Online Art & Science Classes for Kids

When I think back to my schooling, I have to admit that I was totally spoiled. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t go to some fancy private school. But my regular, local public school provided a lot more options than my kids get today.

We were lucky enough to have our extracurricular courses – from cooking and building to art, music, and science lab – built into the regular school day. To be honest, those classes were the ones I’d look forward to the most and I want my kids to enjoy the same… just not on my time.

I’m whining, I know. First world problems, I know. Lazy parenting… Call it what you will, but does sitting in traffic make me a better parent? I beg to differ.

The reality of my life includes working all day, picking up the kids, homework and housework, and dinner and cleanup, I just don’t want to add “shuttling them around” on top of all that.

The first time I saw Jam Online was a Facebook ad. Then I saw it again and again and again (gotta give Facebook props for persistence), until after seeing it a few more times, I was intrigued… and yet skeptical. To be honest, I’m not a huge screen-lover. I do like the personal touch and live face-to-face experiences. BUT I browsed their Facebook page as was wowed by the too-good-to-be-true projects they post.

The little art education my kids do get at school generally falls into one of two categories: 1) A free-for-all creative exploration where anything goes (think finger painting or mixing colors and 2) Step-by-step instructions to reach a final outcome. So the idea that my kids could take art classes from home and actually learn some real skills was a big win for me.

Taking the Leap

I’m not one to easily get pulled into trying new things. I don’t go for those 14 day free trials, thinking well, it’s no skin off my shoulder. If I’m going to sign up for something, I want to feel like I’m at least 98% sure I’m going to like it, otherwise it’s not worth my time to go through the registration process or to figure out how to fit this new venture into our activities.

What hooked me – besides the amazing-looking projects – was their About section on their Facebook. Founder Zack Klein (who is incidentally also Vimeo’s designer and co-founder) goes from talking about his own childhood passion for the designing web pages and playing Sim City to explaining how passionate learning translates into important careers in the future.

While I’m not particularly focused at this point on job skills for my two grade school kids, I really did appreciate their focus on passion in learning. Plus, I love how the courses are dedicated to teaching actual technical skills. We so often talk about creativity like it’s innate – just something all kids are born with. But we forget about the skills needed to push that creativity – skills that give the foundation and confidence needed to push boundaries.

On top of all that, I took a quick peek at a few of their videos. Their moderators seemed fun, engaging, and down to earth. They have high energy levels without talking down or condescending to kids and keep it all positive.

All in all, everything looked good. No driving around. Fun and engaging courses that are both creative and technical. Good value for money. So we decided to sign up.

What We Love about Jam Online

Let me tell you… If you’re looking for creative classes for kids, the Jam Online classes are AMAZING! For now, my two kids are trying out two of their classes: Drawing Boot Camp and Invent Your Own Machines and they both love them.

Some of my favorite things about Jam include:

  • The accessibility: I don’t have to drive the kids around. I don’t have to rework their schedules – find or make time for these classes. They can get online and start a project when they want to, in their downtime. If my older child has a heavy workload one week, we can just skip a class and take it later. One of my biggest pet peeves about regular classes is all the money I waste because of conflicts of schedule – most programs don’t refund for sick or absent days so being able to make the most out of what I’m spending is a definite plus.
  • Manageable projects: Not only is it great that the classes are organized by age group (which they’ve done pretty accurately), but the individual projects within each course are totally do-able. My kids don’t need any additional instruction or guidance from me to go through their lessons and work on their projects. None of the projects are too lengthy or overly complicated so that they need to set aside huge chunks of time to get through them. At the same time, they do teach skills and then build upon them. And for more involved projects, there’s the beauty of a pause button. Dinner’s ready? Pause. Stop what you’re doing and get back to it later. There’s no fear of missing out because you can always pick up where you left off.
  • Project based learning and mentors that guide you: I love that all the courses are moderated and kids share what they’re working on. The overall vibe is extremely positive. Kids work at their own pace and the mentor guides them when needed. There’s free support 24/7 if kids get stuck on a particular project. The mentors are extremely skilled at showing their techniques, which is something I was worried about given these are online classes. And they truly provide great insights. At the same time, they’re not quick to jump in to correct your child or tell them how to do things. Kids are encouraged to explore and come up with their own solutions, which is wonderful if you’re looking to raise critical thinkers.
  • Learning to fail in order to succeed: I cannot emphasize just how much I love this aspect of the Jam courses. As I mentioned, kids are encouraged to share their work with their learning group. The moderators are committed to keeping the groups positive, with a zero tolerance for teasing or bullying. The best part is, it’s not just about sharing work that comes out perfectly. Kids also share projects with less than stellar outcomes. The focus is really on the process of learning rather than perfect results the first time around. I think this goes a long way in giving kids the confidence they need to take risks rather than beating themselves up over their “mistakes”.

What Could Be Better?

To be honest, I more than pleased with these courses. The quality of the projects, the moderators, the positive community… They’re all just amazing. That said, are there benefits to live classes over online ones? Absolutely. While the moderators are 100% engaged and available, you don’t get the same face-to-face connection that you would have in a live class. You also can’t get up and walk over to a project to view it from multiple angles and perspectives as you would in a live class. You don’t interact physically with other people’s work. And you don’t make friends in the same way as you can in a live class.

At the same time, you do get a bunch of other benefits (no time lost in traffic, working on your own time, and so on), which for us truly took the stress out of extracurricular activities.

About the Courses

If you’re interested in online classes for your kids, I highly recommend Jam Online. They do have a free 14 day trial before committing.

Courses are separated into Younger (7-12 years old) and Older (10 - 16 years old) kids, and are equally focused on creativity and skills. All courses are moderated and the group reviews all projects. Kids earn a certificate of completion at the end of the course.

Classes include:

Know of any other online classes you’d recommend for kids? Please share in the comments below!

Tags : art   science   extracurricular activities   

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