Anyone else having a not-so-great experience with virtual school? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 09-17-2010, 11:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DS is doing Kindergarten with Connections Academy. We've been doing it for a month now and I can't say I'm pleased. I started to type it all out and it was a novel, so I'm going to do the abridged version.

- The lessons aren't very clear, especially about where in the millions of books to find what we're using.
- Many activities seem pointless, especially the uber-structured body awareness/balance/whatever ones. What's wrong with just letting the kid play?
- The teacher has not been very helpful. Every time I email with a question, she references another email or info packet instead of just answering the question.
- The time requirements seem ridiculous. Even if we did every single activity (we skip a lot), it would take us 2.5 hours TOPS to do everything, but we're supposed to have 26 hours a week. We end up having to make up our hours.
- Most of the work is below DS's level. Seems like the only thing he's really learning with is the reading part and that's been minimal. The math lessons are basic shapes, colors, and spacial words. Don't most kids know that by the time they're 5?
- Despite the fact that the lessons themselves don't take much time, I still feel like there's a ton of random stuff we have to do. The livelessons (which DS missed because it didn't work right, but he'll be penalized because the teacher said it was fine on her end), the portfolios, the calls, the emails, etc.

DS loved it at first, I guess because it was new, but he seems to dread school now. It's very tedious for him, even when we skip the non-essentials. I don't feel like he's learning much and lately he seems to be tuning everything out and doing the worksheets out of habit (since they're all exactly the same). DH and I are both miserable. I'm definitely not doing virtual school next year and I'm seriously considering withdrawing him if things don't improve in the next several weeks. I think 6-8 weeks is more than enough time to see if it's going to work for us.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? What did you do/would you do?

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#2 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 12:36 AM
 
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If you don't like it, then don't do it. I'd quit...I don't think I could take being told what to do at my own house with my children...especially if I didn't like what they were saying.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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#3 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 12:37 AM
 
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We did a virtual school only because we had to to take advantage of some other opportunities; anyhow, it was okay because it was MUCH more relaxed-sounding than what you have to do, my goodness! The teacher checked in with us once a month or so but that's about it. We got the whole curriculum and ds1 just sped right through it (we mostly just did the math). The main good thing about the online school is that we were able to order grade 1 math curriculum when ds was ready, which was pretty quickly. Anyhow, if you think it's too strict just withdraw. Kindergartners don't need that much! They should spend most of the day playing

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#4 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 12:51 AM
 
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Our virtual school (PA cyber) is *way* more relaxed than what you're describing. I'm glad we didn't go with Connections.

For our first two years, there were no hourly requirements. We had a daily sign in, the online stuff (art and music) and then the boxed curriculum (calvert) which we could do at my son's own pace. Although K4 was a requirement, when I explained to the instructional supervisor that my kids *knew* the stuff already, she suggested I just have them take the evaluations and send them in, and if they demonstrated the knowledge (for their records) they could be bumped up a grade. Now my oldest is doing the online course, so he has a 3.5 hour time period when he *must* be at the computer, and deadlines for homework, but the rest of the day is ours.

We have had some technical issues that I'm not happy with. It seems like on that side of things, the school is somewhat disorganized. And ds's English teacher is a bit...I don't know. She rubs me the wrong way.

But, I think if this is not working for you, you should drop it now, at the beginning of the year.
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#5 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 01:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, the hours thing I can't blame on the school. That's Ohio. They have a requirement for the number of hours of instruction kids must have, but they're universal. So they're basing them on "away schools" where the kids have announcements and roll and time between classes and all of that other random crap. There's no allowance for the fact that homeschoolers don't have all that.

But the other stuff has been all Connections. I'm getting really sick of reading a story and then three days later, the lesson says to find it again. So we dig it out again and it tells us to go through it and have DS describe each of the pages. By the third or fourth time asking different questions about the same book, DS is about to die of boredom. He wants NEW stories and questions, not going over the same book over and over again!

I'll post quotes from the lessons themselves tomorrow if I can. It doesn't work on my computer (I use Ubuntu) and DS managed to knock the school computer off the shelf today and knocked the heat sensor loose. Fingers crossed he didn't actually break it!

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#6 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 09:31 AM
 
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One of my dds used Connections for K, and my ds used them for 5th grade. I will say that 5th grade was a better experience (K just seemed so stupid ), but we were happy to dump them.

I am a huge supporter of the virtual school option, because it opens doors to people who struggle with the idea or time constraints of homeschooling. It definitely wasn't a good fit for us, though. We chose not to send our kids to school b/c we wanted flexibility and less "fluff". Connections gave us a *little* flexibility, but still came with all of the public school fluff.

