Like several other products that we’ve reviewed for the Schoolhouse Crew, Bridgeway Academy was a company I hadn’t yet heard of and obviously not used before. Bridgeway Academy offers a variety of online classes (both core and elective subjects) for homeschooling families in grades Pre-K through 12th grade, and gives students the opportunity to interact with other students around the globe. If you think about it, it’s a bit like a homeschool co-op group, but you don’t have to leave your house to participate! With 4 kids, you kind of go back and forth between wanting to get out of the house, or just wanting to stay home. The kids haven’t wanted to participate in our local co-op for a couple of years, so I saw Bridgeway Academy as a way of getting a little extra learning in without my having to teach or leave the house. The classes are taught on an online meeting site utilizing the webcam and microphone, a whiteboard, Power Point lessons, and there is even a chat box for students to interact with the teacher and the other students in the class (this is a bit limited as kids can be quite chatty). For this review, we received a spot in Fun with Science: Marine Biology. Normally this is a 9 week course and costs $145.
Our Marine Biology class is considered a Learning Lab, which is more of an elective or enrichment course instead of a core subject. The class was taught live by Mrs. Carla Berg, who is a trained science teacher and marine biologist with 11 years of teaching experience; 3 years of traditional classroom teaching, and 8 years of online teaching. I’d say she’s the perfect person to teach Marine Biology. Carla even called me before the course started to touch base with us and go over a few class-related details! It’s obvious to me that she knows her stuff and enjoys sharing her knowledge with children. So far in our class we have learned about:
- What Marine Biology is and Ocean Zones
- Osteichthyes (or bony fish)
- Chondrichthyes (or sharks)
- Marine Mammals
- Sea Turtles
- Coral Reefs and the Arctic
The classes last for about an hour once a week on Mondays. While Mrs. Berg is teaching, she utilizes the white board and Power Point slides during class, so students can hear her teaching and see pictures of that week’s topic, or even interact together with the white board, such as filling in blanks for diagrams. Obviously, if you’re using a desktop, you’ll need to invest in at least a headset to be able to communicate to the teacher and class. We usually used a desktop so everything was built in, which was nice. There is a feature on the classroom meeting site where if you have a question for the teacher, or she asks a question, you can “raise your hand” to be called on. It’s really cool to be able to speak with the other students in class and to hear them also. It was a little tricky at first using that feature, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fun. It makes it feel a bit like a regular classroom setting (but again, without having to leave the house. WIN!).
In addition to the online classroom setting, students are also given homework assignments to complete. They are supposed to take about 45 minutes to an hour a week to complete. Some assignments so far have been:
- creating your very own organism that would be able to survive in the deepest ocean zone
- writing a newspaper article about an endangered mammal
- using a taxonomic key to determine marine invertebrate phyla
- making a pamphlet on a bony fish
- creating a marine food web
I chose Issac for this class because he is in the recommended grade group (grades 5-8), and I knew he’d enjoy it more than Rachelle would. He has a really big interest in animals and Science in general, and can spout off what he’s learned about them pretty well most of the time. He really enjoyed the setting most of the time; the biggest issue was having a “quiet space” to be able to listen. With 3 other kids in the house, there’s really no such thing as quiet, and even with a headset it can be difficult to hear. There were a few classes that I sat in with him on, and they were very fun, engaging, and informative. Carla is not a boring teacher at all, and I’d be able to sit in on her classes without getting sleepy (for me, that says a LOT).
My only real complaint about the class is the homework assignments. Since we are a homeschooling family, we do not do separate homework, because everything is “homework.” Anything we need to do, we do together. I will admit (embarrassingly) that a lot of the homework assignments were over my head, and I’m in my 30s. A lot of the work was things that I had never done before, and I wasn’t really sure how to help Issac with them, because he had never done the work, either. However, the classes are recorded and saved online so that you can go back and view them again later, and that did help with the homework somewhat.
Earlier I said that the Learning Labs are normally 9 weeks and cost $145, however for this review we received 8 weeks of instruction. Issac very much enjoyed the class time, but based on the length of instruction weeks and the cost, this would be something of a treat for our family, since we have 4 children. It’s not something we’d be able to swing for all 4 children at one time. Also note that you need high-speed internet for the classes. We have DSL because we are in the boonies and cannot get cable here. For basic usage our internet does okay, but sometimes during the class the connection would be a little glitchy sometimes, even with no one else using the internet at home. That’s a complaint with my internet company, though.
We really enjoyed learning about Marine Biology with Mrs. Carla, and I recommend you check out Bridgeway Academy if you’re looking to integrate live online classes into your homeschool, either for core learning or just enrichment. I really like that the class is once a week, so it’s easy to work around. Other Crew members reviewed classes from Bridgeway Academy as well, so be sure to click below to read about their experiences!