Compass Classroom Review

If you have or will soon have a middle or high school student you are homeschooling, you will want to read this Compass Classroom review!  Members of our team have used Compass Classroom.

Our Compass Classroom review is organized by the critical questions most of us ask when researching and evaluating homeschool curriculum options.

Who is Compass Classroom?

Compass Classroom offers online, pre-recorded courses taught from a biblical perspective using a classical approach. The classical approach to education seeks to cultivate in students a love of learning, a commitment to lifelong learning, and a deep appreciation for the wisdom and knowledge of the past.

The classical approach puts a strong focus on language and literature. The development of critical thinking and communication skills are a priority. You will notice this as you watch sample courses from Compass Classroom.

Compass Classroom offers 50+ different courses at this writing. You can purchase them courses individually, but the absolute best deal is their Premium Membership which grants you access to ALL of their course selections for just $39 a month or $390 annually.

The courses are self-paced, pre-recorded courses with videos and textbooks, along with quizzes, tests, and other assignments provided as part of the course. (We discuss more about the required materials below.)

How Does Compass Classroom Help Us Homeschool High School?

If you want to help your teen become a more independent learner, the Compass Classroom learning environment is an excellent place to foster that independence. I’ll talk more about how the courses are structured and the lesson layout in just a bit.

Compass Classroom Review  Premium Membership provides access to all courses for one monthly or annual low price.

If your state has graduation requirements for history, science, English, and electives, then you have probably had a course of study checklist at some point. As part of our high school records, we always have a year-by-year list we track. We know that each year of high school requires math, history, science, and English.

I take that list and start shopping for our courses. As you look at the Compass Classroom catalog, you notice that they are a one-stop shop for middle and high-school-level science, history, English, worldview, and electives.

Their courses include (but are not limited to) biology, economics, literature, Latin, general science, various history courses, and so much more. Compass Classroom does not offer math courses.

For one price, your student has access to all of these courses via the Premium Membership offered by Compass Classroom.

How Much Lesson Planning Do I Need to Do With Compass Classroom?

Since I have had to work for the last 22 years, working and homeschooling is just what we do! So, especially in high school, we have had to select curriculum options that didn’t require me to sit down and plan out every lesson.

Compass Classroom has done the lesson planning for you. They have features in place to help your student have a successful experience with their courses.

  • First, at the beginning of each course is an introduction, which I highly recommend parents review with their student. This is a reference for parents and students alike about what to expect. It’s important with online or digital learning to set expectations.
  • Also, the courses list a syllabus. We always printed the syllabus; from there, my daughter would mark her planner. (I was fortunate to have one child who would plan their workload!) Whether your teen is headed to college, trade school, an apprenticeship, the military, or is starting a business after high school, being good stewards of our time is important.
  • A complete list of the resources you will need for the course is clearly listed. The literature course had about eight required books available through the library or Thriftbooks®. They even provided links to Thriftbooks®. Then, there was a list of 23 PDFs that were excerpts from other pieces of literature. It was so easy to pull up each and download or print. We always download, print, and put these resources in a notebook. If we ever need to provide information in the future about the materials used in a course, we can refer to the notebook. Plus, it just keeps all the required resources in one place. (One of our biggest battles with loose papers is getting them piled under cereal bowls and dirty socks.)

Plus, if your student is headed to a community college or university, many schools issue tests on the syllabus the first week of classes. So, knowing how to navigate a syllabus is important.

  • Chapters or sections of the course are laid out lesson by lesson, with assignments, quizzes, and tests listed. Your student must mark each done as they complete each section.

This makes it easy to know where they are and how they are pacing themselves through the course.

  • In addition, lessons are provided in PDF format, so you can have a hard copy and use it in a planner or notebook. So, if you or your student work better with a hard copy, you can have a printout.

You don’t have to sit with your teen and figure out what to do next; they move through the checklist, checking it off as they finish.

We have had many experiences with online learning portals and community college online courses. While some portals make navigation through lessons reasonably easy to determine, many do NOT, or it’s confusing whether the portal has registered an assignment “complete.” Sometimes, we experience grades being marked down because the system didn’t register a completed assignment.

So, straightforward navigation is essential, and having the ability to print the lessons is a bonus!

The Compass Classroom portal lists where a student is in the process, how to mark an assignment or lecture “complete,” and what comes next.