Traditional homeschooling has been more work for *me*, but it's been much better for my kids!

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#7 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 10:50 AM
 
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I looked into Ohio Connections and heard a lot of similar responses from parents when I asked my hs group for good, bad, and neutral experiences (I like weighing all experiences when deciding on something). I can say that Ohio's k12 school I believe still offers a part-time K program though, at least I *think* it does. And I did their K program last year with my second girl, it was MUCH more flexible than what you are describing with Connections. My girl flew through K math and by Feb was in 1st grade math with no issues. We still have to log the hours they ask, but we can do as many lessons at a session as we want in the subject. If I spend 15min on a history lesson, I can do 3 lessons to make my 45min time slot easily (or give them an educational program that is related to what we're learning to watch to fill the time, my girls are REALLY looking forward to watching the ancient Egypt stuff I have again this year after doing it last year when dd1 was in history 1 studying ancients). DD2 often would do an entire hour of math testing out of a unit because she knew the material, and when dd1 got bumped down to phonics K (in 1st grade) she tested out of units and we condensed lessons (which I'm doing this year with her still in phonics 1, she's not a phonics learner so we're mastering he sight words and taking the assessments, then when I get her back to 2nd grade material we'll go back to the start of phonics and work more on breaking apart words so she can be a decent speller because she is NOT a phonics reading kid, she is at a late 3rd grade to early 4th grade reading level with a whole-word approach but can't do phonics so I'm tweaking to change it up)

I know you have a bad taste for charters from Connections, but if you want to give virtual academies another chance before striking out independent I found OHVA with k12 is hands down the most flexible option in our state. I researched charters extensively before enrolling them in OHVA last school year and looked at I think 15-20 different programs (including my local ps's digital academy) and this past summer break I reviewed the decision to be sure I was making the right choice. I'm really happy with OHVA because of the flexibility, although I'm in a frustrating place because of dd1's learning needs and how much tweaking we have to do to the curriculum (which is mostly parent-led and only 15% or so is actually online work in the lower grades like I'm teaching, 3rd grade is when it starts to increase the online time from what I heard from our teacher last year) but dd1's teacher is working very closely with me to help adapt it all to work with her so she can learn the material. We just submitted our portfolios yesterday, and dd1's teacher allowed us to do it on the dry erase board and take pictures of it instead of her doing it on paper and my scanning to k-mail it to her.

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#8 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I was actually intending to do K12 insead of OCA. We got halfway through the enrollment process and things started to go bad. I am living with a friend and I asked what I needed to verify residence. The enrollment liaison told me all I needed was a notarized letter from my friend saying that I lived there. So I did that and sent it in. I heard nothing for a couple of weeks. Finally I called and they said they still needed that because it had been rejected. Well, why wasn't I notified? They sent me the official form (why didn't the enrollment liaison know about this in the first place?) and I filled it out and sent it in. Another week passed. They said they didn't get it. So I faxed it. Another week. They said they still didn't have it. I said, "Screw it, withdraw our application." I figured if they were this disorganized and clueless with just enrolling, I don't want to see what they do with the lessons.

One thing I'll give OCA, the enrollment was easy. I faxed in a couple of forms and we were done. Very quick and simple.

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#9 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 02:21 PM
 
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My son was in Connections Academy in Oregon (ORCA) for his whole 4th grade year. I agree completely with your description of it! Although for us, the work load was too heavy & took too long, but the majority of it was dorky & unchallenging stuff. I just bluffed about a lot of work & hours put in. All the reading was soooo bland, he was just not interested. And I'll never forget the "critical thinking" lessons. He would be given a worksheet with a drawn picture of an airport on it, for example. The directions would say "find & circle all the triangles in the picture & color them red". This is 4th grade work!? Bizarre. Way too confusing website as well, I could just not find certain pages & assignments many times. I hope they've hired some better computer guys since then.

There was one huge positive for me/us that came with the year though. It really forced me to get organized, & get into a structured, daily, homeschool rhythm. Organization-wise, 4th grade was a total turning point in our homeschool life. So, that was nice.

Otherwise, I'd never consider using them again.

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#10 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 04:34 PM
 
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I tutor in Ohio, lots of ecot kids and the program is awful. Tons and tons of busy work. Poor teacher support. Reading and quizzes that don't match so you end up digging and digging for answers.

I don't think I would do any virtual academies, in Ohio at least. I would just homeschool especially for kindy and early elementary.

