Not not HOME school, PUBLIC school at home.
Let’s face it, the state of the US education system is a mess and failing on levels unimaginable. 20 years ago the US was number one in the world and set the bar for education, today we’re 9th overall.
(Note:Click on any picture for a larger view)
Recent studies show nearly 2/3rds of all high school graduates are falling seriously short of basic language arts standards; translation; spelling, grammar & things like punctuation – stink! Let’s not even start a conversation about math scores. According to statistics there are third world countries that are kicking our mathematical tails.
Due to billions (yes Billions with a B) of dollars being cut from education budgets around the country, schools can no longer maintain effective learning environments. Bottom line: The whole “No Child Left Behind” initiative should be called “No Child Left Behind Will Be Alone” because on the road to life, our children are piling up like cars in a demolition derby on the education highway and teachers can’t mend the wounds fast enough.
When I attended my first borns high school graduation, nearly half of the ceremony was dedicated to honoring 13 teachers who were being forced into early retirement because their classes were being consolidated or eliminated all together. Programs like music, art, PE and even computers were cut from the budget. REALLY, PE and Computers??? In a country floundering with epidemic obesity and teetering on the precipice of the largest technology revolution in history two of the most important classes are erased from an entire school system??? Excuse me while I go slap some sense into someone.
Sadly my boys are three that have been “left behind”. Fly Boy and Home Run Kid spent their school years in Ohio and sadly had to struggle through school with very little help and support. WizKid is here with me and Mr. Sweet Butter and into fourth grade he floundered like a fish out of water; barely finishing with a C average.
We had to do something. The poor curriculum, the push for kids to concentrate on school fund raisers and teachers forced to focus on meeting the state testing standards, coupled with his ADHD was simply Check Mate for him. He was a pawn. On top of all this, because I work full time at home, home schooling was not an option.
Thankfully we discovered Connections Academy.
It’s an independent company that has partnered with state school systems across the country and simply allows children from kindergarden through graduation to take public school at home.
Yes Public school – at home. Yes it’s also completely FREE.
A few years ago it was only available in about 1/3 of the states nationally but in recent years has started being picked up by more and more states across the country. It’s easy to find out if your state is participating by clicking on the eligibility map on the home page.
All states offer the private school option which is super affordable. If your state has both, you’ll see a box like the one above. Orange for Public, blue for Private.
WizKid is in his third year, starting 7th grade, and in both 5th and 6th he finished with a B+ average.
So this is how it works.
We his parents are his learning coaches. Just like we would help him with homework we help guide him through his classes each day. Learning coaches can be designated friends or other family members as well giving families the flexibility to share or allocate time. So say if three families in your neighborhood all had kids in CA, they could be each others learning coaches and rotate all the kids between homes during the week.
A couple of weeks before school starts a big box of supplies comes in the mail (the box is saved to send everything back at the end of the year at no cost). Ironically, many of these supplies are things parents would be responsible to obtain in a regular school. Supplies and text books obviously vary for grade level but usually include
- All text books and workbooks
- Art supplies, paints, drawing pads, chalk etc.
- Science stuff; goggles, wire, batteries, compasses etc based on the labs
- Math: paper money, coins, foam counting squares and so on.
- Reading books for language arts
We supplied folders, paper and other basic items throughout the year.
Everything is online so WizKid can take school with him anywhere. If he’s learning about the Civil War, we could fly to South Carolina, visit Fort Sumter and do classes right on the Battery if we wanted.
Students and learning coaches get a login to the Learning System.
At the home page we have easy access to everything.
We can see our ToDo’s, access school links, check school mail, WizKid’s calendar and assignments, the gradebook.
See what’s going on in clubs; what activities are planned, state announcements and school announcements or access the school newletter.
Come on, I’ll show you a few things.
Because it’s public school students are required to meet state attendance standards. Here in Florida WizKid has to attend 25 hours of school a week. However, he can do that 25 hours any time he likes. He can do a few hours in the morning, go play, then do a few hours in the evening. He can do work on Saturday, Sunday or even on holidays if he so chooses. We don’t have to stick to schedule school breaks so if we only want to take one week at Christmas and take a week in September, we can do that easy! We simply come into the attendance schedule and mark his hours for the day.
Also from the home screen we can see the snapshot of his curriculum, the teachers assigned for each and when the last scheduled less for each subject is due. We can quickly email his teacher, see their information and bio or dig into the details of each subject.
