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THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER: Helping Moms Create Their Successful Homeschool Household Through Biblical Personal Mentoring (Book and Mentoring Program) Review by Melanie Reynolds

Carol A. Gary
The Balanced Homeschooler
18619 W. Georgia Ave.
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340

In most professions, a new employee receives some sort of training for the job he or she is about to begin. However, for homeschooling moms, this preparation is usually “on the job” training! We do learn so much as we go. But what if you had a program that you could attend before you began to homeschool, or later at any time during your homeschooling career, which took you through a complete mentoring program that prepared you for a life of homeschooling, or helped you to refine and improve the one you’re already living?

Most of us wish we’d had this wonderful opportunity. And although I have come to THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER (subtitled “Helping Moms Create Their Successful Homeschool Household Through Biblical Personal Mentoring”) rather late in my homeschooling career, I can attest that this program is just what homeschool moms need to equip, encourage, and enable them to create, or improve, an effective and exceptional homeschool life with their own families.

THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER is a 500-page manual which includes teaching material, mentoring tips, instructions, and guidance.  It starts with a homeschool vision and moves through the basics of homeschooling and living life while teaching at home. Written from a Christian perspective, it is ideal for homeschool moms to use with mentors or in a group, yet moms who don’t have access to those can use the manual on their own just as successfully. In addition, anyone who purchases THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER manual is eligible to attend online mentoring sessions. These are offered in the spring and in the fall, and sometimes during the summer.  THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER can be purchased either in an e-Manual format, or in a print copy which comes in a sturdy binder. (The purchased print version also includes a copy of the e-Manual.)

So what does one find in THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER? It is divided into three sections: Homeschooling Basics; Integrating Life With Your Homeschool; and Homeschool Support Group Options. Each of the three sections is filled with practical and useful information that moms can put immediately to work, along with tables, charts, and spaces for note-taking so that the information can be personalized for each mom’s life. In the following paragraphs, I’ll describe what you’ll find in each section.

In Homeschooling Basics, the reader is led through four chapters which enable her to create a homeschool that’s just right for her family. The first walks moms through defining a vision for their homeschools. Author Carol A. Gary then describes eight different styles of homeschooling and informs readers of reasons each one might work well for a particular family. Next, Mrs. Gary discusses types of homeschool curriculum, and recommendations for companies which produce each type. The last chapter in this section covers various learning styles; different ages of students and what they’ll need to be learning; organization tools and tips; and record-keeping.

In THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER’S second section, Integrating Life With Your Homeschool, Mrs. Gary leads moms through a vital subject: how they can create a well-run home and household while they’re teaching their children full-time. The first chapter is just right for an excellent foundation; ensuring that the mom’s own life is centered around God’s Word, along with steps for a healthy marriage and for discipling children (with tips for varying age groups). The second covers a broad discussion of financial fitness, from planning, tithing, budgeting, investing, and taxes to teaching financial responsibility to children. The next chapter covers physical health and fitness, from relationships, to healthy eating, to exercise and health. Establishing and teaching community service and voluntarism in various categories for a family is covered in the next chapter. The last chapter in this section discusses how to schedule, manage, and calendar all the areas that have been discussed thus far in the manual.

In the third section, Homeschool Support Group Options, Mrs. Gary shares why support groups can be a benefit for homeschooling moms; how and why to be involved (or not) in leadership; and ways to build strong support groups. Following this, four appendices with forms moms will use in working through each chapter of this manual are reprinted for home use (although many of them will also be found in the previous chapters).

THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER is designed to be used alongside a mentor, in a support group, or on an individual basis, as I did. I worked through this manual chapter-by-chapter, making notes to myself as I read and learned. While working with a mentor would have been lovely, I learned so much on my own that I can say that this was a highly effective manner of learning.

Each chapter is well-organized and written in a personable yet professional manner. It’s very easy to read through, and while the binder is enormous and contains many pages, I never felt overwhelmed as I worked through each section. Mrs. Gary starts with the big picture and then leads the reader gently and methodically through specific areas, all of which are both necessary and even crucial for the homeschool mom. Although I have been homeschooling for 10 years (since my son’s preschool year), I have been astounded at the treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge I’ve been able to add to all that I’ve learned on our own homeschool journey. In particular, I found Mrs. Gary’s recommendations on learning styles, curriculum choices, and why certain curricula worked well for me (and therefore my homeschool) to be invaluable. The “Spiritual Discipleship” chapter was almost like attending a weekend conference away, with all that it contained about healthy marriages, discipling children, and making sure mom is tending to her own relationship with God. And then, there are all the practical household concerns, presented again with grace and wisdom. And more!

I’m very happy to recommend THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER to any homeschool mom, or any mother who wishes to homeschool but hasn’t started yet. Whether you’re an experienced homeschooler or a newbie, you’ll feel that you’ve been through a top-notch course on how to have a wonderful and effective homeschool life with THE BALANCED HOMESCHOOLER. And, you’ll learn things that you’ll use during your entire homeschooling experience!

