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Saturday, August 11, 2007

virtual school

Here is a little bit more on our homeschool method. They call it virtual school, not because it's pretending to do school or anything like that, but because most of our lessons are based online. In the evening I will log on for the following day's lessons, will look to see if there is anything I need to have ready in advance, and will pull the proper books and materials. The teacher's directions are spelled out in black and white for me, there are anywhere from 4-8 steps to teach the lesson (they suggest you utilize a couple of these activities, not just one, but you certainly do not have to do all 8 steps to the lesson.) We usually end up doing anywhere from 2-5 steps. All materials are provided for me, they are labeled according to subject...it's all free to me.

How is it that I get all our books, materials, online lessons, etc. free? We are part of an online academy, virtual school, charter school...many names but one idea. Our school is a public school. It is registered as such with the state, and receives funding from the state. I have to admit that free is nice, especially with the cost of adoption, cost of raising a family of 6, etc. I like our curriculum, let me re-phrase that, I LOVE our curriculum. If I were to hand pick one it would be very similar to the k12 curriculum. For first grade we will be doing the following classes: Language Arts, Phonics, Handwriting, History, Science, Art, Music, Math, and Physical Education. Through the Language Arts and History there is a good emphasis on learning through literature (I am a firm believer that if you learn to read and can assimilate what you are reading you have the foundation for learning nearly anything.) It approaches reading through a couple years of phonics before switching over to a more typical English/grammar teaching. We do our PhysEd through our local homeschool group at the YMCA. Art and Music are really half appreciation and half experience at this stage. Handwriting Without Tears is what is provided and it is what I would have ordered were I taking a more traditional route. Math is good as it provides lots of practice and builds nicely on previous skills. I haven't looked at our Science yet (first year teaching it), but I can say the girls are quite impressed with the scale, seeds, thermometer, magnifying glass, and all the other odds and ends that came with the kit.
If I had the money, I do believe I would be likely to order directly from K12 and go from there.

The downfalls of the virtual academy. You have to work with a school. It's not so bad really, but I feel like often times we are doing things simply because it's required, not because it's beneficial. For instance, we have to do four face to face meetings every year. Not that bad if you think about it...just have to meet up with a teacher (not necessarily our teacher) four times a school year. As it turns out though, there is NOTHING withing a 30 mile radius of our home. The ones we went to last year were all at least a 45 min drive. That takes 2 hours out of our school day plus whatever time it takes for meeting with said teacher, potty breaks, lunch etc. Another thing is that I prefer not to teach in a very traditional manner. As in, we do not generally do an hour of math, followed by a half hour of music, etc. It took until about the middle of last year until I found that all of us operate better on a block schedule. We tend to do a large chunk (4-6) lessons of one subject at a time, or will work a couple weeks on something that we are really going good at and excited about before moving on to something else. This makes it hard when portfolio time comes around as we simply might not be there yet, or we are well beyond it and have to go back and re-do the lesson it is based on. It also makes our progress look really funny when out teacher contacts us weekly via email and monthly via phone. I really like how homeschooling allows you to work with your child's interests and enthusiasms, but understand that there are things they never are going to be excited about doing...I'm trying to find that middle balance and an actual school does not make that easy. The other thing that I have a bit of a hard time with is that my girls are 12 mo apart in age and I would like to teach them the same subjects...not easy with the public school setting of a virtual school. We are first sorted according to age, then ability. For instance, we received all Kindergarten stuff for Little Bits, but I will likely be sending back the Math, History, and Handwriting as she did all of that last year. Then I will have to wait for the grade 1 stuff...meanwhile I will work on Art, Science, and Music to keep working and then will have to re-order all of those next year as they are not part of the grade K. It will take me two years or so, but I am hoping by then we will be receiving the same curriculum without all this business of sending stuff back and forth. I really am hoping they will allow her to "skip" a grade and then I know for sure we will be on the same page. I say two years as I know that their reading levels are not the same and I fully expect it to take that long to get on the same level for reading.

Sorry this post is so scattered. I really wanted to get it written and posted though. If anyone has any questions I'm more than happy to write more, but for risk of rambling on and on like I have habit of I'll end it here....that and it's getting close to nap time and we are going through a phase where we won't go to sleep without mommy in the room. Not a bad deal all around as I am finally getting around to reading the Harry Potter books. I am just starting book 5 and am amazed at how much more there is to the books compared to the movies. Is it just me or is Percy completely non-existent in the movies?

Next post is our CSA goodies ( it is squash season, finally!) and hopefully some photo's of the twins' dedication at church.



At 8/11/2007 3:44 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

we're starting the Ohio Virtual Academy this year, too. Wyatt officially starts K. Most of our books just came last week. They accidently sent 1 grade Reading though. Wyatt is all excited about it. We're attending the K reading screening in Findlay.

At 8/13/2007 12:22 PM , Anonymous Christina said...

This is helpful - we were looking at the WA virtual academy for K~. I think I've decided against it because I don't like having parameters set by another public entity... if I'm going to homeschool, I'd want to teach from a Christian worldview. But I think it's awesome they have these online public schools for free.

At 8/14/2007 7:04 AM , Blogger jenn said...

Christina, just wanted to let you know that from what I can tell there is enough flexibility with K12 to teach from a Christian worldview. You might check with someone who has done some upper grades to be sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if they said it was deffinately possible...it is what I am hoping for. Check with E. as she is with a K12 school as well.

At 8/16/2007 7:31 AM , Blogger Jenn said...

Thanks for all this great info. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about homeschooling, and I appreciate your posts.


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