Elaine Taylor, a teacher for over 40 years and the author of www.Helpme2teach.com, understood the need to spend less time looking for resources and more time teaching. HelpMe2Teach is an accumulation of over 7 years of Internet searches with over 2200 links on various topics of interest to teachers and homeschooling parents. The directory of websites is categorized nicely in a Table of Contents, viewable only to the subscriber. At the time of this review, the main categories included:
- Academic Benchmarks and Standards
- Arts and Crafts
- Christian Stories and Bible Studies
- Cooking for Kids
- For Teachers/Parents Only
- Foreign Languages
- Health and Safety
- Jewish Curriculum
- Language Arts
- Magazines/Students/Student News
- Multi-Subject Sites
- Music and Dance
- Preparing for College
- Primarily Primary
- Social Studies
- Special Pay Sites
- Specialty Topics
Most topics were further broken down into subtopics to assist in the search. Each website listed has a brief description of the content. An easily viewable coding system is used in each description to rank approximate grade level of the content. Levels are categorized as Primary, Elementary, Secondary, and Teacher. Subscription lengths and rates vary, as follows:
1 year @ $29.95
3 months @ $15.95
1 month @ $9.95
3 days @ $4.95
Note: Until December 1st, there is a buy-one-get-one-free special for 1-year memberships. You’ll get two years for $29.95. Coupon code: TOS
My initial impression after my first visit was that the site was fairly easy to navigate and well-categorized. Using the Table of Contents was straight-forward and the links were categorized in an appropriate manner. I thought the coding system used for the level of content was very helpful. I did not discover any dead links, but inquired about site maintenance. I was informed that regular checks are made for dead links and new information resulting from ongoing searches routinely added. The look of the site was clean, free of unnecessary graphics and advertising.
On my second visit, I was in search of specific information. I typed "Mayans", my son's current history topic, in the search box and came up with nothing. "Aztecs"and "Incans"...zero. My daughter is currently interested in the Holocaust. Again, nothing. I followed with "writing transcripts" and the results were general writing instruction sites, even though I did put the phrase in quotations to help narrow the search. A few days later, my daughter (11) was in need of a website that referenced different macroscopic pond life. She was able to easily navigate HelpMe2Teach on her own to conduct her search. While many sites were returned with a search of "pond life", none actually had the words "pond life" in the basic description. Instead, the search function listed all sites listed under the category of Life Science. My last test to the search box was a topic that another reviewer was disappointed to not find on the site, but that I had actually found just browsing the categories, Dr. Seuss. While the site www.seussville.com was indeed among the categorized sites, searching for the words "Dr. Seuss" did not yield results.
While possible that some of the topics searched did not have links to find, this was not always the case. All in all, I found the search function to be very unreliable and frustrating. It was much easier to find information by using the Table of Contents. My suggestion would be to avoid the search box and search from the listed categories.
The list of categories was certainly not exhaustive, but it is to be understood that this is a work in process. It has already been an evolving site within a very short amount of time in response to reviewer feedback. Browsing through the links listed, I noticed that some of the links were from the same website. I would have much preferred to have a different website for each listing, since once I find a particular site I tend to browse within to discover all that it has to offer. Others, however, may prefer having a direct link to exact information.
Many of the categories and sites seemed to be the result of researching for classroom teaching and topics. There is a rather large list for Holidays, a common classroom topic. The topic of Kites had its own category, with 13 sites underneath it. Therefore, my impression was that the original target for the site was classroom teachers, which is not surprising given the author's background. Being a rather eclectic homeschooler, I use a lot of interactive sites (e.g. free educational audio and video downloads, computer-spoken language translations, customized spelling games) rather than those with worksheets or lesson plans. While I was still able to find some great websites that fit my criteria, the information currently contained on this site would appeal more to those who trend towards traditional schooling, unit studies, worksheets, subject-related crafts and display projects.
I did want to mention that several of the reviewers were disappointed that the site was absent of Christian content. Bible study and character training are important subjects in many homeschools. After the first few reviews mentioned the lack of content in this area, the categories of Bible stories and Character Development were soon added. While it is important to realize that perspective will largely determine value and usefulness of resources, I admire the willingness to be flexible and listen to what people desire. It is my understanding that suggested links are also welcome. Additionally, subscribers who purchase an annual subscription may request a topic not already covered and the website author will conduct a search for you. This is a fabulous value-added service.
Level of Value
Probably the greatest strengths of HelpMe2Teach are its safety, customer service and potential. Knowing that all of sites had been preapproved for content, I felt safe allowing my kids to browse the site. Furthermore, the response to email inquiries and suggested changes by reviewers was impressive. I even had to revise my initial draft of this review because some of the things I had commented on had already been changed prior to my review completion. The author is very open to suggestions to create a useful tool for the homeschooling community. In the days of impersonal and unresponsive customer service, this is absolutely wonderful! While this site has not met its full potential, it might be something to keep an eye on as it develops.
For the seasoned homeschooler and Internet user with an exploding Favorites list, HelpMe2Teach will probably be underwhelming. Those just starting out, inexperienced with Internet searches, or more traditional school oriented may find it valuable. In this case, I would recommend first starting out with either the trial or 1-month subscription. You will be able to better determine if the site fits your personal needs and likely be able to find a number of new and useful resources for the long-term that justify the cost. To subscribe, please visit www.helpme2teach.com. For more reviews and opinions on this product, please visit The TOS Homeschool Crew Blog
Update! Want to try before you buy? HelpMe2Teach is offering a free month to check out their site. Visit the TOS Freebie page for information.