Homeschooling in a public school world

It’s been almost two months since we started with MAVA, the new virtual public school in Massachusetts. The lack of new posts on this blog should be an indication that it is, indeed, kicking my butt.

But, I’m kind of enjoying the butt-kicking, in some weird way. It feels good to have a plan, to check off items as we do them, to track our progress more concretely than we were before.

But, there are definitely growing pains in this new school, both at our home and throughout the program. My girls would rather play than do school (shocking, I know). They complain about how long it takes, forgetting that things move so much quicker if they don’t w-h-i-n-e at every step.

And, my poor son. I’m still struggling to keep him busy and learning and engaged while wrapped up with my other two.

Outside of our home, the only other family I knew in real life who was enrolled in MAVA recently quit. The public school’s beating drum that says “move forward, move forward” thrown on top of K12’s vigorous curriculum (which is, ironically, all about “mastering tasks at your own pace”) got to be too much for them.

Aye, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say.

It’s hard to marry the homeschooling lifestyle with the public school mentality. The public school wants us to finish at least 80% of all of our subjects by the end of June, never mind that we joined more than 20% into the school year. Never mind that I was already doing school with the kids in September, October and November, not lying on the couch wondering how they’d get educated.

The public school wants 80% complete, but K12 says “mastery, mastery”. So how does one move forward if a child is stuck? How can I spend an extra week on long division when the clock is ticking?

Report cards were just issued that were based solely on what percentage of the program is complete in each subject. I’d say we did fair. Each girl got one “W”, or Warning grade. Belly got hers in Art, which is funny given that the girl takes three hours of art classes each week, but alas, her progress in the program lags a bit behind.

Jilly got her “W” in History, a subject we have always kicked ass in up until now. I like the K12 History program, it just gets shuffled aside a little bit in an attempt to get to math-reading-spelling-grammar-french-science-art. But, again, it feels funny to see a “W” in a subject that I’ve loved enough to do well into the summer each year.

I asked our “teacher” (more on this later), what will happen if we are at, say, 65% at the end of June. Will they kick us out? “No!” she replied quickly, but then admitted she isn’t sure what that means for us. I know they want the kids to stay on grade level, but I don’t really care if my 4th grader becomes a 5th grader in September, December or March of next year.

I care that my kids learn and understand the work.

I don’t want to outright quit in frustration though. I want to see where we end up in June and then take stock in our family life, our homeschooling life and our place in MAVA. Maybe there will be a place for us next September, maybe there won’t. But, it’s too early to stop now.

Target practice

It’s no big secret that I’m not a super-confident homeschooler. Maybe if my kids’ orders had been reversed, I’d be different, but I didn’t get my early reader/early math lover until my third child, leaving me to believe that I absolutely suck at teaching my own kids.

The truth is, kids learn at different rates, and nothing taught me that with more sweaty palms than my oldest needing until she was about seven years old to read a book. And though I believe that kids learn at different rates, I’ve always wondered if maybe she just needed a different teacher to get through to her. . .

Hence, one of the reason we DO have another teacher, through our new virtual school.

But, one thing just happened that has given me a huge confidence boost and made me feel even better about our past four years as a homeschooling family: I found out my girls are On Target.

Just last week, they both were required to complete Scantron assessment tests in Reading and Math. After they finished, I sat back and waited to hear the worst: Your Children Have Learned Nothing At Home.

The results came through yesterday and with my husband looking over my shoulder, I nervously read the letter explaining the three segments each childs’ score can fall into: At Risk, On Target, and Advanced.

They were On Target, both girls, in Math and Reading in their respective grades!

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone back to look at these scores, making sure my eyes didn’t trick me, making sure I was comparing their scores against the right chart. Even in the individual “skills” breakouts, there were no glaring issues to indicate that they are majorly deficient in any area.

So, no extra “classes” or worksheets or worries.

OK, I’ll still worry.

But, I feel a heck of a lot better now knowing that I got them this far, and feel relatively confident that I can get them through the next few years with one little step forward at a time.

Our first days in Massachusetts’ new virtual public school

Christmas in December!

Look what arrived on Monday:

Inside these boxes is our new curriculum. We are officially now part of MAVA, the new virtual public school in Massachusetts.

(well, at least the girls are. My son, D, is still a free-flowing, hippy homeschooling kindergartner)

We’ve plunged right in which is why you haven’t seen anything new on this blog all week. Holy crow, there is a lot to figure out, though I’ve had enough people say TAKE IT SLOW that I get it.

Take it slow.

But, ZOMG, look at all of this? I’m part giddy with excitement and faint from fear.

But thank goodness for my friend Miriam who is a few months ahead in this journey and has answered my desperate, need-an-answer-right-now questions like, CAN WE WRITE IN THESE BOOKS?!?!?!?!?! (her voice-of-reason answer? yes, most of the materials are consumable and here is where you could’ve found out the answer for yourself before you wrung your hands for an hour).

The best was last night when I told her about my hatred of Study Island, a standardized test-prep program, where new math concepts were being thrown at my girls in multiple-question format and threatening to sink our floundering ship. She looked concerned and asked, did they watch the lesson first?

Lesson? There is a lesson? Somehow, without a smirk or an eyeroll, she dragged me over to our friend’s computer and pulled up the program to show me where “Lesson” clearly was stated next to the test area.

So, that has been my week in a nutshell: Moments of Oh My God I Can’t Find Anything How Can They Expect Me To Do This I Don’t Have All The Materials followed by oh. it’s right there.

We’ve also “met” our teacher on the phone and in virtual classrooms, and we all like her. She is thankfully also the same teacher that my friends have, so the kids can “wave” to each other when they are in the same class.

I’ll try to chronicle some of our new homeschooling journey here even though some people may not exactly call this homeschooling. But, to me, this doesn’t feel all that different from what we’ve been doing for the past four years except we have more of a schedule now and some online classes to attend (though almost everything is flexible). I’ll let you know if at some point I really feel like we have entered Public School Land.

Maybe it’s when we get the School Lunch requirements. Heh.