The first thing I learned when I clicked over to SchoolhouseTeachers.com is that they're a division of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. And what a great resource! They have so many interesting online courses as well as resources for homeschool parent support, including homeschool planners. Many of their resources that could supplement our Classical style of homeschooling. They have online courses designed for all ages, from preschool to parent; a number of the varied options they offer for high school looked interesting enough for me to want to do them, and they also have several offerings specifically for adults. This review is for their Yearly Membership, so there's enough time to do several of their offerings during one membership. Here are a few of the options that I thought sounded interesting on my first glance through their extensive list:
For the kids:
All About the Alphabet (Preschool)
Creation, Nature, and You (Elementary)
Keyboarding (Elem.-High School)
Beginning Latin (Elem. - High School)
Web Game Design (Middle - High School)
Checks and Balances (Elem. - Middle School)
Free Market Economics (Middle - High School)
Creative Storytelling (Elem. - Middle School)
Scientific Method (Elem. - Middle School)
Geography of the Bible (High School)
History of Christianity (High School)
How to Teach Elementary Math (Family)
Going Deeper: The Books of the Bible (High School)
Learning to Write the Charlotte Mason Method (Family)
All of the courses that I looked at were either web-based, downloadable, or a combination of the two: watch a film, then download some additional work to do at home. The amount of prep work for the teacher varied considerably between the courses that I worked with, and there are so many more available than the ones that I looked at, so make sure you click through to check out courses that other Crew members used in their homes. Here's the categories that SchoolhouseTeachers offer:
And here are the three courses that I selected for our family to actually use:
Hero(10) had outgrown our old Latin introductory course, so I was pleased to discover that SchoolhouseTeachers offers Beginning Latin, and when we tried it, we both like the simple no-frills style. It's an online course: we watch movies, then he has some worksheets to fill out.
He says he likes "the way they bring in the words, with nothing else to pay attention to, so you can focus on just that." I like that he likes it, and that it's moving further into Latin, introducing conjugations and declensions, which he hasn't seen before; he's ready for it. The pace seems to be good for him, as well: not too fast, not too slow.
All About the AlphabetI decided to try out All About the Alphabet with Peanut(4), to finish off learning her letters and sounds. This is a fun add-on course, a nice bonus in addition to the other courses that fit our family, but it's not enough to be worth the subscription if it's the only one you want. It's simple and straightforward: you get a PDF with activities to do for each letter, and ideas for making books for the letters. We jumped in at A.
There are several things that I really like about doing this course. One is that I don't have to think up all the things that begin with each letter; they have a nice list. And the activities they suggest are varied and interesting. However, the course didn't come with any printables, so I had to make up my own. It wouldn't have been very difficult to include those, and is disappointing that they chose not to. Printables would have made this course completely open-and-go, which would have been better. That being said, we're having a blast at it - Dragon(6) is even kind of jealous that he isn't in preschool anymore - and Peanut is learning both the names and the sounds, which is exactly what is supposed to be happening.
Geography of the BibleThe last course that I chose is the high school course Geography of the Bible for myself. The course is set up as a series of videos, each with a list of Biblical passages used. The first concern I always have with Bible material produced outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its membership is denominational differences: will it stick to just the simple text of scripture, or will it be overtly Protestant? I watched Moses: Exploring the Exodus, a 45 minute tour of the lands of the Israelite captivity and Exodus, and the movie was excellent. The script often quoted the exact words of the Bible's text. The scenery was beautiful. Similarly, Hebron: City of Promise was excellent. They told the story faithfully, but were also frank about the uncertainty in the archeological record. I didn't notice any interdenominational theology conflict problems at all, and found the video material to be quite interesting.
The main thing I found odd for a geography course was that there are very few maps in the videos, and none in the additional materials, and that was disappointing. When I checked with customer support, they told me that, no, I hadn't missed anything, and that it's more of a "lands, culture, and people from the particular area of study," and not so much of map work. But the main reason I picked this course is that the geography -meaning the location of events and people- is all a mushy mess in my head, and I can't wrap my head around the nuances of what's happening with "lands, culture, and people from the particular area of study," -- until I put them on a map. I need to trace the course of events, myself, preferably on a blackline map, (and not a ready-made one, with everything all marked up) to really get what is happening. For me, this is a major omission; I had to find outside maps.
I love this course. It is easily the best of the ones we've tried.
I actually drew and painted my own Exodus map (and there's nothing like drawing a thing to make you really see it), then went back and re-watched the video, pausing in places to write stuff down and look places and people up, I looked up some verses, and looked at some of the recommended archeology resources and research assignments, and the whole process was delightful and incredibly informative, and I absolutely would not have done my own map, nor thought nearly so hard about where things ought to be placed, and the relationships of places, and the impact that had on how the story went, had there been maps included. It makes a beautiful addition to my scripture journal, and I plan to put in some information about the various Pharaohs and other historical notes behind it. I'm pretty excited about the prospect of having a little collection of these in my notebook, as I look at various Bible stories; they have units covering all the major Bible stories, both Old Testament and New Testament.
Looking at their research assignments for the the two units that I've worked on in the time that I've had the materials to review, I feel like this is a course that a high school student is going to need some assistance with, unless all you want for them to do is just watch the movies, and they'd really be missing out if that's all they do. Both units come with a great variety of research topics - enough that you could almost turn either one of the units into a complete semester; it's not intended that the student will answer every question. In the Moses unit they're good about referring the student to research materials and I was readily able to find research materials for the topics they propose, but in the Hebron unit it's just... questions. And when I started trying to search for the answers, I found it tough going even as an adult: there are a lot of opinions out there on Bible archaeology, and if you don't have a guide, then it's hard to know how to judge between them. So that was a little bit frustrating. On the flip side, though, it did lead me to dig in deeper and think harder, trying to figure things out. But I do think that a high school student would benefit from having an adult mentor do the course with them. And that's not a bad thing: it creates tons of opportunities for discussing both geography and doctrine.
This course is something I am enjoying tremendously, and I would absolutely recommend it to my friends, and I really look forward to when I can work on it after the kids go to sleep. It can be tough to squeeze out time to work on this sort of thing when you're the Mom, but I'm going to keep chipping away at it, because it's just so interesting. I am learning so much and it is really enhancing my understanding of the stories covered in both these units. I'm excited to complete this course, and really glad that I'll have a whole year to do it.
In the course of working with these courses, I ended up talking to customer support twice (once to ask about the maps for the geography course, and once to ask about finding the worksheets for Latin when they were migrating to the lovely new-and-improved version of their site), and they make it so easy: there's a little chat box at the bottom of their pages anytime you're signed in, and so talking to a real person is quick and painless, which is a huge bonus. Customer service, and what happens when things aren't going perfectly, can be a really telling experience when working with a company, and in this case, I couldn't have asked for better. Schoolhouse Teachers is welcome addition to our homeschool day.
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