Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Review of the Review Process

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of being a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I have reviewed all kinds of products, from an extensive collection of historical maps, to soap, to online preschool piano lessons. (You can see the complete list of what I reviewed over to the right in the sidebar.) I have experienced some great things. I've also had some difficult times. Unapologetically, I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you.

At the beginning of the year, each crew member (reviewer) was given a "first mate," as a mentor. I'm not 100 % certain, but I believe that person was there to answer questions, and encourage new reviewers throughout the year. The reason I'm not certain, is because I only conversed with my fm through emails a few times. I didn't ask that person a lot of questions, as I know she was very busy, just as I am. I know each of us has our own personal lives happening. I do wish, however, I'd been able to get to know her better, so that I might learn from her previous experience as a reviewer.

As a former-computer-problem-person, I think reviewers need to be told that there will be lots of e-products and online programs. I wish I'd been given the choice of receiving curriculum in ebook format OR printed version. I know the economy's tough on the vendors, just as it is on my family, but I am reviewing a product for them. I think they'd want my best review. And they would have, had I had a physical product in my hands. I did, by the way, work extra hard on those particular ones, even though a couple of them cut off my access to their site before my review was due. (I wish I'd had this new, faster computer in the beginning too!)

I was so glad there was a forum where the reviewers could meet others, ask questions and get answers. Being able to discuss things with other reviewers was the best part about my review period. It was nice to know what other reviewers thought about a product.

I had a little difficulty in posting my reviews. In order to post the link to my review, I needed to remember in which month I received the product. They were organized according to shipping date. I think maybe for future years, the products could be organized by due date, instead. That would have made posting much simpler.

Although it's nice to be able to see lots of different programs before you purchase one, I felt overwhelmed by math! Over the review period, I reviewed 8 math programs, 5 of them due in one month alone! It might be nice if products within one subject area were spread out over the 9 months. In fact, there may be a better way to spread out products in general. The reviewer would be able to concentrate on one item and give a more thorough review.

Overall, I am glad I was given this opportunity. Thank you to all the vendors who traded their goodies for my review. Thank you to TOS for bringing together this team of homeschoolers. I met some super ladies (and one gentleman) whom I might never have known. I am learning lots of new things about homeschooling. I have gained plenty of experience in multi-tasking (mommy, wife, teacher, business owner, cub scout leader, singer and the list goes on!). I hope I have been appreciated. Maybe I have inspired. I know I'm one exhausted lady on today, the last Friday of May. This is the conclusion of one stepping stone in my life's journey. Now I'll have to think of some things to blog about!

Thanks for reading.


  1. It was definitely an amazing cruise! I did not know what the experience would be like (I've never been on a cruise before..hehe) and found lots of lessons for me along the way.

    Enjoy being back on land, it was great to meet you!

  2. Congratulations on surviving the year of multi-tasking. Being on the TOS Crew can definitely be more of a commitment than some might plan. Your work is definitely appreciated.

    I can definitely agree that there were a TON of math vendors for this past year. And, a lot of electronic products rather than physical items. If you follow the Crew postings next year, you'll see that the workload should be spread out a bit better. At least from what I've heard :o)

    As for First Mates, we were there primarily to answer questions as needed. I also read a few early reviews when asked. I think the whole mentor idea is great, but can be a bit challenging when you're doing everything via email and a forum setting. And, no one wanted to feel too intrusive.

  3. I enjoyed reading your take on the past year. It has been quite the experience. It was a pleasure getting to meet you and all of the other fine ladies and gent on the TOS Crew adventure.

  4. I enjoyed my year too C, Will continue to follow you. here is a link to my review of the last year!

  5. It was nice to take the cruise with you. I admit, as one of the mentors, that I would have liked to do more with my mini-Crew!

    You've got some good points here, like spreading out subjects if we are to use them, really use them, and not just review them. Pretty tough to use that many math programs at once!

    It has been an amazing journey, and I'm glad you came along.


  6. I agree with many of the points. The other thing I might add is, some of the products started arriving two months before we started school! It was great to have the opportunity to try all those new products though.

  7. Thanks for the review...I'm about to do mine!