The ship is pulling into port this week. This Review Cruise is coming in to dock. In May of 2010 ,I was chosen to set sail on The Old Schoolhouse Magazines Review Crew Cruise. What a voyage this year has been. When I became a part of this cruise, I had no idea of the adventure that awaited me.
My friend Vickie, of Tumbleweed News stopped me at church one day last Feb or March and asked if I was interested in being on the Review Crew for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (TOS). I had heard of TOS but it had been many years since I had seen a magazine and knew nothing about it. Vickie told me of all the fun and exciting new products she had reviewed during the Maiden Voyage. It sounded like fun to me as well as fulfilling my love of looking at and trying out new curriculum. So Vickie came over one afternoon and while the kids played she helped me set up a blog. I then had a “try out” test review and was accepted to be a member of the Crew.
Blogging was a brand new experience for me. The only thing I knew about blogging was what I had learned from one of my favorite movies “Julie and Julia”. The one line from that movie that still runs through my head is “What do you think blogging is? It is me, me, me all the time.” Well, I started off slow, a post here, a post there. My real introduction started in July when the review cruise started in earnest. Suddenly I had products to use and then tell how I felt about them.
My first reviews were agonizing for me. I spent hours trying to form my thoughts about the product into coherent sentences. I wanted my reviews to be fair and balanced and most important of all, for me, enjoyable to read. As I look over my list of review products, I feel nostalgic. My first products included Math Tutor DVD’s, Vocabulary Cartoons, and books from Salem Ridge Press. I remember well the overwhelming sense of responsibility; that these companies had provided me with products for free in exchange for my honest opinion. This meant that even if I did not enjoy the product or it didn’t work for us, I had to tell them that, in a nice manner of course. I feel very fortunate that the first products we reviewed we truly enjoyed.
We quickly settled down into cruising in calm waters. My kids were just as excited as I was when word of a new review came out. We would all eagerly watch the mail or for UPS to deliver the next goodie. We would then begin to integrate the product into our school day. Some are easier to work into than others. Some, like TenMarks and BigIQ Kids, we enjoyed so much we have continued to use them.Other products, like Lanschool I had never heard of and didn’t know how much I needed it until I reviewed it.
I asked my kids what their favorite products from this year were. Sarah enjoys Artistic Pursuits, Latin Alive and she still reads and learns from Vocabulary Cartoons. Ben said anything math related was his favorite. Ben also enjoyed our Quicksand study and Speekee. Rebekah quickly told me her very favorite was Speekee and the Circle C Beginnings book. It was hard for me to pick what my favorite product was, I enjoyed using every product, even the ones that did not work for our family. Trying out products that were not a good fit helped me stretch and grow as a teacher to my children. If I had to pick one product that I enjoyed the most I would have to say that I enjoyed the Nutrition 101: Choose Life book.
The other aspect of being on the Crew that surprised me was the camaraderie that occurs. Reading other Crew Mates blogs is an adventure in itself. Learning how other family’s homeschool and the trials and troubles they go through if fascinating to me. The Crew also has their own online forum where friendships are forged. Being able to talk out difficulties and triumphs with others using the same products is a blessing. But more than that, just being able to bring various homeschooling issues up with a crew of homeschoolers is a great joy. There are many, many years of experience on the forum boards that can help with all issues, schooling or domestic.
I am very grateful to have been re-introduced The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I am very thankful that God has allowed me the opportunity to be a part of this experience. I am looking forward to setting sail again and see what adventures my second cruise will hold. And don’t forget to visit the Crew Blog and read about all the wonderful products that we review! Bon Voyage!