Monday, October 21, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Bridgeway Academy

While I love the philosophy of homeschooling there are times when I wish Gess had more class experiences.  I have had the opportunity to join a co-op but our schedule really doesn't allow us to commit to three to four hours each and every week, especially since members have to help prepare for those classes too. I just don't have the time.  However, I found a wonderful alternative by using an online classroom through my latest review.  Bridgeway Academy truly does provide homeschooling help by offering an entire homeschool program or for those of us who just want some extra material and class experience they offer learning labs an online homeschool co-op which is what we reviewed.

The Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs offer 9 weeks of in depth learning in various subjects and grade levels that change each semester. Their pricing varies by grade as well.  We chose to review the course Social Studies Through the Magic Tree House – Middle Ages (Elementary). In this course we discovered fascinating information about this time period as we learned about knights, castles, lords, and kings.  We discovered what life was like in the farms, villages and towns.  From the food they ate, to their entertainment, work, plagues and wars we discovered that life was much different then than it is now.

As my readers know, Gess has Down syndrome and teaching her about history is often difficult because she is such a concrete learner.  It's hard to explain how something was in the past without her seeing or experiencing it for herself.  That is one reason I chose to do a social studies class with Bridgeway.  I felt that the interactive classroom learning experience would benefit both her learning and interest in the subject.  That proved to be right. 

Trying to get Gess to read about the middle ages before the class was a challenge, but once class started she really began to get interested.  Starting with the Magic Tree House book was an excellent idea.  The book was a fun way to jump back in time.  From there we remained back in the past and began learning.

As with any class the kids need to learn the rules first but in this class they also need to learn how it works.  To help with that we had an open house before class began to help teach the students how to use the various tools in the classroom and test their microphone and sound systems.  However, we had a pretty young set of students so the first few classes did move somewhat slowly as we continued to learn how to navigate all the aspects of the classroom.

The classroom was really neat.  It had maps that showed you where each class member lived and a video screen where you saw and heard the teacher live.  The entire thing was interactive.  You could all write on the white board, note board and chat with a microphone, web cam or chat box. You could take a survey, visit a website outside of the classroom, engage other applications and of course the teacher could show a presentation.  There were also cute icons where you could send feedback using happy faces, sad faces and even one to raise your hand.  Here is one of the maps they used in class.  In the first one you can see the red dot where the teacher was pointing to places on the map.

Here is the map as some of the children were getting to mark certain places on the map as the teacher asked them to.  It was really neat to be able to "write on the board" just like you would in class!

Gess loved talking in class and raised her hand all the time.  I had to constantly remind her she was only supposed to raise her hand when she could answer the question!  The teacher was great though and always appreciated and recognized the children's comments and questions.  Here is Gess giving an answer in the microphone.   You can see the classroom in the background.  I was really impressed with the entire layout.

While part of the learning was sitting listening to the lecture, it was interactive enough to make it fun.  The teacher also had some really fun assignments.  In one assignment Gess had to identify what kind of food the villeins would most often eat.  To do that we decided to get a bit more hands on so one day for a snack Gess had the usual medieval meal of blackbread, cheese and ale which in her case was Ginger Ale.

Of course the most fun was making our castle.  Gess made hers using Minecraft!  Here are a couple of screenshots of it.  She will be making a movie of it for her final class next Monday.

The instructor was definitely well versed in the subject and great with the kids.  It takes a lot of patience to instruct the class and teach them how to use the interactive classroom.  We really enjoyed Mrs. Thomas and thank her for all of her hard work.  It was so nice to have one class that I didn't have to prepare for or teach myself this semester. I just got to sit back and watch and if Gess didn't have special needs I wouldn't have even needed to do that!  All the work was done for me and I really appreciated that.

The Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs elementary classes are 1 hour in length each week for a total of 9 weeks. The cost is $145 per course.  There is no credit offered for the course and no final grade.  I liked that part as I wanted Gess to focus on learning as much as she could rather than focusing on memorizing certain aspects for a test.  I think she learned quite a bit and now has a new interest in learning more. 

Bridgeway Academy Learning Labs also offers classes for middle school and high school and some do come with credits.  To learn more about these and other Bridgeway Academy classes visit their website or see what other members of the School Review Crew thought about them by clicking on the banner below.


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