V

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#11 of 25 Old 09-18-2010, 11:13 PM
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That is why I stayed away from Virtual Schools for so long. This year, I am trying CVA (columbia virtual academy) in WA state. They have two choices: 1--get the box of stuff from them OR 2--choose your own curriculum (just not religious). We went with #2. So far I am happy. I got all my materials and do what I have always done. Now, I do have to report progress monthly--and the kids send a weekly email for "contact" with our "teacher" but what we gain is a ton of fieldtrip opportunities. For us this is great because all the standard hs groups are religiously driven and I don't care for all that. So, hopefully I still have good things to say in the spring.

Just wanted to share so that people know that virtual schools are not all created equal.

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#12 of 25 Old 09-19-2010, 02:51 AM
 
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I was actually intending to do K12 insead of OCA. We got halfway through the enrollment process and things started to go bad. I am living with a friend and I asked what I needed to verify residence. The enrollment liaison told me all I needed was a notarized letter from my friend saying that I lived there. So I did that and sent it in. I heard nothing for a couple of weeks. Finally I called and they said they still needed that because it had been rejected. Well, why wasn't I notified? They sent me the official form (why didn't the enrollment liaison know about this in the first place?) and I filled it out and sent it in. Another week passed. They said they didn't get it. So I faxed it. Another week. They said they still didn't have it. I said, "Screw it, withdraw our application." I figured if they were this disorganized and clueless with just enrolling, I don't want to see what they do with the lessons.

One thing I'll give OCA, the enrollment was easy. I faxed in a couple of forms and we were done. Very quick and simple.
Just a heads up that it's k12 who handles the enrollment process at the beginning so just because they aren't dong things quickly, accurately has no reflection on the actual virtual academy. We had a heck of a time getting some things straightened out before we finished signing up but I am glad we stuck with it (CAVA) as DS really seems to like it and they have already accelerated him in math and we're going about twice as fast through LA (until we get through phonics, which we are only doing the unit assessments in, then we'll go quicker through it). They seem very flexible and the curriculum (for the most part) is great.
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#13 of 25 Old 09-19-2010, 05:44 AM
 
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I was actually intending to do K12 insead of OCA. We got halfway through the enrollment process and things started to go bad. I am living with a friend and I asked what I needed to verify residence. The enrollment liaison told me all I needed was a notarized letter from my friend saying that I lived there. So I did that and sent it in. I heard nothing for a couple of weeks. Finally I called and they said they still needed that because it had been rejected. Well, why wasn't I notified? They sent me the official form (why didn't the enrollment liaison know about this in the first place?) and I filled it out and sent it in. Another week passed. They said they didn't get it. So I faxed it. Another week. They said they still didn't have it. I said, "Screw it, withdraw our application." I figured if they were this disorganized and clueless with just enrolling, I don't want to see what they do with the lessons.

One thing I'll give OCA, the enrollment was easy. I faxed in a couple of forms and we were done. Very quick and simple.
Oh wow, I would have probably said heck with it too if I had that kind of trouble getting enrolled. We enrolled in I think March or April when they first opened up enrollment for the new school year, and it was a breeze. I just faxed a copy of dd1's current report card and then identity documents and shot records for both girls. I don't remember having to do proof of address, but that was a year and a half ago and I have a real foggy memory of that particular part of that year. It was real simple for us getting enrolled, possibly your issues could have been from the time of year for enrollment (high volume of enrollments happening)? I know that when I called our PAL in July that summer over something, she sounded really busy and rushed with things like she was just drowning in paperwork or something.

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#14 of 25 Old 09-19-2010, 08:59 AM
 
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We did Calvert for kindergarten and loved it for about oh, the first 40 lessons. And then we just hit a wall of boredom that wasn't entirely Calvert's fault but it didn't help.

I tried doing K and pre-K work with the kids and that didn't work at all. DS always wantedto be doing "big kid" work and DD wanted to do whatever fun activity DS was doing. That was the stupidest thing I've tried so far in educating my kids.

However, I wasn't prepared for how dumbed down the information would be. The science was a joke. The kids had to color a human body and then I was suppposed to tell them where the feet, the head, etc. was. My kids wanted to know about intestines, and rectums, and the brain stem.
I remember, "Mom, so your tummy is actually your abdomen? Ants have abdomens too! How are they the same?"
They looked at me like I was an idiot when I did the script only.

There was a lot of extraneous stuff like what to do at night if the house catches on fire that just isn't our life experience. (If the house catches on fire at night, Daddy and I will put you and the cats out of bedroom window and we'll wait on the basketball court until the firemen arrive. Because we're all co-sleeping! ) And stranger danger... don't even get me started on that one!

Calvert has alphabet animals which were cute but only doing one a week or so bored the crap out of all of us. We get it. We're still on Sammy Seal says, "Sssssss" on day 8. Whee!

