So You Think You Want to Join the Homeschool Review Crew

The application period for joining the 2014 Crew Year for the Old Schoolhouse’s Homeschool Review Crew has passed.  But you might be thinking about joining next year.  If so, you need some time to prepare and get ready for the application process.

So here is a behind-the-scenes glimpse into life on the Crew as well as some tips to help you prepare to apply for the 2015 year!

Private Forum
There is a private Crew forum to chat with other crew members and the leaders.  Here you can ask questions, see deadlines, review upcoming vendors, and talk about homeschooling, blogging, and social media.  

Social Media
The Crew has a social media circle to help us share each others’ posts through Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Crew members and leaders are active on social media and I’ve seen a huge increase in traffic to my blog after participating in the social media groups.

Vendor Interest Forms
Each product has its own vendor interest form.  The vendor board on the forum lists the upcoming products with information about the products being offered, the appropriate age ranges, the product ship dates, and the review deadline.  There is a vendor interest form for each product.  On this form you indicate how well this product would work for your family and the ages of your children.  You select how much you want to review the product on a scale of 1-4 and you include any information about how you will use the product or why this product would be a good fit for your homeschool.   Once the form has closed, the review team is selected and posted on the forum.

Review Period
The forum lists the ship dates and the review due dates.  The review period is usually 6-8 weeks.  Once you receive a product, you are expected to begin using it within 3 days.  During the review period you are to use the product according to the vendor’s specifications – or modify it to best fit your needs. 

Review Deadline and Requirements
There is a 4 day window in which to post reviews.  All reviews must be posted within that time frame.   Reviews must include the vendor name, product, price, age range, how the product was used, and your opinion of the product.  Once the review is complete it is published and then linked to the post for that vendor on the Crew blog.

Time Commitment and Compensation
The Crew requires a large time commitment in using products, writing reviews, editing, and staying active in social media.  Bloggers must have an active blog and publish at least 1 blog post (not Crew related) per week.  It is also required to share each blog post on one social media platform.
There have been times that I’ve had to put my regular curriculum on hold while we use Crew products.  I’ve had to be creative with our schedule in order to fit in review products.
And you’re not compensated monetarily for being on the Crew.  Your compensation is the amazing array of products that you will receive (for free!) and all the social media sharing that you’ll get from other Crew members. 

Ways to Prepare

Blog Weekly
Start writing at least one blog post per week on your blog to keep your blog current and active.  Regular blogging is a requirement of the Crew.  

Clean Up Your Blog
Spend some time working on your blog design and keeping it clean and simple.  You want your blog to look professional and be easy to navigate.  Think about adding separate pages to your blog and organizing your content. 

Determine Your Style
What kind of blogger are you?  Do you blog about personal happenings in your homeschool?  Do you focus on homeschool how-to’s or organizational help?  Do you want to blog about homeschool encouragement and inspiration?   Or do you want to share self-created printables, unit studies, and booklists?  Choose the focus of your blog and create topical pages or categories for your posts.

Think About Your Audience
While everyone loves reading about the day-to-day happenings in the life of your homeschool family and it can be helpful to read through your weekly wrap up and your homeschool plans, they don’t apply to the homeschool community as a whole.  Think about writing some articles that can be useful to any homeschool mom.  You want to broaden your audience by writing content that is timeless and is applicable to a large majority of homeschool families or other parents.

Build Your Followers
Start promoting your blog through emailing friends, following and commenting on other blogs, and sharing your blog on social media.  Make sure you provide several ways for people to follow your blog either through social media, Bloglovin’, Google followers, or Google+.   Add some buttons to your sidebar to make it easy for others to follow your blog and so that vendors can see the number of followers you have.

Establish Yourself on Social Media
Create a Pinterest page, a Twitter account, Google+ page, or a blog Facebook page (or all 4).  Start sharing all your posts on social media and encouraging others to follow you there.  Follow other bloggers through social media and share interesting content with your followers. 

Write Some Practice Reviews
Review the curriculum that you are currently using in your own homeschool.  Practice writing a thorough review that explains what the product is, how you used the product, and what you thought about it.  These practice reviews will prepare you to write reviews for new products and can be listed on your application to the Crew to demonstrate your writing style and that you can write a thorough review.  

You can follow along for the 2014 Crew Year by watching the Crew Blogs listed here at the blogroll!

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