Oh did I forget that part? Yes just like regular school real, highly accredited teachers are assigned for each subject in middle school; one home teacher for elementary school. They oversee the students work, grade the major portfolios (there is some work for the learning to coach to check, like daily math work, but they send the answer books), they teach online lessons each week and are easily accessible to students at any time.
I think my favorite part is the grade book. I can see where WizKid is every single day for each subject and each assignment. I don’t have to wait until the end of the quarter to find out if he’s struggling in math.
This part of the grade book shows us each and every grade for each lesson and how much weight they carry for the overall grade.
If we see he is having a hard time with a subject or particular lesson we can slow the pace a bit and stick to that lesson until he’s on track. In regular school if he failed a test, it was too bad, the teachers had to keep on going. My child would be “left behind”.
The purple box on the home page shows us who his primary advisor teacher is, what is grade it and access his work schedule.
This is WizKids subject schedule for Monday. The lessons in bold print are still pending completion and those with the green check marks he’s finished. Once I check the work is complete I mark it as such with the blue box.
There are several places to mark an assignment as complete and ready for this teacher to grade if applicable.
- On the daily class schedule
- In the lesson itself
- From the “lessons pending approval” link on the home page
I can change the view of this page to weekly or monthly to see everything at a glance. We can add personal appointments, vacation days, live lesson schedules and just about anything else to this calendar as well.
Now for the fun part. Here’s how a typical lesson works.
Each lesson is broken down into clean, easy to follow steps.
The first page is “getting started” and provides the overview of the lesson as well as the objectives.
The next couple of pages are the “instructional” pages. These can included anything from teachlet tutorials, BrainPop videos, interactive forms, flash cards and even learning games.
This fun video is teaching him about different parts of a a sentence.
After he knows what he’s doing, then comes the activity. Just like in regular school classes, the teacher teaches the lesson and then doles out the work, and just like class there is reading, textbook and workbook work, writing and comprehension lessons.
Once all the work is complete he will review.
The review section also includes a list of the vocabulary and spelling words WizKid is learning and required to know for the lesson and unit overall. Handy flip cards are even available right online, making review quick, easy and fun.
And finally at every lesson has an assessment. Most are quick quizzes that are only looking for understanding and retention. Other are bigger tests and eventually large portfolios that have to be sent to the teacher for grading.
Inside each lesson are links to the unit overview, online resources, the lesson objectives and even his text books. This is great when we’re on the road; there’s no need to pack all his books because everything is available right online to access as well.
What makes the learning so easy for WizKid is the plethora of resources available to him for free, that we would have to pay for otherwise. Sites from across the web widely used by schools and teachers are only a click away.
Sites like BrainPop.com
Lessons, games so much more is available for students to use in conjuction with their lessons.
All geared to the students age and grade.
Lessons for everything!!!
I know you’re asking, “what about all the clubs and electives and social stuff kids get to do at school?”
Connections Academy has it covered.
Clubs? Yeah they have them. From Math Club, Pen Pal, Chess, Broadcasters, Arts & Crafts, Environmental, Photography, Technology, School news…club after club!
Let’s start with foreign languages from KINDERGARDEN! Yes seriously. Students can learn Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, German, Latin & even Sign Language.
Other electives include:
- Game design
- Web Design
- Marine Science
- Home Life
Oh and did I mention there are Honors, Advanced Placement and College Prep classes for High School students as well?
Field trips are planned all year long and local activities, volunteer work and community planning all ensure students have plenty of opportunities to socialize and get involved.
WizKid Loves it and he’s learning more, being challenged more and feeling better about school. He doesn’t have to worry about being bullied, wearing the clothes in fashion, living up to peer pressure or getting distracted by fund raisers or non-educationally geared nonsense.
For me, the plus side is,
- I don’t have to teach him (only help).
- I don’t make the curriculum and nor am I responsible to supplement it (although I do find cool things to add anyway).
- I can keep my job working full time at home.
Younger kids need more 1:1 attention and guidance but the program is so structured and easy to follow it’s not difficult at all for kids to pace themselves and keep on track from as young as 5th grade.
It’s the best decision MR. Sweet Butter and I have made for our son. I wish I was able to give it to his brothers but they’re done with school now.
One thing I can promise. WizKid is one child that certainly will NOT be left behind!
(disclaimer:) Connection Academy has absolutely no idea I wrote this post, they didn’t ask me to, I get nothing in return and WizKid still has to do all his homework. No free ride for him. I wrote this because I love the program and so many people have asked me about it.
Check it out at www.connectionsacademy.com