Lampstand Learning Center

img-ocIn this post, we interview Barb Spanier, the director of Lampstand Learning Center, as she helps us understand what online education can offer the homeschooling family.

What is online education, exactly?

Online education choices run the gamut—from full blown online schools to online tutoring sessions and anything in-between. Parents who want their child’s entire educational journey to be conducted by a certified online school with official transcripts are able to find many options available to them.  Most homeschool families that I interact with, though, are looking for online classes as a supplement for their home education program

 What types of classes are there for online students?

There are two types of online classes, synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous classes meet in real time, and typically a live teacher either leads a discussion or lectures the students.  Asynchronous classes do not meet in real time, which allows students to do the work when it fits into their schedules. Such sessions are pre-recorded or use relatively static forum interactions.

Synchronous classes are great for families that want their students to have a set time each week to attend class.  You will find many different styles of synchronous classes online with most leaning toward either live lectures or discussions.  Class sizes also vary, with lecture classes having any number of students, and discussion classes being on the smaller size—typically 15 to 20 students.

Asynchronous classes work well for the busy homeschool family that is not able to fit a synchronous class into their schedule, as well as for overseas families whose time zones vary widely from those in which the classes are typically held. Asynchronous classes are typically lecture-based or forum-based with a larger number of students in each class.

What tools should a student expect to use with online classes?

The student should expect to use a class management system (CMS) if they are taking an online class. Class management systems are used by teachers to provide most, if not all, information that a student will need to be successful in class.  Online learning centers typically have one CMS for the center and then each class will have its own class page.  Students go to their class page to download assignments, watch lectures, take quizzes, upload homework, check grades, etc.  The CMS is the virtual “space” that hosts the online experience, and typically students will be checking their class page numerous times a week.

If your student is enrolled in a synchronous class they will also have an online classroom, as well as their class page.  The online classroom is where they will go to listen to the lecture or participate in discussion.  Typical online classrooms offer text chat, live chat via a microphone or video, hand raising capability, and a whiteboard to display visual presentations. Students will need a computer with a microphone and camera, and a good connection to the internet to fully participate in synchronous classes.

What questions should parents ask as they explore online education?

Here are some good questions to ask if you’re considering online classes for yours student:

  • Is the class synchronous, or asynchronous?
  • What is the class size?
  • Is there daily/weekly homework assigned?
  • Do students turn in homework? If so, how do they turn it in and in what formats?
  • Are there assigned papers? Will you give quizzes and tests?
  • Are students graded by your teachers, or do we do it?
  • How do the students contact their teachers?
  • What equipment is needed? Do your students need a microphone and camera to participate?
  • What if we are traveling/sick/have a power outage and miss a class?

What kind of classes does the Lampstand Learning Center offer?

We offer small, synchronous discussion classes using the Tapestry of Grace curriculum. These classes are designed for dialectic and rhetoric students (of junior and senior high school ages).  Our classes are a bit different in that they will each focus on one “thread”. For example, we offer Year 1 Dialectic or Rhetoric classes in History, Literature, Writing, Bible/Church History, and Government. A student who wanted to use the Lampstand Learning Center for Literature and Writing would sign up for two online classes. Click here for the full list.

We strongly believe in Socratic discussion, as promoted in the Tapestry curriculum, and seek to create an environment that is conducive to offering the best chance possible for students to actively participate in each class discussion. Our classes provide a “flipped classroom” where the students are working through the assignments at home, and coming together virtually for guided explorations of the material.

We purposely keep an average of only 10 students per class (which is much lower than most online education options), because our desire is that each student will learn the skills necessary to participate well in a Socratic discussion.  We also offer writing classes that teach students the necessary writing skills to be successful in college, and in life.

Because we expect that each student is doing the assignments independently and coming together for discussion, we do require each family to own a Digital Edition of the Tapestry of Grace year plan that the class is using. We do this to ensure that each student is on the same page with the teacher and other classmates.

Do you have any examples of students’ work?

Whether in our discussion classes or our writing classes, our students are given opportunities to create presentations. Here are two you might enjoy watching.

Level 12 Writing Class Senior Thesis

Pride and Prejudice Literature Analysis

Does it work?

We think so. While many families love Tapestry of Grace and benefit from it without the online courses, our classes have been a great help for other families. Here are a few quotes from those currently using the Lampstand Learning Center:

I have been very happy with the writing class, and am quite pleased that you discuss history so much.  This class has helped remove some of the stress from homeschooling, and her [the student’s] writing is improving. ~ LLC parent

My student so enjoyed his lit-lite year 4 rhetoric class last year. He learned a lot – mostly that he can enjoy literature, “even poetry,” as he says! LOL! Seriously, though, this class was a real blessing for him and for me. I’m so glad you offer this resource. ~ LLC parent

I would just like to thank you for everything I have learned from you this past school year. You were an excellent teacher and I really enjoyed the classes that I took with you. ~ LLC student

Registration is currently open for the 2014- 2015 school year.  Please visit our site (Link:  http://www.lampstandbookshelf.com/llc/classes/) to see if what we have to offer would be a blessing for your family as you “love the journey.”

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