Before we ever considered our now adventurous road life, I was already determined to find a better educational system for my little one. A little back story…after moving to Southern Oregon, he started first grade at our local brick and mortar school. He was excited until after a few weeks of homework that seemed way to easy and boring, which led to frustrating homework time and lots of tears. I met with his teacher shared my concerns with him, only to be told “If he thinks its too easy…then I’ll give him more of the same to do.” WTF!?!? I disagreed with this approach and asked if I could build on the homework he gave him to create a more challenging experience. That seemed to work and needless to say, his advancing showed up in school and as the year went on his teacher had him teaching other kids how to work the computer and would have him read out loud to his peers, who struggled with reading etc. I had mixed feelings about this, I thought it would put him in a position where it would single him out from his peers.
In his second year, he lucked out and had an amazing teacher. She came to us with her concerns that she felt he wasn’t being challenged enough and that she would like to offer him a creative way of making his everyday classes more challenging…ie had him doing extra work in the way of book reports, presentations etc. All of which he totally enjoyed. She also suggested he be tested for Talented and Gifted (TAG), the districts program for advanced students. Though they usually wait til 4th grade to do this, she got it pushed through, though he wasn’t approved til the end of the year…it gave us hope for the coming year.
But by his 3rd year, he once again had a lame (in my opinion) teacher, who had no interest in doing anymore than he had to. So much so that I called a meeting with him, the district TAG representative and the Principal. Bottom line, they had two extra curricular offerings for him and no other adjustments to his daily curriculum. One was the battle of the books and the other was the School Spelling Bee. Soon enough he started complaining not only about the homework but about understanding new concepts being taught but that the teacher would disregard the fact that he got it and because the rest of the class didn’t understand, the teacher would scrap the lesson and start over. It didn’t stop there…Keagan studied really hard and won the school Spelling Bee beating out the 4th and 5th graders! He was suppose to represent the school at District but the day came and they FORGOT to take him on the day of the contest! Talk about a disappointed child. I once again stepped in and build on his homework to challenge him the best I could, but this was it for me…he wasn’t going back.
So I looked into Home Schooling and various curriculums, I found my way to Connection Academy…an online school. What drew me to them the most was that they were a state accredited school, who’s curriculum would seamlessly transfer over should we decided to put Keagan back into public school in the future. But oh is it sooooo much more than this…
He was accepted into the Gifted and Talented program for English, and has had a Gifted and Talented Literature class (in addition to this Gifted and Talented Language Arts class) that he’s in love with. Where he’s asked to create Portfolios twice a month for this class in the form of writing reports, researching compare/contrast and artistic options on stories they’ve read as a class. His math skills have improved by leaps and bounds and he’s even learned how to create Power Point presentations for his reports to include History and Social Studies as well. He’s always been an out going kiddo, so there’s no surprise how quickly he became comfortable with speaking on the mic to present his work or interact with his peers. He participates in Live Lessons, which are like what I experience in webnars. Teacher shows slides, asks questions, and interact on an eraser board, they can even use the webcam at times. His teacher…is AMAZING, the school has a designated teacher for the Gifted and Talented students at every grade level, to enrich their learning experience. We went to Salem for his open house when the year started and got to meet his Teacher, Principal, and Asst. Principal, as well as his Councilor. He also has Student Contact days (field trips), where he gets to meet some of his peers from around the area. So even though it’s a state wide online school they offer opportunities to connect, meet up and socialize.
I have to admit though, at first I didn’t know what to expect. I surely didn’t realized how much involved I would be in his schooling. But then again, I knew home schooling would require more of my time. There was a big learning curve as to getting used to the online system, as well as getting into a new school routine. Then we had the hurdle of him seeing me as his Learning Coach vs his Mom. That one we still work on but we’ve come a loooong way since the start of the year. But all of this fell and is still falling into place. They have a great training site where they walk you through getting started and familiarizing yourself to the system, but it doesn’t stop there, they have further training articles and videos to assist you along the way. They even have a Forum, which I don’t spend much time on but have browsed through for tips and ideas. We all agree that the best part of it, is the flexibility of his schedule…when he’s sick or has appointments etc, he has the opportunity to working through his classes at what ever time works best for us, and that’s a win, win for all of us.
Overall, we are very happy with our choice. He is totally being challenged in this curriculum. He was so used to knowing everything, that when it came to getting answers wrong, he would get upset, especially with his spelling, this is the first time that he is learning words that he doesn’t already know. After watching an instructional video on making mistakes, we’ve come to change our thinking on getting things wrong and seeing mistakes as “your brain is growing”, mistakes are opportunities to grow his brain 🙂 now that he’s actually being challenged. It’s been amazing watching him grow and expand. And lets face it…it’s all about technology these days, and our kids are using computers more and more at a younger and younger age. I love how he’s not only learning safety and etiquette when it comes to interacting on the internet but he’s getting valuable experience, and that for me is a plus. I have to share one more thing, since they are state funded they do require you to stay in state and no more than 3 weeks out of the state is permitted without approval from the principal. So that is a downfall for those looking to doing a lot of traveling…for us it’s not a problem. We were able to get our current leave approved as we went South for the harshest part of the winter. This travel trailer isn’t built for harsh winters and it’s been a doozy this year in west. We are looking forward to some summer adventures though!
He just completed his first semester, with a 99% overall grade and received his first truly earned Honor Roll certificate. Being recognized like this made him feel proud of himself and I could not be any more happier knowing that he’s worked hard for his As, he’s being recognized for his hard work and he’s being challenged every step of the way.