When I first considered homeschooling almost nine years ago, my first step was to hit the library and the bookstore for a stack of reading material. My pile had variety, from titles about educational philosophies to learning styles. Not included in that pile, however, was The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell. I have no idea how I missed this gem.
Many are familiar with Apologia and the popular science curriculum it publishes. Last year the TOS Crew reviewed this popular curriculum; you can read a full review here. However, some may not be aware that Apologia is expanding into other areas, including conferences and non-science titles, the new edition of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling among them.
I'll admit that I was a bit biased when I heard I'd be receiving this book for review. After all, this is our 8th year homeschooling. I'd like to think that I'm pretty functional in the homeschooling arena at this point. In all my confidence, I decided to look at this title from the perspective of someone just starting out.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling isn't a homeschooling educational philosophy book and it isn't for those that need conviction to homeschool. It is, however, a practical guide on how to homeschool with concrete information.
Part 1: Homeschooling: Is It for You? immediately impressed me because Bell addresses that homeschooling is not for everyone. Frankly, I found this refreshing. Too many times have I heard homeschooling presented as a one size fits all. Bell addresses the realities. Homeschooling is not only a conviction, but hard work with challenges.
The book continues with a natural progression of what a parent would need to know once deciding to homeschool, such as choosing curriculum and organization. By the time I reached Part 4: Preventing Burnout, I started to realize I was getting quite a bit out of this book, though some may consider me a veteran homeschooler. I was not only due for a refresher on some of these topics, there was quite a bit of new information too. I especially found Part 6: Homeschooling Teens helpful now that we are quickly venturing into that area. Since I started homeschooling my kids when they were very young, I filtered out information that pertained to the high school years on my initial information gathering. I found Part 6 a practical and broad information source for homeschooling teens. As with the rest of the book, this section didn't overwhelm with details, but covered many areas and gave plenty of resources for more information.
Even if some of the information was just a refresher, Bell provides quite a few resources that weren't familiar to me. The resources provided are one of the things I love about this book. Bell gives very specific recommendations throughout, such as book titles, curriculum suggestions, websites, magazines and software. After reading about halfway through the book, I finally pulled out the Post-Its and started flagging pages that referenced resources that I wanted to check out.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling concludes with 50 pages of resources. This section is divided into three parts: Organizations & Publications, Suppliers & Products, and Academic/Athletic Contests and Competitions. Resources are further categorized when possible, such as organizations by state or products by subject.
To sum it up, this title is excellent. I would highly recommend The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling for those just exploring homeschooling, veterans that need a refresher, or those heading into new territory (such as the high school years). Bell has a well-balanced focus on academic excellence while addressing the convictions of Christian homeschoolers. That said, I believe there is plenty of useful information and suggested resources for secular homeschoolers. I regret that this title wasn't in my pile when first exploring homeschooling, but am glad to have discovered it now for the rest of the journey.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling retails for $20 through Apologia Press. Both a Table of Contents and a sample chapter, Chapter 6: Six Ingredients of a Successful Homeschool, are available at the Apologia product page.
Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.
Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.