Friday, August 15, 2008

Reviews: The Schoolhouse Planner and digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse magazine

As a mom just starting out with homeschooling sometimes I feel that I don't know what I don't know. And sometimes I feel like I'm stumbling about without much of an idea of what's out there to choose from. Help from a trusted source is appreciated, and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review two products available from The Old Schoolhouse.

The first is a complete download of The Schoolhouse Planner. Wow, what a variety of planning pages! There is one for all the things I expected to see: monthly calendar, curriculum planner, test score record. BUT, the real treat came with the pages that I didn't expect or had never thought of (remember that feeling of, "don't know what I don't know" mentioned earlier?): field trip log, Bible verse memorization, nature journal, discipleship recording, unit study, website and vendors log, prayer journal, loaned and borrowed list. This is a resource for moms of varied teaching styles whether it be eclectic, formal curriculum, unit study, or unschooling. It also will suit a household with children of all ages...the little ones starting out with chores all the way up to recording high school hours. Under monthly headings are listed some fun and interesting topics with a list of hyperlinks to direct you right to websites to supplement the learning...AWESOME! There are also recipes, tables and charts for reference (periodic table, list of presidents, states and capitals, and SO much more), documents from the National Archives, explanations of the importance of teaching certain subjects, and household tips. Pages reproduce beautifully whether I choose to print in color or in grayscale. I have a ready-made planner that I purchased for about one third of the price of this downloadable planner from The Old Schoolhouse, BUT it does not have nearly the amount of variety of planning pages and is not customizeable. I'm already finding myself supplementing the ready-made planner with pages from The Schoolhouse Planner.

My final verdict: It saves me time. The great variety of planning pages means I don't have to fiddle with computer software to sit and make my own from scratch. Provides lots of tables and charts and lists and documents with useful reference material all in one place. It saves me money. I would consider it a frugal investment as I can print as many pages as I need for as many years as I need. It saves me a headache. No more searching around looking for the perfect record keeping book. The Schoolhouse Planner is limitless when it comes to customizing my planning and record keeping for the schoolyear and household. I believe this to be a wise investment, especially for the new homeschooling family.

Bonus: Free sneak peek at the first 31 pages of The Schoolhouse Planner

The second product I am reviewing is the digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse. I have never seen an actual copy of The Old Schoolhouse in print so this was a real delight. My first impression: Beautifully easy with immediate results! The digital subscription is cheaper than receiving the actual magazine and is a breeze to complete online. No waiting for my magazine in the mail. I was able to start reading the current issue right away. This magazine is no lightweight...over 180 pages of information. We're not talking fluff here folks! The magazine articles are wonderful, and they cover such a wide range of topics of interest to homeschoolers! There are articles on homeschooling through to high school graduation, homeschooling special needs children, foreign adoption, stateside adoption, the current homeschool legal climate, the science of flight, the Charlotte Mason method, Intelligent Design, learning while enjoying nature, keeping your focus on God, and so, so much more! In fact, it took me over a week to read it all. As a homeschooling newbie I really enjoyed how the articles covered topics that pertain to my little K and preK ones (like finding the teachable moments of everyday life) and gave me information on things to look forward to in the coming years (like exploring the amazing physics of flight). I liked the convenience of being able to print articles or email them to friends and family. I even enjoyed the advertisements. Yes, that probably sounds cheesy, but let me explain. When an ad interests me I am able to click on the active hyperlinks and GO DIRECTLY TO THE CORRESPONDING WEBSITE! What a time more ripping out magazine pages or dog-earring the corner with the hope of coming back to it later so that I can try to find time to look up a curriculum or advertised special. I really, REALLY like this feature. Some of the authors also have links within their articles too! One thing I will say about my personal preferences--I enjoy good old fashioned books and magazines...the feel of the paper, the ability to flip back and forth through the pages quickly and easily, to be able to throw it in my diaper bag and take it on the go, to pick it up and read it in a few precious moments of "free time" (read: bathroom break...either the kid's or my own...hahaha!). You obviously don't get that with the digital magazine.

My final verdict: I really like the digital magazine. The articles are definitely worth reading. I love the hyperlinks throughout articles and advertisments. But, I have to wait until I can get to my laptop to be able to enjoy reading. This usually means having to wait until after the children are asleep, and I am already pretty worn out by then. So this may sound wishy washy but the ideal situation would be to have them BOTH. Maybe The Old Schoolhouse could offer a nice package of getting both a paper and a digital subscription for a great deal. Overall, I am enjoying my subscription. Now, if only I could read it during my "free time!"

Bonus: Free digital Summer '07 Back Issue

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