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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bridgeway Academy

This is a review.

We got the chance to try a really neat class via Bridgeway Academy.

Bridgeway Logo photo bridgewayacademylogo_zps8c2d62cc.jpg

A-man attended a life labs class once a week for eight weeks (although the usual length is 9 weeks).  This particular class tied in with the Magic Treehouse book two called The Knight at Dawn and specifically covered the Middle Ages.  He learned all about castles and knights and ladies.  All the stuff that an eight year old boy eats up!  The actual book was discussed much, but was more of a kick off point for discussing the class and the students were asked to read the book at the first class.

This class was in a different format than other on-line classes we have tried.  This was an actual "class".  One teacher, multiple the same time.  We took the class via Jigsaw Meetings.   All we needed was our computer, a webcam and a microphone. 

One thing that impressed me (and scared me a little) up front was that this class had an actual syllabus. Like a real, true, you are in real school now.....syllabus.  For a class designed for 1st through 5th graders. See?  Scary, yet quite impressive.

A-man loved this class.  I could tell from his demeanor around the house on class days that he felt like a pretty cool guy.  And, from the fact that he would brag to anyone who happened to be around that he had "class" at 1:15, so they would need to clear out.

This class ended up happening right in the middle of our move.  So, yes, we did miss some classes.  More than we wanted.  One time we just spaced out and forgot about on our closing day.  The two others were because of our computer/internet issues we had once we moved in.  But, Ms. Thomas, his teacher was super sweet about our missing. 

The great thing for us was that they had videotaped past classes (which didn't always exactly line up with what A-man's class discussed - but were close enough and at least gave us an idea of what he had missed).  So, once we got our computer/internet back, he was able to watch the ones he had missed and get the homework assignments to work on.

A-man really got a lot of out of this class.  Which he should have, because Ms. Thomas really crammed a lot of information in.  She had a lot of pictures, maps, videos, and slides that she used to make her points about different aspects of life in the Middle Ages, from the fighting and wars, to castle life, to what the different classes of people ate.

I don't think A-man thought this next point was as cool as his mom and dad did, but, he was in class with other students from all over the world, literally.  He had classmates from Kansas, Alaska, and even one that lives in Germany. that cool, or what?

So, now, for details on how the class ran.  Each week we got an e-mail "inviting" us to log in to the scheduled class.   Ms. Thomas always had some sort of....I guess I will call it a lecture.... for the students.  But, she sprinkled it with lots of questions. It was very much a class....with give and take from teacher and students.

On our end of Jigsaw Meetings, we were seeing a divided screen with; her face, a screen with her slides or presentation, a screen where the students can answer questions, and a sidebar where they can type live questions during her lecture.  But, what she is seeing is all of her students.  So, she could tell if someone raised their hand and wanted to ask a question. (If my camera hadn't been lost for the last month or so, I would have taken a picture so you could see for yourself!)

Ms. Thomas would call on that student and them give them access to speak to the whole class.  On our end, there is a little onscreen button that you click on to talk.  Sometimes, it was a little hard to hear or understand the other students questions, but, Ms. Thomas always seemed to be able to get the gyst of what they were trying to ask and would go on to explain the answer.  I am not sure if this was a typical class for her, but these students seemed to have a lot of questions (sometimes on topic....sometimes slightly off topic).  She always handled it well and really seemed able to address their questions.  I don't think I ever heard her say, "I don't know" to a question the students asked. 

Also, not sure if this was typical of just this class, but most weeks class went over time because the kids seemed to be getting into it and would ask a bunch of questions at the end.  Ms. Thomas was always patient and never, in my opinion, made anyone feel dumb or that they were slowing down the class by asking questions.

Their final homework assignment is to design a castle.  They can use any medium....Legos, cardboard, Tinker Toys, they can draw or paint I, or even use some sort of computer program.  A-man has worked on many versions of his throughout the class.  I haven't seen what his final project is, so I am curious to see what he turns in.  I suspect it is made with boxes though because we have about 100,000 for him to choose from.

Overall, this class was a big success with us.  A-man learned new stuff, was excited about his classtime, worked hard after class researching and do his homework assignments, and just overall had a fun time learning about knights and castles! 

A-man was a bit fidgety during the classes...I often wondered what Ms. Thomas thought about him shifting and changing the camera angles (he even wore his Captain America costume - complete with mask - to class one day)....but she never said anything.  It did make me wonder if she was looking at a whole screen full of fidgety homeschoolers who aren't used to sitting still for a whole hour.

There are quite a few different Life Labs classes on different subjects and for different age groups available.  Go take a look around and see if any fit a need or hole that you have in your schooling this year. 

If you would like to have your child take this class through Bridgeway Academy, the class will last 9 weeks long and the cost is $145. 

Go and see what the other TOS Reviewers thought of their classes through Bridgeway.  There were classes on Essay writing as well as Marine Biology, in addition to the Magic Treehouse class.