Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Blend Math, Art, History and More with NatureGlo {A Review}

When I first heard about the MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle by NatureGlo's eScience , I was excited at the possibility of reviewing it, since I appreciate when learning is integrated instead of compartmentalized , seek avenues for my children to connect math (and other "subjects") to the real world , and have learners who do not always do well with conventional studies.  Since the creator and instructor of the program Gloria Brooks was a teacher who stepped away from the classroom and developed her own unique style of teaching flavored by educational philosophies including Montesorri, Charlotte Mason and child-led learning, I was even more interested to see how the courses would play out in integrating science, math, history, culture, literature, and the natural world.

Admittedly, when we signed up for and began a free trial class, my excitement waned.  The style of presentation - basically screenshots of slides with voiceovers - just did not appeal to my middle child nor me.  We thought, however, premium content must be better, and, with high hopes for a truly unique and stellar online learning experience awaited our review log-in information, which we decided would be used mainly by my twelve year old, with the rest of us learning alongside him as we desired or had time.

When our log-in information came, we were a bit frustrated with the password system, since it required us to choose a password far longer and different than any my children had previously used or been able to remember and the system for resetting forgotten passwords was low.  We experienced a few other computer glitches early on, too, which we contacted Gloria about.  Thankfully, she was prompt in responding and making suggestions which helped solve the minor issues.  Thus, she impressed me with her attention to customer inquiries. 

After that, we were off and running with few problems. I sat with my oldest and my other children to do our first lessons with 
MathArt  focused on Ancient History.  
Three of the four of us found the raw recorded lesson portions a bit long and lacking.  However, we all enjoyed other portions of the class, and I have amusing memories of my younger two children dancing to the cultural music played during one part of the course.  I also appreciated the time and effort that must have gone into Gloria curating a rich array of learning resources and links to integrate together.

Gloria has done this for all four 6-week courses in the bundle:

  • Math Connections in the Real World
  • MathArt in Ancient Cultures
  • MathArt in Arts & Sciences
    MathArt: Pattterns in Nature

These courses can be attended live or viewed as recorded lessons (which our review was for) and include videos where Gloria acts as a remote instructor, reading points from slides and periodically sprinkling in dialogue. She encourages live students to interact using their microphones and drawing tools and, when viewing the raw lesson footage, we can hear and see all interactions.  I found this to be a less-than-best use of time, since I felt we could glean the same information in a much cleaner format, with Gloria's face showing as she taught portions of the lessons and without so much raw recording dead time, distractions, etc.  For, of course, in live lessons, one expects pauses, tangents,volume fluctuations, etc,, but, in y opinion, these have little place in recorded lessons.  A bit more editing could go a long way in streamlining the live recorded lessons for students viewing their recordings.

Other portions of the lessons included reading, optional hands-on, activities, quizzes, interactive online activities and more.  Plus, links and general guidance was offered for supplementary resources to give wider perspectives on topics and go into greater depth. The level of difficulty and interest of these resources varied, and since the course is meant for ages 12 and up, which is a fairly wide-range, I would love to see Gloria add notes or ratings about their difficulty levels to help students and their parents better understand which of he any curated resources might be most suitable to hop down bunny trails on.

The courses are fairly easily to navigate. Once you click on a course, an expandable menu on the right side of the screen lets you see the individual portions of each lesson in the course.  If the lesson has not been taught live, there is limited information.  If it has, there is more, allowing you to click through any feature of each lesson to go directly to related activities, so you can progress in a linear fashion, or just hit the parts you are most interested in.  You can also check off which lesson portions you complete and click a button at the bottom of each page to go into next activities.  That makes it easy to see when specific lessons/activities are complete and to move on.

Within all the offerings is a wide array of cross-curricula material in the form of videos, links, quizzes, study guides, slide shows, pdfs, and moreEverything in a course interconnects, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in self-paced learning.

Undoubtedly, Gloria is passionate about providing students with a wide array of materials to inspire their curiosity and passions while connecting what is typically single-subject learning through an online unit-study approach.  In my opinion, she hits the mark to some degree, but still could use some honing of the recorded product to make it more appealing and time-effective for children like my middle child and for parent like me (who typically like to learn alongside children.)

