The Commercialization of Homeschooling Hits a New Low

I just received an email from a prominent homeschooling website offering to video-review one of our products and put the review on their website.

How nice of them, right? No, because they’re charging money to do the review. A lot of money.

But the amount isn’t the point. Traditionally, reviews are never sold, because a reviewer can’t be considered unbiased if there’s money involved.

Of course, newspapers, magazines and television stations have always paid reviewers to do reviews (that’s how Siskel and Ebert became famous), but that’s different, because the creators of the products did not pay for the reviews. This is important! It’s how you know a review is an honest assessment, one person’s opinion, as opposed to a sales pitch.

When homeschooling took off in the 1980s, homeschooling magazines quickly sprang up and were soon filled with reviews of books and curriculum: the reviews were written by staff reviewers who were usually homeschooling parents. They shared valuable information and opinions. As a homeschooling mom, I appreciated these reviews when looking for books and curriculum for my children.

Since my husband and I became homeschool publishers in 2003, we’ve submitted our products for review to reputable publications and websites, and have gotten some great reviews which we used in our marketing. But we have never ONCE paid for a review. Paying for a review defeats the purpose of asking for an unbiased opinion.

Sadly, it looks like the commercialization of homeschooling has attracted some people with unethical business practices. So be warned: if you see a review of a homeschool-related product in a magazine or website, it may just be an ad in disguise.

How will you know whether a review is really a review or just an ad? Contact the source of the review and ask if they pay for reviews. Then you’ll have your answer.

If this practice becomes widespread, reviews will become meaningless, and should be called ads or (in the case of video reviews) infomercials.

Homeschool Encouragement, Every Single Week for Eight Years and Counting


One balmy spring day in 1984, my husband and I found ourselves in an auditorium at Wheaton College listening to Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore talk about this radical idea called homeschooling.

We weren’t homeschoolers yet; in fact, our only child was just six months old. But being surrounded by all these others in the audience who weren’t sending their kids to school gave us hope that this wasn’t such a crazy idea and that we might someday be homeschoolers ourselves.

As it turned out, we had four children and never sent any to school (until two of them went to college). One constant throughout our child-rearing years was the encouragement we got from being around other homeschooling families.

After the Internet took over the world and blogging became a way for people to share their lives and interests, the Cate family decided to help fellow homeschoolers share their lives with each other, and they started the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Since then, there’s been a weekly collection of homeschool-related blog posts from a variety of bloggers for our information and pleasure. We homeschoolers certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the Cates.

Of course, as with all good things, there is a potential negative to surfing the blogs of homeschoolers you’ll find in the Carnival of Homeschooling. Take care not to compare yourself, your family or your activities with those you read about. There’s nothing wrong with picking up a new idea here and there, but when you start making comparisons with others, you risk disillusionment and burnout. And ultimately, doing so is a waste of time, because homeschooling is a very individual journey. Each family is unique; every single combination of teaching parent and homeschooled child is unique, too.

So it won’t do to make comparisons. Instead, just enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow homeschoolers as we did that day so many years ago when we heard the Moores speak. It will remind you that you’re not alone.

(Do check out the Carnival of Homeschooling archives. Though some of the blogs no longer exist, there’s still a wealth of information there.)