Review: Yearly Membership

Over the Christmas break, the kids and I got to check out the perks of having a Yearly Membership from—the curriculum site of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. And ‘curriculum site’ is exactly what it sounds like. You can find your entire year of homeschool curriculum in all the major subjects, short online classes on specific topics, useful resources, and helpful tips for kids (and their parents!) in preschool all the way to high school on one site, and just for one reasonable price.

The online classes and electives covered by has elementary, middle school and high school homeschool courses, online classes, and online electives--more than you can possibly do in a single school year


Our experience: videos!

Looking through the list (the Quick Links is—tadah!— the quickest way to see all they have to offer) can either be a time of great joy and excitement—or it can be overwhelming.  I belong to the latter camp. When I first logged into, I kept calling out to the girls and The Hubby, “Oh wow! Look what they have here. We should try this. And this. And this. Maybe this too…” There are over 300 courses on the site, from Art Techniques, Creation Apologetics, Writing Advertising Copy, and Web Game Design to Beginning Latin, Trigonometry, Free Market Economics, and the Wonderful World of Bugs. After half an hour of browsing and thinking how we can fit it all into our current homeschool schedule, I realized that we could do everything I wanted to try if we did school all day and slept about three hours every night, and maybe two on Mondays.

That obviously wouldn’t work out; and besides, the girls and I are pretty settled with the materials for our major subjects this school year, and we aren’t looking for a change any time soon. So I decided to be realistic and look for shorter courses, or material we can use as electives or supplements.

Online classes from

The girls engrossed in the Ancient Greek episode of Drive Thru History: Ancient History video, one of the online classes from


I also discovered their extensive list of videos. In the HP household (that’s us), screen time is extremely limited, so the girls are usually excited to watch shows, even serious documentaries. Since we’re working on Early World History with Breeze for first grade, and American History with Raine for fourth grade, I decided to go with Drive Thru History: Ancient History and Drive Thru History: American History. These video series also have accompanying worksheets for each episode.

Breeze enjoyed her series on early Greek history. Both she and Raine have read—and love—the Percy Jackson books, which are basically Greek and Roman mythology reimagined, so she is familiar with some aspects of ancient Greek history. I guess it was a kick for her to see the actual site of Apollo’s oracle in Delphi, for example. Breeze is also quite a nerd in the making, and she loves taking down notes. I once explained to them how to take down keywords when listening to something, and I’m ecstatic that she actually learned (and applied) that. She would frequently pause the video to note items she considered important or interesting.

Notes from the Ancient Greece online classes from

Some of the notes Breeze took while watching the Drive Thru History on Ancient Greece on This is a drawing of the remains of the oracle of Apollo.

The other video series the girls loved was the Torchlighters, a cartoon series that tackled the lives of Christian heroes in history. Since we have been reading books from the Christian Heroes Then and Now series, several of the names in the videos were very familiar: Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, William Carey. These videos also come with downloadable workbooks, which are great for reinforcing the learning. It’s also interesting to note that most of these cartoon videos have a matching documentary (from another series). If we have time, it would be nice to watch those too so the girls and I can compare and discuss the similarities and differences of how stories are told in books, cartoons, and documentaries (Stop thinking of more things to add to your schedule, Ree!).

I also told the girls that as a treat, when they’re done with school, and for good behavior, they can watch videos from the other cartoon selections in the list. I am also looking forward to watching the Into the Elements writing workshop with Donald Miller by Rightnow Media. I mean, Donald Miller! I’m subscribed to his mailing list, but I never signed up for any of his paid courses because budget. So you bet I’m going to make the most of this workshop. Woohoo!

Online electives

Other than the videos, Raine is happy to have discovered the Photography course among the online electives offered. She has always loved fiddling with the camera, even as a two-year old. Now, it would be great to track her progress; hopefully she’ll move way beyond taking mostly blurry photos of feet, toilet bowls and other random objects to beautifully composed images. We only have a point-and-shoot camera at the moment, but most of the lessons can still be applied. I think.

Raine is using my geriatric Sony Cybershot, and the flash doesn’t work. At least not reliably. So I’m still debating with myself whether or not I should let her use my more-current-but-still-senior-citizen Canon. It’s my only decently working camera, and I use it for work. And she still needs to develop a better sense of responsibility when it comes to gadgets and other things. But I digress.

