Seems like about five years ago, but back in August of 2019 I shared that my youngest daughter, K-, had decided to attend a private online high school, Laurel Springs, rather than return to her public high school in Longmont, Colorado. You can read about our collective thought process here: And So It Begins: Online High School. We’re now six months into the adventure and she’s mostly moved smoothly into her second semester, there’s one class that’s dragging her down: World History.
But let’s talk calendar math first. Public school consumes 9 of the 12 months of a typical year, so if they’re split into two even semesters, that means each is 4 1/2 months long. Generally the schools I’ve been involved with tend to break at Christmas/New Year since that’s typically such a long break from school anyway, but either way, by the beginning of January, a modern high school student should have wrapped up all their classwork and be just dipping their toe into the second semester classes. Laurel Springs is no different, and by mid-January K- should have been done with every class.
Online courses are designed to have students move forward every week, if not every single day. More flexibility, obviously, but deferring for weeks or longer can really get you into a pickle with huge assignments all backlogged. While I’m quite fascinated by all facets of history, your average teen is far more interested in what’s going on this coming weekend than 1300 years ago, and K- is no different. In fact, she opted to defer and defer and defer working on history. That was one of four classes that moved forward slowly, the other three being biology, literature and geometry.
Parents to the rescue! Linda is helping her with biology (I actually never took a bio class in all my time at school, so I’m completely lost with the subject), I help her with literature and history, and we hired a local retired math teacher to tutor her with geometry. Everything’s gone well, except, you guessed it, history. So now it’s February and she’s still trying to finish up first semester World History. And hasn’t yet hit the 75% mark.
What I most notice about the class is that while the essay questions for each chapter are quite interesting, the textbook itself is dull and uninspired. It’s Ways of the World: A Brief Global History by Strayer and Nelson and it’s boring. The last few chapters I’ve helped her with have been focused on Chinese and Arabian history, approx 600 CE to 1300 CE and they sometimes read more like propaganda than actual, accurate and unbiased academic writing. To the point where I almost looked through the front matter to see if they had obtained approval of certain foreign educational organizations to enable the book being used globally as a teaching tool. Getting a global perspective on world history is excellent, of course, but the book suffers from what trips up most histories: an overly narrow perspective. Did the Chinese trade with the Europeans in that era? Dunno, they’re different chapters. What was it like for European Spaniards (e.g. Christians, Jews, etc) when the Muslims took over in 1100CE? Again, that didn’t quite make it into the chapter. With a class that revolves around classroom lectures, it’s not a big deal, but when you’re online, it’s critical that the reading be fun, interesting and engaging.
Be that as it may, the overall experience of K- going through an online high school with surprisingly little structure has been quite interesting. It has really forced her into managing her own time; if she doesn’t want to get out of bed until 10am, well, that’s her choice and the consequence is that she missed a few hours of prime schoolwork time. We have, in fact, made a conscious decision to let her manage her schedule and she continues to be reminded that skipping a day doesn’t mean that assignments vanish, it just means they’re all due the next day.
She tells me “I wish I would have understood that I needed to work every day at the beginning” but still has productive days and alarmingly unproductive days. But she’ll be done with 10th grade when she’s done with all the classwork, not when a specific calendar date comes up. So it’s proving to be quite interesting, and, of course, time management is a great life skill so she’s getting to learn it early!