Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adventures in Online Schooling

click on photo to see it better
So at the beginning of this year, Rob and I decided to try an online school for our kids. This was not an easy decision. But the reasons for it were too great and we felt an urgency in making this decision. It was a personal decision. We don't think everyone should do it or everyone shouldn't do it. It was something that had to be done for our children at this point in our lives, but who knows what the future holds. I want to get the word out so that other parents will know that it is an option.

Having been involved in it for a few months now, I feel like I can better talk about my experience. If you have any questions about anything, PLEASE feel free to ask me! I don't know everything, but I hope I can take the fear out of it for those who would love to do it but just don't think they can.

So the reasons WHY we decided to do it....The kids were getting bombarded with inappropriate material while riding the bus to school 45 minutes, one way. They weren't allowed to talk about Christ in the schools. They were required to walk a mile to catch the bus. School was starting later and the kids wouldn't be getting home until 5:30PM and then have homework on TOP of that! Some of the kids were getting bullied to the point where the bullies would SEARCH out my child and try to make their life hell. At this stage their self-esteem would have been shot. So those are some of our reasons....

We looked at a couple different online schools and found one right in our own school district. It is fairly new so they are still working out the kinks, but I have LOVED it! We start our school day at 8AM and end around 12PM with lunch. The kids might have some little things to finish up, like reading or PE. We work until Thursday and turn everything in on Friday, so they pretty much have Friday off. Sometimes we even have Thursday off. We have gone to the Science Museum a number of times on our days off. The kids are able to explore and do experiments they wouldn't be able to do at home. Working closely with my younger kids has been so fun! Their writing has improved and their spelling has improved. I get to see exactly what is being taught and I can bring Christian themes into it if I so desire. How awesome is that!

I get asked a lot of questions about how we have everything set up so the picture at the top kind of shows what we have done. We have a little office space right outside of our bedroom and we just lined up desks around the walls. Each child has their own desk where they keep their books, school supplies and computer. They have a hook on the wall for their headset. The younger girls received a box of schoool supplies from the school district to use throughout the year. some of them are consumables and some items will need to be returned. They gave us a list so we know what they want back.

How does it work? The kids are assigned teachers that work with them one-on-one. They meet once or twice a week in a Virtual Classroom with all the other students and get a lesson or they can ask questions. I also get to talk to the teachers about any concerns I have. They can be reached by e-mail as well or through a chat room. The teachers post their assignments for the week and any other info we will need, like copies of worksheets we might need. I sit down on Friday before the week and mark all the pages that need to be done and make all the copies that need to be made and place them in their folders. Now we are into the routine so I don't have to be by their side all the time. They also have websites the kids can go to to do some of their work online for practice. It is AMAZING what is out there! If I ever have any questions or can't remember what a past participle is or something, I GOOGLE it! I find the answers I need everytime. It's nice because I'm re-learning right along with my children. LOL At the end of the week, I scan what the teachers want and submit it to a special place on the school website. Voila!
The teachers grade it and give feedback on their assignments so the kids can see. They receive an e-mail letting them know when it is ready. For PE they just have to be active for so many minutes a week and I keep track. I have them exercise with me so that's nice that I can get it in and they can use it as well. It's been great. Also, with online school the younger kids can take a language much earlier than if they were in school. They don't get graded, they just get to explore. The kids have so much fun with it, I use it as a special treat if they get all of their graded work in.

Jason is a little different. He is in Junior high so he has numerous teachers just like in Junior high. He is a little more independent. I can check online for his grades, though, so if I see he has a D then I get a little more involved and he has to answer to me for all of his assignments. He has really caught on now and is doing an excellent job. :0)

Well, I don't want to drag this on and on, but like I said, if anyone has any other questions, please let me know.
One last thing I want to add is, they really try to keep the kids connected. They meet in the "classrooms" with their fellow students, they have field trips with their fellow students, they have penpals assigned to them that they can talk to, and they get together with their teacher and other students during a face-to-face assessment, like we are doing tomorrow. The kids are so excited!
Okay, that is it!

Thanks for stopping by and reading me blabber on and on. :0)


Our Blessed Journey... said...

wow Kris==this is GREAT!! I'm sure this was a very difficult decision--suddenly taking on "all these students" who were previously in a different routine. I'm grateful this program is available in your school district (not in Waukesha County yet, but we're just in K4 and K5--not into a lot of academics yet:).

I'm so glad your children are in such a loving and fun environment again--by making this big choice I know you've given each of them so many gifts! Congratulations!

(and as an aside, thank you for reminding me on what's really going on out in the school world these days--it just really seems to be so much worse everywhere, than what I remember as a child).

Beth said...

This is interesting and it's cool that you're able to do it. I was wondering how much it costs or is it like online public school?

Connie said...

This is really cool! I didn't know there was an online school for elementary kids. I have heard of it for high school and college. I don't know if there is such a thing here in Utah.