At the outset of the 2997-2008 school year, my daughter began her first year of middle school. In our particular county in California, middle school begins in sixth grade. She was very excited. She claimed that middle school was where the ‘real learning’ began.
Reasonably quickly into the school year, we realized that she needed an alternative form of education. After exhaustive and extensive research, we discovered California Virtual Academy. California Virtual Academy is an online public school which uses the k12.com educational curriculum. This is available in several other states as well.
As my daughter’s Learning Coach, I was naturally hesitant about being able to do this job. I had never considered myself an educator. I thought I knew nothing of teaching or teaching technique. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. CAVA is there for us every step of the way.
CAVA provides, free of charge, textbooks, student and teacher guides, science kits, lab tools, art and music supplies. They provide you with a computer as well as a portion of your internet access. Here is a basic summary of what goes on at CAVA.
You will log into your account online every morning. On the login page, there is a list of daily lessons. Ours starts with Math, then Language Arts, History, Science, Music and Art. You can do the lessons in any order that you see fit. We like ours as they are set up in the system. You can complete them as fast or as slow as needed. Some children need more time to complete assignments and some children are able to move ahead more rapidly. You are given a schedule of where you should be at given points, but the beauty of the system is that you can move at your child’s necessary pace. It’s okay if you don’t finish; it’s more important to learn it!!
You are required to meet face to face with your assigned teacher at least four times a year. We like these meetings. It makes us feel ‘connected’. I personally like to connect with the teacher because I feel like they are making sure I’m doing my job accurately and appropriately. The teacher also communicates with us regularly by email. We receive various notifications from CAVA about clubs to join, contests, and trips. There are community boards that keep us notified of local outings with other students, or miscellaneous school functions.
Try and keep a rigid schedule. We still rise at 7 a.m. and behave as if we are leaving the house. We have a good breakfast, get dressed, brush our hair and teeth, and are usually logged in by 8:15. This is a personal preference. Some people do not start that early and some say that they learn better in their pj’s!
Move ahead and work ahead if your child can. We are six months ahead of schedule.
Don’t fall into the ‘NO Social Life’ trap. My daughter has more time for social activities and outside educational activities than she had at her traditional school.
Most teachers are well intentioned, educated, dedicated people. The educational system, in this day and age, makes it very hard for them to do their job in a progressive manner. An alternative such as California Virtual Academy makes it possible for some to take advantage of a more progressive environment. It frees up a little bit of the traditional learning environment to those dedicated teachers.
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