Do We Need to Purchase Books and Supplies? What Else Do We Need to Complete a Compass Classroom Course?

Each course has a list of needed books or resources. Some of the resources are available as downloadable PDFs. For example, reading assignments in the British Literature course are in the public domain and are offered in the portal as a PDF download.

The required books or readings are listed and easy to find.

I also recommend the basic supplies of pencils and notebooks if your student takes notes by hand. Writing down what the instructor has put on the whiteboard will most likely be very helpful when it comes time to take a quiz, test, or write a paper.

You’ll need access to a computer and an internet service which allows for reliable streaming.

What Kind of Support Does Compass Classroom Provide?

This is an area where Compass Classroom excels!

We have had online learning experiences where we felt alone with no feedback or help resources available when we were wondering, “Are we doing this correctly?” and “Is this all there is?”

Compass Classroom provides the following resources to help you have a successful and enriching experience with their courses:

  • At this writing, nine of their courses have supplementary “How to Teach Helps” that provide you with a teacher’s guide (which has info on many things, including assigning credits), supplemental audios, PDF readings, and much more. Here is the Additional Helps page for American History. How to Teach American History – My Compass Classroom
  • You can also begin a discussion right from your family’s dashboard.
  • There is an active online group community where you can join a discussion group for each course your student is enrolled in.
Compass Classroom Review - Groups are available for interaction.

What is the Quality of the Instruction and Videos at Compass Classroom?

We have been through live online, self-paced, and pre-recorded (with some teacher interaction) online classes for over six years. We’ve been in courses offered by companies, community colleges, and individuals. So, we’ve seen it all, so to speak, when it comes to the online learning world.

I am discerning regarding the audio quality, lighting levels, and the rate at which the instructor speaks. All of these factors influence the learning experience.

Many of the Compass Classroom courses were recorded with a live class of students, making the class atmosphere more real. The students ask questions, and the instructor responds, which is helpful because our kids will likely have the same or similar questions. I also liked that instructors would ask questions, where you (if you’re watching alongside your teens) can pause the video and discuss the question. 

The instructors are prepared and professional. They are in a well-lit environment, and the audio is clear. These are details that affect our child’s ability to pay attention and focus on the information being presented rather than trying to adjust the volume and focus on how they cannot hear the instructor. (Can you tell we have had to deal with these situations via other online classes?!)

This seems like a nit-picky detail, but the instructors talk at a reasonable rate. We have had experience with online teachers who spoke SO FAST that it was impossible to take notes. Even when we had the option to slow the playback speed to 25-50%, the video had to be stopped constantly to make a quick note. This may seem like a small detail, but if your teen must keep starting, stopping, and rewinding to understand, it leads to high frustration levels!

Since it is all pre-recorded, students can rewind if they are taking notes or weren’t sure about something that was said or a concept they didn’t quite grasp.

Some of the instructors use an interactive board or dry-erase board. I highly recommend that students treat these courses like in-person classes and take notes. There was a lot of valuable information shared in the British Literature and Visual Latin courses.

These are appropriately challenging courses designed to help students gain deep knowledge and understanding of the topic and apply and discuss information.

These are like attending a live class, but your student can work at their own pace and take notes, copy diagrams, etc. This is a great way to develop study skills, especially if your teen is headed to college. It is essential that they know how to take notes and organize information. The Compass Classroom instructors we watched utilized visuals, which is helpful for visual and auditory learners.

In one of the Visual Latin class videos, Dwane Thomas made a great point that applies to the format of the Compass Classroom courses. He said that in the Latin class, students, “… hear the information, see the information, think about it, and speak it.” The instructors lecture, ask questions, draw diagrams, write down important points, and engage the students in discussions about what they analyzed in the coursework.

These are appropriately challenging courses designed to help students gain deep knowledge and understanding of the topic and apply and discuss information.

These are like attending a live class, but your student can work at their own pace and take notes, copy diagrams, etc. This is a great way to develop study skills, especially if your teen is headed to college. It is essential that they know how to take notes and organize information. The Compass Classroom instructors we watched utilized visuals, which is helpful for visual and auditory learners.

Compass Classroom differs from other self-paced courses we’ve done in that the classes we watched through their portal engaged the student more.

How Do I Know How My Child is Doing in the Course?