I do think, however, that, even its current form, 
MathArt has merit and could be ideal for students who have a passion for connected learning of math, art, and more and ample time to sit through recordings, dive into activities on and offline, and hop down bunny trails of further learning.  So, I encourage you to check out the free trial class (on Beluga Whales) to see if the courses might be a good fit for you.

My twelve-year-old son - our main reviewer - had this to share:

My mom told me we had a chance to review the MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle by NatureGlo's eScience, so I asked her to show me what it was online.  We looked around the NatureGlo's eScience website and signed up for a trial class.  I decided I wanted to try it.

When we were accepted for the review and first got our log-in information, we were frustrated by the password system and still think it needs to be fixed to allow you to do easier to remember passwords.  Once we got past that, my brother, sister, Mom and I did the first lessons of Math-Art in Ancient Cultures together.  My brother liked it.  So did I.  So, I have been using it by myself since, and, often, my little brother walks over, watches me, asks me questions, and learns with me.
The courses are meant to take six weeks, but, because of password problems, power outages, sickness, and a million other things, I have not completed the Ancient Cultures course yet.  I have gotten 61.11% finished and earned some achievements, too.  You earn achievements by finishing lessons.

Because the course is a pre-recorded classes, I can do it anytime around problems.  That's a good thing.  A bad thing is that I WANT to do it live, because then I could answer the questions and stuff and interact with the people in the class.  The materials in the pre-recorded class are interesting, but I would much prefer them live!
To use MathArt you log on, go to your course, then click on the section you are on, and, then, do the lesson.  The lessons include different parts depending on what is being taught.  Some parts are:

  • videos of the teacher and students during their live classes where you mostly see a screenshot of the teacher's computer and very rarely people's faces.  I do not like this.  I would like to see who is talking.
  • videos from Youtube and other sites that the teacher presents related to the class.  These are things you could find yourself, but it is very convenient to have them all there and the choices are usually good.
  • downloadable things like study guides.
  • DK Find Outs and other website sections that you could find on your own, but that are conveniently brought to you through the class.
  • other web resources and project activities for further learning.

I have found most of the materials helpful and interesting.  I like the videos that tell stories the best.  I sometimes learn from the teacher talking to the students, but sometimes I learn more from doing things myself.

Before taking this course, I had studied a lot about European, Mediterranean, and Colonial cultures, wars, and history, but had not done much Asian or Native American.  So, in this course, I have been adding to my learning about Greeks and learning more than I had before about Asian people.  For example, I learned about how Indian people used spears for hunting and about how they made grid cities.
My mom told me these courses are supposed to teach me math and science in unique way.  I find they are mostly about math and art and have almost zero science.  The math in this course is almost always geometry and is presented in different ways loosely connected to the topics of lessons.  For example, they talked about a Greek guy and there was a thing there about how to fit a pole in a trailer on a truck.  It was about Pythagorean theory and the guy was Pythagoras.  Another example is that I had to do a boring thing about shapes and Platonic Solids related to ancient Greek math.  So, I don't think this course is the best approach to math or science, but I do think it is good for art and I find it interesting overall.
Since this is a review program, it is worth me investing time in it, and I will keep doing after the review, since it is interesting and free.  I am not sure I would spend a lot of money on it though, because a lot of the stuff can be found in other places and because the Ancient Cultures class is mostly just showing you art and making you do a little math connected to cultures.  There are better, more efficient ways of learning about math, science, and art. 
Still, I think some would like this course.  It teaches a lot about culture and organizes many resources into one easy to use program.  The teacher seems to enjoy the subjects and teaches through discussions with kids and resources on the website.  Her style gives you some information and shows you where to get more.
MathArt's Ancient Cultures is an okay course some kids can enjoy.  It is good for parents because they don't have to help their kids do it.
Learn More

Each 6-week MathArt  class currently sells for $149, with a 4-class Bundle offered at 10% off, or $536.40 for a year.  The classes are taught from a nuetral worldview (non-religious) and integrate multiple subjects into single online unit studies with hands-on options, too.

NatureGlo's eScience can be found on social media at:

Seventy Homeschool Review Crew families tried out  Find links to all the reviews by clicking through the banner.

If you're looking to combine art, music, history, and a bit of science with live or recorded classes, MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle might be for you.  Be sure to check out their free trial classes to get a flavor for how the courses work to see if they are a good fit for your family.

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