Moving, Ice Storm, and Editing: January 20- February 14th

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First, let me apologize for being late with this post! The past month as been filled with a hectic schedule! We have searched for a new home, been snowed-in (twice), packed, moved, and unpacked…all in three weeks! Next, I went head-to-head with the gas company for a week to get our gas turned on just in time for the ice storm of the century (For Georgia, anyway). And that was just managing my family. Professionally, I’ve had to finish edits for my upcoming book release in March so that I made my publishers deadline (again, the night before the ice storm hit!) and plan the book release and blog tour…

And of course, keep up with the home school schedule.

How did that go? Where to begin…

Week one was easy, filled with the joy of not having to stand outside in cold weather to catch the bus, or deal with the issues of other kids being a distraction in class. The classwork was easy and the live classes fun.

Then we got to weeks two and three…

(Queue the music! LOL!)

The next two weeks with the Georgia Cyber Academy were completely different. Instead of following the online daily/weekly work routine in the kids K-mail,(school email/daily communications program), they were sent a checklist of specific classes and test to take that served as a review and allowed teachers to  find out how much they learned at the brick-and-mortar schools they attended. The time it took to complete class work was pretty short since a majority of the work was done on Study Island. As the Learning Coach, there wasn’t a lot for me to do except make sure they were up in time to participate in any live online classes, took notes, and completed the tasks assigned to them for the online class work. (Thank God for that timing because that’s when we were house hunting/packing, etc!)

By week four, both children were assigned a homeroom teacher and their daily/weekly checklist assignments sent out Friday night for the following week, allowing time for them to be prepared for Monday.

And this is where the confusion came in.

Now, instead of following the daily list automatically assigned to their student profile, they must now follow a class regimen tailored specifically for them based on their previous two weeks’ worth of testing. This directs them to specific text book Units where part of their work is done online, and another part through textbooks and worksheets that can either be printed out or done in the Student Workbook. This is also where the Learning Coach will step in and use the Learning Coach Guide to check those worksheets and make sure the kids understand what they have learned before they go back online and take the assessment test. The students need to score a minimum of 80% to demonstrate they have mastered that lesson. If they score less, they have at least two more chances to retake the test by first revisiting the test and seeing where their answers were wrong. After reviewing the lesson, the Learning Coach must log in and authorize the student to retake the test. (By the way, the test are not the same, so there’s no chance of writing down the correct answers and cheating!) This can only be done up to two more times. After that, a teacher should be notified that the student needs more instruction of the subject.

I’ll be honest and admit this is where I slipped up. While I went in every day to make sure they were doing their daily assignments and checking the Materials Needed List, I missed the part that went beyond what text books and worksheets were needed. I missed the section that gave details to what was needed for experiments and other at home class activities that would have helped reinforce what was being learned (this was mostly in Science and Social Studies).

So you know what’s happening this week? Sitting down ahead of time and going through each and every lesson for the week to make sure all items (books, workbook pages, etc.) are ready for easy access, as well as extra materials for any experiments. It’s time to get totally interactive with the lesson plans. It also means going into the K-12 parent portal and joining the live meetings for parents and look for support and suggestions on how to balance school and outside responsibilities (or for me, author blogging and promotions) activities. It also means better time management.  Wish me luck! And I promise the next post won’t be so long coming!

***SIDE NOTE***

While most Georgia brick-and-mortar schools were closed due to the weather conditions, home school kids were still expected to take their classes, because hey, they were already at home! While they also had Winter Break at the same time as brick-and-mortar schools, a majority of these schools closed after Monday in preparation for the ice storm. GCA students were still expected to complete work for the first part of the week (February 10-12). This was a bit difficult due to issues with the OLS program which was down for a couple of hours during the first part of the week, making logging in to participate in live classes or complete online work impossible for students and teachers. Teachers did their best to record those missed classes and email them to students to watch when they could. Once the storm hit and a majority of the state lost power/internet access, automated phone calls went out to all families letting us know to do what we could and not stress if we couldn’t. While my family was fortunate enough to not lose power during the storm, we did have issues with not being able to log in to the system at all. So, next week should be pretty interesting as we all play catch up!

***FUN FACT*** The Georgia Cyber Academy had 700 New Families join the program JANUARY 2014! If your one of these families please drop a line and let me know how it’s working for you! We’re all in this together!

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Our Home School Journey- The First Week of School!!!

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The First Day of School! Both of my kids sitting at their own work space; my daughter is on her father’s computer and my son is working on the brand new computer sent by the Georgia Cyber Academy.

A few weeks ago, I announced on my blog and other social network platforms, that my husband and I made the decision to take our two youngest kids’ education into our own hands. After several months of disappointment and watching the standard of education grow increasingly worse, we decided pulling them out of the traditional brick-and-mortar school and enrolling them into a home school program was what we needed to do. And after one week, I am more than sure that our decision was the best for our kids!

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.

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‘Live’ Life Science class where the teacher is revealing blacked out answers to questions she’s asked the students.

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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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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