I am a single mom of two boys, ages 13 & 11. I have homeschooled them their entire lives, in various styles. I work full time, only recently being able to work out of my home, so the public charter school was the best way for me to continue to homeschool my children and be able to work full time. I hope this review of one of the charter school options that is out there will help you in making your decision on the best way to homeschool your own children. In my opinion, there is no “best way” to do this, there is only the best way for your family, and that often changes as your children grow.
This is our second year going through K12 State Virtual Academy. Last year, we were in California and used CAVA (California Virtual Academy). This year we moved to Las Vegas, and K12 started their first NV Virtual Academy. They are very similar, yet have some very big differences as well.
This wasn’t our first experience with a public charter school in California. As my sons have grown, their interests and schooling needs have changed, so I have changed the way we homeschool often. If it doesn’t work, move on… that’s been the way I’ve looked at schooling. CAVA, was a bit more structured than we had been schooling, but I felt that my sons needed a bit more structure as they got older. Since CAVA offered an almost completely online schooling system, and offline text books, I felt that this was probably the best way to go.
My family enjoyed most of the curriculum. The science was engaging for both of my sons, one who was in 4th grade & the other was in 6th. History and geography was also a great curriculum. They split Language into several parts, Literature, Language (grammar, composition & vocabulary), and then also spelling for my youngest. My sons also enjoyed the art curriculum. They gave us various types of clay, paints, art pictures, and lots of crafts to do together and separately. The best thing about K12 is that they do give you lots of supplies for Science experiments and art.
The two subjects that I felt were lacking, was Math & Music. I love music, but the courses they have are either extremely boring or way too young for my sons. They do teach a lot about the classical composers, and give an appreciation for them, but very little exploration of classical or modern music. My youngest son’s music lessons were way too young for him, and he did not appreciate learning “little kid” songs.
Math is the subject that I felt was lacking the most in actual teaching. They give the student a text book and a workbook, and the parents have a “teachers” guide, but there is very little explanation or teaching of math. There are a lot of wonderful math teaching programs and curriculum online that really teach and explain math much better than K12′s books. In the K12 system, the text book has a very short guide to how to do whatever math problem they will be working with, and then they have a bunch of math problems for the kids to work on. If your child doesn’t happen to get math right away, he ends up working on math all day long. This is what has happened to both my sons at different times. Last year, my eldest son would spend all day long trying to figure out how to do the math, and I had very little help in trying to explain it to him. This year my oldest is doing fine with his math, but my youngest is having trouble. I feel that their math classes lack in explanation and real teaching of math concepts.
CA vs. NV Virtual Academy
These two states have very different requirements for charter schools. In CA there are not only lots of charter schools, but there are lots of charter schools that cater to the Home School community. However, in NV, this is the first year that there is a publicly funded charter school for homeschoolers. This being said, there are going to be some adjustments that will need to be made before the K12 Virtual Academy can really fit the needs of homeschoolers.
One thing that I really didn’t like having to do for CAVA was meeting with the teacher face to face every quarter and giving up pieces of work for each subject per student. My oldest son had more work that was online, than work that was offline, so there wasn’t a lot to choose from. However, the one thing that I felt was really great was the lack of pressure for my sons to be on target with where they were in the lessons. Yes, they wanted them to be at a certain point in their lessons by a certain time, but it wasn’t a hard and fast rule. The children were truly allowed to go at their own pace, and if that meant they didn’t finish their math lessons until the following school year, then that was ok. The child just didn’t go on to the next level in math until he was actually done with the last level. We were also allowed to be a little more relaxed on when we marked attendance. Which meant that if we didn’t do any school Monday & Tuesday, but we did do school on Saturday & Sunday, which was fine.
The curriculum for NVVA is the exact same curriculum that we had in California. The biggest difference is in attendance and the teacher parent meetings. The meetings do not have to be face to face, which I prefer. We have bi-monthly phone calls, and almost daily emails. I love this, because it doesn’t interfere with my work schedule or any family activities that are planned. The attendance reporting is a lot stricter with NVVA. If I don’t mark the attendance by the following day I get an email and then a phone call from the teacher. This is more annoying than really a problem. The only real problem that I have with NVVA is their policy on the pace of learning. This is something that I am in ongoing talks with my teacher and the head of the school. The policy as it is now is that all lessons must be finished by a specified date, with only rare and prearranged exceptions. This means that this is not a “child led learning pace”. This came to my attention only because we started two weeks later than we were supposed to because of a preplanned family vacation. Once my sons started their lessons their teacher has been pushing for them to “catch up” on their school work. Which I have been very adamant about the fact that this is not the way K12 states their system works. The child is supposed to be able to take their time and learn at their pace, which means there is no need to “catch up”. So, for now, we are learning at our own pace and if there is a problem, we may decide not un-enroll with the school. That is the only problem that I have with NVVA. Other than that, it is the same curriculum, and we’re happy with it.
I hope this helps you and your family in making your homeschooling decisions.
Las Vegas, NV