Archive for Online courses

FundaFunda’s Online Biology Class for homeschoolers

Online biology class

This year FundaFunda will be offering a high school online Biology class for the first time. To let you know more about the class, I interviewed the instructor Dr Dana Underwood.

What does each unit look like?

Dr Dana UnderwoodDr. Underwood: We do small projects for each unit – not worth a ton in terms of points, but the goal is to have students work with the material at a deeper level.  They can draw, write, make a chart, do a computer animation, sculpt, etc.  Some approaches work better with certain material – nobody has ever sculpted glycolysis – but I also want for them to learn that, if there is an approach to learning that helps them (writing, modeling, acting it out, whatever) then they can use it to learn even if they’re not specifically assigned to make a 3D model.

In my last few years of college and in grad school, I kept play-doh at my desk so that I could make a model of anything that I couldn’t visualize (and just sniff it if I needed to channel my non-stressed 6-year-old self).

I see you assign a textbook. How do you use it in the class?  

Dr. Underwood: The textbook is there so that students can refer back in case their notes from the lectures are missing anything, and to look at specific figures and diagrams. Occasionally short passages are assigned for students to read, but it is not the primary way the material is taught.

Are there tests?

Dr. Underwood: We do one test per unit, which ends up being 4 per semester. The last unit is set up to be a little shorter so that the last test is 1/2 new material, 1/2 cumulative.
How are students graded?

Dr. Underwood: In addition to the test gradesstudents get points for homework and projects, but what I keep emphasizing to them is that usually if they do all of the work, they learn the material enough that the points don’t matter.  Except in the (rare) cases where students have some sort of learning/test taking disability, homework pulls up test grades by no more than one letter grade.  I can do difficult material and they don’t fear that they’ll bomb it because they have homework to ‘pull them up’, but for most students the act of doing the work causes them to learn the difficult material.  I emphasize that even the absence of the assignments that I give, they should still use the techniques – making up practice tests, drawing, making flowcharts or lumping things into categories – to study anything.

Biology is a lot of studying – how do you help the students do that?

Dr. Underwood: We talk about how to approach different parts of the class – for genetics, I tell them to treat it like math and practice many problems.  For the parts of the cell, I tell them to quit saying that they’re ‘confused’ because it’s mostly a list to memorize and they just need to buckle down and do it because they cacelln’t do much else until they know the parts, and for the metabolism and replication/transcription sections, I tell them that they need to think through flowcharts because it’s a process – they can memorize the steps, but they can also choose to think logically about what has to happen next to get to the end result and they’ll end up understanding what’s happening.

We do learn a lot of material.  Much of it is molecular biology and even students who don’t especially enjoy the topic are impressed with its complexity and how much they learned.  At the end of the year, we do ecology, which most students find to be easier – it’s a good way to end the year.

How does this class prepare students for college?

Dr Underwood: The entire class is set up to teach students how to prepare for a college class, in addition to the biology content.  Instead of dcell diagrametailed questions for homework, I give questions that they should use as a study guide – in college they might not give you homework questions asking ‘why is x important’ or ‘why does y have to come first in the pathway?’, but hopefully at the end of my class you’ve learned that if you’re given a list of 8 reasons that something is important, you should familiarize yourself with it, and if you’re presented with a pathway or flow chart, understanding why it happens in that order is important.

What are students likely to gain from this class?

Dr. Underwood: Alas, as much as I think that biology is the coolest subject ever, I know that many of them will use the study methods more than they’ll use the details of cellular metabolism.

Anything else you do that most biology classes don’t?

Throughout the year they write article reviews about the science articles of their choice, so they can either do something with topics that they find interesting or they can learn about current ‘science in the news’.

To sign up for this class click here. And you can view our other FundaFunda Academy classes for homeschoolers here.

FundaFunda’s Online Spanish 1 Class

Online Spanish Class Homeschool


Our high school Spanish 1 online class is designed to give students a rich and engaging experience. It is taught by a native Spanish teacher, Suzette LaPorte-Ayo, and incorporates many different teaching tools.

We don’t use a text book but rather specially created videos – developed after many years of teaching experience.

The concepts taught are then practiced in a variety of ways including

  • websites like StudySpanish and Duolingo
  • watching shows like Sesame Street and cooking shows in Spanish
  • exploring Spanish speaking countries with Google Earth
  • playing online games
  • “shopping” on Spanish sites
  • using Pinterest in innovative ways

Once a week there will be  a live discussion time online. Students will need to attend a certain number of these each semester as we believe speaking the language is a vital part of learning it.

