Thursday, February 28, 2013

Online Schooling

I am going to talk about how I am schooling the youngest two munchkins.  Most people have a bunch of questions when they hear what we are doing because they do not know it is an option, have not ever heard of it, or think it is the same thing as homeschooling.  I usually get a funny look and then usually a variety of questions that are actually quite similar in nature.  I figured that I would talk about it here, and maybe it would help clear up any confusion and answer any lingering questions.  If there is anything that I do not hit upon, feel free to ask!

  • Why did I take Thing 2 and Thing 3 out of school?  I was actually deep in research to homeschool Courtney before we moved from VA.  However, the laws in WA are way different, as is the curriculum, so when we moved...Yeah.  Not only was I involved with unpacking a house and getting settled, I did not have time to learn the new laws right away.  I thought I would do it the following year.  I then started down the MS road which took up quite a bit of time. Then Mia started school at the same place Courtney was attending.  Hannah started middle school this year, but went to a different elementary school because of the HiCap program.  Highly Capable is the same as Talented and Gifted was in VA, but HiCap actually moves at a faster pace than TAG.  The regular classes seem to be moving at a slower pace. That did not sit well with me.  Plus funding is horrible for WA schools.  Then we have the school itself. Ugh.  The administration and its policies were ineffective and substandard when you are dealing with children.  I have a list of grievances that I had to deal with having to do with my own children. I am happy to share if anybody wants to know specifics, or is looking for some sort of justification so you know that you are not crazy if you are thinking about taking your own children out of the same school district. Some of the general reasons do include putting Courtney in sweats (that were too big) and a long sleeve shirt (that was too small) when she needed a change of clothes instead of CALLING ME when we live 3 minutes away on the hottest day of the school year. Leaving students, including Kindergartners, unattended outdoors  to stand in line for class-this has resulted in injuries to students, and the only adults to witness it are adults just in the process of dropping off students not involved at all and those adults aren't being paid by the school nor do they even have a volunteer form on record at the school, so they can in no way be accountable for other students behavior.  Leaving it up to the students whether to play outside during recess when it is raining (not a light drizzle-full out raining), and then the children sit there in soaking wet, muddy clothes for the remainder of the school day because they are not told to not jump in mud puddles, etc. The administrators also have no regard for the separation of church and state.  I have discussed this with numerous friends and on facebook, if you are interested in more details, contact me and I am happy to talk to you.  
  • How could you take them out so quickly before the beginning of a new semester?  It is not homeschool.  It is an online public school.  The program we chose to go with is K12, they have schools all over the country.  I knew of many people that have used this program, love it, AND have great success. I basically proctor lessons and am guided through teaching them curriculum that is provided to us.  They still have to meet certain guidelines and it is all mastery based.  It is public school...with a twist.  We had to apply,which was basic-get the kids in the system, names, addresses, birthdays, etc., get the brick-and-mortar school district to sign off on it (which they can't refuse), and then fax some paperwork into the online school birth certificates, utility bill to prove our address, vaccination records, ALL the normal public school requirements.  The school checks all paperwork, calls and talks with us (though this is not the first time we had spoken with them) and send us all the curriculum.  The whole process took about 2-3 weeks. There were no letters to write, hoops to jump through, etc. that you have to do in a lot of case to be "allowed" to homeschool.  No curriculum to plan out or purchase.  Everything is taken care of.
  • I'm not a teacher, I could never do that!  Well, I do not have a teaching certificate or degree, either.  However, I am not having any problems.  The curriculum tells me what to do and gives me tips and tricks along the way.  We are also linked with  teachers the whole time and required to have weekly contact with them, and monthly progress conferences.  We have e-mail and phone numbers and are encouraged to contact our teachers if we have any questions or problems. There are video classes to help tutor the parents on different aspects. A couple of them have been math refreshers, writing refreshers,  how to manage having multiple children at home in the program, etc.
  • Aren't you worried that they aren't getting a real education?  Umm. No. Am I supposed to be offended that the people that ask this believe that I am not qualified to teach my children?  I am not teaching them physics, which was the one subject I did have trouble with in school.  I am actually able to give them more attention, tailor lessons to their personalities, and go at the speed that they need.  I have even found what some more of their strengths are and some of weaknesses are that teachers never mentioned.  The program is teaching many things that they would not have learned in their bring-and-mortar school.  It is way more advanced than the B&M school is.  For 3rd grade, there are history, geography and social studies lessons, art (history and technique), math, literature AND comprehension, spelling, composition and science.  For Mia there is math, science, literature and comprehension, phonics, and vocabulary.  There are also clubs for music, dance, art, hobbies, reading and various other hobbies.  
  • But you don't meet with other kids their own age.  Actually, there is an online directory only accessible to school families where you can look up other families in your own town with students in the same grade.  You can co-op lessons, arrange play-time, etc.  They get socialization.
The girls are doing great.  They are excelling in everything they are given with the exception of literature comprehension for Courtney. The comprehension part she seems to be struggling a little bit with because there is NOT much of this in B&M. Though she is reading on a 6th grade level and her her old teachers kept raving about that and it being as high as they could you are not understanding the context in which you are reading the word, it does not  matter as much that you can read the word. This is how some kids fall through the cracks. Her teachers thought she was super smart because she excelled in math and spelled and reading.  Which she does.  So they spent more time with other kids. I am able to breeze though the stuff she has an easy time with and focus on the stuff the needs help with and think of different ways to teach her so she "gets" it.  She has already made huge strides with comprehension.  There are not as many meltdowns as there used to be when they were in B&M and Courtney and Mia actually get along better now.  I really wish I had done this sooner.  I am happy to answer any questions about the program, but those are the main questions and concerns that pop up repeatedly.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Evidently MS makes you look fabulous...