My only issue with the course is that it’s presented in PDF format. That actually isn’t bad, but it looks like a Word document converted to PDF—large chunks of text, minimal pictures. This would have been fine if it were a handout to accompany a live lecture, or even a video one (and maybe that’s what it is?). But to read it on your own—it can make your eyes glaze over.  I wish they could reformat the material in such a way to make it easier to read. Bullet points, maybe? More pictures? Illustrations, other graphics?

Still, Raine is slogging through. I’m hoping that she’ll like her Photography course well enough for her to keep practicing and to do the lessons on her own.

I’ve been poking around the site, and the other courses I’m excited to try are Drawing with Realism, Graphic Design, and Image Editing and Creation, among others. It’s wonderful that with the range of material they have available on the site, there is something we all can learn.

Homeschool planners

One last thing I am loving about are the homeschool planners. I am a planner junkie, and SchoolhouseTeachers has quite a selection of planner forms, both for mom and the kids. The mom planner has everything you may need—menu planning forms, pantry inventory list, chore list, gift list, budget and expense tracker, Bible reading tracker, calendars, and of course, homeschool schedules, curriculum planners, evaluation forms, and wish lists.

The homeschool planners come in downloadable PDF format, and you can print out just the pages that you need. I like that most of the forms have editable fields, so you can easily type in the details, and print out the pages already filled in. One challenge (for me) with this though, is that you can’t really save a copy of previous entries, if you need to make another version of that form (like the weekly school schedule) unless you keep saving the entire file under a new file name each time. Also, sometimes I need more than one page for a particular form. I guess the idea is to print as many of the form that you need, but I would still like to keep digital copies of everything (if you have Acrobat Pro, there is a way around this, but I don’t think it will work with the freebie version of Adobe Reader).

Homeschool planner page

One of the sheets from's homeschool planner. I appreciate this one in particular because I realized that planning ahead lessens the stress (duh!)

There are also student homeschool planners, for primary, intermediate, high school and special learners. I haven’t had the kids try theirs out yet, but I should, so they get used to organizing their lives, and hopefully develop better skills than I have. All the planners also have encouraging, informative articles, and pages of useful information (from the periodic and multiplication tables to a sign language chart and countries and their capitals).

In case all you need is a weekly schedule for your kids, and you don’t want to download any app, SchoolhouseTeachers has an online Schedule Builder. You just need to type in the subjects on your preferred days, and the Schedule Builder creates a nicely formatted schedule summary that you can print out.

What worked for us

With all that has to offer, it’s pretty easy to find something that works. We really are enjoying the videos that come with the Yearly Membership. Most of these videos are licensed from other companies, including Rightnow Media (Donald Miller!), and the cost of subscribing to these companies, I’m sure, are more than worth the SchoolhouseTeachers Yearly Membership fee (take note, though, that the videos are licensed until certain dates, and are subject to renewal—so there is still the possibility of losing access to these resources). We also appreciate the worksheets that come with some of the videos. The SchoolhouseTeachers membership also comes with access to the World Book eBook Library, which has a lot of reference books.

I also like the fact that the Yearly Membership covers all the online classes available, whether you need preschool, elementary, middle school or high school homeschool courses. Finally, I appreciate the homeschool parent support available—the lesson plans, for-parents courses, planning tools, and encouraging articles.

What was so-so

Like I mentioned above, with the Photography course, the formatting of the printed material makes it difficult to appreciate the actual content. Some courses, like the art classes, could be so much better if they were a bit more interactive, or at least in video format. Of course, I realize that to create material like that would cost a lot more, but one can still dream. It would also be nice if we could save the courses we were looking at and using on one page, so that we don't need to look for it in the very long list of courses each time that we need to access it.

The verdict

I would highly recommend, and the Yearly Membership is very much worth the fees. You can piece together an entire school year’s worth of lessons in all the important subjects, and then some. Or, if like us, you're happy with your current curriculum, you can always find wonderful online electives or short online classes to supplement whatever you're using. There's always something new to learn!









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