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I’ve mentioned the SchoolhouseTeachers.com website here and there on this blog in the past. Last year (2018), I won a year’s membership to the site and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it. In fact, I think it will be a staple in our homeschool from now on!
Someday I plan on writing a full, detailed review but, until “someday” comes, I wanted to fill you in on our experience with it so far.
The SchoolhouseTeachers.com website is a full curriculum site for homeschoolers and it’s a division of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. It includes content for all grades, PreK – 12th grade, in all traditional school subjects plus a variety of elective subjects. (Bonus: A membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com includes a free subscription to the quarterly print edition of TOS magazine).
Currently they offer over 400 self-paced courses (written by over 200 lesson designers) in addition to resources like 450+ streaming videos, World Book Online access, RightNow Media videos, organizational tools, a parents’ eBook library, and more! You can say a lot of things about SchoolhouseTeachers.com but “light on content” isn’t one of them!
In fact, the first few times I logged in I was overwhelmed by all that content…
Because I won a membership unexpectedly in January, I was pretty aimless in my approach to SchoolhouseTeachers.com when I first used it. I was in the middle of an already-planned-out school year, so I wasn’t really looking for any specific subject or course.
This was a recipe for discouragement.
Clicking through their site, I got the same feeling I remember getting as a new homeschooler when I browsed curriculum catalogs or wandered, wide-eyed, around homeschool convention exhibit halls. You know, that combination of excitement (”ooh, Digital Art & Product Design… and Money 101… and Whole Foods Cooking… *squeal* those all sound fun! We could learn about all those things!!!”) and sheer panic (”American Folktales? Latvian? Filmmaking? Ahhh… my kids don’t know those things… we’re so far behind… I’m failing… I’m ruining their lives….*sob*”).
After squandering away the first month of my free membership on my emotional roller coaster, I calmed down and took another look…
“Daily Writing” Course
This time I had purpose. I needed a supplemental resource for my 4th grader’s writing. I was hoping for just a little extra practice for him in creative writing. I signed in to SchoolhouseTeachers.com, clicked on “Browse by Grade” to search for 4th grade courses and clicked on “Language Arts” to narrow down the choices.
Their “Daily Writing” course seemed to fit the bill. With just a few clicks I had access to over 1,500 quality writing prompts, organized by “elementary – middle school” and “middle – high school” and also organized by month (with prompts for each day of the year). In a couple minutes I had printed out a handful of pages to use once or twice a week as a break from his other writing work. He loved it and it was a perfect supplement for us!
In addition to traditional prompts, this course includes “Writer’s Grab Bag” days that include more unusual or specific kinds of writing exercises. For example, “March 4th – Writer’s Grab Bag: Script-writing” has elementary students “write a script for a new recorded message on your answering machine. Include at least one line for each family member to say.” Other “Grab Bag” exercises focus on “dictionary work”, “list-making”, “sentence-building”, “poetry”, “free-writing” and many more topics.
Overall, I’m very impressed by the scope and quality of the Daily Writing course content. You could easily use this as daily writing warmups, journaling ideas, a supplement for any other writing program, or even a year-long creative writing curriculum by itself.
I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this course time and again!
Little Language Arts Course
With that success under our belts, and wanting to make the most of my remaining free membership, I was excited to try and use SchoolhouseTeachers.com for one of our year-long school subjects for the following school year. At the time, I didn’t have anything in mind for my almost-2nd grader’s language arts, so I did a quick search and found the Little Language Arts course.
The site’s quick links for “Course Outline” and “Course Sample” make it pretty easy to skim a course and get the gist of it in a minute or two. Little Language Arts had a thorough-looking scope and fun activities and printables so I decided to try it. Next, I did what I always say not to do. I printed the entire course ahead of time. Risky!
Thankfully, though, it turned out that my son loves the course and printing everything ahead worked out. (Phew!) We’re half-way through it now and we’re both enjoying it. I spend a few minutes reading the short lesson for the day and then he completes the activity or writing project (sometimes with me or a sibling, other times on his own).
This is a 3-day-a-week, 35-week course so it covers the entire year but is flexible enough for me to include copywork and co-op writing for him on the fourth and fifth weekdays.
Though we’re loving it, I have found several supplemental course links didn’t work for me. Typically these links are to little online games or sites with examples of the topic. Normally this would bother me, but I found it to be a non-issue. Usually more than one supplemental link is provided so I could easily skip one and use the other. Also, since the links are typically optional or “extra”, I found there is more than enough other content even without them.
