Before I go any further, I have to say this: When I un-enrolled my kids from their middle schools, (my son was in a regular middle school, while my daughter was in a Magnet middle school), I was not only irritated, I was very disappointed in the negative feedback the schools counselors gave me when I told them about our decision. Did I walk in the door singing the praises of home schooling and telling them to their faces how disappointed I was to ask my kids every day what they learned and their faces went blank, only to hear about all the negative issues they experienced when NOT getting their questions answered or understanding what an assignment was all about? Did I go in throwing teachers names around, complaining about the lack of communication, help, and attention my kids had received? No, I didn’t. I simply walked in, notified them of the need to withdraw my kids. Simple. Then the conversation went like this:
Counselor: So what school are they transferring to?
Me: We’re home schooling them. They’ve been accepted into the Georgia Cyber Academy.
Counselor: Home school? Do you know how many parents pull their kids out, get tired of it and come running back crying to enroll their kids? They should have left them here.
Me: *Quietly fuming and holding my tongue, trying my best not to tell her exactly how I feel about this school because going off on her would not be setting a good example for my children at this moment.*
Counselor: Some parent’s bite off more than they can chew. Well, just know, once they’re enrolled, you can’t bring them back until next year.
Me: I don’t plan on bringing them back. My husband and I have made a decision that’s best for our kids. We’ve got this.
Counselor: *smirks as she walks off to get the paperwork completed*
I can’t tell you the amount of cursing that went on under my breath! Did I ask this woman for her personal opinion? Who was she to tell me that I would fail in undertaking this journey? I carried my children in my womb for nine months. I gave birth to them and have taken care of them all of their lives. My husband and I know how intelligent our kids are and how to work with them to help them understand in ways teachers don’t. All we need are the tools to guide them in the right direction. And that is exactly what the Georgia Cyber academy has given us. For FREE!!!!
Sorry to rant a bit, but that seriously pissed me off! So, parents…if you decide this path is what you want to take, your school is going to feel the need to have something negative to say about it. I’d like to think it was because they were truly concerned about my kids’ education, but let’s be real. It’s all about numbers. The more kids they have enrolled in their school, the more money they can get from the state. Period. Personally, I prefer my tax dollars to go to the program that’s working for my kids!
Now, onto the good stuff! There is so much information to share! I can’t do it all in one post, so for now I’ll stick to the basics of this week.Our first day back from Christmas Break starts with enthusiasm from my daughter, and grumpiness from my son, who was under the misguided impression that ‘home school’ meant sleeping in and getting work done when he decides to get up….NOT!!!
I dive in with gusto and make a nice breakfast, excited to get the day started. Once the kids wipe the sleep from their eyes, they realize they are about to embark on a new experience. It’s no longer something we talk about…it’s happening…right now! Their eyes beaming, they are in their seats by 8:30 and ready to go! (My goal is to keep them on as normal a schedule as possible, so they don’t feel the need to forget the daytime is about learning, not chilling out and getting to it when they feel like it.
Like all schools, there is a brief adjustment period for new students and their teachers to get to know one another. My kids are enrolling in the new semester, joining other kids who have been here since school started in August. Just like enrolling into a brand new school, it takes time to get schedules set up, and home room teachers assigned. But with the Georgia Cyber Academy, they take it a step farther.
The first week is all about the teachers assessing the students and their individual learning abilities. The kids have their own log in profiles, (to which the parents have complete access to through an account of their own), and a day-to-day outline of activities in Science, Math, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies. The assignments for the day are outlined in their student accounts, and is also available in the parent’s account.
The program has sent everything they need to ensure they have full access to the state’s mandatory curriculum. Test books, student work books, literature books for reading assignments (no need to run to the library or book store for a specific novel!), as well as the fun stuff, like a microscope, slides, rocks, sand, and various other items typically found in a Science class room. And my favorite….a brand new computer and Ink Jet printer! The point is, my kids have everything they need to continue getting the same type, if not better, education in the comfort of home, as they would if they were in a brick-and-mortar school.
My husband and I have access to books of our own – learning coach guides- which deal with the breakdown of each subject they are studying, along with answer keys to the worksheets done for practice. There are also plenty of online recordings for us to take advantage of when we need help, live support classes, and the ability to email the teachers or other parents for one-on-one assistance and encouragement if we get confused or discouraged.
The first thing my kids do when logging in to check their daily schedules is see what classes require online ‘live’ class participation. Simply put, that means they follow a link from their schedules which takes them to a virtual class room filled with other students in their grade. There are two teachers in the room along with however many students log in at that time. The classes are recorded for those who may not be available to join at that time or for students to return to in case there is something they don’t understand. Awesome, right?
Instead of the traditional chalk board seen in brick-and-mortar schools, the teachers present Power Point presentations. They can use a virtual mouse to point to different things and use a virtual ‘pen’ to write on the ‘white board’. At times, they turn on a function that allows the kids to use their mouse and write on the board as well. All of this can be seen by other students. There are many opportunities for class participation through reading out loud. How is this done? The teacher can pick a student, or they can raise their ‘virtual hand’, and the teacher will turn on their microphone (also provided by the school) so they can read from the slide presentation. How cool is that? My son loves this and takes advantage of it as many times as he can. There are also review questions asked where the students answer by putting their comments in the chat box. The teachers are quick to acknowledge their responses by calling their names as their answers hit the screen. Students are also sent study guides and the Power Point Presentation which they can save to their computer for quick reference, or print out for their folders.
As I said, there is a lot of stuff to share, but one thing I know for sure, this next week will be different. Remember when I stated the work they did last week was a part of evaluating their learning abilities? The teachers have reviewed their test (yes, they have online tests taken per unit, and believe me, how that works is an entirely different story!) From now on, the teachers will tailor their weekly assignments to them specifically. Can’t wait to see how that goes!
Oh and one more thing, and this is amazing….
My son and daughter, ages thirteen and twelve, who have fussed and argued nearly every day during Christmas break, spent the week laughing, helping each other if there was something in an assignment the other didn’t understand, and even worked together doing chores….only ONE ARGUMENT during the entire week!!!! If I had to guess, it was because for once, they were not under any negative influences or stress they dealt with during a regular school day. And that among everything else, makes this entire experience worthwhile!
Look out for my next post in two weeks!
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