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One Parent's response to Online AP English Literature taught by Maya Richman Inspektor....
Jacquie Reed, 4/29/2010

Jacquie Reed is a longterm homeschooling mother of Lauren (19) and Jackson (17), and a writer herself (we look forward to publishing future writings on a wide range of family and homeschooling topics in the future!). She wrote this letter to our daughter, Maya (Molly) Richman Inspektor, after receiving the mid-year evaluation of her son Jackson's progress in AP English Literature-- and I felt this would help many families gain a feel for what can be accomplished and experienced in an online interactive class. Most of our AP Online teachers ca be expected to send out detailed mid-year reports, helping parents gain insight into the course and how the students are doing. In sharing about her own homeschooling background, Jacquie shared that they'd been homeschooling for 7 years, "They have been great years for us. I was teaching high school in a private school where the children were attending in the lower school. When we decided to take the kids out and just punt for the rest of the year, Jackson was in 2nd grade and Lauren, our daughter was in 5th grade. We all loved it. When I asked them separately to make a list of pros and cons, they each had somewhere on that list, 'homeschooled kids like their siblings more.' They had realized it before I had. It is one of my biggest blessing on this journey." The Reed family lives in Washington state.

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Dear Mrs. Inspektor,

We just received your thoughtful and discerning progress report for Jackson. Thank you. We are so appreciative of the work, thought, sensitivity and (unless you are superhuman in your writing skills) the time you put into your instruction, assignments and your responses to all your students.

Regretfully I can’t read all the students’ essays and discussion questions, but I try to read a selection of them. I like to read each, gain a sense of the beauty or lack thereof, try to put it into words, and then read your response. Your response so often concretely and eloquently conveys what I feel, makes observations come into focus for me, gives strong understandable suggestions to the student for improvement, and leaves the writer with legitimate encouragement and hope. The grace, intelligence and humor in your responses is lovely.

In looking at this class last summer, my fear was that an online AP Lit class could not deliver in the discussion arena. In reality, Jackson has not missed out on the honing and sharpening that come from the verbal confluence of ideas and, due to the guidance of your questions and the additional reflection required by the process of writing, the class dialogues are more thoughtful and mature.

 As I mentioned to you earlier, the students’ access to your comments and suggestions on their fellow students’ papers and essays is an invaluable learning opportunity. I also have learned. I confess students of mine would have benefitted by my peeking into your classroom earlier!

Jackson’s writing has improved greatly this semester. Keen insights and beautiful language would have often described Jackson’s writing, but he relied heavily on inspiration and his communication preference was the spoken word. Through your class (especially the short story boot camp as one of your former students called it) I have seen him have to jump into his topic and not wait for perfection or his muse. I thought about asking you for an hour extension on his daily assignments. (He rows everyday from 3:00-6:30 and sometimes that made it hard to get his homework in by 9:00.) But as I watched him, I realized the volume of writing and the time constraints forcing him to write more quickly was what he needed.

He has loved his new found ability to convey meaning more clearly and quickly. There were times when he fairly floated or bounded into the room to read me something he had crafted.

Through this class, Jackson is learning how his expectation and motivation impacts his writing. He has chosen to write all the practice AP essays within time limits because he knows he needs to work on diving right in. It was through the differences in his emotional responses to the last three essays that he understood his unproductive dependence on inspiration.  He felt depleted of new important things to say in the Frankenstein essay; he couldn’t wait to write the Wuthering Heights essay and felt it flowed poetically; he couldn’t create the inspiration to say something of significance he wanted in the Gatsby essay. In Jackson’s mind the essays varied considerably in strength; your evaluations, however, made him realize the product doesn’t vary from essay to essay as much as his emotional engagement does. He realizes he needs to depend less on emotional inspiration and just write. It is rare for a class to cause learning at such a deep level: an understanding of oneself not just a mastery of a process.

This is long but I want you to know that you have had a powerful impact on Jackson’s writing, his appreciation of literature and his growing sophistication of analysis. This class will go onto Jackson’s transcript as 1 credit, but measured by the learning attained it could justify 2.5 credits.

 I warn you, you might have more Washingtonian students next year. I have touted your class as just that: a combination of an excellent writing class, a superb literature class and a strong semester of rhetoric.

Thank you for your dedication to teaching and your delight in your students.

Jacquie


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