Saturday, October 18, 2014

How Did I Never Hear of Standard Deviants Before?

I had never heard of Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses by Standard Deviants Accelerate (SDA) until my family was given an opportunity to review them as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew team.

When deciding whether or not to jump on the opportunity to receive a full year's access to SDA courses, I clicked over to the Standards Deviants site.  My curiosity piqued when I read, "(Our method is) simple. Students teach students. With the help of top teachers, our writers learn the subject and then write the script. The result: great educational content spoken in a student’s voice."

I am a strong believer in the idea that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else.  I also love how folks who have just learned something share it with others.  Their fresh enthusiasm and dynamic voice often shines through.

For that reason alone, I was "sold" on the opportunity to review Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses despite the fact that my oldest is technically a third grader and the only SDA course currently available at that level is Arithmetic.

What Are Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses?

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

I guess I must have been hiding under the proverbial rock at times over the last 20 years or so, because, as I already mentioned, Standard Deviants was not a familiar name to me when I was offered the opportunity to review SDA courses.  However, the company has been around for 20 years as experts at the craft of condensing full subjects into a few hours of instructional videos that are educational, engaging and entertaining.

Currently, SDA offers the following online courses:

  • Arithmetic
  • Fundamental Math
  • Earth Science
  • Nutrition
  • Algebra
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English Composition
  • U.S. History
  • AP Biology
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP US Government and Politics
  • AP U.S. History
  • AP English Composition

Basically, each of these courses takes a year's worth of materials and apportions it into concise, easy-to-digest video clips with corresponding assignments.  Thereby, SDA creates a format for independent learners to pace themselves through engaging and effective learning and review that is meant to be supplementary, but, in my opinion, could stand alone as a survey course.

Each SDA course can be purchased for $99.00 a year or $24.95 per month for core courses and $14.95 for AP ones and requires little more than a computer and any basic school supplies one might want for taking notes.

Our Experience


I had fully intended to have our eight year old son begin progressing through the SDA Arithmetic course while his siblings followed along if they wished to do so.  I also thought my husband might enjoy dabbling in some of the courses during his free moments at work since he has been voicing a desire to freshen up some of his advanced math skills.  And, silly me, thought I might even enjoy some time learning things I may have forgotten or never even began to learn decades ago in high school.

I say silly because I do not know why I imagined I would have any extra time to get online myself!  As life unfolded, my son tried, but did not love the Arithmetic program, because he is going through an "I don't like Math anymore" phase that not even the SDA course could eradicate.  However, he did "love everything except for Math," as he commented.  In fact let me know when he saw me sit down to write this review that he "loved the History and Nutrition... (liked) the videos and one guy is funny."  He then did what prevents me from enjoying a course on my own: He gave me the puppy dog eyes and said, "I want to use it (meaning SDA) now."  Yep, with one computer to share betwixt us all and limited time for using it, Mom has not yet been able to begin her own SDA studies!

I have enjoyed doing some SDA course portions with my children though.  In fact, when my oldest decided he wanted to try the Nutrition course, I wondered if it would be appropriate for him since it is meant for older children.  So, I sat down with him (and his younger siblings) and began the course together.  To my delight, they all enjoyed the video segments and, obviously, retained information from them as they worked to fill in the interactive diagrams in the unit and to take the multiple choice quizzes that go along with it.   I also smiled when they asked for another segment, and another...

As for my husband, he is interested in the SDA courses, but has been too busy during both work and home to do much more than watch a few History course video clips over our children's shoulders.

My Thoughts on SDA Courses

We are in a casual, child-led learning stage here, so we used SDA courses in a delight-directed way.  Basically, I let the my oldest lead himself and his siblings in exploring any part of any course that he wished to during his online choice time.  Thus, neither my children nor I have taken full advantage of all the features SDA courses offer, which include for the student:

  • video lessons with transcripts that build one upon the other to offer a comprehensive understanding about topics
  • vocabulary lists with definitions
  • critical thinking questions
  • interactive review graphics and assignments
  • quizzes
  • automatic grading of quizzes and tests
  • a note taking feature
  • a print function
  • the ability to message a parent for help on a specific lesson


...and for the parent:

  • grade reports
  • red flag alerts
  • editable scoring rubrics
  • progress indicators


However, I have taken a look at these features and think SDA does a fabulous job at offering them.  SDA courses are already quite complete in content and engaging in style.  The fact that they include the above features also makes them easy for children and parents from a record-keeping and communication standpoint, should such things be needed.  For the record, the courses also align to typical standards, including Common Core, for those that need them to do so.

In all honesty, though, neither the alignment to standards nor the record keeping features are why I appreciate SDA courses.  Quite frankly, what I like about them is that my children like them (even if my children are technically "young" or the courses they have been enjoying thus far).

SDA courses, in our experience are:

  • enjoyable.  Young actors and comedians present seemingly difficult material in accessible, engaging ways (even if some of the jokes are corny and the slang, in my opinion, less than necessary.  I am just not into words like "dude" and "tude", as in bad attitude.)
  • understandable.  As well as the actors, videos employ on-screen graphics, mnemonic devices and creative demonstrations to help children learn.
  • convenient.  SDA can be accessed anytime, anywhere with an internet connection!
  •  effective.  My children have been integrating information learned in the courses into everyday conversations.  So, obviously, they are retaining it!

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Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

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