School whenever you need it

We fit in a few lessons today in anticipation of traveling on Thursday and Friday. Nice to have that flexibility without an absence. We can take a holiday on our own terms. Nice.

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Miami-Dade County whips up a virtual school in 3 months!

It is only for motivated 11th graders now, but this is really cool. The county school superintendent appointed himself principal, so he really has a stake in its success.

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First day of school

Well, the kids finished their work on time on this first day — a success! The day started out with soggy books. Took our school on the road this weekend to get a jump start for Monday — book got wet very mysteriously in the trunk on the way back. Learned our lesson — double-bag books in plastic to take the school on the road! Both were able to exercise and play piano by 3:00 and I got to start dinner early. Hurray!

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Why “school of last resort”?

Well, our family — especially our eldest — has tried every type of school imaginable. Typically for a first child, she gets to be a guinea pig. Marie attended Kindergarten in a Connecticut public school and moved to a Coral Springs, Florida elementary where she completed elementary school.

At the beginning of each school year, the school reshuffled its 10 classes for the grade level according to ethnicity makeup. Yes, you read that correctly. This school was about as large per grade as my public elementary school was as a whole. As a result of the shuffling, Marie knew about two students from the previous year in each class. It was like going to a new school every year. This did not work for her, and we felt we needed a strong change to a smaller environment than the public middle school would give her. Onward small, private, highly rated school. Small class sizes and great teachers who loved their subjects and wanted to be there. Spanish, French, Band, and Art offered each year with Latin added in 7th and 8th grade. What could be better? We thought we had it made from 6th grade through 8th grade.

As an alternative to private schools, we had looked into homeschooling, calling the county and speaking with homeschool parents in the area. The effort to bring virtual education as a public school was just beginning — only offered in our county at the high school level. However, I was excited that this would be available someday.

Well, this private school lasted as the school we were promised for about 6 months. At that point, the school announced that they were going to change into an all-special-needs school. We were not going to be welcome next year — along with the vast majority of the school population. How did this happen? Well, when you are owned by a PRIVATE corporation, you make a business change to suit you whenever you want. This particular company also owned a company that publishes alternative newspapers and a company that makes ice (the kind you buy at grocery and convenience stores). You bet — education was a GREAT fit (not).

Finding a new school landed us in a small parochial school on the other side of the county. A 17-mile trip four times every day in heavy rush-hour traffic — even more trips if a PTO meeting happened. This was tough, but it worked for two years for the most part. I just couldn’t see doing this for another year for our younger children, who were starting Kindergarten at a local charter school when Marie was in 8th grade.

Ah, the charter school. Why didn’t the charter school work out? Well tried it for four years. The first two were great with a small, caring school with innovative programs. Money was tight because charters are not funded for their buildings, but the dedication of the teachers was second-to-none. The school rewarded achievement with frequent assemblies and promised Spanish, Music, Art and PE at every level. As time went on, these promises simply deteriorated in the search for ever-increasing expansion (read that: more money) into middle school years. Mixing middle school with first graders is NOT a great idea.

Meanwhile, the county’s virtual school has “come of age” for grades K through 12 at last. First offered last year, I considered it and stopped short. I don’t like version 1.0 of anything. Researched the heck out of what I saw of their curriculum. A new way to learn — this mixes workbooks, novels, hands-on experiments with an online curriculum. K12.com is our county’s official provider for grades K through 5 — I was blown away by their curriculum and serious efforts to educate parents to make the right decision regarding whether schooling at home will work for their families.

Onward….

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Our new school is our home & the world at large

My twin 4th graders and I are leaping head first into schooling AT HOME registered with a VIRTUAL PUBLIC SCHOOL. What this means is that we are supposed to receive many advantages offered to students in brick-and-mortar schools AND home-schooled students.

Similar to homeschooling:

  • Work wherever you want — provided you can access the internet.
  • Work whenever you want — those night owl and early bird kids will be happier.
  • Go at your own pace.
  • Develop full mastery of a subject before moving on to the next lesson.
  • Parent is a “learning coach” responsible for teaching lessons and proctoring assessments, and so on.
  • Can fit in great extras like weekly piano lessons — when other students cannot go.

Similar to public school:

  • Have a standardized, state-approved curriculum.
  • Have a teacher that assists with teaching and provides their grades.
  • Have regularly scheduled tests to show whether they are progressing adequately in their studies.
  • It is provided free-of-charge by the state and county we live in. This includes all books and many, many materials.

We are looking forward to this experience! Love to have you join us in our journey. Let me know what you think.

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