Finding joy in boredom is a thing of the past with our family. Why be bored when you can learn? When I picture learning, I don’t see it as a factory model of education that limits my children’s potential. Their interests are vast, as their possible future dreams and goals involve music, singing, coding, math, caring for nature, ventriloquism, pet training, and more. Since many of their interests fall outside of my area of expertise, the enriching experiences they have with their Outschool classes helps them revel in the joy in learning.
What is Outschool?
Outschool is a website that provides teachers with a marketplace to create original classes. Student interest in topics is highly considered when creating classes. You can submit class requests for any topic imaginable. If there is a teacher knowledgeable about that topic, they can create a class on it.
If your child has ever been interested in trying out a stock market investing simulation, designing a video game, cake decorating with buttercream, drawing architecture, Descendants-themed dance, or testing rocks and minerals, those are some of the most popular classes along with my own American Girl Writing & Acting Summer Camp that I have been gracious to have featured in the Popular Classes section during summer camp season for the past year.
Classes take place virtually on a secure Zoom call. After signing up for a class, you receive access to the Outschool classroom where you find a link to join. This is also where students of a similar age range can share about themselves and post assignments. Teachers can use the classroom to share reminders and additional resources for learning about the subject.
As a mother who dedicated myself to my children’s education from home this year, I relied on Outschool as a much-needed break for myself from time-to-time. With daughters who love to chat and stay busy doing things, it can be difficult to provide all of that attention myself.
Signing up for classes fills my children’s schedule and helps them feel more confident in their academic subjects in school, but it’s more than just that. Outschool helps them discover how fascinating the pursuit of knowledge is for its own sake. Interesting classes that often have an interactive element are held at any time of day. Joining a class means becoming part of a community who shares a passion for that topic.
Selecting classes based on interest and motivation empowers students to take pride in their learning. They can advance their knowledge in niche subjects and choose teaching methods that work best with their learning style. Through the Learner account, students can browse teacher-made videos created just for them about the classes. When students click the heart-shaped button on a class that interests them, the favorited classes are then emailed to parents, who can decide if they want to sign up or not.
If you need assistance with scheduling your child’s summer, another new feature is the Planning and Scheduling services. With this service, you can have a custom schedule created for your child that you can then discuss to determine whether it is a good fit before signing up for the classes.
Cost of the Classes
Teachers set their own prices, and the cost of each class varies. Since it’s a marketplace, they pay attention to supply and demand, and they factor in the time spent preparing outside of class. Some classes are only $10 for an hour, but the price goes up from there.
Outschool aims to be accessible for all families. If you know you can’t pay for classes as well as your own bills, sign up for Outschool’s financial aid. They provide $300 in credits families for experiencing financial hardship.
You can also use a referral link when you share classes with friends to earn credits towards your own classes. I’m going to share some of my own referral links for classes later in this article. This means that if you sign up and you’re new to Outschool, I would get a $20 credit towards a class. It’s a convenient and easy way to earn free classes, while also sharing an enthusiasm for learning with others.
Classes are small. They can be anywhere between 1 to 18. Many fall somewhere in between.
This has been a major advantage for my children. Having smaller classes provides more individual attention. This allows students to receive more feedback so they can better understand the material.
Since the teachers focus on teaching their own set of classes repeatedly, this specialization helps create an incredible experience for the learners. Some use special props and wear costumes, and some bring live creatures. Engaging students with technology is always at the forefront of planning as the teachers develop interactive methods to present the material.
Teachers go through a background check during their application process. They do not have to be certified, but many are.
Our Favorite Outschool Classes
As a homeschooling parent this year, I was happy to pass my review through the county using the transcript of classes to fill gaps in subjects I wasn’t as comfortable teaching myself. Check out some of our favorite classes!
Virtual Writing Classes
Staying up-to-date with writing skills matters. Over the summer, writing can be fun with a poetry class like Short (but Sweet) Creative Writing Poetry Camp. My daughter signed into this class from our car, but even then, there was plenty of inspiration around to give her ideas for poetic writing.
Students can get specific feedback on longer writing pieces in Creative Writing: Workshop Your Writing (Short Stories, Novellas, and Novels). Send your writing to the teacher and to the other students to receive detailed feedback. This teacher thoroughly showed the specific format that writing should have. My daughter had never been so challenged and intrigued in a writing class. She was delighted to be treated like a real writer.
Another fun class was the Creative Writing for Superheroes class, which allowed students to come dressed as a superhero. They learn the elements of a superhero story, and they work on their own story idea in class. This class also comes in a longer camp to allow students time to complete their entire story.
Virtual Movement Classes
My daughter signed up for the Creative Writing for Superheroes class on the same day as Let’s Move Like Batman!. It was a special treat to have a superhero-themed day at home. She enjoyed that the movement class offered guidance in doing a workout that really used her muscles.
Since the movement classes were such a hit, she also took a Princess-Themed Dance Party!, and she was full of smiles the whole time. Seeing her dance around in a princess dress made me nostalgic for when she was younger. The teacher, who also offers a 4-day Princess Camp, had a delightful princess-inspired voice and elegant demeanor during the class.
