Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Standard Deviants Accelerate (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Standard Deviants Accelerate is an online supplemental homeschool curriculum.  It allows students in grades 3 through 9 to receive enrichment instruction in nine core courses, and offers AP Exam review and test skills for five specific exams.  To review the program, Crew members received one-year subscriptions to their Homeschool Courses.  For our review, Matthew (grade 9) was the student, and focused on the Biology and US History courses in particular.  I wanted to have Jude work on their grade 3 and 4 math programs, but was unable to because of technical issues (see below).

I know that these courses are meant to be supplemental.  I definitely agree with this, and would not use them as a core curriculum.  Matthew found that the biology lessons really didn't explain what he was learning in his regular course any better.  He thought that it skipped over a lot of information, which contributed as well. I will say that the biology is aimed at grades 7+, so it's possible that this would be better suited to a middle-school student, rather than one taking a full high school course.  I agree with him.  While there is a fairly wide variety of topics covered, they aren't covered in any great depth.  They seemed to amount to a different way of presenting the same information.  Now, I'm the first to say that sometimes seeing things presented differently makes them "click," but he felt that it wasn't really a "new" presentation - it was just another lecture.

As for US History, I felt it was really lacking in a lot of depth. The sections were headlined by broad topics, but I felt like they skipped quite a bit. For example, there was a section on the Presidency.

You can see that instruction ends with Abraham Lincoln.  Considering we are about to elect our 45th president less than a year from now, it seems like stopping with the sixteenth president is a sharp drop.  I would have liked to see more about specific presidents; at the very least, the "gamechanger" presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon have each had a huge impact on American history and deserve attention.  The "America at War" sections end with the US Civil War.  Again, I think this is not enough instruction; considering the ramifications of (at least) World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War on history, these should be included in a high school program (US History is rated for grades 9+). 

I was curious to see how Luke might do with taking some of the AP tests, especially US History. We've done a pretty deep study of American history, and are considering the CLEP exams. I wanted to see how the AP exam compared to the CLEP test. The review was a very brief overview of history, and there were only 5 sample questions in each section (going back didn't generate new questions).  I guess if you got those 10 correct, you knew you'd get at least 10 answers right on the AP exam - if those were among the questions on the test.  I found more sample questions on the tests' example pages than in this program.

Now, back to Jude and why he didn't use the program.  In order to enroll a student in the program, he needs to have his own email address to log in.  For Matthew, this wasn't a big deal, because he has an email account already.  However, at only 8 years old, Jude does not have an email account.  Because my email was already assigned to the "teacher" account, I couldn't use it for him.  Standard Deviants Accelerate is available for use by public/private school students as well, and schools often have the ability to create individual student email accounts, even for younger ages.  (Celia's school participates in a Chromebook program, so even students as young as fourth or fifth grade do have "personal" email addresses.) However, as a homeschooling parent, it just didn't seem practical to create an email/personal online presence for my third grader.

Overall, I wasn't really impressed with the program.  I had hoped it would be more useful for us, because it covered such a wide range of ages and subject.  However, we found it just didn't mesh with our family's needs.

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Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

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