As Homeschoolers, I am always looking for ways for Bug to interact with other students, without having to give up the freedom that Homeschooling provides. Outside classes are especially valuable, but in our area, pickings are slim. I am SO excited to share with you a company I just discovered thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Bridgeway Academy offers Homeschool Co-Op style Learning Labs, where your child can take a class with other students “face to face” from the comfort of your home.
The class Bug signed up for was Social Studies through the Magic Tree House: Middle Ages. He LOVES the Magic Tree House books, and considering we live in Germany, the subject matter was a perfect fit. We had been working on a year long unit study of the Middle Ages, but I really loved the idea of having an outside class to reenforce the things I was teaching at home. In this class, our teacher, Kathy Thomas covered a lot of ground.
- Overview of the Middle Ages
- Life on a Medieval Manor
- Lifestyle of the Wealthy and Nobility
- Life in a Medieval City
- Knights and the Crusades
- The End of the Middle Ages
- Art and Music
The information was very well rounded. For an 8 week class, we covered a lot of ground, everything from the social structure, to peasant life, law and order, the black death, and so much more! Every week homework was assigned (about an hour of work each week) and there was one large project to complete.
Class Presentation with Jigsaw Classroom
The class is presented “face to face” meaning the kids see the instructor via webcam, and participate with microphones and video. The classroom is really interesting and well set up. The screen is divided into fourths, and each segment has it’s own purpose. In the classroom, you can see the teacher on webcam, the power point presentation, links to assignments and videos, and more. There are icons to click to give feedback, places to type information to the teacher, and more.
We had a wonderful experience with this software. The first half of the first couple classes was spent learning how to use the classroom and making sure everyone was on the same page. When class was in full swing, it operated beautifully. Basically, the teacher would tell Bug exactly what to do and when. So, he would click to see the PowerPoint, and click the link to watch the video, and click to talk. For the first couple classes, I sat by him to make sure he was behaving properly (not clicking the “raised hand” icon every time he wanted to tell the class about his dinner) and to make sure he could physically manage the requirements. Sometimes, the teacher asked the kids to type a response, which he struggled with, but it was rarely requested. After the first couple classes, Bug had the classroom down to a science so I was able to leave him to do the class while I worked on other things!
What If I Miss a Class?
In a perfect world, the Jigsaw technology would allow the teacher to record the class session so you could watch it later. For the most part, this worked for our class. Sometimes, there was a glitch and things didn’t record perfectly. If you sign up for this class, ideally, you would attend when the class is offered. I found our teacher to communicate about class topics and expectations well- so each week we had an email about the assigned homework and recorded lesson so we could catch up. (We did not miss any lessons, but I did attend many of the classes after Bug did in the recorded classroom so I could make sure I knew what he had been learning).
Have I said yet this year that “this is my favorite review of the year”? Because this is my favorite review of the year. I can’t believe how much Bug loved it and learned from his teacher. I had been unsure that Bug was ready for distance learning, but Bridgeway Academy really covered all their bases with the Learning Labs with the Jigsaw classroom.
I felt like Kathy Thomas was a pro at adapting to the many ages of students in her classroom. Bug was one of many 7 year old students, and there were children as young as 5 and as old as 10 in his group. All were encouraged to participate in the class. She moved slowly enough to help them all stay focused, but also spread out the interaction so everyone stayed involved.
The homework was also appropriate for the wide range of ages. Many assignments had more than one option, and I was able to help Bug get the work done. He was never put on the spot about his assignments (even the one week we forgot to get it done) and the attitude in the class was always positive.
Each week, Bug reminded me of when he had class, and made sure that he was there. It’s been the highlight of his week and I can’t wait to participate in more Bridgeway Learning Lab classes. The only thing holding me back from signing him up for more now is that they are all scheduled for the afternoon in the eastern time zone, which means we would have to take them at night. (This class was from 1-2 pm EST, which is 7-8 pm here in Germany). I would love to see them schedule more classes at different times so we could participate!
In a Nutshell
Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs are 9 week Homeschool Co-Op courses. They are held using Jigsaw classroom software which allows children to participate in “face to face” classes from their computers. You need headphones, a microphone, and a webcam to participate. The class we took was creative, adaptable to many ages and ability levels, and so much fun. I would recommend these classes to ANYONE! Social Science through the Magic Tree House Middle Ages is appropriate for kids in the 1st-8th grade.
This class is typically 9 weeks (our session was a special set up for the Review Crew and lasted 8 weeks) and costs $145.