Sometimes our teens progress to the point where we homeschool moms need outside support. Miss 17, who has penned several novels, whose comments are popular on national news sites, and who reads much more than I do, needs more advanced teaching in reading and writing nonfiction than I can provide.
We are very grateful to have found English, As You Like It, a series of English courses taught online by Alexandra McGee, M.A. Miss 17 is taking Alexandra’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, a university level course that could replace first year English if she takes the Advanced Placement test.
So, why not take a dual-enrollment course at college or university instead? Well, there are three reasons:
- All the course work is done online, so we do not have to drive to the university. For most families, dual-enrollment tuition and transportation costs, to say nothing of parking fees and time, would easily pay for this online course.
- The student-to-teacher ratio is much better for this course than it would be in a first year university course, and each student gets personalized attention.
- However, the main reason we prefer this course to a dual enrollment course at a secular institution is that Alexandra McGee is a Christian. She uses her teaching talents to equip students to understand challenging material and to communicate effectively in an environment where Christianity is respected, whereas at most universities the Christian worldview is either mocked or ignored. A Christian teacher can model wisdom in dealing with difficult subject matter so that our teens can focus on learning to read and write at an advanced level instead of floundering while trying to both learn and deal with anti-Christian instruction.
This AP English Language and Composition course is exciting and challenging. Its goal is expressed as follows:
“The student will learn close reading of texts, discussion and writing skills that will include the study of idea, argument, language, rhetorical devices, and the use of logos, ethos and pathos for persuasive writing.”
Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Huh?” So what does this mean, and how does the course work practically?
In practical terms, this means a lot of heavy analysis of reading material (from Plato, Lewis and Galatians to Orwell and the New York Times) and viewing material (from TED talks to Star Wars to interviews). It also involves a lot of writing of different kinds. Miss 17 has a writing assignment every week, and on the one week off so far, she wrote a practice AP exam that included 3 essays. She also has to read or watch assigned selections, write about them, and be prepared to discuss them in class or answer questions. In this way she is also being taught the concepts mentioned in the course goal above.
On Thursday mornings at 8AM, Miss 17 is in the basement, often wrapped in a blanket, to meet online with her teacher (in California) and her fellow students (in Tunisia). Initially they used Google hangouts but now they have switched to Canvas which seems more user-friendly. The night before, or even early that morning, Miss 17 submitted the week’s assignment and by class time Alexandra has usually marked it. Now for three hours, with a few breaks, she listens, chats, takes notes, and learns. In a typical class, Alexandra introduces the day’s learning concepts and then the class watches a short video, discusses how the concepts apply, does a short in-class assignment, and talks about the completed homework. Alexandra is planning some changes in class structure as the course is transferred to Canvas.
Miss 17 spends at least 8 hours a week on this course, including the reading, the analysis, the three hour class, and the assignments.
Now, as expected, this has not been all roses. We have had some technical issues on our side with slow internet; once Alexandra had computer trouble. These issues were quickly and easily resolved. There has been uncertainty about the meaning of assignments, but a quick email from Miss 17 to her teacher has always clarified those issues. And, naturally, feelings of being overwhelmed are an integral part of any difficult course.
Naturally, it is important to know who the teacher is. Alexandra McGee has several degrees and many years of experience teaching, both as a homeschool mom in a foreign country and as a formal teacher in homeschool coops, various traditional schools, and online. She loves to explore ideas in theology and philosophy, and as such is an ideal teacher for this course. She focuses on teaching the students rather than just getting through the material, and adjusts the course to the students’ interests. In fact, she asked the students what their favorite books and movies were while fine-tuning her course plans. As this is an AP course, it is important to know that Alexandra’s course has been accredited by the College Board and that she has been specifically trained to design and teach it. You can read more about Alexandra here, and learn about her philosophy of teaching here.
I’m thrilled by how this course is working out. Although Miss 17 was a good writer before this course, she can now express her ideas much more clearly because she has practiced organizing her thoughts…and that, of course, clarifies them. She has learned more about in-depth analysis of non-fiction writing, videos, and media reports.
Her writing also improved significantly in time for the SAT, and an improved SAT score is a factor to consider when deciding whether or not to invest in this course.
Note, this is an expensive course, but one should view it as an investment rather than an expense. As mentioned above, Miss 17’s SAT score was positively impacted, and that can result in scholarships that far outweigh the price of this course. Furthermore, there is a 50% tuition reduction for missionary families.
Alexandra is now opening registration to this course for those students who want only one intense semester –12 weeks–of preparation for the AP test. They will begin studying with her in February. Because class size is limited to 15 students, anyone who is interested should contact Alexandra soon. To enroll or for more information, contact Alexandra McGee.
Disclosure: We have free access to this course in order to be able to review it. Now that I’ve seen how it is benefiting Miss 17, I would gladly have paid for it because I expect it to increase Miss 17’s scholarship offers due both to her better SAT score and to the higher quality course that I can include in her transcript.
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.