With the wide variety of resources used in this class it will be fun! And students will learn to speak Spanish.

We also have a Spanish 2 class so students can continue with the same teacher.

All our classes are listed here.

FundaFunda’s Online Computer Applications Class

Computer Fundamentals

Over the years of a teaching a variety of subjects, I often ask students to do assignments that involve them using a computer. And so often I am astounded at how much they don’t know how to do!

In an age where even young children often have smart phones, and students seem to spend so much of their time using technology – they still often have a very limited understanding of computers work and the many resources they can access via their computers.

This class is a full year credit designed for homeschoolers (but anyone is welcome to enroll). In states that require a Computer Applications or a Digital Literacy class, this will meet that requirement. But our class will go far beyond what is typically taught.

Our aim is that students will acquire a better understanding of how computers can be used. They will be introduced to a wide variety of online sites (all free) and ways of doing things.

Here are some things we will be covering:

  • the internet and copyright
  • internet and computer terminology
  • website creation (using a variety of different website builders)
  • graphic creation
  • spreadsheets
  • online research and citations
  • editing photographs
  • bookmarking
  • document creation
  • video production (just on a very basic level)
  • working collaboratively on projects over the internet
  • task management
  • slideshows (once again they will learn a variety of tools)
  • creating a digital portfolio
  • making money with their computers

Each week will focus on one main topic (though we introduce some secondary ones as well). Typically they will view a video with one of our instructors giving them a brief tour of the website for that week, with examples from how they are using it themselves. Then students will be given links to other videos, training manuals etc that they can use to learn more. To test mastery, students will then turn in assignments using the tool.

The course spans both semesters and will take about 4 hours each week.


FundaFunda’s Online High School Geography Class for homeschoolers

Online high school geography class

As our world becomes more and more connected through the internet and the ability to travel easily, it is more and more important for students to understand the world they are part of. Fundafunda’s online high school Geography Class aims to help them do just that.

Many jobs have people all over the world working together on projects, many involve travel and many require interaction with other cultures.

All this means Geography is a very exciting and relevant subject to study – but all the excitement can so easily be destroyed by a dull text book and worksheets.

But you won’t find any of those in our online class! This course is intended for high school homeschoolers and after the completion of both semesters, they will have earned one full credit. Younger students may take it – but bear in mind the course load is high school level. And of course, non-homeschoolers can enroll too. Any students are welcome – but there will be about 4 hours work each week.

How will the content be delivered?

1. Video

Video allows students to actually “see” the place they are studying. They can hear the sounds and watch the people.

2. Research

Students will be assigned various topics to research – and their research will then be shared with their classmates in creative ways. They definitely won’t be completing worksheets! It is important that students are “active” learners. Benjamin Franklin said

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

3. Websites

The websites won’t be ones that are just “textbook clones”. They might be games, or scavenger hunts, or Google earth! There are so many really engaging websites that take “experiencing” Geography to a whole new level. Webcams and 3D technology can help students feel like they are really there!

4. Interactions with locals

Students will each have a penpal in another country to interact with and I will also organize live video sessions with internationals (these will be recorded for those unable to attend live).

How will the students’ understanding of the work be assessed?

Our aim is to achieve a broad knowledge of world geography, and that students will retain much of this knowledge well after the class has ended. We are not huge fans of tests as a means of assessment but will rather use:

* Quizzes – these will be short and taken during or straight after instruction to check students are paying attention 🙂 They will be able to re-take them if they realized they had been daydreaming.

* Online games are a great way for students to learn where countries are, their capitals etc. Some of these have dashboards for teachers, but in other cases we will require a screenshot as proof of mastery

* Game creation – students will need to research and create games. And then, of course, they will play each other’s games.

* Presentation of their research – this will take different forms but will include short paragraphs, videos, posters, websites and itinerary planning.

The work will take students about 4 – 5 hours each week. They will be able to work anytime they want to – but there will be deadlines and they will have to keep up. On occasion, they will be working with classmates collaboratively and they will be doing peer assessments and interacting with each other in the virtual classroom. So it will be like a regular classroom – just online!

WARNING: Your children may enjoy this so much that they will be begging you to travel. Or maybe FundaFunda should just plan a round-the-world field trip for us all at the end of the course!

Ready to sign up? Visit us on FundaFunda Academy.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments.


