.  It’s not only our kids that need that “socialization,” homeschooling parents need community as well.