Brandi Niedermeyer lives in Alameda, California and has been a homeschooling mom for 13 years. We interviewed her about her experience with Outschool.
Brandi Niedermeyer doesn't regret taking charge of her sons' education, but she'll acknowledge that homeschooling presents a unique set of challenges.
"It's about finding your community," she said, noting that even when homeschooling parents and kids connect, "seeing if you gel with that community can be difficult. There are super-religious people, unschoolers and everything in between," said Niedermeyer. "It can be difficult to find your niche."
Niedermeyer said she decided to homeschool when her eldest son struggled to conform to the rules in preschool. "I also decided to do it to help him to retain his sense of self," she said. "I feel like a lot of times in a school setting, you become about school, rather than about being yourself."
Approach to Homeschooling
When she briefly enrolled sons Perry, 17, and Jayden, 14, in a charter schools, "it became a little more regimented," she said. Since then, she's learned more about which homeschooling methods that meet her family's needs. When her sons were younger, "we'd try to learn things that were their passion," said Niedermeyer.
"Now, it's very much self-directed," she said. Now that Perry and Jayden are teenagers, "we wake up, sit down and say, 'these are our goals for the day.'"
Jayden, 14, "usually starts with Khan Academy for math and then he'll write a language paper," said Niedermeyer. "He's also learning Japanese currently." After reviewing his work, she tries to wrap up their work in the early afternoon "so we can get outside for a bike ride, play tennis or go for a walk, just get out and be active."
Because Perry is three years older, "we're more self-directed," said Niedermeyer. "He's now immersed in learning the piano -- trying to learn a song that he's really happy about, and he's taking building courses at Laney College." So far, he's "built his own bicycle from scratch, a deadmau5 helmet, and was also taking a video game design course."
Although her boys study subjects that personally engage then, "I definitely have to give guidelines, especially to my older son," said Niedermeyer. "My younger one is pretty easy, but my older one wants to know, 'why do I have to learn this?'"
"Different kids will have different challenges," she noted. "I'm just helping them stick to a schedule."
Niedermeyer said homeschooling lets her focus on helping Perry stay focused and on helping Jayden to "come out of his bubble, because he's so into his own thing."
Joining the Outschool Community
Earlier this year, Niedermeyer heard about Outschool via a homeschooling parents forum. "I absolutely love the concept of so many choices," she said. "They had everything from glass blowing to online drawing to anatomy -- there were tons of choices for classes."
"That's been one of the biggest challenges," said Niedermeyer, "finding classes that will teach to homeschoolers, not just classes that are catered to traditional students," where choices are "all just spread out before you like a beautiful buffet."
Homeschooling parents have to get creative to find interesting classes that are open to their children, "so it was nice to click on the Outschool web site and see so many options," she said.
Niedermeyer said another Outschool benefit is the "instant socialization" students experience during field trips and classes. "For Jayden, it gives him an outlet and chance to connect with other children," she said, "and for Perry, it gives him a deadline, which is what he needs."
For parents who have the time, Niedemeyer recommends attending Outschool classes with their children. "You're getting this wonderful education, and you're sharing it with your child doing something that they really enjoy," she said, noting that she's gone to all of her kids' classes.
"We went rock climbing, and that experience was just beautiful in and of itself," she said. "The drive up into the woods was amazing, and the instructor was very helpful and positive."
"Because Outschool covers so many different subjects, it's going to cover the introvert, the extrovert, the brainy science kid and the high intensity, active kid," she said. "I feel like it's suited for everybody, and that's one of the beautiful things about it."