I thought the math books were good, if you're the workbook type. We are so we liked them.

So the trouble for us with a prepackage curriculum is that we're pretty uneven in our development. The kids are just barely starting to get into reading. But they can dissect a squid for hours on end. Or spend an entire day reading about ancient Egypt with me.

The problem with boxed curriculum for us was the same problem we would (and I bet a lot of homeschoolers here!) would have had. We just don't live our lives on one level or grade. It's the same reason why I firmly believe school out of the house wouldn't work for us either. I refuse to not answer their science questions because it's a 5th grade issue coming from my kindergartner. And I refuse to move on in reading until we've got it down GOOD.

But it was so exciting when those giant boxes from Calvert came!!!

I think we may look at boxed curriculum again someday when the kids are older and possibly a little more even in their development, especially if we can kind a program that would allow them to maybe do college math but 9th grade reading, etc. etc.

secular classical-ish mama to an incredible 5 year old DS and an amazing 6 year old DD.
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#15 of 25 Old 09-19-2010, 06:22 PM
 
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I have my children enrolled in Seton, a Catholic correspondence school. While the program itself is very good, and for the most part clear-- I am having a terrible time getting my kids to comply. Even my eldest, who is doing it all willingly, is failing most of his tests, and his book report was rejected out of hand for not following their standards. It's all so discouraging.
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#16 of 25 Old 09-20-2010, 12:48 AM
 
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I did the K year with a K12 virtual charter school, in the hopes of accessing some therapy services for ds, and really, as these things go it was OK. Much less nonsense than it sounds like you are dealing with. Required live virtual lessons? Puleeeze.

My first advice is to withdraw him and finish the year as an independent homeschooler, but if that's not feasible for whatever reason:

1. Start going through multiple math and LA assignments every day, until you finish the K curriculum and the teacher is forced to take action by assessing your child and sending the 1st grade stuff
2. While doing that, stop asking the teacher questions and give her an opportunity to take you off her mental list of parents who cause her extra work
3. Never feel guilty about fudging hours again. By setting such a ridiculous standard for hours of instruction, your state has created a situation where the only ethical thing to do is lie. My state wanted 30 hour weeks for kindergartners.
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#17 of 25 Old 09-20-2010, 11:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We talked about it and we've decided to go ahead and pull him. I feel like a mixture of unschooling and traditional homeschooling would be better for our family, which is what I was hoping to get out of the virtual school. I thought we'd have a lot more flexibility than we do. The workbooks aren't bad, maybe we'll get to keep them since DS has already used half the pages.

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#18 of 25 Old 09-20-2010, 02:03 PM
 
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We talked about it and we've decided to go ahead and pull him. I feel like a mixture of unschooling and traditional homeschooling would be better for our family, which is what I was hoping to get out of the virtual school. I thought we'd have a lot more flexibility than we do. The workbooks aren't bad, maybe we'll get to keep them since DS has already used half the pages.
Mandy I don't blame you one bit! If I had to deal with you have with OCA, I would be withdrawing my kids from their school too. I almost pulled my girls from OHVA because of frustrations with some of the materials for my oldest girl until a conference with the teacher where we spent a half hour modifying the materials to work with her best and getting things figured out. I have a feeling though that next year my oldest won't be in ohva just because of her learning challenges.

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#19 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 10:57 AM
 
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I chose QDA for my daughter, and I’m sooo glad I did! She is in the First Grade and we did Kindergarten with them last year. My daughter loves the Little Lincoln curriculum they use. From everything I’ve looked at, I found that curriculum to be the most fun, engaging, and challenging, and I’m glad I went with it. As an ex classroom teacher I would definitely recommend to look into Little Lincoln. As far as the school, goes I really don’t have any complaints either. Everyone there has been very helpful along the way and are always willing to help. I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience so far with them . I listened to all the issues people had with online schools and had some hesitations, but so far everything with QDA and Little Lincoln has exceeding my expectations. . If you are still looking for a home school option, I would definitely give QDA a look.
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#20 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What does QDA stand for?

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#21 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 12:36 PM
 
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i posted about my frustration with k-12 and got helpful advice. The hours are based on the state law of being in school a certain amount of time.

You are teaching ONE ON ONE, FAR different than a poor teacher with no control, babysitting and trying to teach to 30 kids, all different levels, some with no parental support/teaching. What I do is if a lesson is described as 60minutes and we do it, I log 60 minutes.

You are not going to "get in trouble." this is what I have to tell myself. "I homeschool because *I* want my child learning in the best environment." I kept doing every little assignment.