Virtual Math Classes
After 11 years of parenting, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that getting math help for my children is a pretty smart idea. Even as a certified elementary school teacher, I feel that some of the concepts are taught so differently now, and the concepts in general can be hard to remember well enough to teach.
Now that one of my daughters is going into 7th and 8th grade math, we have found Prealgebra classes that reinforce last year’s material and introduce new concepts for the next year. There are ongoing classes that are low-commitment because you can cancel anytime as well as semester-long classes that take place in the summer. It can be so easy to fall behind in math and lose confidence by middle school, but having a live teacher to ask questions to over the summer should help.
If math sounds overwhelming to your child, the fun themed classes can help. In Understanding Money & Economics Using Minecraft: 7-11 Year Olds, the teacher uses Minecraft analogies to teach about economics and the value of items. It’s more social studies than math, but understanding why you’re learning about money can be interesting to children before they practice rote memorization with coins.
Enriching technology classes provide a challenge as well as the satisfaction of creating something, like a website, app, or game.
In Create an Animated L.O.L Dance Party Using Scratch Coding, you can make the L.O.L Dolls dance with one another. My daughter coded a fun dance party for her dolls. Then, she used her creation as a festive introduction message for her own virtual birthday party with her friends a week later.
Another interesting coding class was Code, Style, and Launch an HTML Website!. The instructor offers 4-days of HTML instruction in a camp, but we chose to take it in separate parts to make sure that my child was excited to keep going with coding, and she was! Now, she has built her own custom website with text, pictures, and buttons that work. Since the instructor has a maximum class size of 3 students, the individual attention ensured that my child grasped the concepts.
Virtual Arts & Crafts Classes
Last summer, my daughter tried learning knitting with a book, but she lost confidence when she couldn’t figure it out herself. After taking Knitting Class: Learn to Do the Knit Stitch (ages 11-14), she succeeded in learning how to do the knit stitch, and she was excited to imagine all the things she could knit in the future.
During homeschooling this year, art was one subject that I didn’t feel comfortable teaching. Although there are free drawing videos online, it is nice for students to have a community to share their artwork and to provide support.
Since my older daughter is already more confident in her drawing abilities, she enjoyed taking the ongoing Learn to Draw Semi-Realistic Cartoon Animals class for several weeks. She learned to draw many types of animals, and she tried out different drawing techniques.
Virtual Reading Classes
My daughters love reading. Late at night, they read until they fall asleep. During homeschooling, completing comprehension workbooks and assessments hasn’t been a problem. However, it’s nice to keep reading fun and interactive.
Roald Dahl has been a popular author in our house lately. My daughter adored the Matilda Book Club (Twice a Week), and she took other Roald Dahl classes and book clubs from the same teacher.
In the Matilda book club, the teacher guided students through hands-on STEM activities inspired by the book. They also discussed newts. As a homework assignment, they studied nature and counted any creatures they spotted.
Some days when I’m feeling a bit burnt out trying to keep up with my children’s learning, it’s nice to find someone to have an academic conversation with them. The Vocabulary Boost class provided me with a nice break, while the teacher worked diligently to help my daughter understand complex vocabulary, like the word roiling.
Virtual Science Classes
When lockdown happened, we loved doing science for fun with exciting explosions and chemical reactions. However, I wasn’t sure if my children were grasping the science concepts behind the experiments. Workbooks helped, but those quickly became monotonous.
Outschool helped us keep science relevant to the world around us. When we studied adaptations, the Cicada Invasion class shared interesting facts that my children could think about while checking out the many cicadas we have in our own backyard.
Some Science classes that offer more of a lecture experience were captivating too. Survival: How to Find Water and Identify if Its Safe to Drink! made my child think more about why learning about geography matters. The teacher was knowledgeable and interesting, and she provided useful information. The more my children take classes on Outschool, the more they realize how helpful it is to gain knowledge.
Tips for Enrolling
Many teachers schedule their classes months in advance. This can help you prepare for your entire summer camp schedule, or even look ahead to the fall. You can also request different times if the teacher does not currently offer a class when you need it.
Deciding on a Class
When we choose classes, we consider topics that interest my children. The Most Popular search function offers inspiration if you aren’t sure where to start looking.
You can also select topics that are popular, such as gaming, drawing, dance, singing, and escape rooms. Outschool changes these topics seasonally. Another month, you might find recent holidays listed in those topics.
If my children are eager to learn about a specific topic, we check out those classes first. Classes that are a high priority to them are the ones that we add to our schedule first.
Next, we fill in gaps of time when I’m working, or if I know it’s a good time in the day for them to be engaged in learning. If I’m having a last-minute mom-emergency of needing someone to teach my children, I can see all upcoming classes. To search this way, you can narrow down the search tool by the date, time of day, and Starting Soon.
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Technology can be an incredible way to inspire learning, but without guidance and feedback, my children usually end up playing video games or watching television on long summer days. Having teachers who listen to their ideas and provide entertainment with creative lessons can be as fun as video games or television, but it is much more worthwhile.
When children are out of school, they don’t have to be out of learning! Ignite their imagination and excite their brain with the enriching experiences available through Outschool.