virtual school in the big woods

October 8, 2012


Since I posted last time in July we have been busy, busy, busy. School started for Bug at the first of August and I started at the end of August. Both of us are doing school over the Internet and it has been interesting to say the least.

My virtual schooling is actually loads of fun. Discussions for my classes take place in a on-line forum format, which in undergrad was referred to as the sandbox but at times had the tendency to seem more like a litter box. I am happy to report that is not the case with grad school–I have had to really really think through some deep issues in answering questions my professors and classmates pose. In my tech class we don’t do as many discussions but instead work through a series of labs. One lab included an assignment to create a simple web page with html. I decided to include Bug because she likes to help and because it would be a great excuse to spend time with her when I usually don’t get to.  Here are the results.

Bug’s virtual schooling is going okay. How it works is that a virtual public school uses the national k12 curriculum.

For the most part the curriculum is fine. The only issues I have had so far is that we absolutely loathe the music curriculum, reading strategies for sight words are limited, and I am not to keen on the order of math lessons. 

  • The music curriculum is very baby-ish–I really just wish they would call a quarter note a quarter note and I might could stand the sugary simple songs they use. 
  • The reading was def a struggle when we first started in terms of sight words. Last year she learned with 100 Lessons, which had an effective strategy in introducing words that don’t follow the rules. The k12 reading program includes some words that can be sounded out  but many that cannot(at least with what sounds she has learned so far) but the only strategy it gives for memorizing these is one canned speech about “picture the word in  your mind” etc. We finally find our own way that works for her though.
  • My issue with the math curriculum is that they want her to memorize math facts before giving her strategies. With Right Start last year I feel like she was given a strong foundation to where she was able to see patterns and eventually memorize facts. With k12 I guess I am supposed to just drill the facts but this doesn’t seem like it leads to a full understanding and erodes what skills she built up last year.  I am not sure how I am going to deal with this issue yet beyond ignoring the lessons where it requires her to memorize because that doesn’t seem like a good strategy. We’ll see.

Otherwise the content of the curriculum seems fine and I do like how it is organized and accessible on-line. There were some connectivity problems earlier in the year due to the issue of heavier traffic than they anticipated, which made it difficult to access materials that exist solely on-line (even with the 70+ lbs of materials sent to us there are still several subjects that require the on-line texts to be implemented). If I prepare ahead of time I can print or make notes on the materials on-line so we can get away from the computer (we had school at the park one day) but for the most part we sit at the computer during the time we do her lessons (I might do another post that gives a glimpse into what we do in a day).

I could get over all of the issues I mentioned if it were not for the new regulations put on the virtual school by the state. These regulations were not communicated to me before or during the enrollment process, in fact I didn’t learn about them until the first week of school. The new requirements concern attendance and learning from the teacher (at this school I am considered Bug’s learning coach and we are assigned to a teacher who monitors her progress). One component of the school is the elementary version of the sandbox called class connects (CC’s).  This year attendance at CC’s are required thirty minutes three days a week–she has to be at the CC at a specified time as they are synchronous versus before this year when they were a asynchronous.  In addition to this there are reviews and enrichment lessons with each CC (which are not required but Bug wants to attend), small group meeting once a week, and conferences with her teacher once a month.  All of this ties us to computer more than I like and keeps us from being able to have face-to-face interactions (for example CC’s are scheduled during the art class Bug attended and loved last year)  This and other issues have made me want to look elsewhere for school next year–kind of stuck with it for this year unless a real deal breaker comes along.  For me the cons outweigh the pros.

I am excited to tell you though that since we will not be doing virtual school for her next year I decided we will go back to hs’ing.  I have slowly started to get an idea of what we will do next year, which I will share through in a page on the menu–I think I may have lost you with the length of this post . 

TTFN, ta ta for now (Yes, we’ve been reading Pooh).


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