What 90% of schools don’t teach – but should

The subject 90% of schools don't teachDo you know that 90% of schools in the US don’t teach computer programming? This statistic blows my mind, particularly in light of the fact that jobs requiring coding skills are growing at two times the national average and they are some of the highest paying jobs.

Less than 2.4% of college students graduate with a degree in Computer Science, and of those only 12% are women!  (Stats are from

I am sure that one of the reasons so few take Computer Science courses at college is that they really don’t know what programming is all about, and many think it is something only geeks study.

And while the 39 000 students who took the AP Computer Science Exam in 2014 was an increase of 26% from the previous year, the number was still low compared to subjects like AP US History which had 460 000 students take it.

One of the reasons for the lack of teaching in schools is the lack of teachers who can code. “We need to train students today to have the skills that we don’t have,” says Ravi Gupta, founder of RePublic Charter Schools in Nashville in an article on “But we don’t have enough people who have the skills to teach it .”

More and more people are realizing that something needs to be done to get children programming. has done a wonderful job with the annual Hour of Code and I have watched students write their first lines of code – and get so excited about what they have achieved.

England and Estonia have added programming to the elementary curriculum and Finland, Singapore and Italy are following suit in 2016 (article about it is here)

Tom Cortina, assistant dean at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science has this to say about why programming should be taught at school:

Early exposure brings benefits. When younger kids learn computer science, they learn that it’s not just a confusing, endless string of letters and numbers, but a tool to build apps, or create artwork, or test hypotheses. It’s not as hard for them to transform their thought processes as it is for older students. Breaking down problems into bite-sized chunks and using code to solve them becomes normal. Giving more children this training could increase the number of people interested in the field and help fill the jobs gap.

And Maria Klawe, President of Harvey Mudd College says

Coding is today’s language of creativity. All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead consumers of computer science.

So what can you do if your child is at a school that is one of the 90%? What can you do if you don’t know how to code?

Fortunately there are ways for students to fill in the gaps themselves. For the self motivated ones who don’t need much assistance there are free sites like and where students can work at their own pace.

For those who need more structure and someone to be there to answer questions, there are now a number of online courses they can enroll in. We have a $9.95 4 week one that just introduces the elements of game programming (design, graphics and logic) in a gentle fashion to students. And then we have 5 week (or full semester) classes in Scratch and Python which both focus on game creation which most students really enjoy doing.

And you will probably find your local university offers classes to school students in the summer as well. I know ours does.

But whatever you do, find a way for your children to learn to code. Even if they never become programmers, most jobs in the future will require at least an understanding of it. In addition, the critical thinking and problem solving skills learned along the way are invaluable.



A 21st Century Stocking Stuffer for Kids – an Online Programming Class

Stocking stuffer for kids

If you are looking for a unique stocking stuffer for a 4th – 12th grader this year, consider giving one of FundaFunda’s Online Intro to Game Programming Classes.

At $9.95 it is a really good price for a 4 week online class that is graded and where a student can earn a certificate on successful completion. (They can also finish with a $10 coupon off any of our other courses if they pass).

This class is intended for students who have never done any programming. It touches not only on program logic but also game design and game graphics – so it is a really good way to expose students to all those different aspects of video game creation.

Students do have to complete the class in the allotted time, but they have flexibility each day as to when they will go online to do their assignments.

The classes start the Monday after Christmas.

At the end of the course we ask students to complete a survey. Here’s why some of them said they would recommend it to others (I just cut and paste so you are getting EXACTLY what they entered).

i would recomend this course to my friends because it teaches a lot of really useful programming skills and it kind of changes the way you look at the computer after learning all of the things it teaches.

Because technology is one of the new languages. Many people should be able to learn a little bit of it.

Because it is super fun.

its a fun course and if someone wants to learn the basics its really simple and well done in this course

The class was fun and good to figure out if you really would be good at programming.


If you are giving this as a stocking stuffer – here is a graphic you can print off to put in the stocking.


It’s that time again: The Hour of Code!!

I am re-publishing this post I wrote last year as once again it is time for the Hour of Code. I have update the information provided in the post so that it is all relevant to 2014.

This week marks the second Hour of Code – an initiative to try and encourage every student in the USA and all over the world, to spend one hour having a hands-on experience with programming.

As Steve Jobs said – programming teaches critical thinking and logic. Programming is now also used in so many different areas of life – in fact, it is hard to find areas where programming is not used. And programming provides a growing number of jobs.

