Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Apologia's, The Ultimate Guide To Homeschooling, by Debra Bell, A TOS Crew Review

I make no secret about the fact that I feel like a new homeschooler, even though I withdrew my daughter from public school two years ago. We are navigating the waters of homeschooling together, she and I, feeling our way into academics in new ways as we continue a remediation program for the core deficits of autism.

I need a GUIDE. I needed one in January of 2008 when we became official homeschoolers and I need one now.

And now, I have a GUIDE. It's from Apologia, called Debra Bell's, The Ultimate Guide to HOMESCHOOLING.

I open the book. Anxiety rises within me. I'm homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum with a lot of developmental delays. Is this book for me, too? I am quickly put at ease: "But homeschooling is not just a forum for intellectually talented kids to achieve their fullest. I've seen equal success with kids otherwise labeled delaed or learning disabled, as well as with those who are wired to learn differently." Debra Bell, in The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, from the Introduction.

I'm still a little bit anxious. Is it dry, matter-of-fact, and boring, with mostly lists of resources? And is Debra Bell going to add to my own issues about homeschooling just one of my children while the sibs remain in public school? (There's a guilt factor involved.) The answer to both questions is "no". (sigh of relief)

I always like to warn readers when a review product is not a stand-alone product. Sometimes reviewers get a product that requires them to make a purchase in order to use that product. Readers (potential buyers of this book), trust me when I tell you, you're gonna need at least one highlighting marker or a pen or pencil and possibly some sticky-notes. If you don't have them in your homeschool supply closet, you'll need to buy them. *grin*

I don't know how Debra Bell and the editors decided on which chapters to put first. I can't read a book like this one from beginning to end, anyway. Like most magazines, I quickly skim the table of contents and introduction and begin browsing this book from the back and middle. (Some of you are nodding along in agreement with me. You get my approach!) Then, and only then, can I settle in with the book, beginning at the beginning.

Bell writes as if she's talking just to me, I think. She describes a lot of the "why bother" that I need as I think about how to think about aspects of homeschooling. She earns my trust in the early chapters because Bell gives me the blunt honesty I need, pros and cons, to weigh the different aspects that come with a decision to homeschool. She's real with the reader. I like that. Sometimes, Bell has me laughing out loud. She's got a fun sense of humor. ;) (I will make an effort to attend Bell's sessions if she is presenting at a convention that I attend. She's bound to be entertaining and informative in person, too.) In the back of my mind, I think the book title should include the word "girlfriend's" before the word "guide".

She includes a chapter that was somehow written especially for me, called, "But I Don't Want to Homeschool".

Her thoughts are rooted in scripture, too, and there are some sections which inspire an urge to journal, or at the very least, think through a topic more thoroughly; Bell forces me to take a stand or make a decison about something I've been indecisive about as she clarifies the issues that have been blurry for me. I'm guessing that not all readers will feel Bell pushing them into self-discovery and growth -- in my case, it's a "Pennyism". If you are not religious, not homeschooling for religious reasons, don't worry, Bell is not out to preach or evangelize. The focus of the book is what it says it is. Bell is a Christian and she lets that part of her show as she writes.

I need more than the basics of homeschooling, and Bell delivers. Some highlights that are helpful to me, the mom of a learner with an outside-the-norm learning style:

Chapter 5 includes a section about children with special needs.

Chapter 9 is called "Determining Your Child's Learning Style". Even parents and teachers of children in school-building settings will find this chapter interesting and useful. Debra Bell presents learning styles in a way that I've not seen before, and she has me reframing my perspective about not just my homeschooler and her learning style, but the sibs as well. I've got to head over to the library web site to try to get some of the books Bell recommends in this chapter for further research.

Chapter 14, "Maintaining Control of Your Day", begins with long range planning, a short section on how to write objectives and includes samples of an Educational Plan, something that will look familiar to anyone who has ever developed an IEP for a child in a public school setting.

Occasionally, my homeschooler's sibs will muse about what it would be like for them to come home for school, and Bell's Guide gives me plenty of food for thought about that idea. Chapter 30 (another section written especially for me, I haven't yet figured out how Bell did that since she has never met me) is devoted to "Transitioning from School to Home".

Bell covers everything. Topics including but not limited to Time. Money. Budgets. Burnout. Curricula. Computer technology. Internet. Assessment. Report cards. Organization. Dads. College. Elementary School. Middle School. High School. Sports. Music. Art. Subject-by-Subject Guidelines. Yes, there are lists of resources that take me to more information. I'm amazed by what she thought to include.

I have one question -- the answer may be in the pages as I finish every word. If the sibs come home for school from the public school system, how do I make sure they "keep up" with the public school should they want to return? Or is that not something to a) worry about and b) try to keep up with?

Bell's bio on Apologia's web site directs me to Bell's web site, where she blogs and posts articles and information. HERE, readers can get a sense of Bell's down-to-earth, chatty writing style. She maintains a Google group where folks may interact with her.

The Guide is 500+ pages and retails for $20 and comes with a bonus in the form of access to a companion site on the web with additional information. If you are a homeschooler, new or have been at it a while, or are considering homeschooling, or would like to consider considering homeschooling, I think you'll find this book helpful.

Apologia provided at no charge a copy of Debra Bell's, The Ultimate Guide to HOMESCHOOLING to each TOS Crew member to review for you. The folks at Apologia also sent us their newest product catalog, which is available, free, by request, here.

To read reviews of my Crewmates about The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, go HERE.

1 comment:

Shanna said...

Hi Penny,

I really enjoyed reading your thorough review.

I've had talked with friends who were beginning their homeschool journey who were also concerned about "keeping up" with public school. I've always said that I wasn't concerned with it, because I don't plan to ever put my kid's in public school. But if I did plan for my children to attend public school in later years (or I wasn't sure) I would think that concern would be legitimate.

If that were the case, I think I would probably take advantage of standardized testing. Our local homeschool group organizes these tests once a year (though I think it is fairly easy for a homeschool mom to become certified and do it herself). If my kids were doing well on that, I wouldn't worry and if they had any problem areas, I would focus more on those.

Hope that helps!

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou -

Stat Counter