Have you heard of Athena’s Advanced Academy? If you have a precocious child, or one you would classify as gifted, you really need to check them out.
I came across Athena’s on the Well Trained Mind forum’s accelerated learners board. Bug, my oldest, is a somewhat curious child. I’ve told you before that he is asynchronous, meaning he is very advanced in some things but struggles with other things. For example, he’s 9 and is going into pre-algebra, and he reads extremely well, but he struggles with spelling and sentence construction. He can work with exponents, but his handwriting is terrible. He’s very creative, but he struggles with self-discipline.
Athena’s Advanced Academy has been magical for him. I was nervous at first to send him to an online class, especially because it started very soon after I had Peanut, and I knew this winter/spring was going to be a bit of a doozy for our family. He was going to need to learn how to manage his time, and quickly. I was also nervous that my idea of “gifted” wouldn’t mesh with the other “gifted” kids in class, and that the challenge level would be too high.
The challenge level has been just right. Bug is pushed on a weekly basis with this class. His workload is formidable (he could never get it done in one day, it requires daily work on his part to complete the week’s assignments). He’s a young guy with big thoughts, and he has fit right in at Athena’s. He’s learning so much, and I am thrilled to have found this online option for him.
The class I selected for Bug is “Intermediate Literature.” This semester-long class covered a volume of the Junior Great Books, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Phantom Tollbooth.
Each week, he has a reading assignment. Instead of just being told to read, he’s instructed to ask questions, make notes, look for things in the text (for example, the characters feelings, or motivations, or whatever element of literature they are discussing in class). Each reading is done twice, with different focuses each time, and then, your child is supposed to come discuss what they read with you.
Parent participation is required in this way throughout the entire class. The kids do meet with their teacher once a week for a webinar, at which time the teacher can answer questions, give her lesson, and encourage the kids to discuss what they have read. In addition to the Webinar, there is a whole list of assignments for the kids to complete each week, including everything from background reading, videos, vocabulary practice, journal entires, and games.
Discussions also occur during the week on message boards. I think this is the one place where Bug struggled the most and is probably one of the elements that taught him the most. Each week there are multiple discussions the kids are supposed to add their thoughts too, and like I said, writing is not one of Bug’s current strong suits. He often completes this part of the lesson while I am at work, so my email dings, and I can read his posts that he has written. Oftentimes, there are spelling, grammar, and structural errors, but he is participating, and he’s excited to get to post on the board.
The other children in the class (it’s a very small one, I think there are only 2-3 beyond Bug) sometimes challenge him as well. There is one sweet boy who tends to point out Bug’s mistakes on the discussion board. Bug is always nervous to open responses from him, but he’s learning how to deal with other people and their opinions. The last post he wrote was in short, fractured sentences, and his buddy immediately asked him if he could do it again with longer sentences. At the start of the semester, this would have made Bug cry, but now that the end of class is close, he maturely mentioned to me that he did write short sentences and sat down to post again.
It’s little things like that that I am most excited that he is learning, how to communicate well with the other kids, how to participate in a class discussion, how to defend his opinions, how to gracefully take criticism… and all of that is in addition to what his literature class has taught him!
He’s become a stronger reader. He’s learned to read actively, and ask questions along the way. He’s thinking more about the characters and why they are doing the things they are doing. He’s become more deeply involved with the stories, instead of just rushing through them.
Registration for fall classes opens tomorrow, and I am going to be first in line to sign Bug up for more with Athena’s Advanced Academy… if I can choose which classes I want him to take. There are a bunch of options including history, science, Spanish, math and language arts classes. Classes are competitively priced, and you really can’t go wrong!