Yet – only 1 of every 10 students in the US is currently exposed to programming during their school years.

Programming jobs infographic

This is what President Obama said this week:

I learned to program while I was in high school. I traveled to another school in our city once a week to a class that taught us COBOL and FORTRAN. At home we owned an Apple, and I taught myself Applesoft Basic.

My own children learned to program while they were in elementary school. If you teach children while they are young, they take to it really easily. In Estonia they are starting to teach students from age 7 as part of their regular school day.

However, in the US and many other countries, programming is not taught in the majority of schools. And many parents feel they don’t have the skills to teach it at home.

The Hour of Code is hoping to change that. This is one of their promo videos:

It is not too late to register if you are a teacher or leaders of a youth organization – Sign up here and you will receive all the info you need.

If you are in Knoxville – all students from K – 12th are invited to join in the Hour of Code which the Knox County 4-H Computers and Technology Project Group are hosting at Brehm Animal Science Building at the University of Cape Town from 6:45-8pm on Thursday 11 December. All the details can be found on their Facebook group.

To further assist students to get to experience the world of programming, I am offering a $9.95 online 4 week course called Intro to Game Programming. This course is designed for 5th-12th graders and will give students a taste of the world of programming.

Students will learn

  • elements of game design
  • how to make graphics for games
  • program logic
  • how to create their first simple program

All the tools used are free and work on both iOS and Windows systems.

Find out when the next class starts here.

All students who successfully complete the class get a $10 coupon to use on any other coding class of  ours.

FundaFunda’s Online Photography Course

online photography class

This online photography class is aimed at homeschoolers – but any students from 6th-12th grade are welcome to participate. Students taking this class should come out with a better appreciation for photography and better techniques. And they should have fun doing it!

What will your teen learn?

Our course covers all the basics of photography: composition, light, shutter speed, aperture. We cover different types of photography – portrait, landscape, still life and even photo journalism.

Students learn how to edit their photos with free online software.


How will they learn?

They will watch videos where our instructor, Piers van der Merwe, teaches a group of 4 students. He takes each concept and works through it and then sets the teens a challenge. They bring back the results and he critiques them. There is a lot of fun and laughter as they learn which makes it entertaining. By the way, all the photos in this post were taken by the teens currently participating in the classes that are being recorded

The online students continue their learning through extra videos, or websites. They will sometimes take quizzes too. Each week they will have homework and when they turn it in it is graded. They will share some of their work with their classmates and this is a another way they will learn – from each other as they see what works and what doesn’t.


How much time will they spend?

Students can expect about 4 hours work each week – this includes watching the videos, doing extra online assignments and taking and editing the photos. They can work any time they want as the course will be available 24/7. However, assignments will have due dates so they have to keep up with the work.

There are classes for 16 weeks.

The class is worth a 1/2 credit if taken as a high school elective.


Want more info?

If you want to learn more about our instructor (my husband!) take a look at his website, On Standby.

And to see some demo modules of the courses we offer go to Canvas and use the email and the password tryitout.


How much does it cost?

The class costs $119.

You can sign up here and also view the other classes we are offering this semester.

FundaFunda Academy’s Fall Courses


Fundafunda online classes for homeschoolers

We are very excited to be offering 9 online courses starting this Fall – with more to come in Spring. These classes are intended for homeschoolers but anyone is welcome to sign up.

As always we will be focusing on making these FUN and ENGAGING and full of great CONTENT. No dry text books. No boring lengthy lectures.

All these online classes for homeschoolers will be run similarly to regular classes. There will be classmates – the students will meet in moderated chat rooms and in online conferences (some classes). There will be homework assignments. There will be due dates. There will be grades.

Online classes are not easier than “regular” classes – they are just a different way to deliver instruction so don’t choose this option if you are looking for a quick and easy credit. Instead, choose our courses if you are looking to learn a lot – and to enjoy the learning process.

Grades will reflect how well assignments are completed, but because we want students to do as well as possible, there will always be opportunities to resubmit assignments if they want to get a better grade.

Students can log on and work on their assignments any time they want to. Spanish is the only class that does have one set time each week (noon ET on Tuesdays) where students need to get on their webcams and “go to class”. They will take part in a live discussion which is pretty fun to do.

Here are some of the classes we are offering


Online Scratch ClassThis will be a 16 week course and consist of our beginner, intermediate and advanced courses. Scratch is a drag-and-drop language that allows students to easily create games. It is a good way to start learning about programming concepts before progressing to other languages which require users to learn the syntax.

