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We have been homeschooling for nearly six years, and all that time we have always "done school" in a real-life community or at home. This semester, for the first time, we have been able to give online learning a try - and my kids loved it! I will share more about the specific classes we used over the next few days, but I want to share here what we have discovered about online learning in general and what to keep in mind when you seek out classes for your kids!
We have been trying three classes this semester. My fifth grade daughter is taking a weekly beginning Latin class from True North Homeschool Academy, as well as participating in their every-other-week Writing Club. My first grade son took part in a four-week Geography Class from Huddleston Academy Live Academics. All three classes were live (in real time, not just a video presentation), and all used Zoom to facilitate the classes, which included anywhere from three to twelve other students.
What we experienced
I was not sure what to expect from a live e-course, as my only experience with online learning has been at the college level when you might listen to a course lecture online and submit assignments via email or a website. What my children experienced was a whole different experience. The way the Zoom platform works, students can see each other and talk with each other during the class, either via their computer microphone or by "chatting" on the keyboard. The instructor can switch between being on camera or sharing the computer screen, such as a presentation slide. The instructor also has the ability to mute students when needed and to allow them to write on the screen when they need to share an answer or participate in some other way, all of which mimics a "real life" classroom in some really neat ways.
What we liked
My children both have thoroughly enjoyed live e-courses. The part they have liked the best is the instant community. Being in a class with peers, even though they have not connected offline with them, has given their school time a different flair from just studying with Mom and each other. They have also enjoyed having academic attention from another adult. I've been delighted to see both of them strive to shine and earn praise from their online teachers, and to hear another adult comment on their strengths and weaknesses.
What we learned
Before this semester, I truly had not thought much about online learning. I taught professionally for many years before staying home with my children, and my husband teaches as well, so I assumed that we could pretty much handle homeschooling on our own. But while I still feel confident in that, I now see some key ways that a live e-course can be particularly helpful.
If the subject is new or foreign to you
I can see this being particularly helpful in foreign languages (though my husband studied Latin, it is new to me) or in subject areas that a parent feels less confident in. At the same time, the e-classes enabled me to learn alongside my child (off-camera, of course, lest she die of embarrassment!) so I could then help her complete her assignments.
If the subject calls for discussion.
It is hard to replicate classroom discussion in a homeschool environment, and there are many subjects where the discussion and wrestling with issues is just as valuable as the information received from the book or the instructor.
If your child craves community.
My kids actually get plenty of interaction - "unsocialized" they are not! At the same time, they love interacting with peers and others, and this allows them to do so in an academic setting with a moderator/teacher who keeps everything on track.
What to watch out for
E-classes did not mean that I was not needed! While my son obviously needed more of my help than my daughter, I quickly realized that checking them in online did not mean I could completely check out. Ways I have been involved with my children's e-classes have varied from being right there with my son to help him follow his teacher's instructions, to being available to my daughter when she did not understand something, to keeping in touch with a teacher about assignments, to making sure I understood enough of Latin, for example, to help my daughter with her homework. E-classes make some things more accessible, but it does not relieve me as a homeschool parent of my ultimate responsibility.
Check back in over the next few days to see how our specific classes worked and what kinds of learners and family situations they would be good for!
Welcome! My name is Kristi. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a writer, a musician... but most of all a child and worshiper of God discovering that even in life's messes, God is still good. Learn more about me and my journey here!
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