Friday, August 8, 2008

Back to School: May I humbly suggest ...

Remember back when you first became a parent, and it was all you could do to pick just one magazine subscription to help you along in your new found career and calling? There were so many to choose from. American Baby. Mothering. Parenting. Parents. Today's Parent. So many options ... so little time (and money!).

Finally, after finding that one periodical that fit your personal style, you subscribed. Every month, when it showed up in your mailbox, you took the time to read it from cover to cover. You devoured that magazine, trying your best to glean any shred of wisdom from its pages that might somehow, someday, apply to you. "Smart Moms Guide to Vaccinations"? Check. "Taming Toddler Temper Tantrums"? Gotcha. "Eight Healthy Vegetable Snacks for Your Picky Preschooler"? Committed to memory.

Because you were going to be the best parent ever, right?

It's like MG knows me, you're thinking. This is so far in my parenting past, and yet ... she speaks the truth.

No, I probably don't actually know you (at least, google analytics says I don't know most of you). But yes, I'm speaking the truth. I'm being so truthful, in fact, that I'll take this one step further:

You had a second baby, probably just close enough to the first to dodge the "two in diapers" sticker shock. And one day, as you were nursing that second baby in a sling while putting on yet another Disney classic for your first, your husband decided to sort the recycling.

"You didn't read this," he said, pulling out a still-pristine copy of InsertYourFlavorOfParentingHere.

"Well, I didn't see anything new. I flipped through it. Nothing grabbed me," you said--with absolutely no recognition of what a massive step you had taken.

"You want to keep it? Look at it later?"

You considered it for a minute, but then realized that you would not ever, in fact, need to look back and see what cute things someone else's child has said to a stranger in line at the grocery store. So you declined the offer.

"It says it's your last one. Should we renew?"

"Nah." And you went on with your day.

And, just like that, you were over the parenting magazine thing, right? Yeah ... we've all been there. It's o.k. to be honest. The parenting magazines lost their luster because the baby stages don't last forever.

But what about those seasons and interests that are continually evolving? What about those that challenge you and excite you and lead you to places where you need a continual stream of resources?

That, my friends, is homeschooling.

Yes, you can homeschool with just your public library card. No, you don't need anything fancy. But trust me--you will want more. You will want to learn and to grow and to continue to feed your children as much in the way of knowledge as you possibly can. You will need advice. You will desire support. And, if you're like most of the homeschoolers I know, the stage will last far longer than the infancy stage of your firstborn. Oh, call it K-12 years. Give or take.

So, are there magazines for that? Why yes, there are. A caboodle of them. Sadly, most are of very low quality, or are quite narrow in scope. The writing in many of them is simply atrocious, and I live in fear of one in particular falling into the hands of a public school pundit who wanted to use it as a basis for outlawing homeschooling altogether. But I digress ...

If you're looking for a homeschooling magazine that is not centered on any one approach, that addresses the issues and concerns of newbies and veterans AND is well-written, I'm going to steer you to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

I've been reading for four years now, and I have yet to let an issue slip into the recycle bin without cracking the cover. :-)

The key for me, as an eclectic homeschooler, is the blend of styles. Some advice from Charlotte Mason. A unit study. Reviews of math programs. Everything you can imagine under the homeschooling sun ... in one place.

There are shockingly few magazines that I have held on to in my life; the vast majority of those that I have kept have my name either listed as staff or in the contributor's box. The one exception is the small stash of backcopies of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine I have on a shelf in my bedroom. Just last week, Logan and I went leafing through those issues in search of a unit study on trains that I remembered being somewhere in those pages. We found it in the Summer 2006 edition. Can you imagine using a magazine two years after its publication date?

Even better than the paper copies are the online version. Storing back issues in a folder on the hard drive (in a searchable pdf) is a much better solution that dusting two year-old magazines twice a month.

Perhaps the best selling point of TOS magazine is its freebies. Unlike a homeschooling convention, where you walk away glassy-eyed with a bag full of one-page samples, TOS subscribers get a load of real products. And they're not just introductions to topics for new homeschoolers, either: one recent freebie was a 117 page e-book version of The Five Finger Paragraph. This is the full text of the popular multi-age writing program. As a freebie! Another was a massive 10-part activity pack and lapbook on artists by Homeschool in the Woods. Free! Either one of those items would have paid for my one-year subscription. But I got them both ... plus about 22 more.

This is the time of year when many of us are putting together plans and gathering resources. Check out TOS and consider it an investment in ongoing education ... yours and your children's.


Anonymous said...

How funny, I was totally with you until you mentioned TOS. I let my subscription run out after their summer issue arrived in Fall (this was last year) - complete with ads that had offers that expired the month before it arrived. I hadn't been reading much at that point anyway. I never got my freebies, either. Just perpetually stuck on the BJU mailing list.

Kindred Blessings said...

I agree with you. TOS is one of two homeschooling magazines I subscribe to ("Homeschool Enrichment" being the other). The one criticism I have for TOS is that it seems pricey and too infrequent, but I pay for it and keep the back issues too. I know the exact "Train" article you mentioned!

Heather@To Sow a Seed said...

Lorri--I had the same problem with the print edition. Thanks for reminding me; I'm going to add that to the part about the online edition!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen any other homeschool magazines to compare the writing; but I totally agree that the articles in TOS are well-written.

I was relieved that you didn't suggest a different magazine from what I already subscribe to. I love the freebies - I just downloaded a "companion" to an Olympics unit study, which we started using. So fun - and FREE! (well, I do pay for the subscription, but still)

Anyhow, you will let us know if/when you have something published in TOS right? : )


Karen said...

Mary Grace,

We loved your post about The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! My husband actually wrote one of those train articles, so it's so good to know the articles are still being read. Would you mind contacting me? I'd like to ask you a private question, if possible and couldn't see a way to email you on your blog.

Thanks so much!