Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why We Left Online Public School (K12)

So I started out the year with much excitement, awaiting the first day of school (kindergarten!) and those big boxes of (free!) school materials from the online public school. The school we chose used K12 curriculum, which I had heard was good quality and very expensive to buy. And when the boxes arrived, the curriculum and books looked great. The materials seemed to be based on the latest research for kindergarten (I know because I took a class on early childhood education) and there were manipulatives and great storybooks.

What we got from the online public school
Pretty soon, however, it became clear that this school was no fun. There were deadlines we had to meet, online sessions we were required to attend, extra assignments, assessments over the phone (tricky), and tons and tons of work! Although when I signed up, the school told me we could do kindergarten in two hours a day, the amount of material he was required to get through each day was overwhelming. There was no way anyone could do it in two hours. Some of the subjects, like literature and history, seemed way too advanced for kindergarten. He was being asked to do things like name the purpose and audience of a story, and learn about the contributions of Andrew Carnegie (what?). And a lot of the lessons in math consisted of doing the same thing a hundred different ways. It was a lot of boring work! On the days we did finish school, it took about 8 hours to finish. And it was supposedly half-day kindergarten we were doing. We hardly ever finished. And he fought with me every day, and I had to yell at him and threaten him with consequences to get him to do the work. And the first ever report card he got in his life was awful. He was failing to meet requirements in almost every subject (he was understanding everything fine, but he was behind). And this child is super smart.

Now some parents tell me that they deal with K12 by skipping a lot of the material that isn't neccessary for their kids to understand and meet the objectives. Well that sounds reasonable, but in actuality the school isn't set up that way. The end of each lesson has a quiz, and for him to answer all the questions correctly, he would have had to go through all the material. And we did skip (a lot). He is advanced in phonics and math, so we skipped (marked as complete) a lot of early lessons in those areas. But it didn't help us get ahead.  And I just don't feel comfortable with a system that requires me to skip half a year's lessons or say we did things that we didn't. That is just weird and unnecessary. It feels like lying.

I struggled with this for half a year. When we started again in the Spring, I couldn't stand it. I had had enough. I found an online homeschool program that day, Time4Learning, and signed him up immediately. My husband was not happy. It had been hard enough to convince him to go along with the online school. Now we were going school-less and he didn't know what to make of it (he's from China, and the only people who are "home-schooled" over there are people who can't afford to send their kids to school, and they can only grow up to be poor farmers and street-cleaners [according to him]).

But it has been great. Without the rules and deadlines of the online public school, we can do what's best for the kiddo. We do things he actually enjoys. Some of the subjects we do only take 10 minutes, instead of an hour, and we finish school before lunchtime every day. Now, school takes just 2 1/2 hours. He has stopped fighting me about doing school (well, except for handwriting), and he gets really excited about some of his subjects, because they are light, interesting, and fun. He is learning so much more than before because he is motivated and not bogged down with too much work. We are able to do more subjects, and ones that are very important to us and we never had time to do before, like Spanish, Science, and Chinese.

So that was our experience with the online public school using k12 curriculum. Maybe it works for others, or maybe it works better for higher grades where the students have longer attention spans, but it was definitely not for us.