Monday, October 28, 2013

Bridgeway Academy - Magic Treehouse - The Middle Ages (Review)

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Bridgeway Academy affords homeschooling families the opportunity to interact with a certified instructor and classmates from around the world in a virtual classroom setting.  One way this is accomplished is through Learning Labs - Online Homeschool Co-ops.  The learning labs are conducted in a 9-week term and retail for $145.  The class offerings are cross-curricular and include a number of elective choices for elementary through high school students. 

We were able to review an elementary learning lab designed for students in grades 1-5.  Our selection was Magic Tree House Social Studies - The Middle Ages.  The second book from the popular Magic Tree House series, Knight at Dawn was the catalyst and foundation for the more in depth study of this time period.  Already a fan of Jack and Annie's adventures, re-reading this title was an easy sell to Caleb.  He gladly completed that homework assignment!

The syllabus for the course covered the following topics:
  • Overview of the Middle Ages
  • Life on a Medieval Manor
  • Lifestyle of the Wealthy and Nobility
  • Life in a Medieval City
  • Religion's Impact in Medieval Europe
  • Knights and the Crusades
  • Castles
  • The End of the Middle Ages
  • Art and Music
During the weekly 45 minute to an hour class sessions, kings, queens, knights, squires, and townspeople came alive!  Caleb learned about the entire social system and life during the Middle Ages in Medieval Europe.  He learned the geography and lay of the land - be it farms or village fair.  Also, discussed was the local cuisine, important music, art, and literature contributions, the climate surrounding war, and the structure of castles.  All of the information presented was age appropriate and tailored to the make-up and abilities of the student body.  Caleb was both informed and entertained. 

The classes were presented through the Jigsaw Meeting platform.  An open house was held prior to the beginning of the term to allow parents and students to familiarize themselves with the format.  Likewise, an invitation for each class session comes via email.  Again, you are able to test your computer prior to the lesson.  High speed Internet, a webcam, and microphone are used.  Updated Java and Flash are needed as well. 

Once in Jigsaw, the screen is divided into quadrants.  One area is the teacher via webcam, there is a space for presentations, another serves as a whiteboard for notes, and there are links to videos, PowerPoints, and assignments.  Icons are available for the students to raise their hands, communicate with others, and provide feedback to the teacher. 
The course's certified instructor was Kathi Thomas.  Honestly, I know I have been neglectful in sharing with Ms. Thomas just how appreciative I am of her preparedness, efforts, and attention to detail.  Her weekly email including a recap of what was covered in class and a preview of what would take place in upcoming classes, homework PDFs, powerpoint presentations, and videos links were key to Caleb having a pleasant experience.

Due to life circumstances (an out of state move and unforeseen computer issues), Caleb was unable to participate as fully as I would have liked.  I hate that he missed out on interaction between students and with his instructor.  However, because of the class recordings and resources made available, he doesn't really feel cheated at all.  He has learned so very much about the Middle Ages, knights, and castles.  (You can always tell when he's excited by new information for it is reflected in his play.  Yes, I heard he and Jeremiah playing as Medieval knights on several occasions :-)  Yay!)

Since we are a bit behind, he has yet to complete his culminating activity - a castle project.  However, with all the moving boxes in our garage, he has a lot of materials to work with.  He's even willingly unpacking more boxes, so he can add ones of certain shapes/sizes to his castle creation.  I can't wait to see the finished project!!!

I recommend you click below to read other's experiences with Bridgeway Academy.  Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviewed several learning labs/classes.  Some had the opportunity to use physical products as well. 


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