Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Our first year at GCA

As our first year at the Georgia Cyber Academy winds down, I thought I'd summarize some of the things I/we have learned.

The Good

  • Mostly self-pacing - My kids work at different speeds on different subjects. It was very easy for them to work at their own pace, getting help when they needed or wanted it. We had to make sure we didn't take TOO much extra time to get things done or we'd be behind the school progress goals, but it was more than adequate for what they needed.
  • More field trips - My kids (and I'm sure many others) learn a lot more if they can do hands on or experience it up close field trips. We were able to take a day (or a part of a day) and get out and do things. We took advantage of the Atlanta History Museum's homeschool days, went out to various events with teachers, as well as made up our own field trips (such as Fernbank).
  • Great teachers - Our teachers were both new to the school as well, so there was an adjustment period for all of us. They were, though, very helpful when we got side tracked or had issues.
  • Great parent network - I myself found the parent networks that are out there very helpful. I got involved in two different email lists of parents as well as an online group on facebook. Through those I was kept up to date on events and found the support from families like mine. It was very reassuring to know that I wasn't alone nor that my problems were necessarily 'new'.
  • Lots of classes - This one gets split two ways. There are plenty of chances for the kids to log in and have classes directly with their teachers to work on their subjects. My son spent all morning on Tuesdays in classes, my daughter only had a couple that we had to get to. If you miss the class, recordings are available for the kids to listen to later.

    The Bad

  • More monitoring - My kids needed more monitoring than I'd expected. My son is very self-driven normally, but as the school year went on, he slacked off considerably. We had to backtrack several times to get him back ON track with his classes. I'm also going to have to install special 'limiting' software on their computers to guarantee that nothing but school work is being done on their computers when I'm not there to watch.
  • 24x7 kids - I put this under 'bad' only because until this past year I had become accustomed to having my kids leave the house for school, instead of staying home. Once you get used to the breaks in the day from kids, it's hard to adjust back to having them under foot.
  • Less house work - When my kids were at a brick and mortar school, I was able to get more house work done. Not that my house was ever "perfect", but it was certainly cleaner than it is now. Until my daughter gets to middle school, her class work is very parent interactive, though even then I doubt it'll cut back much.
  • Special area - I tried this year to keep the kids' computers in their bedrooms. I'd thought that that would be the best to give them a quiet area to work without bothering each other. I would wander back and forth between rooms to check on them, but if I wasn't on top of them they'd side track. Next year we're going to rededicate my formal dining room as a 'school room'. I'm going to remove furniture to make space for their computers and move it all into there.
  • Lots of classes - Here is the flip side to this one. The school really wants you to attend ALL of the online classes. Sometimes that just isn't possible and thus the recordings are available. Even so, there were times when we though that the subjects being taught were way behind where my kids were in the curriculum. So, why attend the class if you've already done the work? I know it's good review, but when half of the school year seemed to go that way, it seemed to be a bit much.

    Most of the people who know me know my reasons behind choosing GCA over other alternatives. As a substitute teacher in Gwinnett County, I would hear various stories from various people about the middle school we are zoned for. It was very unreassuring to hear. We started investigating alternatives, including permissive transfers to another middle school, out right home school and charter schools. We put in our application to a brick and mortar charter school here in the county, but other than being put on a wait list never heard back from them. In the mean time, I applied to GCA and watched the permissive transfer lists. GCA was the only one that came through, so that's what we went with.

    Now that wasn't the ONLY reason we chose this path, it was just the primary one. In 5th grade my son was subject to a lot of migraine headaches. The official diagnosis that came back was primarily related to stress. Working through GCA, we've had no migraines and minimal head aches in general.

    My husband and I made the decision to move our daughter as well to keep the schedules in sync. For her with her math issues, this has worked out very well. She's been able to exceed herself in language arts and literature and keep herself on an even keel with math. This makes for a much happier child in learning and a much happier mom in the long run.

    So, we've registered for the next school year at GCA. We'll make the changes we need to for our children to succeed in school, and we'll be done with all of our school work before the school year actually finishes. All in all, it's been a good year.

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