My family has had access to this curriculum website for about a month so far - thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew - and we've already used it a lot and gained so much just in that amount of time. I can't wait to see how much more we benefit from it over the coming year! It might be worth noting here that my kids are in Kindergarten and 3rd grade, so my review is largely centered around that perspective. We only used elementary grade level and parent/family courses, materials, and resources from the site. That said, the middle and high school levels seemed to have a lot of interesting courses as well, with many of them noting the credit value of completing the course, which I imagine could come in handy when creating transcripts and records.
Our homeschooling is really an eclectic approach, with bits and pieces of what works for us from any source or style of learning and curricula. We have done everything from teacher guided seat work to child-led projects. From my exposure thus far to SchoolhouseTeachers.com, it seems to fit nicely into our system. It can be used in a structured manner, such as following an outlined course for violin or art, or using supplemental materials like worksheets for areas in which my children need extra practice or reinforcement. Yet it can also be used to delve further into topics that my kids are interested in for a more child-led approach. We can do this by using those same courses and allowing my daughter to choose and work through them as she feels appropriate and/or by selecting videos or unit studies to delve further into subjects my kids are passionate about.
My girls seriously found the entire website to be a treasure trove of possibility and were intrigued by everything from a Spanish lesson to art to music. As I was exploring our possibilities, I kept finding them looking over my shoulder or interacting with the verbal prompts from the videos in various courses. (The art lesson we viewed also inspired my daughter to draw an array of "still life" to showcase her skills.) And really, this site could have kept my kids engaged for hours straight. It has a fairly comprehensive selection of subjects to suit nearly any interest area, including categories for Art, Bible, Computer & Technology, Drama & Speech, Electives, Foreign Languages, History, Geography, and Social Studies, Language Arts, Math, Music, Nutrition, Health, and Fitness, and Science! (As a side note: I didn't feel the math offered for elementary students would work as a complete program, but it did offer lots of resources to supplement or complement a homeschooler's core math curriculum and was, therefore, still a valuable tool in that area.)
One subject we spent some time on was music! Both my girls take violin lessons in person with a wonderful instructor in our area. Nonetheless, the beginning violin course with instructor Nancy Blue, available to members of SchoolhouseTeachers.com, was still of interest to my 8-year old, so she went through some of the video lessons (that also have downloadable documents to go along with them). Nancy Blue (the well-qualified instructor) does a good job of teaching the material and my daughter quickly picked up songs being taught. I'm not sure how well someone new to violin would do if taking this course entirely independently since my kids have had prior instruction, so I would still recommend having a teacher that could help in person to help work through trouble areas and provide hands-on help. That said, it's very possible this course is sufficient to be stand-alone for some students and completion of the entire course can be worth a half credit. One thing I'd like to see in the videos would be a close up or different angle at certain times when it could be helpful to get another view, but Ms. Blue did explain things clearly, so this really is a minor issue. My daughter loved having another teacher's perspective and different ways of explaining things, found new things to learn, and adored playing "Joy to the World" in the process... which really was perfect timing considering we were doing some of this over the holiday break!
Three areas of primary interest to me were the resources for parents, the Focused Learning Centers, and the Daily Writing Prompts (as well as Daily Math, Grammar, and Puzzles)!
Focused Learning Centers
Even though we have great curriculum that we love, there have been times when I felt like one of my kids struggled with a certain task of lesson and wished we had more practice options in our curriculum. So off I'd go, into the wide wonderland of the internet - usually Pinterest-ing - to find a suitable supplement. But now I can go to the Focused Learning Centers (found under the Planners & Resources link in the navigation menu at the top of the page) on SchoolhouseTeachers.com when we need supplements, extra practice, support or ideas to help with a particular skill. Yay!
