Thursday, August 7, 2014

Brain Chase > Summer Learning Loss.

Being homeschoolers who don't school at home a whole lot, I am always on the lookout for fun classes or tutorials I can sign the kids up for. We are fortunate to have lots of choices during the school year (physics lab, photography classrock climbingMinecraft homeschool...) but during the summer, we have even more.

I took advantage of it this year and signed Liam up for a few weeks of summer learning. At first he balked - it's SUMMER VACATION! How could I be so insensitive? His friends don't have to go to school in the summer. Why should he?! But then I reminded him what the REST of his year looks like and he stopped complaining. (Seriously. He does a lot of stuff and is learning all the time but it's nothing like the day-to-day grind of real school.)

So for two whole weeks he went to SAVY camp at Vanderbilt from 8:45 to 3:45 every day (a very full schedule for a kid who's used to an a la carte approach to schooling). In the morning, he learned about Awesome Algebra and in the afternoon it was Marvelous Molecules. In between he had lunch and there were some P.E. breaks thrown in for good measure. 

He loved it. Maybe not the algebra and molecules part so much (for an academically gifted kid he's sort of meh about academics), but the making new friends and being silly part was right up his alley. Actually - I have no idea what part he loved. I just know that the part he told me about was all the goofy stuff he did with his buddy at lunch. For all I know he totally geeks out when I'm not looking. 

Anyway. At the same time we were schlepping back and forth to Vandy every day, the other summer learning program I signed him up for started. Fortunately for us it was an online program done at each student's own pace. Also fortunately for us? It's the most awesome program we've ever signed up for!

Brain Chase is a six week summer learning program designed to beat summer slide, or the phenomenon that happens when kids break for summer and forget everything they learned during the school year. I don't worry about that happening with Liam since we school year round (he likes to say he always and never goes to school) and don't ever have to cram within a certain timeline, but I liked the premise so much, I couldn't wait to sign up. 

The big idea is this: there's an academy who's trying to figure out where the Globe of Magellan is buried and they need our help. Each Monday they send a video that details part of their adventure and has secret clues that will help us find the Globe. Not the one the kids in the video are looking for, the REAL Globe of Magellan that is buried somewhere in the world. Seriously! It's a massive global treasure hunt. Each week the student can unlock a second video with more clues but in order to do so they have to complete a certain amount of math (on Khan Academy), reading (through MyOn), writing (they are assigned different prompts each week), and a bonus challenge that has to do with the adventure or the whereabouts of the Globe. 

If you've ever wanted to see a kid excited to do math on summer vacation, entice them with a video that holds clues to a valuable buried treasure. Can you say MOTIVATED?!

Whoever figures out where the treasure is buried first gets to fly there with one other person to dig it up. It can be anywhere in the world! The winner gets to keep the Globe AND gets a $10,000 scholarship. How cool is that?! 

Every so often during the challenge Liam has received a special package from the Academy. He got an awesome decoder ring, a very cool compass and, I'm not even kidding, magic seeds that were supposed to grow a clue (I think ours got over watered so they didn't quite work out but the picture another kid posted online looked amazing). 

He's done all the work without complaint, finishing early in the week so he could get his next video as soon as possible. Liam LOVES the videos. This weekend he and his friend watched every single one of them again and after that I could hear them in his room playing real life Brain Chase. 

He's excited about finding the treasure but the person who's really obsessed with it is ME. It's so hard, you guys! I mean, seriously. I feel like a detective who never went to detective school. So many times I've thought we were finally onto something and then he'll find another clue and suddenly nothing makes any sense. It's really fun. Frustrating and mind bending but really, really fun. Like a crossword puzzle on crack that spans the whole world and comes with a buried treasure. 

How's that for summer school?!

We will definitely be doing it again next summer and I've got my fingers crossed that the creators will come up with something for homeschoolers. Now if I can just figure out where that darn globe is buried...

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