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Monday, October 20, 2014

Standard Deviants - Review

Wow....was this a fantastic program to review!  It is called Standard Deviants Accelerate.

We got to try out an annual subscription to  Standard Deviants Accelerate homeschool courses.

Here is the simple list of the courses that they have available:

Arithmetic - Grades 3+
Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
Earth Science - Grades 6+
Nutrition - Grades 6+
Algebra - Grades 7+
Biology - Grades 7+
Chemistry - Grades 9+
English Comp. - Grades 9+
U.S. History - Grades 9+
AP Biology - Grades 11+
AP Chemistry - Grades 11+
AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+
AP U.S. History - Grades 11+
AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+

But, the simpleness is deceiving.  Did you notice that they have coursework for grades 3 through 12?  And, really, a grown up could use these courses too.

This is a totally on-line course.  Yes, I will usually say I am not totally in love with my kids doing too much of their school while staring at a screen.  But, I have to say, this one felt different.  It didn't bother me that it was video based. 

The actual teaching "style" is also quirky and different.  They joke around.  They use more than one "teacher".  They use visual aids/graphics.  Take a look at this short clip to get an idea for the "quirky" style that I sort of love......

One slightly different aspect to this video aspect is that next to the video clip is the total transcript of the script of what they are saying in the video.  So, if you child learns better by reading, or any combination of listening, seeing, and hearing, Standard  Deviants Accelerate has got your back. The information is in digestible chunks that won't overwhelm you.

Primarily, L-girl was my guinea pig for this one.  She started out with the Algebra course....which in our homeschool, she hasn't quite officially started yet.  Quite honestly, Rainman and I had a disagreement about whether we felt she was ready to dip her toes into upper level (hard) math.  Rainman didn't want to push her and scare her off, or give her the idea that she wasn't smart enough.  I, on the other hand, thought she would enjoy the challenge and the ego boost she would get by doing hard math a little bit earlier than D-man and A-girl did.

We were both a little bit right on this one.  When she first started out, it was a little rough.  She just kind of shrugged when I asked her about the lessons and mumbled something  like, "Yeah, I sort of get it."  She was scoring in the low 70s on her quizzes....which, for her, is very low.

But, I asked her to commit to sticking with Standard Deviants Accelerate, at least for the review period.....and to not worry about it....this was just an experiment. 

She ended up doing a lesson everyday, rather than just the suggested 3 days a week. (that was the part I was right - she was challenged and didn't want to admit defeat!)  I saw a big difference by the time she was done.  I sat through a lesson or two to really watch and see what they were like and how she responded.

I saw her wheels turning, connections being made and just generally getting a better handle on how Algebra works.

The times I sat by her side and listened to a lesson too, I felt my own brain grinding back to life.  After a lesson on x,y intercepts and slope value, I turned to L-girl and said, "You know what?  I understood that!  There were lots of steps to figure it out, but.....I got it!"

(In the bottom right graphic, it shows the progress report that I can see on all my students to see how they are doing.  The example is more for a normal school setting, but what I see is similar....just a lot less kids!)

Each lesson has 5 components:

Video clip (these last 5-10 minutes, have the scrolling script alongside the video, you can pause and play whenever you want, and take notes to save in your "locker".....actually, you can just copy and paste right from the transcript too, if you are feeling a little lazy)

Vocab - just what is says covers the vocabulary used in the lesson

Diagram - which is an activity section tied in with the lesson

Quiz - which is graded in real time

Written answer - This is the only part of this that I have to grade the work myself.  They do help out by giving me a rubric to follow, so I am not just flying blind.

Before we started, I attended an on-line Webinar that explained how to set up classes for one or more of my kids, how the student would access stuff, how they took notes and saved them in their locker, and just in general how their whole program works.    I liked it because even though I had already clicked around on their website, I still wasn't quite sure how everything worked.  They explained things really clearly and I was able to ask specific questions related to K-girl and get answers.

The webinar I attended was for a group of us moms/teacher.  But, here is a tutorial for how their student accounts work.  They explained things so well to me, that I was able to turn around and explain it to L-girl, but this would have come in handy if I hadn't had time for the webinar.

Standard Deviants really had super customer support.  They were open to questions during the webinar, we were encouraged to contact them if we had any issues or questions.  It seemed genuine too.  They seemed legitimately excited that we were going to try out Standard Deviants Accelerate with our kids.  Like, they were excited and knew that we were going to love it.  That kind of excited.

They were right.  We did love it.  It was a really nice addition to our normal math.  But, we could have just used it as our actual curriculum.

In addition to L-girl working through Standard Deviants Algebra for 7th grade, I also had D-man take a look at their AP US History course.  He is taking that at his school this year and a friend of his who had graduated a few years ago, recommended that he supplement the course a bit to make sure he did great when he took the AP exam at the end of the year.  I have an AP US History book that he could have used too, but he opted to try out the Standard Deviants Accelerate video course.

He has only just taken a quick look at a few lessons, but liked them.  He thought they were funny and said that they covered slightly  different things than his textbook at school was covering, and went into more detail in others.  So, he is going to keep checking in on this course through the year and I suspect do a bit of cramming when the end of the year AP exam comes around.  (Can't really blame him...I did a bit of cramming in my day too....but my only option back then was textbooks.)

Overall, this is a really awesome course.

L-girl will continue with her Algebra.  D-man will brush up on his AP US History.  The other possible combinations of kids and courses are almost infinite

Not sure if this is something that will work at your house?  You can sign up for a free 6 month trial before you make up your mind.

When you are ready to give Standard Deviants Accelerate in all their quirky goodness a try, the classes are each $99 for the year or $24.95 per month for each student. The AP classes are $14.95 per month per student.

All the TOS reviewers got to choose whatever class/classes they wanted to, so take a look and see what they tried, and what they thought about Standard Deviants Accelerate.