Before you do that, there are some things to think about. Being a part of the Crew is a job -- a volunteer job, really. There are some amazing benefits. Absolutely amazing benefits. And it is not just the "stuff" you get to review.
But it is not all sunshine and roses either. Sometimes it is a real pain. I posted about this last year too (here's Part III of that series), but before I go reread that (I'm sure I still agree with me!) I'm going to write a few things now.
- I love getting stuff. Even stuff I'm not all that excited about. It is really a lot of fun to get homeschooling products in the mail (postal or electronic).
- I don't always love using that stuff. In fact, sometimes it is a real hassle. Some things really don't work for my kids, only they have to keep using it until the review is over. I do not let them stop just because we don't like something. Part of our commitment to the Crew is to use this stuff and write up our opinions and experiences.
- Even with stuff I like, it is frustrating to set aside our math program, or our history program, or our writing program, or... and use something else. I start to feel like we never actually finish anything.
- But sometimes in setting something aside, we find a real gem. Something we cannot live without.
- Working with some of the vendors is a real joy. Jim Baumgartner, and Speekee (another Jim!) are the two that come to mind immediately.
- Some of the vendors are unbelievably generous. One year subscriptions to sites like Reading Kingdom, AVKO, MyAccess... when we only need the site for roughly 6 weeks to review it. Wow, I just love those. It is so much easier to invest the time in learning about a product or a philosophy when I know we will get to continue to use it.
- Or huge physical products like IEW or Madsen Method, Classical Academic Press or All About Learning. Expensive products that I simply would not be able to otherwise afford.
- It makes it hard sometimes to put in the time researching products where the vendors aren't so generous. Because they don't have to give us long subscriptions or permanent software licenses.
- Some of these reviews are incredibly hard to write. The two hardest reviews I've written were both products I loved... Illuminations (which is still getting a ton of traffic) and Reading Kingdom.
Like I said at the start though, it isn't just the stuff.
- I have made some amazing friends. I'm hoping to see one of them today. In person.
- My kids are seeing me write, edit, re-write and agonize over reviews. That is a good lesson for them. Things that are worth doing, and are rewarding, aren't necessarily easy.
- My kids are seeing me having deadlines. Real ones. Another fabulous lesson, especially in a homeschool.
- My kids are getting so much better at giving me a coherent opinion about something. I still get the not remotely helpful "I liked it" or "Lame!" comments. But more often, I get meaningful insights... and my kids are starting to point out who might benefit from a product they don't like.
- My kids are getting far better at understanding how they learn and what kind of product is likely to work for them.
- But more important, they are getting FAR better at learning from products that are not "ideal" for them.
- I'm a far better blogger and reviewer than I was two years ago.
The biggest benefits though? I get comments (or more often emails) from people who tell me that they decided to get something based on my review and how it was totally perfect and exactly what they needed. Or that something I wrote helped them to figure out how to tweak what they had to be great. Or that reading about the high school products on my blog has made them reconsider sending Susie off to public school in 7th grade, because now they "know" someone who is homeschooling jr/sr high, and they know that there is stuff out there to use.
Because really, the biggest reason I'm doing this is because I so often feel all alone in this homeschool adventure and I want to connect with -- and ideally encourage -- others who are on this same path somewhere else. It still shocks me that people want to read my blog. But I am doing this for you...
Okay, so are YOU interested in being a part of the Crew? There is an application available here.