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Homeschool Crew Review: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling


Although Apologia is known for its superb science textbook series, it now also publishes other helps for homeschoolers such as The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell. 


This Christian book presents more than 500 pages of advice for the homeschooling parent including

  • whether or not you should homeschool
  • learning styles
  • organizing academics (curriculum, planning, subjects)
  • working homeschooling into your family
  • homeschooling high school
  • co-ops and how to run them
  • preventing burnout
  • testing and assessments
  • college admissions
  • and much more

It’s full of book lists, resources, links, funny stories, and inspiration.  As is usual with Apologia books, there is a companion website as well.


Some quotations

To get an idea of where this mother of four successful, grown children is coming from, here are a few tidbits:


It’s a given that “You’re going to make mistakes.” (Intro)

“May God’s grace permeate these pages and my words.” (Intro) This is followed by a candid and humorous admission that Debra doesn’t have it all together any more than we do.


On setting goals:  “a vision corrals our impulses” and “fuels our motivation.” (p 13, 14)


“It is important that we recognize our limitations and seek out opportunities for our kids to offset those limitations.” (p 38)


“Probably the key factor in those homes that have happy, motivated children who are achieving at the level of their potential is Mom’s attitude.” (p 65) Then she goes on to discuss things that affect a mom’s outlook on life.


“Time is money.”  Inexpensive resources often require mom to put in more time. (p120)  This is usually true, but not always.


“Order brings peace.” (p 164) Although the Bell household sounds every bit as exciting as one could wish, one of Debra’s goals is order.  Order in the day, setting school goals, planning school work, setting up routines, and using a planner are all important to her. 


‘Subject-by-Subject Guidelines,’ a huge chapter full of all sorts of opinions and recommendations, contains a thrilling paragraph in which Debra, not a math person, extols the value of geometry. The logic she learned in geometry, together with the ideas of C.S. Lewis, were fundamental in her conversion.  “Geometry is the same tool I use to give my children a well-reasoned faith.” (p275)


What else is in the book

The purpose of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling is to give parents a framework for decision-making in the face of the information overload that so easily overwhelms new (and seasoned) homeschoolers. (p10)  Actually, I felt information overload as I read the book itself, but that was mercifully seasoned with good doses of humour.  Perhaps part of the reason I felt overwhelmed is that the book does not seem totally organized, but that’s the nature of homeschooling as well.


The lists of resources throughout the book are wonderful but necessarily incomplete.  Some of the newer available resources are not mentioned, nor are some solid older ones.  I would encourage a new mom to research her options a bit more thoroughly if she has the time and energy.  Even so, no one can go far wrong with the tried and true resources mentioned by Debra. We also discovered some interesting new resources that may just be an answer to our family’s needs. 


A chapter on the library includes an extensive and valuable annotated list of children’s books grouped by topic.


Any homeschool mom soon learns that she isn’t supermom.  To help moms avoid burnout, Debra discusses raising responsible kids who are independent learners; how to have fantastic field trips; how coops and computer learning can help; and the value of support, whether in person, in print, or online. Unfortunately, she omitted a reminder to moms to take care of themselves with adequate rest, nutrition, relaxation, exercise, and a happy, grateful attitude.


The section on teens includes a description of the family school (similar to a large co-op) that her family helped to found, as well as other umbrella and support organizations helpful for both learning and  college admissions.  Of course, there’s a section on college entrance exams, but the now-trendy idea of college at home is also discussed.  Some of these opportunities are not widely available in Canada, although there seem to be co-ops wherever there are homeschoolers.  (Not that co-ops are part of our family’s style, but many homeschoolers love them.)


My Opinions

Debra Bell has spent many years helping homeschoolers, so she knows what she’s writing about.  If you can read The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling as the strongly-held opinions of a godly, cheery homeschool mom just like you, gleaning what will work for you and being glad that whatever she did worked for her, you will greatly benefit from this book.  If, however, you let yourself think that you need to be and do all that she writes about, you might end up discouraged rather than inspired. 


The book contains a great number of helpful resources, but you don’t need to use them all.  Debra didn’t use all the available great resources either, and many are not even mentioned in her book. 


Although this book suggests expensive options as well as frugal ones, especially for high school, children can be perfectly well-educated on a shoestring.  That might, however, take a bit more effort. 


Debra has some strongly held opinions that I strongly disagree with (specifically about scheduling babies), but as both of us are far past that stage (sigh)  it’s really a non-issue.  It would have bothered me as a young mom, though.  Again, a reader can be glad that what Debra did worked for her, whether or not she agrees with her, and still value the rest of the book.


So, is this really the ultimate guide to homeschooling?  No.  Is it helpful?  Absolutely.  Is it comfortable?  No, but we all need to be made uncomfortable once in a while, to be forced to evaluate what we’re doing. 


The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling is Biblical, wise, and practical, and I am grateful I received a copy as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew.  I would probably not have bought it on my own because the cover bothers me.  (OK, so I’m superficial, but that’s just the way it is.  Grin.)  If I hadn’t needed to review it, I might not have read it; in that case I would have missed a lot of valuable information as well as some good laughs.


I could go on and on about the ideas in this book, the funny stories (a few times the kids came running to read what I was laughing at), the helpful resource lists, and more, but I won’t.  Instead, I’ll encourage you to view the Table of Contents online.    You can also read a chapter entitled ‘Six Ingredients of a Successful Homeschool’ to see if Debra’s cheerful, opinionated style would appeal to you.

 Finally, you might want to see what other Homeschool Review Crew members think.   


You can purchase The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell from the Apologia website for $20 US.



Disclosure Policy:   As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a complimentary copy of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling to review.


Dial-Up Friendly Policy:  For the sake of my dial-up readers, this blog avoids visuals. 


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