Save this spring on Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs with the coupon code at the end of this post!
Have you considered signing your homeschooler up for an online class or two? In the last couple years, my family has leaned heavily on online courses to support our homeschooling as I have balanced traditional employment with teaching the kids at home. Working while homeschooling really isn’t for the faint of heart, and I am lucky to be working from home 100% of the time, and have the support of my family, as well as a network of online teachers, babysitters and friends. One of the challenges I have faced is finding classes that are an appropriate fit for Doodle, my 8 year old, who also happens to have some special learning needs.
I was thrilled to have had a chance to review Bridgeway Learning Academy a couple years ago with Bug, and was excited to enroll Doodle in one of their Learning Labs courses. This fall, he took Magic Tree House: Ice Age with a live teacher through their Moodle Platform. Before the class started, his teacher called to speak with me on the phone and to make sure we were all set for class. I was able to explain to her that I was a bit nervous for Doodle to start his class, because it was his first ever online course, and that he is autistic and sometimes struggles with assignments and classroom behavior. She was able to reassure me that we would be able to adapt the homework as much as we needed and that she was experienced working with special needs kids in the online classroom setting.
Our experience absolutely lived up to my expectations. Each week, Doodle logged into the classroom and was able to participate live with his instructor and his classmates. He was able to have his webcam on, and could see his classmates. Everyone was able to use the microphone to speak and answer questions in class. I had been worried about Doodle being able to participate well in class, due to him, well, just being Doodle. He can be distractible, sometimes overly excited, sometimes cranky. In class, he was called on regularly, and his instructor was patient with him despite whatever mood he may have been in that day. She also was sure to engage him even on days when he wasn’t really excited to be doing school work, and didn’t allow him to just skate by without interacting.
The classroom is set up so he would have the webcam on during class, which I thought was super helpful with a class with so many young students. I was sure to stay close by for most of the class period (unless I had a call for work or something at the same time) and was accessible to him when he needed me. It was reassuring to me that the teacher could also see him as well, so she was able to have an extra layer of attention from him. He knew she was watching, so he tried to sit up straight and pay attention during the class meetings, just like he would have if he was in a traditional classroom.
Between class meetings, Doodle did have a small amount of homework to complete. The Moodle platform included videos, cool links to check out, worksheets and other activities to do. For the early elementary level course, he wasn’t required to participate in a discussion board or anything along those lines- everything listed for him to do was age-appropriate and not terribly overwhelming for me as a parent.
For the Online Learning Lab Doodle was in, he read the Magic Treehouse Sunset of the Sabertooth book, and then learned more of the science and history in the book during the lectures and with the supplemental materials. He did weekly summaries of his reading, watched videos, had discussions, and did projects outside of class, like painting a cave picture and researching an ice age animal.
If you haven’t done online courses with your child before, especially a younger elementary student, there are some things you should remember. You’ll need to commit to being at home, in front of the computer, each week at the same time. This is always a bit of a blessing and a curse for our family- I work from home, so being home isn’t typically a problem, but we did miss one class meeting because I needed to run a family member to the airport. Online classes aren’t as flexible as traditional homeschooling- and it isn’t really fair to the teacher for your child to miss out on class. You will need to also be available to help your child, to remind them to do their homework, and make sure they are prepared for each class session. This probably sounds like common sense to most of you, but I wanted to mention it anyways because it’s something that I do struggle with being the loosey goosey independent wild-child I am.
Doodle wanted to be sure I included this picture so you could see his final project- on the back he has a list of the coolest things he learned about the ice age.
Overall, I am very pleased with our experience at Bridgeway Academy in their Learning Labs classes. I love that the classes are long enough to dig deeply into the topic, but not so long that the kids get bored. I also love that Doodle has a new fascination with the ice age, and is now full of fun facts about mammoths and Cro-Magnons and glaciers.
If you’d like to give Bridgeway Academy’s Learning Labs a try, you can use the coupon code: OPCDEC to save 15% on your registration and supply kits (where a kit is required).