During California's gold rush days, the town of Cool (located east of Sacramento) provided the perfect jumping off place to provide supplies for the mining towns on the divide. For a brief moment in history, being a supply camp and stage stop put this little town on the map. Today, one of the fastest growing homeschool magazines is putting the name of Cool, California back on the map once again.
While it's not clear just who coined the phrase, "Find a need and meet it," the Suarez Family from Cool, California, is certainly living it. Combining the old fashioned idea of homeschooling with the high tech global outreach of the Internet, mother of four, Gena Suarez, has embarked upon a new type of twenty-first century cottage industry.
Just over a year ago, Suarez purchased homeschooling supplies through the popular auction site, eBay. When the package arrived, the sender had thrown in a few freebies, as an added "prize". This gave Suarez a great idea to do the same – sell homeschool curricula (and she found an incredible source!), adding "prizes" to the winning bidders' packages. This resulted in an impressive feedback rating of over 1,200 positive comments from her customers, many of them repeat buyers. Soon, in less than five months of starting, Suarez had already attained the eBay community's much-desired Powerseller status, granted to her by the auction company.
From there she progressed to the next logical step – a website, and www.theoldhomeschoolhouse.com was born. After one short year, The Old Schoolhouse for Homeschoolers became one of the more popular stops on the net for homeschooling families. The site receives hits from far-away lands such as Japan, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Spain and South Africa, and in recent days has been getting upwards of over 11,000 to 16,000 + hits per day.
Next came a newsletter – which quickly turned into a full-blown magazine. The periodical is distributed globally to 5,000 – 6,000 recipients including homeschooling families, advertisers, writers, education companies, education supply retail outlets, and other interested individuals. The business mission statement on the magazine cover states: "To honor our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to support and encourage homeschool families around the world, to glorify God as we educate our children, to help parents embrace their God-given responsibility to prepare the next generation to walk with the Lord."
A number of book stores and education supply outlets in the Sacramento area have agreed to place stacks of the magazine in a prime spot where purchasers can easily pick up their copy (Borders in Roseville, A Brighter Child in Citrus Heights, Christian Music Video in Citrus Heights, A+ Report Card in Citrus Heights — and several other locations spanning the country from California to Florida). "This gets the publication to families who are buying," says Suarez. "They're in the store shopping for supplies for their homeschoolers, and our articles, contests and product reviews provide an inside track."
Advertisers clamor to get spots on the site and in the magazine, while various websites clamor to receive the special TOS seal of approval for their front pages, which attests that their websites are "family friendly".
Husband, Paul, an artist in bronze sculpture, is fully supportive of his wife's unique new business. In fact, it was Paul who announced to Gena when they first met that he wanted their children to be homeschooled. To date, the four children, the eldest of whom is eleven, have known only the "dining room table" as their school desks.
Due to time constraints, Suarez recently relinquished the eBay part of the business and is concentrating on creating a quality magazine to link homeschoolers around the globe. The magazine features guest writers who are highly sought after in the homeschool movement, personalities such as Valerie Bendt, Lorraine Curry, Susan Wise Bauer, Jonni McCoy, William J. Bennett (The Moral Compass), an upcoming interview withJohn Taylor Gatto and several others. A guest Devotional Corner writer is featured, each issue, such as Elisabeth Elliot, Kay Marshal Strom, Pam Forster (Doorposts), Joni Erickson Tada, etc.
Regular columnists include President Mike Smith of HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), Author/Speaker Creation Science expert Dennis Petersen, and homeschool mom & author Jenefer Igarashi. Companies/entities who advertise with The Old Schoolhouse include the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), Bob Jones University Press, Math-U-See, Power-Glide Foreign Language, Knowledge University (K12), Cobblestone Publishing, Homeschooling Today Magazine, Our Friends and Families Magazine, as well as countless others.
Meanwhile, the company continues to grow at an unbelievable rate. Since beginning this past April (2001), the website has had well OVER one half million hits! And no one is more surprised by the growth than Suarez. "It just snowballed," she said. "Sometimes I think it's all a dream."