Friday, February 6, 2009

K12~ our review

This is a bit of an explanation, exploration for those of you who don't know much about the schooling/ curriculum we're doing.

I signed Scooter up for K12 this fall. I had researched their curriculum before, but learned that is was a frighting $2,000 a year. Now, however, the program is state funded in OR. So I jumped at the opportunity.

What do we love about K12?
  • The lesson plans are done for me, no more worries about whether or not I've missed something important, no more lesson planning. I have discovered that for me, I can relax and enjoy teaching much better with the plans done for me. I don't have upcoming lessons in my mind, I'm not wondering if I can find that certain book and I don't have to buy any more than I like.
  • The materials are great, and all free. The lessons are planned out for each kind of learning style.
  • I have an OR State teacher that I touch base with regularly, someone's brain to pick, AND she offers a virtual classroom for Scooter and some of the other local kids in the area, a place for them to chat and learn together.
  • We have field trips (that I don't have to organize) to meet w/ other local K12 kids and visit areas of learning/interest.
Things I don't love about the curriculum;
  • This program is structured enough that it's hard to be loosely flexible. I have to account for all school days, telling what we accomplished in the day. While this accountability is good for me, I'd like a little more structure.
  • I long for a richer, more literature based curriculum. Perhaps next year I'll fork out the big bucks for Sonlight. I realized the other day that I only have to buy each grade level once. I can use the second grade curriculum three times. When asked what Scooters favorite part of school, he'll answer History or Language arts, because of the stories. I agree. It's the best way to learn.
We'll finish out this year, and I'll update you if we decide to change. :)

An article I read;

Online K-12 Schools Grow in Popularity: Donna Fuscaldo, Fox Business
“An investment in
knowledge always pays
the best interest.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

For Briana LeClaire, a mother of three in Meridian, Idaho, it was a no-brainer to enroll her two school-aged children in Idaho Virtual Academy, a Kindergarten through 12th grade Internet school that has more than 2,000 students. The 38-year old liberal-arts graduate wanted her children to learn history based on Greek mythology and the Bible, and not from a social studies approach, which is the norm in most public schools.
“You can’t really resonate with paintings without knowing the stories from the Bible and the stories from Greek mythology,” said LeClaire, whose first-grade son and seventh-grade daughter are enrolled in the online school. “Until my brick-and-mortar school starts offering history and a literary curriculum, I’ll stick with what’s working.”

LeClaire is just one of the thousands of parents across the country who are choosing to enroll their children in virtual schools. Whether its homeschoolers, child actors, elite athletes or children who are advanced or need more help, Internet schools for K-12 are growing. While online education used to be the domain of colleges and universities, that’s no longer the case. Proponents of the virtual schools say children not only are able to get a richer education but the flexibility online schools offer, make it the most viable choice in some cases. “Up until eight years ago, unless you had affluence, the only place your family could get an education was at the local elementary school down the street,” said Ron Packard, founder and Chief Executive of K12 , the Herndon, Va., provider of K-12 online curriculums. “What happens if that education doesn’t work? The child has no choice.”

With public virtual schools, anyone in the state has an education choice. Online public schools and charter schools offer the education for free with the school providing the necessary equipment including computers and in many cases broadband Internet access. Many times the teachers are located in regions near the students and communication is conducted via video conference, telephone and in person. Currently K12’s curriculum is used for 40,000 students in nationwide virtual schools. Packard expects that number to increase by a double-digit rate annually. He said the increase will be driven largely by awareness, as the stigma of an online education continues to dissipate. After all, public online schools are much different than home schooling, where the parents aren’t required to follow state mandates. Public online schools are required by the state to take the same tests as the brick and mortar schools, and students have to be taught by certified public teachers, said Packard. According to Anthony Picciano, a professor at Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center who specializes in education administration and supervision, said the number of students in online public
schools stands at around 700,000 to 800,000 out of a school population of around 51 million.
That number was between 130,000 and 150,000 in the 2001/2002 school year.
Picciano, who is putting together a second study on K-12 online education for Sloan-C. a consortium developed to advance online education, said that rate will grow, largely with high school students who may take advanced placement classes or supplemental classes online.
Still while the adoption rate is on the rise, there are concerns with online schools, especially for
younger students.

“Bless me, what *do* they teach them at these schools.” ~ CS Lewis

“The majority are high-school students, because there’s the whole issue of socialization with younger students,” said Picciano. “The nature of the primary school and even the middle school is not just to teach academic courses, but it’s where they go to develop children emotionally and socially so they can work well with their peers.”

Supporters of the online schools say socialization isn’t an issue, since most students are engaged in activities like field trips, after school programs or church functions where they learn the necessary social skills. “Most parents that have their children in programs like this take a fairly active role in providing socialization,” said Craig Butz, director of Nevada Connections Academy, the online K-12 school that’s part of Connections Academy. “Parents feel like they have a choice as to what socialization children are being exposed to.”

In the Nevada Connections Academy, the enrollment is expected to grow from 300 last year to 800 this year. Butz said Connections Academy expects a dramatic increase in enrollment in all of its K-12 online schools.

For LeClaire, socialization has never been an issue for her two children enrolled in Idaho Virtual Academy. She said her first-grader plays with the other children on the block, and her seventh-grader is in clubs that are of interest to her, like the Junior NRA shooting club. "She has the opportunity to be with kids who share interests,” said LeClaire, noting that once a week
her daughter goes to a learning co-op put together by the parents where there’s group learning. “With the co-op, being in school is cool. Learning is cool. For the most part they share interests, and one of the interests is doing well.”

Ultimately, experts in the online K-12 world think there will be a blended approach for teaching students that mixes face-to-face education with virtual learning. The fact that students go on field trips or engage in learning co-ops is evidence that it's already occurring. It’s also happening on a structured basis in many online schools like Odyssey Charter Schools, in Clark County, Nevada. Odyssey Charter Schools combines a full online curriculum with required on-site attendance. Students attend classes one day a week for four hours. “You’ll see in the future maybe kids will go three days a week to a physical location for labs or to be in band class and the rest done online,” said Allison Powell, vice president of the North American Council for Online Learning.

No comments: