As a homeschool mom, there’s something I’ve realized about myself over the past couple years: I’m not great at everything. There are some subjects I definitely teach better than others (hello, writing!), and some that I have no business attempting to teach my kids (umm…art and foreign language, I’m looking at you).
So when I discovered Outschool‘s online classes for kids, I kind of geeked out. My kids now have access to thousands of real-time, teacher-led courses on subjects that I might not have any expertise in. They can log in to the video chat and engage with the teacher and other students in the class, all from our living room.
But let me back up, because Outschool is definitely not just for homeschool kids.
There’s a movement to change the way we think about education, and our kids have more opportunity than ever to really learn about the things that inspire them. Whether you’re in traditional school or homeschool, if there’s something your kid wants to learn, they can find it on Outschool.
It might be a foreign language their school doesn’t offer. A hobby they want to pick up, like how to play D&D. Or advanced work their school doesn’t offer — like, maybe your brilliant 3rd grader wants to sign up for a chemistry class. In fact, my quick search today by my child’s age brought up a middle school grammar course, a class on beatboxing for beginners, and a session on mindfulness for kids.
So, like I said, range.
Outschool offers day or nighttime classes, in one-time sessions like the Studio Ghibli-inspired drawing class my son took, and multi-session classes, like semester-long courses on history, literature, or robotics. You can read a teacher’s bio and their reviews before you sign up, and many have had Master’s or PhDs. Some teachers even provide transcripts for you.
My kids have taken three or four art classes now, both one-time and multi-session, and they’ve all been great. They take place in a Zoom meeting with other kids their age. They’ve been asked to do some prep work ahead of time, and as they draw they are able to hold their work up to the camera to get real, specific feedback for their own projects from the teacher. It’s been cool to watch their skill improve over a few sessions.
If you’re thinking your kid won’t like being in an online video chat with other kids, don’t worry. My shy student opted to turn the camera off when the teacher wasn’t looking at her art, so she weren’t on constant display to the other students. From what I’ve seen, the kids seem to be pretty focused on their own work, not each other, but I’m glad that option was available since it made her more comfortable.
A few downsides: this week not enough kids were enrolled in the class we signed up for, so it was cancelled day-of. Kind of a bummer for my son, who was really excited for it. But we received a $10 credit to sign up for a new time.
And note that all the teachers are independent contractors who have been vetted by the company, but they don’t all answer right away. Kristen has reached out to a few class teachers and tutors about requesting new times for their courses and tutoring sessions her kids want to take, and she’s heard nothing but crickets, even after personally messaging them.
But overall, I’ve been very pleased with the professionalism and level of instruction my kids have gotten. Not a surprise, considering the venture is backed by the same investors behind Sesame Street. Now, “choose your next Outschool class” is a regular part of our homeschool plan. And even if my kids decide to go back to traditional school one day, we’ll probably still keep signing up for Outschool.