It’s been ninety-four days. Ninety-four days that I’ve worked a full-time job and kept my 6-year-old busy once her school closed to on-campus learning. I decided to write this post because I know this is a very common struggle. Eighty of those days were filled with her school’s distance learning program. If you are a parent reading this, you know that this is both a blessing and a curse. While doing the combination work / Kindergarten distance learning program was the hardest thing I have ever done, it didn’t mean the other days were that much easier. The days where I worked but Em had nothing to do. The days where I debated how bad it would be to just plop her in front of the television. (I’m not saying there weren’t some of those days.) But in the end, I was thrown a lifeline in the form of Outschool.
Em in her Frozen Dance Class… as Belle.
What is Outschool?
Outschool is a one-stop-shop of classes for kids ranging from 3- to 18-years-old. According to its website, Outschool is a San Francisco based company founded in 2015. Their main offerings are small group, live, online classes but there are other options as well. While Outschool teachers were originally based only in the United States and Canada (this matters in terms of when classes are offered), the Company has recently started employing teachers from New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Word of mouth: the fail-safe way I have found good online programs… and Outschool is no exception
I never heard about Outschool until shelter-in-place began. That was when I started getting inundated by advertisements on my Facebook and Instagram feeds. Thanks to the “big brother is watching” metrics used in social media targeted ads, that was to be expected since my Google searches regarding online programs quickly went from zero to 100 during that time. I’m usually skeptical about everything that pops up as a targeted ad. Call me crazy, but I tend to assume that it’s somehow fraudulent. With that mindset, I didn’t even bother to click on the Outschool link in the beginning. It wasn’t long, however, before some of my friends started singing their praises.
Many of these friends were parents that had signed their kid(s) up for a class or two and thought it was cute. I took note but filling about 60 minutes of my daughter’s day wasn’t really what I was looking for. And then a friend posted a picture of a whiteboard she had written all over. It was a picture of her 4-year-old son’s schedule for the next day. It was filled with classes. All from Outschool. I made my own account that very same night.
How does it work?
Set up an account or sign up through Facebook. Then search for classes to your heart’s content. I had pretty narrow parameters regarding topics, dates, and times that I was able to filter by. The results of your search will include a write-up of the class being offered, what the learning goals are, give a personal bio on the teacher, and show reviews on that same teacher by others who have already taken the class.
Those interested can click “enroll” and pay for the class. The classes I enrolled Em in cost between $8 -$12 for a 45 minute class. Before each class started the teacher asked everyone to introduce themselves via a message board. It’s optional but I always did it because you only had to provide what you felt comfortable sharing. The classes take place via zoom so you need to make sure you have a zoom account set up. The Outschool website provides video instructions and zoom connectivity testing to make sure you will be ready to go before the day of the class.
What type of classes does Outschool have?
You name it they have it. There are classes on Harry Potter and how to study better. Classes on how to be a princess and classes filled with chemistry experiments. There are recurring classes and one-time classes and classes that are done on your own schedule (with pre-recorded lessons). We actually tried out all of those options and it became easy to see that some options suited us better than others.
Especially for the younger kids, Outschool has a lot of classes that are more academic in nature. This might be a great option for parents worried that their children might have started falling behind thanks to the pandemic. If you are that type of parent, you have my deepest praise. Em and I were both pretty burned out from her distance learning program last spring. So burned out I steered clear of any math or language arts class. Instead, I signed her up for drawing, dance, singing, and cheerleading classes. Em loved them! She even took a month-long piano class where class videos were posted each week along with practice sheet music, theory homework, and a practice schedule.
How does the timing of classes work?
There was a reason I mentioned what countries teachers were based out of in the “What is Outschool?” section above. When I first looked into Outschool I was interested but still skeptical. How could it be useful for anyone living in Hawaii? Yes, I am very lucky to live in Hawaii but it does come with time complications due to it being 3 hours behind the west coast and 6 hours behind the east coast. Programs like this undoubtedly never work out for us.
I decided to give it a try anyway and set the class parameters for anything between 8 AM and 5 PM Hawaii Standard Time (HST). I was shocked by all the classes that did fulfill my time specificity. There was cheerleading at 9 AM, drawing classes at 10 AM, and hip hop classes as late at 12 PM. Back in June when I was setting up these classes, 12 PM was the latest I could find for options that would interest my daughter. I was slightly disappointed in this because I could have really used afternoon classes to occupy her time as well. However, in searching for classes this fall I found classes for Em starting as late as 3 PM HST.
Passing along the word of mouth rave…
I thought the classes were so cute that I overshared a lot on my personal Instagram stories. All of a sudden a lot of friends started reaching out to me. They thought the classes sounded wonderful as well and wanted to know what program I was using. Especially, as Hawaii was still under the first lockdown when I was posting about Em’s adventures. I raved out Outschool to them and several of them tried it out for themselves in turn. They couldn’t stop singing Outschool’s praises either. If you are interested, click here for my referral link to get $20 off your first class.