As our teens advance through the middle and high school years, we especially are concerned about whether our they are grasping the course information, especially since high school courses often build on one another. Plus, we have high school transcripts, (and possibly) the SAT or ACT, college admissions, and possibly scholarship applications that rely upon grades and GPA.

Your Compass Classroom account dashboard provides full disclosure of where your teen is in a course and their grades to date. You do need to go through a few steps to connect your child’s work to your account. (Compass Classroom provides visual directions for this.)

In the British literature course, there are a number of papers the students write. However, the instructor provides a solid description of the assignment, and we watched the student presentations to get an idea of the scope of the assignment.

Some of our Favorite Courses at Compass Classroom

British Literature – Compass Classroom Review

British Literature with Thomas Purifoy is outstanding.  His passion for British literature and its intricacies is very evident in his teaching style. He is adept at guiding the discussion so students can connect with the characters, what they say and do, and the human condition, and relating it to the Bible. 

We have spent much time involved in Shakespeare through live theatre and reading. One of my kids has participated in English-speaking competitions where students present Shakespeare monologues. She also attended summer college-level British literature courses at Mary Baldwin College. So, when it comes to reading and analyzing British literature, we have had more exposure than most at high-school age.

He leads the students through a series of points and questions aimed at helping them see what the character is trying to do or can do through their actions. 

The instructor is highly familiar with each book and was able to have students turn to particular passages, ask questions, and help students see what structures the author is employing to get their message across in the story. Thomas Purifoy’s classical approach is thought-provoking, and his passion and deep understanding of each literary selection draw the students into the discourse.

The course is pre-recorded with a class of very engaged students. It was helpful to be able to hear the students’ answers to the discussion questions and to be able to listen to their paper presentations. 

As a side note, a number of the reading selections were available as a downloadable PDF at the beginning of the course.

Visual Latin – Compass Classroom Review

Another favorite of ours from Compass Classroom is Visual Latin with Dwane Thomas. Trish Corlew, one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, chose for her boys to take Latin from Compass Classroom.

Latin can be one of the most dry and boring subjects you could possibly imagine. But not with Dwane Thomas leading the study! We are not classical homeschoolers, and I had no idea what path my children would head down in college. So, I really wanted my kids to take Latin almost as insurance. I wanted to be sure if they chose a career in any of the sciences, medicine, law, music, theology, philosophy, art, literature – or any of the other careers that benefit from having Latin knowledge – that they were not starting out behind because they didn’t have previous classes in high school.

As it turns out, all of my children are in college pursuing science and law careers! I was smart to buy this insurance, so to speak! #homeschoolwin

But honestly, even if they had not pursued one of these careers, Latin helps our children with the English language, vocabulary, and grammar!

I am so thankful we found Dwane and Visual Latin years ago. Dwane has been teaching Latin for years; his joy and passion for this language show in how he teaches it. He is super interactive, highly engaging, funny, and interesting. He doesn’t believe in long and tedious lessons and really considers himself an edutainer, his word, not mine. He knows this subject can be dry, and he has to work extra hard to keep their attention.

I highly recommend you take this Compass Classroom review to heart and head over to try out Visual Latin. Compass Classroom has a thirty-day free trial on their Premium Membership (and you don’t need a credit card to get it… so you won’t get an unexpected charge at the end of the thirty days!) But I think you will also see the value in Latin and will want to purchase this insurance program too 🙂

By the way, if you have younger students and want to start introducing them to Latin, check out WordUp. Dwane Thomas teaching that course, too, and it is all about English Vocabulary that comes from Latin and Greek roots. Watch this short trailer, and you will see what I mean about how funny Dwane Thomas is and why THIS is the only Latin I personally recommend.

Word Up! The Vocab Show – Trailer from Compass Cinema & Classroom on Vimeo.

Also, check out our interview with Dwane on our Homeschool Conversations podcast.

Our Final Thoughts In this Compass Classroom Review

If you are looking for high-quality course content that is biblically based, we highly recommend Compass Classroom and their Premium Membership. Their instructors are knowledgeable, communicate well, and uphold biblical truths throughout their courses.

These are self-paced but provide a very detailed outline, additional resources, and a community of groups, so you and your student are not out there on your own trying to determine where to start, what comes next, and if you’re on the right path with the course and assignments.

Last but not least is the price of the Premium Membership. Your student has access to all of their courses for one very reasonable price. Indeed, this makes homeschooling 8-12 grade so much easier.

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