--Product review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2016

Reviewer’s Perspective of the Mentoring Program:

The Balanced Homeschooler Mentoring Program (including Virtual Group Mentoring Sessions)
The Balanced Homeschooler

How are you doing with balancing your life demands? Do you ever find it challenging to juggle managing your home, caring for your family, teaching your children in your homeschool, or running a business/working inside or outside the home? Sometimes we moms need a little help in making all the pieces of our homeschool lives fit together. But exactly where do we find this help?

One of the finest resources and mentors to meet this need that I’ve found is Carol Gary of The Balanced Homeschooler. Carol has written and produced a highly instructive and encouraging program entitled, The Balanced Homeschooler: Helping Moms Create Their Successful Homeschool Household Through Biblical Personal Mentoring (reviewed above). The program includes a 500-page manual (available printed in a binder, or in virtual format) that’s really a complete mentoring experience in a book.  The 10 chapters are divided into three sections: Homeschooling Basics, Integrating Life WithYour Homeschool, and Homeschool Support Group Options. The binder is full of useful information, 26 forms for every part of the homeschool family life, biblical teaching, and other helps for the homeschool mom. The purchase price ($89.99 for print or $59.99 for e-manual; purchase of the print version also includes a companion PDF version) covers not only the manual but virtual group mentoring sessions, a private Facebook community, separate printables and journal pages, Chapter Chats (monthly chat sessions on various topics for TBH moms), and an HSLDA member discount. (The virtual group mentoring sessions can be attended via personal computers, tablets, or cell phones.)

These group mentoring sessions are hosted by Carol online from Arizona. (For those who live in the same state, the first meeting can also be attended in person.) There are three options for attendees: the Spring or Fall Virtual Group Mentoring Sessions, which meet nine times each (February to April, or September to mid-November), or the accelerated Summer Boost Session (which covers the same material in a five-week period). Here’s a listing of the topics covered from the manual, throughout the virtual sessions:

  • A vision for your homeschool: crafting a vision statement and why it’s important
  • Choosing your homeschool approaches and curricula: what kind of homeschool works for your family, and what curricula will fit your needs
  • Homeschooling styles and seasons: ways you can homeschool for various ages and levels of children
  • Methods, tools, and record-keeping
  • Spiritual discipleship: not only for your children but for the mom, who sets the tone for her homeschool
  • Finances: how to budget, why you should
  • Life’s physical interactions and demands: staying healthy, caring for your home, meals
  • Community service and outreach: volunteering and serving as a family
  • Scheduling for school and life: how to keep a peaceful yet effective schedule

Recently, I was able to attend the Fall Virtual Group Mentoring Sessions. Each one was hosted by Carol Gary. I was part of a virtual group of 6-8 women who attended the sessions via webinar. Carol led both the discussion topics and interacted with attendees during the two-hour meetings each week. Although I had worked through the binder earlier in the year and benefited greatly, I gained so much more during the weekly virtual meetings. Carol is a wonderful host and able to make the virtual meetings seem quite intimate and close, almost as if we were actually in the same room physically. She interacts with each woman, asking questions of each one (Carol loves teaching via the Socratic method), and really zeroing in on the life and homeschool questions that each one needs assistance with. Each week, the webinars were enjoyable, instructive, and highly valuable. And it was encouraging to interact with other homeschool moms who were in the same stages as I am, and working through similar life and homeschool issues.

I have homeschooled for eleven years, since my son (who’s in ninth grade) was a preschooler, so I’d say that I do have some experience with the homeschool life. However, I found that The Balanced Homeschooler program brought me teaching on more effective ways to live that life. I learned valuable information on high school transcripts, community service, and managing life in the home while also teaching. I’d say that the most remarkable things that I learned during the sessions were on two very vital topics: life balance for the homeschool mom and my son’s learning styles. Of course I’ve known about the importance of margin and balance, for years. But I’m a person who loves to pack more into a day than can possibly be done. And while that schedule can be sustained for a short while, making it a decades-long lifestyle might just eventually cause harm to the mom who’s living that way. Carol was able to communicate some ideas and tools for balance that came to me at the perfect time. They are making a beautiful difference in my life and overall health (not to mention sanity!)

My other key take-away from the sessions regarded the type of learner my son is. He is like me in many ways; but I had assumed for years that he was a visual learner like I am.  Actually, I was mistaken! He is a collaborative, social learner (I really didn’t even know those existed before engaging with The Balanced Homeschooler). I have altered and adjusted the way I teach in about half the subjects we study in our home. Our stress level has diminished significantly; my son is learning more effectively; and we’re progressing more smoothly and enjoyably through our studies. What a blessing this has been, at a moment when our entire family could truly benefit from it!

Let me recommend The Balanced Homeschooler, and The Balanced Homeschooler Group Mentoring Sessions to you, with my very highest accolades. Carol Gary is operating out of her own gifts and abilities to provide to homeschool moms just what we need for a successful and beautiful homeschool life. Taking this course for moms is a gift you can give not only to your family, but for yourself as well!

-Product review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2017