Writing has always been something that my daughters love to do but they both could always use more practice. The Daily Writing course, offered by Sharon Watson, is a fantastic list of writing prompts for each day of the month (and archives from previous months). We started a new daily writing notebook/journal just for this and both girls had fun with writing (and drawing) based off the prompts we tried thus far! I'd recently stumbled across Sharon Watson's curricula and website, so I was excited to see this Daily Writing series available to us, included in our Yearly Membership on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. Other daily practice offerings (not by the same instructor) that we found fun and/or useful were Daily Grammar and Daily Puzzles, though we already have other workbooks for these as well.
Planners & Resources
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I love organization. I adore having everything planned out and organized, looking pretty! But then there is reality: a bit (or a lot!) of chaos, interrupted routines, and changes of plans happen often... pretty much just part and parcel of this wonderful life! Nonetheless, a handy dandy written planner and good recordkeeping can help get us back on track and stay focused. Not to mention help my scattered mommy-brain to remember important tidbits I'd otherwise forget. So you can imagine my happiness in seeing that access to not just one, but six Schoolhouse Planners (a $125 value) were included at no extra charge for members! These aren't just a few tossed together spreadsheets either. They are a wealth of options to make a custom planner to suit your individual needs, including all kinds of lists and sections for homeschool, household, and calendars. You can make your planner as simple or comprehensive as you wish! There is a general Schoolhouse planner, as well as planners for special needs, primary, intermediate, and high schoolers, and one just for mama. You do have to print them yourself, but considering that I don't use a large portion of most preprinted planners, this is actually a benefit to me - allowing me to pick and choose exactly what is useful for my particular needs and wants.
RightNow Media Library
To top it all off, it is really cool to have access to over 10,000 videos to stream on demand as a SchoolhouseTeacher.com member. This was not initially a primary feature of interest to my family because we have so much already available via Netflix, Amazon Prime, and our own home library of videos. However, these are mostly Christian videos and a lot of them aren't available through our other sources. Some of the videos fit perfectly into our other studies, while others were just plain interesting. Plus, SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers more than a dozen classes based on these streaming videos to provide even greater value!
So I've mostly raved about it so far, but there were some things that didn't make it absolutely perfect, in my opinion. Though the courses are good quality, we do have favorite curricula that outshines the material available on the website in some subject areas. But our favorites do add up cost-wise, so SchoolhouseTeacher.com could be a great low-budget alternative to most subjects. As I mentioned earlier, I do think another math program for the elementary level might still be preferred though (but that may change as they add more courses).
The site didn't have a super modern feel, seemed to have a lot of words, and sometimes things just felt as though they blended together at first. This got better though, after several times of using the site. I couldn't find a way to get the videos to full screen mode, which I would have liked to do. Additionally, I did feel hugely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of courses and content offered, despite the fact that they have a number of different ways to find what one might be looking for, such as courses listed by subject or by grade level, quick links, focused areas, and a site directory. It just seemed like too much to process at first, which made it difficult to dig in and get started. I would certainly recommend taking advantage of their New Members Hub (found under the Getting Started link on the navigation bar) to give you a foothold and get things rolling. However, it would have been nice if there were more direct links on the new member page - instead of just telling me about something like the My Profile or Quick Links pages, it'd be nice if they linked directly as well - although that does force you to learn how to navigate the site for yourself, which is a benefit in the long run! For me, it was also very helpful to ask other parents I knew who had used the site previously for tips and guidance. I suppose it is also a major benefit to having the Yearly Membership... plenty of time to ease into things and explore every nook and cranny!
Regardless, the website seems to be growing, updating, and adding new content, and any complaints I might have are really minor and pale in comparison to the benefit that we received overall.
I valued our time using SchoolhouseTeachers.com so far and do plan to continue to use it in the months ahead. I think it could be a valuable addition to lots of homeschool households. If you're interested in finding out more, you could check out their intro video on their website. They also have a Pinterest page that shows the variety of courses they offer and a public Facebook group where you can read more from people who are using the website.
If you decide you'd like a membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com of your very own, all my lucky readers can use the following coupon code for an amazing half price offer on a one year subscription to SchoolhouseTeachers.com! Use coupon code: CREWFOLLOWER (valid through 1/31/2016).
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.