Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: How we learn for free with Universal Class

Monday, September 11, 2017

How we learn for free with Universal Class

I am always on the lookout for a great deal. Cheap curriculum is good, free is even better, but only if the resources are high quality and serve my purpose. I don't have time to waste on lousy resources, even if they don't cost me a dime.

That's why I decided to do a test run when I learned that Universal Class offered free classes through my local public library. I've been burned by free classes and extraordinarily cheap offerings on sites like Groupon before. Never again. This time, before adding anything to our fall semester, I spent a few weeks trying out one of the free classes as an enrolled student, just to see how effective the course would be.

Choosing a course wasn't easy. Universal Class has more than 500 classes in their course catalog, on everything from aromatherapy to precalculus. And although individual courses can cost more than $100 if you pay for them yourself, I had access to the whole smorgasbord for free if I logged in through my library portal. Which one would I choose?

With my twins now in high school, and the SAT and college applications on the horizon, I knew that they could benefit from a course like Essay Writing 101. This course has 12 units, with 25 lessons and exams, all graded by a real, human instructor.

The first lesson in the course included a video lecture, along with a printed transcript. It also had several links to online resources related to the topic covered that week, along with a suggested college level textbook that I was able to find for less than $10 on eBay. The recommended online readings add considerable depth to the course, and I have found the textbook to be a worthy investment.

After I completed the first few lessons, I could tell that each lesson, with the recommended reading, the assignments and the exam, would take about a week to complete. So the whole course would be approximately 12 weeks long.

Would the class stand alone as a language arts credit? No, I don't think so. But it works perfectly as part of our language arts curriculum for this year, along with the grammar, literature and other writing we will be doing.

My daughter enrolled in a screenwriting class and a course on Japanese culture that she plans to take later in the year. My son is planning to take a couple of computer courses.

If you have access to Universal Class through your public library, I suggest giving it a look. If not, you still may find the cost of a yearly or monthly membership worth the price, or perhaps for a small fee you could get a library card in a nearby town that does offer free access to the courses. So far, I am pleased with what we've found.

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