I homeschool my children through a statewide "virtual" academy. I am very fortunate to have this "public" school option available to us. It definately has it's many perks, such as, each student is assigned a licensed teacher and students can work at their own pace. It also has it's disadvantages, such as students being assigned to a "newbie" licensed teacher or one who is insistant that you work at a particular pace.
I have been using the same virtual school for 8 years now. We have had some absolutely wonderful teachers, some of whom I have developed lifelong friendships with...and we have had some horrible teachers. Some of which have pushed me further and further away from the idea that this is the school for us. My children are very bright (bragging, I know), our curriculum is extremely advanced (the reason I chose it). My children learn best through a multisensory hands on style of learning (one of the biggest reasons I keep my kids at home) and they thrive in an environment in which they can learn at their own pace and when they are taught with a learning style that is taylored specifically to them.
We have always been able to work at our own pace...sometimes working ahead and sometimes getting very far behind. We have always been met with understanding, support and the proper guidance. This year has been very different with just one of our teachers. I thank God for the support and encouragement from our other two teachers, as they have kept me sane in dealing with this other teacher. You see, our school, being a public school; recieves state funding for their students. However, they only recieve this funding if the student has met certain criteria...so some teachers push you to work at their pace.
We almost always add something extra into each lesson. We may go to a museum to get a hands on look at what is in our history or science book, or we may make a craft, build a model, take a walk outside, visit the library, or we may even "visit" another country and bring back souviners from our trip (currently, we have one tour bus learning all about New Hampshire and one tour bus visiting our friends in the UK). These "extra" things are not built into our curriculum, but yet they take a lot of extra time. Sometimes, by doing so many extra things to go along with a lesson, we would get a tad behind. This year, we have taken a lot of pressure from one particular teacher. Not because we are falling behind in our required studies, but because we are falling behind in "extra" things that they are requiring students to participate in. In an effort to get state test scores up, my 7th grader is required to do up to 5 hours of additional work that does not count towards her required work. This has caused us to not have the time available to do the extra things that we are so accustomed to doing. So, we ceased some of these hands on learning experiences so that we could be sure to keep our % up. We've done a fabulous job, as Cardinal has just about caught up on subjects that she fell behind in over the course of the last few difficult years.
Eagle seemed to be suffering the most. I've watched him just go through the motions of his lessons, passing through each of his history lessons, but not appearing to really be "retaining" the information he was being taught. I've struggled for months watching this behavior and with the support and encouraging words of one of our teachers...I decided that it was time for me to take a stand and stop worrying about our darn %. Not just Eagle, but all of my kids were missing out on the superior education that they deserve...for what....a higher state standardized test score?! The very reason I homeschool and it was being robbed from them. So, this past week as Eagle studied "The Rise of Islam" we went back to one of our older hands on tools..."Lapbooking". We had to stop using lapbooks because quite simply...they take a lot of time....A LOT!!!
Now, this past week, I spent a good extra 2 hours a day, sometimes 3 printing templates, cutting, gluing, etc. and setting aside pieces that Eagle would use to create his lapbook during his unit review. Each day, Eagle would use these pieces to review the lesson from the day before. He would help create some of the pieces and those key points of the lesson would not be forgotten. He was so eager to work on History lessons this week and he would gleam when he knew an answer during review time.
We spent our Friday night assembling his lapbook and he had so much fun, you would have thought he was building Legos. He was so full of pride, I was afraid he might burst. Now, as he finished up this unit about Islam, he actually learned something and he remembers it!
|Middle page in 1st opening (flap book an a matchbook)|
|Right side page in 1st opening (matchbook and a single flap book)|
|Fliped pages to 2nd opening|
|Left page of 2nd opening (mini book of flags & mini envelope containing answer to question on envelope)|
|Top flipped page of 2nd opening (single flap book, foam flip cave, map shape book with movable pages)|
|The cave opened up|
|2nd flip up page with flap books opened to show answers|
|View of entire book opened up (except the bottom page on right corner isn't flipped open in this pic)|
|This is the green page that is between the two yellow pages above (shown here with accordian book and triangle books opened)|
|Bottom flip from 2nd opening (Circle book and index with answers on filed on index cards)|
|Bottom right corner of 2nd flip (sorted picture cards)|