Do you have the option of taking an assesment? My son does NOT need busy work and as much repetition as some. I'm sure we will get to a point where he does need more practice but right now we are blowing through some stuff. What I do is take a weeks worth of work, print the assesments for each lesson. Instead of doing ALL the work AND the assesment, we JUST do the assesment. If there is a little spot that he isn't so quick with or I feel we could use a little more practice we will just go back to that lesson part and maybe complete one of the worksheets, or do it on the white board.

Worst case is, if you are going through the public funded thing....you give up send it back and do it on your own. I tell myself this everyday and it makes me feel I have an out if I just don't like it. Curriculum doesn't have to cost a fortune and i think there are lots of options with Columbia to choose your own?

Owe I reread...he's in kinder, very easy to make sure he's getting everything on your own. I would check out Math Mammoth online. You can buy it by the year, and it is a fabulous math program! It's like $20some to download. I have it all, but not doing it because I"m doing k-12 but I'm in the same boat. If I have to keep skipping so much and reworking it is totally senseless. I end up dong MORE work I feel like. I think it's a GREAT option, very organized but if you are a seasoned homeschooler or ok with putting it all together on your own it almost seems like more work LOL!
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#22 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 12:56 PM
 
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QDA stand for Quaker Digital Academy. Here is there website:
http://www.go2qda.org/qda/site/default.asp
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#23 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 12:57 PM
 
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What does QDA stand for?
QDA is Quaker Digital Academy. Here is their website:
http://www.go2qda.org/qda/site/default.asp

Hope this helps!
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#24 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 03:02 PM
 
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What does QDA stand for?
Quaker Digital Academy.
www.go2qda.org/qda/site/default.asp is their site if you want to look at it.

Cat- FT ministry student and Sonlight hsing momma to a wild crew of girls
Melissa 4/03, Lydia 5/04, Kimberly 1/06, and Jordan 9/07

And waiting impatiently on baby Isaiah ******* to appear around 3/12

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#25 of 25 Old 09-22-2010, 05:14 PM
 
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DS is doing Kindergarten with Connections Academy. We've been doing it for a month now and I can't say I'm pleased. I started to type it all out and it was a novel, so I'm going to do the abridged version.

- The lessons aren't very clear, especially about where in the millions of books to find what we're using.
- Many activities seem pointless, especially the uber-structured body awareness/balance/whatever ones. What's wrong with just letting the kid play?
- The teacher has not been very helpful. Every time I email with a question, she references another email or info packet instead of just answering the question.
- The time requirements seem ridiculous. Even if we did every single activity (we skip a lot), it would take us 2.5 hours TOPS to do everything, but we're supposed to have 26 hours a week. We end up having to make up our hours.
- Most of the work is below DS's level. Seems like the only thing he's really learning with is the reading part and that's been minimal. The math lessons are basic shapes, colors, and spacial words. Don't most kids know that by the time they're 5?
- Despite the fact that the lessons themselves don't take much time, I still feel like there's a ton of random stuff we have to do. The livelessons (which DS missed because it didn't work right, but he'll be penalized because the teacher said it was fine on her end), the portfolios, the calls, the emails, etc.

DS loved it at first, I guess because it was new, but he seems to dread school now. It's very tedious for him, even when we skip the non-essentials. I don't feel like he's learning much and lately he seems to be tuning everything out and doing the worksheets out of habit (since they're all exactly the same). DH and I are both miserable. I'm definitely not doing virtual school next year and I'm seriously considering withdrawing him if things don't improve in the next several weeks. I think 6-8 weeks is more than enough time to see if it's going to work for us.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? What did you do/would you do?
I chose QDA for both of my children. I shopped around and after evaluating the pros and cons of most of the ohio virtual schools, I felt QDA would be the best option and I couldn't be happier with it. They offer an array of different curriculum but for Kindergarten, the Little Lincoln curriculum is absolutely wonderful. My little Kyle can't seem to tear himself away from the computer and he thoroughly enjoys learning. Kyle loves watching the online videos and seeing his favorite teachers everyday! He even talks about them when he isn't around the computer. Sometimes I forget who he is talking about and I have to remind myself it's the teachers! The lessons are easy to follow and Kyle seems to be learning at a faster pace than many of the other kids his age. Not only is the curriculum great, but QDA does a great job with staying in touch with us. If we have any questions at all, they are very quick to return a phone call if they are unavailable. Even if we don't have any problems, they usually give us a friendly call every 7-10 days just to see how Kyle is doing, even if it isn't school related.

If you are looking to try a different virtual option, I would definitely recommend giving QDA a try. Not only is their curriculum great, but they are very friendly and work as hard as they can to make sure your child succeeds!
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