About Homeschooling, Distance Learning, Uncategorized

My Ideal Online Student

Our very own Courtney is a teacher over at  Well Trained Mind Academy. I asked her to write up some guidelines for both students and parents who may be considering online classes there or anywhere else. It’s not too early to be thinking about next Fall. –JN

My Ideal Online Student Would:

  1. Read the syllabus. Most teachers put lots of time and effort into their syllabi. I provide a week-by-week breakdown of assignments, allowing students to plan their entire year in advance. Also, since I’ve been doing this for a while, I try to provide an answer in advance to most of the questions I receive in an average school year. This year is 2/3s of the way completed, and I’ve yet to receive an assignment question that isn’t already answered on the syllabus.
  2. Provide me with valid contact information for both themselves and their parent (I teach middle/high school). Online classes mean that most communication takes place by email. I faithfully update the parents of my students on their progress every week, but I inevitably receive emails from blindsided parents who provided no email address, a wrong email address, or never check their email.
  3. Reach out when they have difficulty. I don’t see these students every day to give them side eye when they fail to turn in their daily work. I can’t stop them after class for a quiet chat about paying attention while completing homework. I’m not across from them at the dining room table when they’re frustrated. I want to help–it’s my job to help–but I can’t help unless the student tells me there is a problem.
  4. Create a personal study schedule, and stick to it. Just because the Well-Trained Mind Academy caters to homeschoolers, and these are online courses, doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t take them seriously. Online classes quickly fall prey to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Even my 6th – 9th graders often require parental support in scheduling their study time and class attendance.
  5. Familiarize them with the online user interface. Most online learning systems have a significant learning curve. Blackboard is the most widely used software (over 1/2 of all K-12 students, nationwide), but it’s not necessarily intuitive. I provide an orientation session and work hard to establish a routine at the beginning of the school year so as to minimize confusion, but I inescapably have students who email me 3 weeks into the semester to ask me how to turn in their work.

Last, but not least, I treasure all my students. I attempt to establish a warm, professional relationship with my students and run my classes so that they have clear but reasonable standards and expectations. I deliberately schedule assignments so that students have less opportunity to forget about their classes. I offer daily office hours so that students can have one-to-one assistance. I answer my email after dinner and before breakfast to help my students. Every student matters, and I hope they know it!

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Courtney– Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000 while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncts, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time, she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats

 

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Distance Learning, Education is a Life, MOOCs

Summer Self-Education with Professor Freeman

by Amy Rose

What do you do when your Homeschool Moms’ Online Book Club drags a little during the long, hot summer? Our group decided to stop reading books. Instead, we’ve been listening together online to Professor Joanne Freeman of Yale University as she teaches us (and many others) about the American Revolution. We have a Facebook group in which to chat as we listen, and we are having so much fun with it! Some of us have already taught this subject to our children  and are pleased to find we know the people, places, and events of which Professor Freeman speaks. Others in our group have younger children and are fortifying their knowledge before teaching this era of our nation’s history in their own home schools. Certainly, we are all learning.

This is an excellent foundation for an American History course for your homeschooled teens, or if you are really hardcore you could use it for Family Movie Night for 25 weeks. Or simply enjoy it yourself, to add another layer of depth to your own understanding of the era. Professor Freeman obviously loves her work and speaks very animatedly (and often humorously) about the founding of our country. She brings each hero, villain, and episode to life, while skillfully posing the big questions and providing perceptive and satisfying answers conversationally and memorably.

As Professor Freeman explains in the first lecture, the point of the course is to understand why the Revolutionary War was only part of the revolution. She quotes John Adams who said, “The war was not the revolution. It was on the effect and consequence of the revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people.” We learn more about how the people of the era actually thought through the excellent teaching by Professor Freeman.

What exactly is the course about? From the introduction:

“The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations–converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause–but it was far more complex and enduring than the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, “The Revolution was in the Minds of the people… before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington”–and it continued long past America’s victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants’ shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.”

The home page for the course is here: History 116: The American Revolution

The home page includes links to the syllabus, sessions, and recommended reading. (My friends and I did not purchase the books. You might want them for your students, or you might want to just use the lectures as “gravy” for an American History course that you’ve already chosen.)

And here is the first lecture, “Freeman’s Top Five Tips for Studying the American Revolution.”

amy_roseAmy Rose was a middle child growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest with talented parents who struggled financially. Her future life was easy to imagine until one magical day when she was thirteen, her fairy godmother gave her a box of oil pastels and a vintage textbook titled, “England in Literature.” Suddenly the entire wealth of riches found in the history of the West became to her a Holy Grail.  So she grew up and learned how to classically educate her own children who all turned out to be geniuses or at least mostly teachable.