A few years ago, my family took a trip to Florida for 8 days at Disney World. It was an amazing trip, and we had so much fun riding tea cups, meeting princesses and experiencing all things Mickey Mouse. However, Disney World is not a trip you can just hop in the car and go. It requires months of meticulous planning, right down to knowing 6 months in advance what park you want to be at on a certain day, what time you will want to eat dinner and what restaurant you'll want to eat at during that time. Failure to plan ahead of time means that you'll more than likely just eat burgers and chicken strips at each meal as reservations for the restaurants will likely be completely filled. I spent over a year, planning and replanning that trip, making sure all details were set in place in an effort to provide the best family vacation experience possible.
How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) from Apologia Educational Ministries. By reflecting on my own mistakes, it allowed me to critique if the materials provided would have been helpful to me two years ago, when I was struggling to make heads from tails in my own homeschool.
For this review, we received both the 2 DVD set as well as the 72 page coursebook. No other materials are needed to complete the course.
About the Product
How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus is a fifteen part course, that combined video lectures and a 72 page softcover coursebook to help new families who are considering or starting out their homeschool journey to get off on the right track. Combining the expertise of Apologia's Rachael Carman (known for titles such as How to have a HEART for Your Kids and How Many Times Do I have to Tell You) and Teach Them Diligently's founder Leslie Nunnery, the course covers helpful information such as setting up your school, choosing curriculum, organizing your homeschool day and year, learning to build a strong support system, and how to maintain a healthy marriage during the homeschool years.
Two DVD's include the video clips, each roughly 12 to 15 minutes in length, where Rachael and Leslie sit down together and have a "coffee break" style discussion, meaning that it's very informal, sitting in what appears to be one of the ladies living room as they discuss each topic in a way that makes you feel almost like you're enjoying coffee with them.
What I Thought
We are at the stage now where our homeschool has finally "found it's groove', so to speak. That's not to say that I don't still make mistakes, but we can typically get through all of our lessons each day without struggles and I've been able to figure out the best way to approach the kids and meet their educational needs. With that said, I approached this course a bit different than many new families would. Instead of seeking advice to start homeschooling, I looked at this course more as "Looking back on our school two years ago, would this course have helped me back then".. How valuable is the information provided and would it have helped me avoid many of the pitfalls that I fell into?
First, let's address a few of the major mistakes I made. First, there was the lack of planning. I went into our first year trying to mimic what school was like for me when I was in it. Of course,this was 20 years ago and things have changed drastically, but not only that, but my recollections as to exactly what I learned in those first few years in an organized educational system was skewed. When did I learn to actually read, when did I move from learning numbers to learning addition and subtraction - was it in Kindergarten or 1st grade? Second, I didn't really research curriculum and thought if I just grabbed a textbook for the appropriate grade, that was all I needed. Our first year was a piecemeal of old public school texts that were no longer used that I had picked up from Amazon - I failed to even consider my kids and they way they learned. Third, I didn't organize anything and our homeschool lacked anything that even began to resemble structure. And finally, I lacked support. I had no friends or family who I knew who had homeschooled - someone to turned to for advice and help when things (quickly) went down hill from the first three mistakes.
With this perspective, I dove into the material. I read through the coursebook and I watched the video segments. Because our homeschool is already established (and I had already lived through and finally corrected my mistakes), I did not choose to do any of the assignments but I did look over them.
My honest opinion, from what I could now call an experienced homeschooling mom, is that this course packs a punch in a very small package. Each section takes roughly 15 minutes to watch the video as well as a short 3-5 page reading from the coursebook. Following this, each section then also has a short assignment which helps the reader to organize and to plan the next step for their homeschool. Also included are pages in which to take notes for each section, allowing you to organize their thoughts and to allow the reader to reflect back on those notes when difficulties and fears raise their ugly heads. Another highlight is that each coursebook includes a page with a pass code to give those who purchase a program access to resources that a new family starting out with homeschooling will find extremely helpful.
From setting goals for your homeschool journey, learning where to find support when you need it (or even before you do), organizing the many materials and books that are accumulated, and how to build relationships without in your family while homeschooling, there are tons of tips and advice to be learned from those who have also been where you are now.
In my opinion, this is a great course for those who are considering homeschooling, or who have made that decision but have just started out on that journey. It offers encouragement and advice, all from a Christian perspective. Had this material been available when I first started homeschooling, I can honestly say that many of the mistakes I made could have been avoided. Listening to Rachael Carman and Leslie Nunnery discuss their own homeschool journeys and the mistakes even they have made and how to avoid doing the same, in a way that made you feel like you were discussing the topics with friends as they offer encouragement and advice, makes you feel as if you're with friends rather than a lecture, allowing a very easy and laid back environment in which to learn and to be reminded that God has a plan for you homeschool and that through him, you and your kids can do some pretty amazing things.
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