Buckle up...
  • But you look so good!  
  • You don't even look sick!
  • You wouldn't know it by looking at you!
  • You don't look sick... (said with a tone of doubt)
  • Are you sure you're sick? You look fine.
These are all things that people have said to me over the past 9 months- since I started getting tested.  People including medical personnel.  It is one of the things that bugs me and others with MS the most, though we never say anything.  Some people, I know, mean well and just might not know what to say.  Others say their comments with disbelieving tones.  Their comments say that because I don't look "sick", I should feel fine.  I should feel "normal."  I shouldn't have the symptoms I am having, or the pain I am having.  Evidently, all diseases and illnesses are supposed to make you look like death warmed over.  And if you don't look like you have been run over by a car, then you really have whatever illness you are complaining of.  Color me confused.  I guess I missed in the literature where it said that MS gives you boils and blotches and makes it look like your skin is melting off your body.

I am here to tell you now, that unless I, or any other person feel like absolute poo and haven't slept or are in the middle of an exacerbation or something similar, you can't tell just by looking at us that we are sick. Also, just because we look like we usually look, it doesn't mean that we feel good or that we are not telling the truth when we tell you what is wrong on the inside.  Another little secret, even the "You don't even look sick!" and "But you look so good!" actually comes across as kind of an insult  It is kind of like they expect us to look bad to prove that we are sick.  Or they want us to look as bad as we feel to make them feel better about themselves.  It almost always comes across as one of those backhanded compliments.  Either 1. By looking good, they think we are lying and there is nothing wrong with us, or 2. They totally were hoping OR expecting us to look bad...  We always smile and say, "Thank you," and are gracious, but anybody with a disease like MS will tell you that we are saying in our head, "Next time I'll try harder to look sick, just for you!" or something similar.  This does NOT include the friends that you see and exchange the usual pleasantries with who tell us that we are looking great.  Or comments about recent weight loss or a haircut looking great.  Normal conversations that everyone has are not included.  But those little, "You don't even look sick!"  Sorry!  I must have missed the memo on how I was supposed to look!

Just treat us like you would normally treat us, and don't mention with shock or disbelief how good we may look right after asking us how we are feeling.  When in doubt and you must say something about how we look... "Well, you look great!"  No snideness, no disbelief, no insulting tone.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday and is trying to get back into the swing of things now that 2013 is here.  Things at my house were as relaxing as possible with three kids on break from school and trying to get everything done for Christmas and then the after Christmas clean-up and organization that comes into play.

We did have some friends of ours over for dinner on Christmas Eve, and then I didn't have to rush to cook while in the midst of wrapping paper chaos on Christmas Day.  I don't know why we haven't always done it this way.  It was much more relaxing.  I didn't feel like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day on Christmas.  Soooo nice.

I was majorly surprised by the hubs.  He bought me the stand-mixer I have eyeing.  I didn't make a single Christmas cookie this year, which is a huge deal because I normally make around 800 or so. I haven't made meatloaf in a couple of months or mashed potatoes, and really hated making the frosting for the girls' cupcakes for their birthdays this year.  My hand strength just isn't cutting it, and the hand mixer that I have is awesome, but hurts my hands and arms now.  We talked about pricing it out and looking for sales or coupons after the holidays had passed, but he came out of left field.  It's a beauty.  And I love him bunches, even before he bought me the Breville.

I am hoping that 2013 is a better year than 2012 was for everyone.  I have a bunch of stuff to actually blog about, but wanted the first post of the new year to be wishing everyone a Happy New Year!