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The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Review by Karen Yuen

Debra Bell
Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza, Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016

Debra Bell has done it again! Her recently revised resource tool is now available and is well worth owning. It is a compact how-to-homeschool-successfully guide and a reference tool all in one. It includes personal stories, practical tips, websites worth investigating, concrete strategies, and additional suggested reading. There is also a great online tool available when you purchase the book (with the Web address and password provided inside the book). This online tool provides quick access to all the links mentioned in the book, including links to academic and athletic competitions, curriculum suppliers, worldview resources, periodicals, state organizations, and more! Even the introduction is worth reading--a rare treat!

As I read this book cover to cover, I actually burned through three brand-new highlighters! The book is well designed for both new homeschoolers and veterans alike. New homeschoolers will appreciate Debra's in-depth discussion on why homeschooling is a worthwhile option, six ingredients for a successful homeschool, and challenges you're likely to encounter while homeschooling. There is also an indispensable discussion of how to incorporate preschoolers and toddlers into your busy school day. Veteran homeschoolers will appreciate Debra's sage advice regarding organization, transitioning responsibility to older students, and utilizing simple forms for planning advanced courses of study.

Everyone can use a refresher on choosing curriculum since most of us change our minds so often. Debra makes a strong case for really understanding not only your children's learning styles but also your teaching style so that your curriculum is fun to use for the entire family. Her wonderful section about learning styles enabled me to understand some things about our son that otherwise may have taken me years of careful observation to discover on my own. What a blessing!

Debra's advice on preventing burnout is helpful at all stages of homeschooling. She not only reminds parents of the value of raising independent learners but also explains how to reach that pinnacle early on. Debra also includes a fantastic field trip section. She wisely reminds us that field trips are most effective when the size is limited to only one or two families. Only then is there time and space for each child to fully participate. Also, for usually reasonable fees, parents can call ahead to most historic sites and arrange a private tour for their families. Another great reminder is to schedule field trips in the off-season or on a location's least busy day of the week. Many sites know months in advance which days they are going to have bus loads of kids arriving, so it's worth the extra phone call to be sure your field trip is on a quieter day. Also included is a great list of field trip ideas for those of us who are less creative.

The book provides a plethora of junior high and high school resources, making it book a real gem for families with older students. There is an entire section about homeschooling teens and navigating college admissions. Debra spends time encouraging parents to teach higher-level math using great resources as a launching pad. There is also a thought provoking portion on the ever-expanding option of college-at-home, which, as Debra points out, allows young adults to run their own businesses or apprentice while their degrees. Older students will also benefit from Debra's insight into the integration of computers and the Internet into education.

Many parents wonder if they are hitting the mark and properly educating their children at home. Debra spends time discussing methods of assessing progress and whether standardized testing is helpful or not. If you choose to grade your children, there are practical suggestions for keeping yourself organized. If not, there are great ideas about how to assess progress without grades. For example, our kids are younger, so we took Debra's advice and used her simple evaluation form to ask for written year-end evaluations from our kid's co-op leader, piano teacher, dance instructor, and Bible study leader. The comments on these evaluation forms were so encouraging for our kids to read, and we've included them in their permanent school record as proof of their progress. This turned out to be a simple, wonderful idea worth implementing!

This book should be kept handy in the reference section of your home library, as you'll utilize it often. I loved this book, and I believe you will too!

Product review by Karen Yuen, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010