By the end students will be able to program games like Hangman and Space Invaders.


online photography classThis is a one semester class. For those who remember the children’s program “Fetch” we use a similar style but adapt it for teens. Students taking the course will watch videos each week where 4 teens are taught some aspect of photography and then they are issued a challenge. Once they have watched the teens perform the challenge, students in the class will get to complete the same challenges.

They will also take online quizzes and do various other assignments each week.


Online Geography CourseStudents will learn geography by watching videos, playing online games and completing enjoyable assignments. There will be about 4 hours work each week as this is intended as a 1 credit class for high schoolers.

Students will be “immersed” in different cultures and it should be an eye-opening year for them.




Spanish 1

SpanishcourseThis is intended as a high school Spanish 1 class. No prior knowledge of Spanish is needed.  The instructor, Suzette LaPorte-Ayo, a native Spanish speaker, taught all my own children Spanish and the three oldest either did well enough on their AP exam to be exempt from languages at college, or they placed into advanced Spanish classes. And my children all really enjoyed the way she taught – which is why we asked her to join our teaching team .

The classes will include video instruction, online games and exercises, quizzes and regular online live discussion times each week.


To make it easier for you to understand what an online class will be like, we have created demo modules for each course. Each demo is about a week’s work and you can hear / see the teacher and get an idea of the sort of work that will be assigned.
To view the demo classes go to Canvas and use the email and the password tryitout. 

If you think this will be a good fit for your child, then sign up for one of these classes here.

If you want to get updates on our FundaFunda Academy course offerings, just let us know  and we will keep you updated whenever new courses are starting.

7 Reasons Why Online Computer Classes work so well

Online vs Offline Classes

This year I have taught both offline and online programming classes to 5th-12th graders. My conclusion as I look back over this year is that the online classes were far more effective than the ones I taught in a physical classroom.

I bet you are wondering why! Here are my reasons (please remember these relate specifically to teaching programming – not to lessons in general)

1. Every child goes at their own speed

In a classroom I explain how to do something and then ask if everyone has understood. There is always at least one person who doesn’t and the others have to wait while I explain again before we can continue to the next concept. In an online environment, students can just replay the video again. And again. And again if they need to. They can also pause me – and try it out for themselves and then come back to the video.

2. Students can work when they want to 

My class this year was right at the end of the day and the students were already zoning out. If my lectures had been available online, they could do it when they were more focused.

3. No student has to wait on the teacher 

Ok – now this may sound backwards, but let me explain. In the classroom I would go to each student to check their homework and help them with problems. The others could work on something else till I got to them, but it was always disruptive and sometimes they really needed me to help them before they could continue. In an online environment they could send me their problem and go off and something else – and return later to see what I answered.

4. The teacher can solve problems at his/her leisure

Sometimes I just wouldn’t be able to see what the problem was and I would feel the pressure as I knew other students were also waiting for me. In online environment it is much less stressful to debug programs. You don’t have any students looking expectantly at you as your brain tries desperately to figure it out.

5. It is easy for students to help each other

Again this may sound like I am confused, but it is true. In a classroom students would sometimes help the students near them, but online everyone is near you. I always make sure to provide a “chat room” where students can go to post problems or just to chat. Students will visit the chat room before or after they start there own work – so helping someone isn’t as intrusive as it is in a classroom.

6. Everything is in one place

Grades and feedback and assignments and lectures are all in the same place. It is very easy to interact with students and grade them. In an offline situation you have to look at a program and assess it, then go to your laptop / tablet and enter a grade. And I found I had to post assignments even for my physical students as they could never remember what I had told them to do. Doing everything online helped keep me and the students organized.

7. It is less distracting

In class, someone was always making a funny comment, or using some strange sound in the game or getting up to go to the bathroom. As a result far less got accomplished than could have been. Online this doesn’t happen. Interaction between classmates still does occur in the chat room, but this isn’t distracting.

Have I piqued anyone’s curiosity as to whether it does work as well as I say? Well you can give it a try. I have a number of online programming classes available this summer and one is even free!

And I am giving away one Intro to Game Programming Classes (Full Version) worth $9.95 to two readers. Just enter the giveaway below and if you win one you can choose between the two different ones offered. If you have already signed up and then you win, I will refund you the money. Use the comments if you have any questions or input.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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