UPDATE 1/20/2020: I mentioned the out-dated links in this course to their customer service and they’ll be double-checking all the links in this course ASAP. They also said that they do regularly go back and check links to keep things up to date. I’ve always been impressed by their responsive and helpful customer service reps!
Overall this course has been another success for us! And, since I have the teacher’s notes already printed now, it will be a snap to print out just the consumable PDF pages for my youngest daughter in a few years.
Drive-Thru History: American History Video Course
With my free membership about to expire, I’ve recently been looking at SchoolhouseTeachers.com even more closely to see if I want to pay to keep it. I’ve browsed their site dozens of times now but I’m still finding new things and realizing just how much is included!
So far, for us, the courses have worked as supplements and as full subjects. Right now, half-way through our sixth year of homeschooling, I’m also starting to use them as breaks from our regular curricula.
One of the companies SchoolhouseTeachers.com currently partners with is RightNow Media, which provides tons of family-friendly and educational video content. I actually already have access to RightNow Media but SchoolhouseTeachers.com provides access to certain videos plus coordinating coursework, so it’s still helping me out.
For example, the DriveThru History: American History video series (also available on RightNow Media or for purchase directly) is accessible on SchoolhouseTeachers.com with comprehension questions and essay questions included for each episode.
Since this Drive-Thru History series overlaps well with the American history we’re studying in our usual history curriculum, we’ll be doing a six-week unit using Drive-Thru History instead, just to change things up. The host of the show, Dave Stotts, pulls together the content in a kid-friendly, fast-paced way and is just silly enough to keep them engaged but not distracted. So far my kids are really enjoying the videos and retaining quite a bit. They didn’t even complain (yet) about writing out their answers to the comprehension questions!
Side Note: This is yet another reason I love our 6-weeks-on-1-week-off homeschooling schedule. It lends itself to unit studies and other mini-courses, giving you a chance to plan the next six-week ”chunk” and try out new things for a short season until the next break.
Just like our little detour for history, we’ve found we need a short break from our current routine in science, too. We actually love our science curriculum but the topics have been too advanced for me to easily include my three-year-old (compound microscope + preschooler = not good). I plan to jump back into it soon but, in an effort to include my youngest and get my boys out of some ruts they’ve fallen into, I’ve started using the SchoolhouseTeachers.com Hands-On Architecture course for all three of my kids.
Another Side Note: I know architecture isn’t exactly a replacement for biology… but it’s a little bit physics and material science and other STEM-y subjects so I think it counts. When it comes to learning, it ALL ”counts”.
I plan on using the first Unit, “Structures”, with them over the next 5-6 weeks. If they like it (and so far they’re loving it), we’ll work the other two Units (“Homes” and “Zoos”) into our schedule in the future or maybe over the summer.
Having a background in architecture and engineering, I might be a little biased about this one. I love the approach the lesson designer has taken breaking structures down into child-friendly, approachable pieces.
In each lesson she introduces basic vocabulary (“points”, “lines”, “planes”, etc.) and building concepts (for example, shapes in architecture and material properties) within the context of fun, short lessons presented in a conversational style. Most of the lesson time is spent on the hands-on building activities which use inexpensive household objects like toothpicks, paper cups, string, etc. to illustrate the topic.
My kids have had a blast with this so far and each takes it to their own level so all ages can truly be involved. Once again I’ve been able to find exactly what I needed using a course on SchoolhouseTeachers.com!
Tips & Summary
I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg in this Mini-Review. Hopefully it’s given you a little help as you decide if a SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership is right for your family.
If you do decide to use it, don’t ignore their “Start Here” and “How to Use Schoolhouseteachers.com” tabs (like I did… doh!). Before you jump into specific courses, take an evening just to learn how the site works and grasp what all is available on it.
Definitely read through their FAQs and watch the videos on their Tutorials page. And, once you do start finding courses, use their Bookmark feature to keep track of what you’ve found.
Also, I’ve had great experiences with their customer service. Their online chat makes it super-easy to ask questions or get in touch with them.
Now that my free membership is ending, I’ll definitely be paying to keep my membership going! SchoolhouseTeachers.com has earned its place as a line-item in our homeschool budget!
All homeschools look different and not every curriculum is for everyone. But this site has so much quality content for so many ages with more being added regularly. I really feel like most homeschool families could benefit from having a SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership!
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