Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TOS Homeschool Crew REVIEW: Homeschooling ABC's e-Class

Homeschooling ABC's is a six month long, e-class of weekly lessons, that is priced at $10 a month.

I withdrew an 8-year-old child from public school not quite 10 months ago, which (I believe) allows me to qualify for the still-new-to-homeschooling club. I still feel new to it! As I made the gigantic leap with this child who happens to have a diagnosis of autism, I anticipated that we would not be "typical" homeschoolers, although I admit, I didn't know what a "typical" homeschooler looked like. And, while I knew our work at home would have as it's centerpiece the concept of Rogoff and Dewey's "guided participation" via Gutstein & Sheely's Relationship Development Intervention, I had no idea how anything else would play out for us in the homeschool setting. In fact, I did not even know how to think about thinking about the how-to in homeschooling.

A few of months ago, The Old Schoolhouse magazine created a focus group of 100 parents from around the world. Focus group members would work with participating vendors to use and review products and resources in their homes. I was chosen as an alternate in this program. One of the first products I was given is this e-course written by Terri Johnson called Homeschooling ABC's.

I've confessed in other posts that the idea of buying a e-book or e-class, sight unseen, is especially daunting to me. Plunking down money for an unknown could be wasteful. The e-product might not be quality, might not be anything I can use.

And, I wondered, just *who* is Terri Johnson? I grabbed my Summer, 2008, copy of The Old Schoolhouse magazine to see if she had written any articles for that issue, and was rewarded with an article called, "International Schoolhouse Neighbor to the North, Canada". I located an article here in a free sample back issue of TOS's digital magazine. And I found a blog, here. And Knowledge Quest, a company that provides "historical outline maps and timelines designed for the interactive study of world history and geography." Getting familiar with Johnson through articles and the internet helped my comfort level with her as a teacher of an e-class.

The classes are sent to members once a week, and focus group members were given the option to review several at once. I opted to go through them slowly, to give myself time to reflect upon what was offered in each class, to give myself opportunities to make little changes along the way and really integrate the material.

And so I opened the first e-class session with interest, wondering, would there be anything inside for me, homeschooling a child with unique needs?

What I've found, incredibly, is that Johnson takes a role that is similar to my RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant, where she is a guide and I am the apprentice. Johnson breaks down the concept and act of beginning homeschooling into small, manageable steps, spotlighting one aspect per week of teaching your children at home. I find myself nodding in agreement as I read her words each week, thinking to myself, "I can do that!" In one of the early lessons, Johnson makes the recommendation to purchase an inexpensive book about the three R's, and I did order that book from an on-line bookstore, and the book has been very helpful for me as I frame for myself how we'll get the academics done and not sacrifice "guided participation" in the process. In other lessons, she describes different homeschooling philosophies, different learning styles of children, how to choose a curriculum, how to find support groups (I learned about even more yahoo groups to add to my "collection"!), organization at home, a home library, and hands on learning, just for starters.

One feature of the e-class that I especially like is Johnson's inclusion of links or attachment of products that directly support the material. Instead of suggesting a planner, or a Bible Study curriculum, or telling you that being organized is a good thing, Johnson provides samples or links to products she's found useful, which saves me time surfing the internet or going to the bookstore for those items. The supporting information through links and files has been quite good, and she consistently takes me right to the supporting information I need. Each week, I've been introduced to new people, new resources, new information that have been really useful in my journey to define our style of homeschooling.

Keeping up with a bunch of e-lessons can be confusing, and Johnson reduces that confusion with a handy section of links to all the materials in previous lessons at the end of each lesson.

The e-class, so far, has covered a lot of ground. Sometimes, in a new situation, you're so new that you don't even know what questions to ask. Johnson has given me answers to questions that I didn't know that I had, and she's given me food for thought so that I'm asking myself questions about where we are now and where we are headed.

I was curious to know if Johnson is available for questions, if she has a yahoo group or other internet support group for her class members, and I sent her an e-mail, and received a quick reply. Yes, she is available to her class students. No yahoo group, yet, but she'd like to do something like that in the future. And, she told me, one of the future lessons will focus on children with special needs.

Of all of the items that I have reviewed up to this point, this e-class is probably the one I needed the most, and like other e-products and products on CD, is one that I would likely have not purchased because I'd have been skeptical about its worth.

For me, a newbie at homeschooling, this e-class has been very positive, with just enough information and "homework" to keep me interested and looking forward to seeing the next lesson, but not overwhelmed. I look foward to future lessons as we continue to settle into homeschooling. ;)

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