Bridgeway Academy offers a number of course options for homeschooling students at all grade levels. They offer full service teaching and oversight with either customizable online or textbook-based courses, but they also offer less-expensive options with some customization but less oversight.
Their newest option, the most affordable of their choices for grades one through five, offers pre-customized grade level kits that are designed to suit a student’s primary learning modality—visual (the Watcher), kinesthetic (the Doer), or auditory (the Listener). Using Bridgeway Academy’s learning style assessment will help you choose the right kit. Click here for the page that describes these grade level kits since they are tricky to find otherwise. There is no oversight or record keeping included with this option. All course material is secular in these kits.
Kits cover math, language arts, science, and social studies with a combination of textbooks, online learning, and activities. Online activities other than for A+ Interactive Math supply either occasional, stand-alone lessons or supplemental activities. These online lessons and activities, accessed at the Elephango platform through the online Bridgeway Learning Center, are used to varying extents depending upon the course.
Elephango resources are a mixed bag. There are some complete lessons with videos and activities that are very useful for language arts. But there are also some lessons that might not be useful at all such as one for second grade that teaches initial blending of sounds to read consonant-vowel-consonant words, a skill that should have been mastered in kindergarten or first grade.
I also noticed a number of science and social study lessons linked under language arts that at first confused me. Then I realized that these lessons, such the “Life Cycle of a Frog,” support the non-fiction literature choices, in this case, a small book titled, A Frog’s Life. Following the guide, it all makes sense.
Every kit includes one instructor guide for each of the four subject areas—four in all for each kit. There are also differentiated guides for Doer, Listener, and Watcher kits—each guide is designed to fit the specific resources in the kit. The guides suggest how to pace the courses. They sometimes tell how to use resources and give page assignments for other books included in the kit. Guides also provide graphic organizers students will use as part of their lessons. In addition, each kit includes a small book, Unlocking Your Child’s Genius, that helps parents teach to their child’s learning modality. There are three different books, one for each of the three learning modalities; you receive the one that matches your kit.
Course adaptations for each level to address learning modalities sometimes mean using an entirely different core resource. Sometimes, the subject matter taught is quite different depending upon your choice as you can see under my descriptions of the resources for each subject area.
Language arts course material covers reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Each kit comes with a collection of about ten fiction and non-fiction books for literature along with composition and grammar resources from Thoughtful Learning (Write One, Write Away, Write on Track, and Writers Express). The literature selections are mostly short, easy-to-read books rather than classic literature or challenging novels. Phonics instruction is minimal, although you can supplement with optional Explode the Code books. Instruction for language arts is laid out in two sections in the instructors guide: one section for literature with a number of activities to be completed for each book and one for writing with daily lesson assignments using the composition resources. Students will generally complete one activity or lesson from each section each day.
Math uses A+ Interactive Math with both online and textbook components for Watcher and Listener kits. Doer kits use Singapore Math, adding the Bridgeway Discovery Math Manipulative kits for grades one through three. These two series of math courses are very different in both approach and content, with Singapore generally working at a more advanced level.
For science, the grade level Pearson Interactive Science course along with one of The Young Scientist Series of science kits are used for all levels and across all three learning modality kits. All students participate in hands-on science activities.
For social studies, the Doer and Watcher kits both use a social studies workbook and a geography workbook, both published by Steck Vaughn. Listener kits use one of the Story of the World courses (a set with the textbook, activity book, and audio CDs). Subject matter differs greatly. For example, third grade Listeners using Story of the World are studying the early modern period of world history, while third grade Doers and Watchers are studying local communities in Steck Vaughn’s Living in Our Communities Level C.
A supplemental item in each kit is intended to fit the child’s learning style. For example, the first grade Listener kit includes an Easy Speak USB Recorder, while the first grade Watcher kit has the Mental Blox Game, and the second grade Watcher kit has the Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run. Some of these are really great choices that kids will love.
You can customize further by swapping Doer, Listener, or Watcher sets for individual subject areas. If you have a student who does fine with Watcher type resources for all subjects except math, you can choose a Watcher kit but swap the math component for the one from the Doer kit. You might want to swap components for reasons other than learning modalities, such as a preference to cover a certain era of history. Add-on items for critical thinking, handwriting, and phonics add a few more options for customizing your program.
One missing item that I think would be helpful would be a teacher’s record-keeping book. While you can follow the lessons in each of the guides, it seems important to have a central place to track what was actually accomplished along with student scores and/or evaluations.
Bridgeway Academy is continually working to improve options for homeschoolers to make it easy for parents, especially those just starting out. These new kits with customization to fit learning modalities are another step in that direction. While learning modalities are only one factor influencing the curriculum selection process, it might be the most important one for some students.