I’m not gonna lie, the first two weeks into our cyber school transition were rough. I was ready to quit a few times. However, we are pushing towards the end of our first month and we are starting to see some more benefits now, so I thought I would share. In no particular order…
1. I don’t have to do a lot of lesson planning.
Of course I look over the lessons before I teach them, but the curriculum is provided for us and the lessons have already been planned. I just need to gather the materials and go. We have gotten to a point where the prep only takes me about 10 minutes in the morning. That time might increase if I had several students or older kids, but for now it’s not taking much extra time out of my day.
2. Sickness doesn’t slow us down.
Last week Nicholas came down with a slight ear infection. It wasn’t a big deal, he just kept complaining that his ear was “fathering” (bothering) him. I was able to call the doctor and get into their next appointment time in less than an hour. He didn’t have to miss any school. He felt well enough to do the rest of his work and it was much less of a hassle than signing him out of a classroom for a doctor’s visit would have been.
3. We get to have cool stuff to ourselves.
We’ve been going to the playground a few blocks from our house 3 or 4 times a week and every time we’ve been up there so far, we have had the whole park to ourselves. It’s our own personal playground basketball court and baseball field. I’m all for social interaction (and we are getting plenty, no worries) but unsupervised older kids at the park over the summer are kind of a pet peeve of mine.
4. The school has given us more flexibility.
We have been given permission for “asynchronous instruction,” meaning we are excused from the live learning sessions and can now work at our own pace, although we are welcome to sign-in to the live sessions with the teachers as we want. Also, the computer is starting to keep track of Nick’s strengths and weaknesses and change the lessons accordingly. There have also been a few optional lessons starting to pop up here and there, which really eases the load when I feel like he already knows a subject well enough and we can skip those.
5. It holds me accountable
This is not meant in any way to bash traditional homeschooling, but If I’m being honest, I know that if I had gone the traditional homeschooling route and planned my own kindergarten curriculum this year, it would not have been nearly as intense. Speaking just for myself, I probably would have done a letter of the week, a few activities to go with each letter, some calendar math, and a simple addition & subtraction along with some craft projects. I would probably have an “oh well, no big deal” attitude if he decided not to work particularly hard one day and our work didn’t get done. I would probably skip days that we had other activities planned. Sometimes I resent the “big brother” aspect of it, but having to sign in to the online school every day and complete a minimum of our math and language arts activities really does keep me accountable and make sure there is plenty of actual school work getting done.
6. It’s affordable
Yes, we have gotten some unexpected backlash from traditional home schoolers about this aspect of cyber school. Our taxes (and yes, theirs too) pay for a TON of books, computer software, CD’s, DVD’s, instruments, maps, globes, and other manipulatives as well as a desktop computer and a printer to be delivered to my door. It’s included in our school taxes so we don’t have to pay extra, but my son gets his very own materials that don’t need to divided among an entire group of kids, as they would in public school. We have them right here in our house so we can skip ahead, watch a video again, repeat a song on a CD, or do another workbook page if we are on a roll. We have our textbooks to refer back to anytime we want.
7. We make our own schedule
We still get to participate in activities like our Mom N Me program and the Community Bible Study (CBS) we just joined this year. Some days we are totally finished all of his work by 9am, today we got everything done while Abby was at preschool after we came back from CBS. We usually don’t have homework, so when daddy comes home that time is reserved for family time. (Although once a week or so I have left an easy and fun activity for Nick & Eddie to do together because Eddie wants to be involved too.)
Yesterday it rained all day and we stayed in PJs and alternated between school work and Disney movies for the whole day.
It also helps to take a break for snacks or physical activity whenever he needs one. I could see his behavior escalating out of control very quickly in a general education classroom without frequent (and I mean VERY frequent, as in less than 10 minutes apart) breaks.
Not to mention, we plan to move twice within this school year, so it allows for stability because he won’t be bouncing around different schools all year.
8. The special services are included and convenient
There have been several years when we have paid out of pocket for various therapies. Nicholas still needs occupational therapy, but instead of me having to drive him to an office and take money out of our health savings account, my son has and IEP the right as a “public school student” (because cyber schools are considered public charter schools) to have a therapist work with him right here in our house and it’s already covered by our school tax. He also has a certified special education teacher who calls me throughout the week to check in and see if I need any help. I have no special ed experience outside of working with gifted kids, so I appreciate her insight. Also, I can always blame stuff he doesn’t like on the teacher. “I know History isn’t your favorite, but your teacher said it’s very important that we get this done today.”
9. It allows me to gain insight into the way he learns
I like seeing my son interact with other teachers and therapists because I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know everything and someone else might have a better way to reach him. I like having a professional community for bouncing ideas around and seeking advice. I also like all of the computer games and songs that are part of the online curriculum, they really seem to strike a chord with Nick.
Plus, he doesn’t have to sit completely still like he would in a general classroom. Today he was playing with Lego’s and seeming not to pay a lick of attention while I was reading him our art text.
“Henri Matisse used bright colors and people weren’t used to seeing that in art work…Are you listening?..They called him a ‘wild beast’ because of his crazy painting style…Can you put down the Lego airplane? Come stand near Mommy, you have to look at this painting…He used lots of different kinds of lines….You can’t hear me read when you are making that noise…” and so on. But guess what? When we got to the assessment questions at the end of the lesson, he got them all right. And when he had to draw a portrait inspired by Matisse’s, he did that well too. He was concentrating really hard and kept putting his foot up on his desk to see how he should try to draw toenails on the person he was sketching. (See #5, because ain’t no way I would have been doing a lesson about Henri Matisse if I had planned my own kindergarten curriculum) It got in that little noggin somehow, go figure.
He is far exceeding my expectations in Phonics, Music, and lately in Art. He’s doing well in math too, but like I’ve said before, I do think this math curriculum is way too easy.
10. I get extra time to be nosy and controlling
I’m already hearing scary tales about bullying and exposure to inappropriate language and adult subjects from other friends who have kids in school. I realize that I can’t keep that stuff away from my kids, but I like being there to explain that we don’t use that word, or no, that’s not what that means. I like knowing where they are and who they are interacting with and what they are watching and listening to. I like knowing what Nick is learning and seeing where there might be gaps I need to fill. I’m not ready to hand over that responsibility to someone else, and I don’t have to.
Linking to Serenity Now.