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Homeschooling: It's Not Just a Lifestyle; It's an Adventure! Review by Melanie Reynolds and Melanie Schemanski

Anita Ottinger

Many of us have chosen homeschooling for our children’s education. We desire to be faithful, creative, and responsible. Yet that life (which, in addition to teaching, includes planning, grading, selecting curricula, as well as cooking, cleaning, keeping a home, and so on) can be so full that we might feel that we’re always running to catch up. How can we move from feeling that our list is too full to, instead, seeing our lives as an adventure? How can we organize homekeeping, teaching, and planning to create great homeschooling lives?

Anita Ottinger, wife, mother of four and grandmother of eight, homeschooler, and blogger at, has written just the book to encourage and aid homeschoolers in this journey. Homeschooling: It's Not Just a Lifestyle; It's an Adventure! is the handbook you never knew you needed but have probably subconsciously been wishing for, whether you’re a brand-new homeschooler or a seasoned one. Written as if it were a bountiful letter from one friend to another, Anita covers everything from an overall vision for homeschooling, to what children should be learning in each grade, homemaking, spiritual training…and much more! The book is an 8 ½” x 11” softcover with a large typeface. It is available for purchase at both Amazon (for $24.99) and the author’s website (for $19.99). Amazon offers a Kindle version for $9.99 as well.

Ottinger begins her book with a recounting of the reasons why many Christians might homeschool; to include God completely in their family’s lives, and consequently to provide an excellent education for their children. She talks about her own homeschooling journey, and describes the reasons that she values unschooling. What are some important do’s and don’ts for homeschoolers? Should moms seek employment as they homeschool or not?  And what about socialization; and how does one organize a homeschool? Ottinger shares wisdom from her own family’s experience.

One of the most important questions homeschoolers ask is: What does my child need to learn this year? Ottinger understands this and shares complete lists for kindergarten through sixth grade. She also includes quite marvelous book recommendations, with some that will be familiar and others, fresh and brand-new for parents. For example, here are some of the topics and subjects Ottinger recommends for first grade:

  • Science: oceans and seas, and animals and plants in the aquatic world; the major systems of the human body; matter; an introduction to electricity and magnets
  • Social studies: map skills, early cultures like the ancient Romans and Egyptians, comparing cultures
  • Language arts: some beginning reading, spelling, and writing skills
  • Math and technology: use a word processing program, count to 200, addition and subtraction to 20, telling time, and counting coins, and so on
  • Last but not least, wonderful books for both reading and read-alouds

There is a brief yet very helpful section on homeschooling the high school student.  Ottinger’s recommendations include standardized test preparation, coops and group activities, and volunteering, as well as other activities to prepare teens for college and life beyond homeschool. Her book list for these students is incredible, and includes titles on history, current events, classics, study guides, and nonfiction. There are books in this list that I’d not only want to share with my own child, but read myself!

Teacher’s Helpers, the next segment of the book, is subtitled Cheat Sheets. It has an extensive collection of reference pages. There are pages on measurements, important dates in history, systems in the human body, Latin and Greek roots, patriotic songs, and historical eras. There’s also a smattering of basic phrases and words in French, Spanish and German.

Ottinger is a huge proponent of gardening and eating organic food, and the next few sections cover the dangers and prevalence of GMO foods as well as reasons to eat healthily and cook from scratch. She shares some of her family’s favorite recipes. Useful tips on starting and growing a garden are included, and she even tells readers how to effectively raise chickens!

The book’s last segment is an extensive listing of topics you can teach over an entire calendar year, focusing each month on certain events, personages, documents, and holidays. It’s quite creative, and using this resource could enable a person to homeschool without even buying curricula! 

Reading Homeschooling: It's Not Just a Lifestyle; It's an Adventure! is like sitting down with a wise, loving mentor whose greatest desire is to help you succeed as you live the homeschooling life. I enjoyed so much of what Anita Ottinger had to offer. The only drawback that I found were some spelling errors in a number of places; once with a Spanish explorer, once in a science listing, and the last in describing an American historical period. These interrupted the pleasure I felt in reading the book. However, I would still recommend this book for anyone who is considering homeschooling, and even for those who’ve been doing it for a while. Her book lists alone are worth the price of the book, as are her wonderful ways to teach through each month of the year.  Homeschooling: It's Not Just a Lifestyle; It's an Adventure! is comforting, funny, encouraging, and most of all a blueprint for the successes you hope for when you begin to homeschool. It’s a delightful—and ever-so-useful—read!

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

Another Reviewer’s Perspective:

Homeschooling: It’s Not Just a Lifestyle; It’s an Adventure is likened to reading a semi-organized stream of consciousness from a veteran homeschool mom. Anita Ottinger, homeschool mom of four with twenty years’ experience, began homeschooling when it was just a new frontier of options. Her book is a look at her experiences as well as personal thoughts on many different topics.

Over 400 pages, this 8.5 by 11-inch page book is a collection of information on topics such as:

Getting organized, the power of prayer, teacher helps (cheat sheets), curriculum suggestions, recipes, monthly teaching ideas, gardening, Bible devotional book suggestions and more and sells for $19.99.

The book includes personal style essays, lists, opinions, definitions, and a holiday planner. It is a mix of memoir style writing, encapsulating years of knowledge. It is geared for the homeschool mom, and not meant to be read in one sitting. I found it best to read sections based on your need at the time. The flow of it is not that of a typical reading book, more of a snippet here and there style of reading.

It was interesting to read Anita Ottinger’s thoughts on why she homeschools, and her Do’s and Don’ts list of the homeschool lifestyle. Not everyone will agree with each opinion of course, but it was interesting to get inside the thoughts of another homeschool mom. Anita is big into gardening, and raising healthy foods for her children. As a homesteader myself I could relate to these topics, but felt that this would have been a great place for a separate book. I imagine Anita has enough knowledge and information from her gardening days to share even an ebook of it rather than including it in a homeschool style book. The homeschool lifestyle does encompass all of our life, including how we cook, clean and do other things besides bookwork so I understand why it was included. The book is printed in a very large font, and you won’t need your reader glasses for it. I think that if an 11 or 12 point, typical book font was used, it would drastically reduce the size of the book, making it more portable for the homeschool mom to read snippets from.

The flow of the book is a little hard to follow, thus I recommend reading specific lists or essays one at a time. I enjoyed sitting down in the afternoon and reading one of the topics at a time. It was like sitting down to chat with a seasoned homeschooler over tea. Great book suggestions, as well as Anita’s favorite scriptures helped showcase her Christian bent in the book.

I feel that if the book could be a little more organized, or even smaller in breadth, that it would be a good resource for the homeschool mom to have as a “friend.” Perhaps making it more of a memoir style would give homeschool moms the mentor that they are needing.

-Product review by Melanie Schemanski, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2016