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[personal profile] double_mischief
Let me say up front that [personal profile] shadowbat and I have been in the K12 program (as sponsored by various local school distrcts) for five years now—we're embarking on our sixth year with his freshman year in high school—and for the most part we love it. There have been a few issues, such as late delivery of course materials, but overall K12 has been great. The local school district programs have been great overall, too. First the Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA) and now the Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA) have been friendly and helpful, if occasionally disorganized.

This year is one of big changes for everyone, I think. The high school program is structured very differently than the elementary and middle school programs: my job, for instance, has gone from teacher to classroom aide/support staff. This is fine with me; it means I've got some backup when it comes to answering the more difficult of [personal profile] shadowbat's questions. *g*

For [personal profile] shadowbat, it's meant getting used to a completely different type of educational experience. He's got a handful of subjects (no change there), each taught by a different teacher (there's your first change), and in each of these classes he's expected to immerse himself in the learning process (no change) in participation with dozens of his peers (big change). He's resistant right now, but anyone who knows him knows that he starts out hating most things until he's familiar/comfortable with them and at that point he makes an actual, informed judgment about them. I think he'll like this well enough, once he gets used to how the changes have upset his routine.

It's his routine that is the point of this post, actually. In reading the Parent/Student Handbook, I note that several times (starting in the Welcome & Introduction) WAVA stresses that one of the benefits of the program is its flexibility:
"There are many benefits to our unique learning model, including a rigorous and comprehensive curriculum. The flexibility of learning anytime and anywhere, the suport of qualified professional educators, and an individualized learning program adapts to your student's unique needs.
This is where the subject of my post comes in.

Flexibility.

To quote Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

For starters, the students have weekly scheduled "Class Connect" times where they're expected to attend Elluminate sessions for each subject they're taking. While these are (in most cases?) not mandatory, and recordings are provided after the fact for those who had to miss them, they are (again, in most cases?) counted for class credit, and the teachers expect students to attend them.

Next, there's this from the Handbook:
A successful student in WAVA is actively involved in his/her educational process. THis means that the student will ... commit to working 6+ uninterrupted hours on school five days a week.
The "uninterrupted" seems to make it pretty inflexible to me, especially when combined with Class Connect sessions.

And finally, the teachers have been posting calendars that include daily assignments for the students. This is kind of the antithesis of "flexible," IMO.

Last year, [personal profile] shadowbat did his schoolwork on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Wednesdays were reserved for running errands (laundry, grocery shopping, etc.). This year there seems to be one day a week without Class Connects scheduled (so far), but there are still assignments being given for that day, class discussions to participate in, etc.

In the past, we've chunked [personal profile] shadowbat's subjects—e.g., five hours of math on Monday, instead of one hour a day for five days—because he's always had trouble shifting gears quickly. When he was in elementary school, he spent half of the hour allotted for a subject just getting into the right headspace for that subject, so everything took half again as long as it was supposed to. As he's gotten older, we've stopped chunking quite so extensively; instead of a full day of math, he's splitting the day between two or three subjects. It still gives him more time per subject and fewer wasted minutes changing gears.

This year, he's expected to log into and work on every subject every day. This is actually the least of my worries/complaints on the flexibility front, because we've been working toward this for the last several years, but I feel obligated to point out that last year's practice of two to three hours per subject is actually much more in line with what he's going to get when he goes to college; this is an unnecessary adjustment he's having to make for the sole purpose of an online school conforming (unnecessarily!) to brick-and-mortar school program design.

I guess it all comes down to a drastically different idea of what flexibility is in this context. We got an inkling of WAVA's idea of flexibility during their back-to-school Elluminate session, when the presenter asked for a show of virtual hands for those who like to get up early (six or seven in the morning) and start working on their classes versus those who like to get up late (before noon). [personal profile] shadowbat said to me, "What about those of us who get up after noon?"

Or those of us who want to take Wednesdays off and work on Saturday instead. Or those of us who want to do two hours each in half of our subjects on Mondays and Thursdays, and two hours each in the other half on Tuesdays and Fridays?

The practical answer, I guess, is that we'll have to be flexible, too, and compromise what we want against what's being offered.

I'll close by reiterating that we really are, overall, happy with the WAVA program. It's by far the best program I've found for encouraging [personal profile] shadowbat's strengths and working with (and giving him tools to improve) his weaknesses. Just because I'm venting my frustrations doesn't mean that I don't have moments of equal enthusiasm; I'll try to share those as well.
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Katya

July 2011

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