Thursday, April 1

Middle & High School Homeschooling Made Easy!

Having co-led a support group over four years for middle & high school homeschooling families, I’ve discovered that many families share the same struggles! My goal is to provide support, accountability, and community for upper grades families by creating an online homeschool co-op for middle and high school students.

To that end, Sparks Academy provides blended classes in language arts, history, and science for middle and high school students.  (We are in negotiations with teachers to add math and more science courses to the mix, but that will not be this year.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a blended class?

So glad you asked!  These are classes hosted online that include textbook and video elements, discussion feeds with peers, and live, virtual meetings.  Each week, the students are interacting through facilitated discussion in a private forum.  Rather than labeling these live classes, we have labeled them blended because we will not be meeting live every single week.  

How and when will the class meet?
Each class has its own class join code in Canvas. Classes “meet” weekly via shared assignments and moderated discussion during the school year (August 14, 2023 – May 4, 2024 for the ’23-’24 school year). Most classes are pre-recorded with community discussion and group chats. Periodically we have live class meetings. These are on the syllabus for your student to plan ahead. If you are unable to attend a live class, it will be recorded for later playback. Self-paced coursework will be assigned between classes. Scheduled classes are posted in Central Standard Time.

What it my student is absent?
Since the coursework is assigned on a weekly basis, students have the flexibility to complete it on their own schedules. If your student will be absent for an extended period of time, or you are predicting an act of nature (eg, hurricane at your home), please contact us so we can make arrangements. If a family emergency arises, please do the same. We understand that life happens occasionally.

I don’t think I quite understand how a pre-recorded class works with group discussion? If it isn’t live, how do they get to interact with the instructor and each other?

  • That’s a good question, and one our test group grappled with, but currently what it looks like is: periodic live classes (once per quarter), discussion threads, peer reviews, and digital interaction through the platform with face-to-face interaction in those live classes (which will be recorded for any students who miss attending). Some of the classes also contain a group project component, where they will be working together, virtually.
  • Our original plan had been to stream every class as live interactive, but the internet capability where we live simply isn’t up to the task. And I’m not moving just for streaming. 🙂 However, we are able to secure a place up in the city every so often to hijack their net for those live streaming classes.

What technology will we need?
Required technology: Digital notebook (Google Docs or One Drive), internet access, Canvas (you will be sent access instructions), and the ability to use camera & microphone during class discussions

Where can I see a sample class?
Currently, there is a Language Arts 1, a Physical Science class, a Chemistry class, and an American History class for sample on the Academy page.

What if my student has questions?
Within our online platform, Canvas, there is an email icon which will allow your student to directly contact the teacher with any questions.

How do you ensure students’ privacy?
None of our students’ personal information is revealed in the online classroom. Students log in using a screen name. They do not provide last names or any contact information in the online classroom. Only teachers can see any personal information about each student.​ Work assignments are submitted via email and will only be shared with student permission for educational purposes. Teachers are not responsible for archiving data, so be sure to keep a copy of your work. Sparks Academy uses security protocols, but is not liable for data breaches or lost data.

Do I have to buy the curriculum, or will it be provided?
All co-op members are required to purchase the PDF or physical copy of each course that they are participating in. (Purchases are verified. There are a few different options for verification.) In most cases, you will only need the student textbook. This information is provided in the course description. The student text for both Energy Science and Economics comes as part of the enrollment fee of those classes.

All students receive a grade based on projects, quizzes, journals, and class participation.

Which classes are for Middle School?
As of Fall '23, Level 7 Language Arts, US Constitution, Energy Science, and Physical Science would all be appropriate for upper-middle school aged students.  They are also appropriate for 9th grade, and any student who may struggle in one of those subjects at a higher grade.  The beauty of homeschooling is that it's flexible, and we can tailor our student's subjects to each of those levels!

Why is it called Sparks Academy?

Our oldest son is a blacksmith, and also a fan of word play. When we were hanging out in his shop one afternoon, watching him work (and making sparks), it just developed. Then he came up with the slogan, and the rest is history…

What if I just want someone to help with writing assessment, but don’t need an entire class?

We offer writing assessment and feedback packages for The Good & the Beautiful Levels 6, 7, and High School. If you are using any writing curriculum other than TGTB, please purchase the high school level.

If you usually use The Good & the Beautiful, why did you choose Notgrass for history?

TGTB is currently revamping their entire history program. Once they release it, we will examine the changes to see if it is still a good fit. In the meantime, Notgrass is an amazingly comprehensive program that will prepare your high schooler for further academic challenges! There is still a possibility that we will offer both Notgrass and TGTB history options for you to select from in the future, but we simply cannot say for sure right now.

What if my student just needs assistance with focusing on college prep?

One of our new classes is College: Applications & Essays, but if you’re more of the DIY type, you can pick up all the information in one easy download, here!  You and your student can also take advantage of the High School Academic Advising program, which helps with course planning and post-graduation paths.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful idea! I love that you've seen a need and are working to fill it!


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