Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why?

Each student is different and each teacher is different and each student / teacher interaction is different. that being said: I have two children, one that is pleasant, interactive and one that would rather not interact at all. when the teacher sends out a monthly 'interactive' email to get a response, one child will respond with a couple of sentences to complete the task, the other child with one word, generally with the least amount of syllables possible. that is not to suggest that either child likes or dislikes the teacher, the school, or the process, it is simple preferences. take those same two children, both are eager to participate in the weekly online classrooms, they arrive on time, and are eager to engage. but one on one puts them on the spot and they feel overwhelmingly uncomfortable.

last year we were having difficulty with writing, the grammar was too easy for the 4th grader but the composition was extremely difficult. by sorting things out, participating in a 6/7th grade weekly composition classroom, the 4th grader was able to help the 6th/7th graders with grammar and they in turn was able to help with writing process. imagine any other place where a child that is three years ahead in grammar but two years behind in composition would be able to get that type of support. By the end of six months, he was able to progress from 8 hours to write two sentences to 400+ word essay in 2 hours during the State Exams. He still answers the teachers email queries with with things like 'no', but he is just a minimalist and he is not being ugly about it.

the cons? it puts a lot of work on the parent / learning coach, we are there 7 hours a day, 5 days a week on top of parenting, we are the teacher, the administrator, the nurse, the nutritional, we are the bus driver, the chemistry teacher, the swim coach, the recess referee, we are the librarian, there are very few 'breaks', no time off, and we always having a running list in the back of our head of how much literature is still to be done before bedtime, how many math lessons are due by the end of the week, and what science supplies still need to be purchased with the weekly groceries to complete the next science experiment or art project and always in the darkest part of our sub conscientious is the thought "will we get through enough to do well enough on the state exams so that we reflect well on our family, our school, and demonstrate that we made the right choice to pull our children from a situation that is considered 'acceptable' in lieu of a child not able to function in a classroom of 20 noisy students and having panic attacks and going to the nurses office three days a week from stress and anxiety, missing academic lessons, suffering teasing for being different .

the saddest part of it all, he probably could benefit from a partial day and a micro small group setting, but the local schools do not see a hybrid as a solution for children that are somewhat homebound. it is currently all or nothing in the majority of the schools. He would do well with a increased frequency with other children, and exposure to other children. the reason we chose Virtual School is that we believe in a non secular classical education with the same benefits and responsibilities of a public education in exchange for a curriculum that is already researched and set out to meet the Common Core Standards, that not all states have adopted. K12 gives us that, they take the State Standards, and they add in the Common Core Standards on top of that so that they follow the National guidelines for an education that will transfer to the University Level when the time comes. Do not confuse Virtual School which is at it's core Schooling at Home with Homeschooling and Unschooling, they are as different as night and day.

As with everything with k12, we generally move at the speed of light. when it comes to IEP / ARD, there is not a whole lot of resources delegated to help the children, it is generally left up to the parent / learning coach to implement the modifications. I recently have had to shake my head at my own school, my child 'needs' a modification in how he takes the State exams, in order to request that, there should have been a simple referral process. however, the school is insisting a written form from a doctor. I provided a letter from the doctor, the school came back with no, it had to be the form, I provided the form, but they didnt get a perfect fax and couldnt see if it had the right check boxes even though they could read the written notes. at that point I was mad enough to tell them to screw it. that I really didnt care if he did well on the exams, that it was not worth it to me to put in the effort to focus on achievements and that it will just be another day which I know negatively impacts their state status.

The overall issue that works well for virtual academy and against it, there is a high population that the typical school is not and does not reach, kids that need a significant support system, they by nature are going to score lower because they already are fighting an uphill battle, the offset is that they are supported by parents that are desperate to something better, something that will reach their kids.

With a teacher that is driven to make a difference, can and does but it is not without sacrifice. there are nights that I am online and get an IM from our homeroom teacher at 1 am, she needs to talk, she is just getting back to me, she wants some feedback before she sends out an email blast to other parents and has me proof it for readability. She has a cornucopia of parents from the absolute brilliant (like me heehee) the the proverbial box of rocks that consistently redefine blithering idiot. she is responsible for 75 kids across several grades in multiple families. I would say that she spends a significant amount of time administrating parents that just can not get their act together.

I can tell you that it is a lot of hand holding, a lot of dancing around with parents that have lots of motivation, lots of hope, as well as lots of excuses and lots well intentions. The key to finding balance is recruiting several parents to be virtual room parents / boosters, working together to keep socials with the other parents and working towards the common goal. this program is just as much about support the parents as it is reaching the kids themselves. we have class connects each week that primarily focuses on the state tests.

I hope that enlightens and doesn't deter your objectives. heehee for new teachers considering this avenue of employment, that your are even willing to take on the adventure speaks highly of you. this is not the education system that you were trained for in college, by a long ways. this is truly inquiry based gifted and talented education where the sky is the limit. I have seen great things with due diligence in my family, granted I earned the nick name benito mussolini which is humorous since my daughter's MIL teaches 5th grade and was surprised that my 3/4th graders even knew who benito mussolini was. what I love most about k12 is that I can incorporate as much or as little enrichment as I want. today we stocked the kid's Kindles with books from the Gutenberg Project so now they have 15 books that they need to read over the next 30 weeks. I have already purchased their rewards today, tiny Lego quick kits.

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