In recent years, technology has not only made online classes possible, but has revolutionized the homeschool community and the way we educate our children. These types of online classes carry great potential, especially for students with special needs. What should you look for when deciding if an online class is right for you?
First and foremost, find out the nuts and bolts details of the class. Here are a few things to research:
- Does the class have live sessions or is it self-paced?
- When are the live classes held? Does this work with your schedule?
- If it is self-paced, how long will you have access to the class resources?
- If it is a live class, are the sessions recorded and accessible at a later date for review or in case you miss a class?
- What are the technological requirements for the class and do you have what is needed in terms of hardware?
- Is there any special software that needs to be installed on your system?
If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, contact the provider’s customer service department and ask. You may be able to view a sample class recording or even participate in a free trial to see what it’s like first-hand.
After you have that information, look for teachers who have engaging personalities, are passionate about what they teach, and are willing to work with you and your student to make any needed accommodations. Teachers who have the skills to deliver class material and resources in a variety of ways are a huge asset. This may be anything from offering an audio book option to complete a reading assignment or allowing a writing assignment to be dictated into an audio file.
Also, look for teachers who engage as many senses as possible: using colorful and animated graphics, asking for responses in the chat box, encouraging students to participate with parts of the lesson at home. Take the time to email the teacher of the class you’re interested in. Ask them how their class is run and what resources they use to help students make the most of it. Ask what accommodations can be made for students with special needs.
Before committing to an entire semester or year-long course, you may want to try a single session or short session course. This gives you a way to both test the platform and get to know the teacher. If everything works smoothly, and you sense that your child has a connection to the teacher, then you will feel safe to invest in a class with a longer time commitment and a greater cost.
Roni Bergerson is a veteran homeschooler who has spent the last 15 years educating her two sons, one gifted and one special needs. Together with her husband, they started their homeschool journey in 2002 when their oldest son was just two years of age. Although he was enrolled in the early childhood for his special needs, they remained unsatisfied with the quality of care he was receiving. The end of his enrollment in the program signaled the start of another journey. Their second son was also born with special needs in 2003 and has been homeschooled his entire life. Her oldest child has now moved on to college while her younger son is flourishing in his studies and making great progress. Her experiences led her to create fun, engaging, yet high-quality and rigorous online classes that she wishes would have been available to her sons earlier in their homeschool journey. You can find her offering great online classes and educational materials under the publisher name Eastern Wind Academy.