As a homeschool mom, I’m constantly looking for resources for my daughters. As they’ve moved into higher grades, I’ve considered how they best learn, what resources are available to them, and what they need to prepare for life after elementary school. Recently we had the chance to check out Big River Academy, which offers live online classes for homeschool students.
Big River Academy has a variety of courses available for junior and senior high students. These classes are offered live each semester, with a real teacher and fellow students. I love the possibilities this offers to homeschool students for support, friendship, academics, and more.
Read on to find out more about my experience with a Big River Academy English class and ways I’d use these online courses with my daughters.
I was able to preview a Big River Academy class for free and received compensation for writing this post; all opinions expressed are my own.
What is Big River Academy?
Big River Academy offers over 50 live online classes on English, Math, Science, Foreign Languages, and History. Students meet once a week for a 90-minute class in a friendly, Christian environment. Courses are either one semester ($200) or full-year ($400). Students receive the support of a real live teacher, can interact with other homeschool kids, and learn how to show up on time for a class!
The Live Online English I Class
I had the chance to sit in on an English I class with Big River Academy. As a university English major, I was curious to see what a high school English class would look like. This live online class was also one of the few middle school courses offered at Big River Academy, targeted at Grade 5, so it’s a course Sunshine or Lily could do this year or next.
Logging into Big River Academy, I found it easy to navigate the “classroom” page. Everything I needed to know was right there—calendar, instructor bio, reading list, extra credit assignments, etc. I really liked how welcoming and well-organized this area was. For students in more than one course, there was a button at the top to easily switch between “home rooms.”
On Monday morning at 8 am, I clicked on the link to join the live online class. Other students were also popping into the class. It was clear that even though they met only online once a week, this class had established some camaraderie and knew each other.
Instructor Jana Bontrager greeted each student by name as they joined. There was some chitchat (as in any classroom!) and then class got down to business. Jana went over lessons on grammar, metaphors and analogies before jumping into a discussion about the class’s current novel, A Wrinkle In Time.
One thing that really impressed me was how much the class could do online. This wasn’t just a video lecture with Jana talking at her students. It was fully interactive! Students were able to comment in the chat bar during the video, responding to Jana as she taught. Jana kept an eye on the chat bar and responded to comments as naturally as if a student had raised a hand in a classroom.
For various activities, Jana created an online “whiteboard” where students could write their responses on the screen for group discussion. The students were also excited to go into “break out rooms,” where they were able to discuss a brief assignment in groups of twos and threes.
When I started the live online class, my kids were all still in bed (homeschool life!). As the class continued, they slowly wandered out. By the end of class, I could barely see the screen myself over their heads. They were just as engaged in the discussion and ideas as the students online who’d been doing this all year. Lily has read the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time, so she wanted to respond to a few of Mrs. Bontrager’s questions.
Advantages of Live Online Classes
The upper grades of homeschool (junior high and high school) often cause homeschool parents doubts or worries. Moms may worry about teaching subjects they have no experience with, or face questions from friends or family members about that.
Having another teacher facilitate or lead the classes, with Mom offering support to the students, can help answer those doubts. For example, chemistry was not my strongest subject in high school, so I like the idea of enrolling the girls into the live online classes with Big River Academy, where they’d have another teacher to ask questions when I can’t help them.
Big River Academy seems like a great halfway point between public school and homeschooling. It allows students to participate in a positive classroom environment. For classes such as English, where students can benefit from the ideas and questions of other students, this is a great way to experience that discussion.
This year, I’ve found myself dealing with some “attitude” from my oldest two. As a homeschool mom, I tell them to do a lot of things—start your schoolwork, brush your hair, clean up your room, don’t annoy your sister, etc.
I’m finding it helpful for them to have someone else to be accountable for a few things, so I’m not the only one harassing them and trying to help them learn to be self-motivated and disciplined. With Big River Academy, moms can still be involved (many students in English I commented that their moms had helped them figure out their homework) but don’t have to be the “bad guy” handing out marks or nagging students to get assignments done.
I also thought that the once-a-week live online classes, with assignments for students to complete during the week, were structured like university courses. I’ve often been asked about my own transition from homeschool student to university student. I actually feel I was better prepared than many of my friends to enter university. Classes such as those offered by Big River Academy can give students a taste of what university is like.
More about Big River Academy
If you think your student would be interested in taking live online classes from Big River Academy, check out their website. You can also find Big River Academy on Facebook and Instagram. To view a sample online class, check out Jana Bontrager’s YouTube channel.
Ready to sign your child up for a class? Use code BLOG100 to receive 10% off your entire purchase.
You can also enter to win a one-semester course valued at $200. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below:
Giveaway open worldwide except where prohibited by law. Value can also be applied to a full year class if the winner desires. The Koala Mom is not responsible for the giveaway or prize.
Has your child done live online classes? Do you think this would add to your homeschool?