Friday, November 18, 2011

Georgia Cyber Academy

We have made a huge decision recently regarding the kid's education. We have decided to pull the kids from their current school at Cloverleaf Elementary School and go to a virtual public home school called the Georgia Cyber Academy.

We came about this decision with much research, praying, talking, praying, including input from what the kids wanted. There is a different reason for each kid of why we decided to homeschool.

CALEB: (4th grade)
The reason we even started to look into this choice was because of Caleb. He kept bringing to our attention how he was bored and frustrated with school. He didn't feeling like he was learning much and was not challenged in any way. Last year he was accepted into the gifted program called Gate.  To get in to a program like that you have to score on their test above 90% in 3 out of 4 categories. Here is the evaluation.  His gate teacher from last year said he needed to be in this program. And until this year we were excited about it and felt that whatever he was not getting in regular class (i.e. challenging work), he would get in gate. If you'll notice, the average is 50%.  The teacher said most kids do not get all categories and usually the creativity one is never met. We were very proud of Caleb.

Last year for example he dissected a sheep brain. But in order to have the privilege to doing that activity they had to get 100% on all the test which included knowing all the brain vocabulary, spelling, tools list etc. It was the first time that Caleb had ever had to study, ever was challenged, and he looovved it!  They also learned about research paper writing, advanced them in math, learned about different cultures and overall had an expectation even on the everyday responsibilities of arriving with certain folder with certain items and as parents were required to step back and let him do everything himself. They met for a whole day each week and also got to go on special field trips.

This year they have changed the program.   We have a new principal, a new gate teacher, and a new program.  This year they go into gate only 2 hours a week. The gate teacher then goes into the whole class to teach advanced math. Apparently this is for the purpose of preparing these kids to take AP courses in Middle School. I think the idea is great but they are using a resource that is meant for these kids that need challenge in order to gain the skills that you gain when something is hard and you have to work at it. The average kid gains those skills in the normal coarse work. Caleb is in the advanced class but even with all that it is still too easy.

We had a meeting with his teachers and the gate teacher.  We love his teachers. He likes them. He has fun in class and enjoys the personalities of his teachers.  We feel the teachers are doing a great job and everything they should be doing but also feel that the system itself is failing Caleb. We feel he needs more and however great a teacher may be are unable to give the extra attention or be able to prepare extra or more challenging lessons.  For example, Caleb finished 6th grade level on accelerated math. I don't think it is everything learned  if you were to go through it normally, but he was working through it. This year he is still forced to stay at 4th grade math which he says he is very bored with. His teacher says if he finishes so many objectives he can move on but he is not pushing himself in that. We worry that his boredom will turn into giving up on grades and trying later on. We want to stimulate him, challenge him so that he can learn study skills that he can carry with him to college.

So during the meeting, as we discussed Caleb and our concerns. The gate teacher kept rolling her eyes! Seriously, your a gate teacher, not only should you as any teacher show respect and professionalism for parents but your also a teacher for the brightest and smartest kids in the school and you roll your eyes when we talk about one of those gifted kids. Unbelievable!  She also presented us with a test she had given the kid at the beginning of the year that asked, "what is forensics etc". She shows us it, and then says "see here he says I don't know all the way down the test".   Really....  That told me she doesn't get what it is to be in the gifted program. It doesn't mean you have downloaded every bit of information and know everything. It just means that you have the capabilities to learn on a whole other level and that to be challenged like other kids normally are at this age you need more. We even asked Caleb later what was forensics and he still didn't know. I don't think that was because he didn't remember what was taught him. She said the big project was going to be a power point presentation. So when we got home we had Caleb give us a power point presentation on GCA or staying where he is at. He did it in 30 minutes including cool backgrounds, layouts, and special effects.  So here we are. What do we do.

That was issue number one....

LORYN: (2nd grade)
Loryn has always struggled with learning. Starting in preschool we had issues with her learning capabilities. She just learns differently. She is very smart but she has to study certain ways to be able to remember things and it takes her longer.  In kindergarten she had extra help in the early intervention program and continued that last year. This year she is in a focus class which is smaller and the all the kids are behind. They teach at a lower level and then the plan is they jump them into the same place as the rest of the grade is at in January.  Loryn is in 2nd grade right now and next year she has to take the CRCT test which if she doesn't pass she will be held back. Her grades are great right now. She is getting A's but is below grade level. To me that says, lets move it up. In actuality the more that we discussed the idea of homeschooling the kids the more we realized that if anyone needed it, Loryn did.  We actually started discussing just pulling her and letting the boys stay where they are.

That was issue number two...

Elijah is doing awesome. Not only is he academically right on target he is behaving good too.  Elijah's issues have stemmed around his speech.  He used to have an IEP that gave him Speech therapy at school which started in TN. When we moved to Cartersville, GA, the first few weeks of school they asked for a reevaluation and ended up pulling his IEP. I gave it a year and as parents we felt that he still was not improving and needed speech therapy.  We independently went and got him evaluated through a specialist and found that he did need speech therapy. He has trouble with speech rate and with working his jaw, airway, and tongue together when speaking quickly. Because his speech does not affect him academically and because he is not socially at this point having problems, the school will not approve him for therapy.  The therapist that we had evaluate him said he would not work out of this on his own and that the only way for him to speak clearly one day would be with therapy.  We have had some issues with the teacher not moving his sight word list ahead (taking 2 weeks).  We know this happens and the teachers get busy or overwhelmed with other things going on. This in itself is not a reason we felt to pull him from his current school other than being disappointed with the system, again. But if we are to pull the other two we felt it wasn't fair to leave him by himself.

So there is the long winded background...

About Georgia Cyber Academy:
It is not the traditional home school. It is actually a virtual public school. It is free. They send you everything. It is online as well. You have a teacher that is assigned to each student. They provide all the curriculum, organize what the kids need to be doing, check attendance, and provide help including learning. There are 50 clubs, several meet ups every week, and different activities online and in person.  It is an accredited school. It uses the K-12 curriculum and the students can work at their pace. Has different kinds of activities meant for different types of learning.

Here is the link to the web page. You can check out some lesson samples as well.

Our decision:
We researched, we have talked to many different people who are in the GCA or who have done it. We have asked many questions, pondered, prayed.  We felt Loryn needed to be pulled so that we can make sure that she get's caught up and will pass her CRCTs next year. She has her own way of learning and I think having individual attention on what she needs will help her.

After our meeting with Caleb's teacher's, although we liked and appreciated Mrs. Martel and Mr. Williams, his gate teacher Mrs. Bennette we were less than impressed. We were concerned about what she might not only "not" teach him, but also what she might teach him with her attitude about himself. If we thought he was getting some challenge through the gate program we would have left him. We think with the GCA he will take off with moving at his own pace.  We also decided it was essential to make sure we went to as many social activities and other group activities we can put him in.

Elijah I know works well with routine. He bounces and I worry about his focus. I am able to do well with him after a long day at school so hope with a fresh morning start he will do well with me and this system. I actually think Elijah is extremely bright and has fallen in the cracks at school. I think he can do more and am excited to see how well he does.

So there you go. We are pulling them all. Sometimes I think we are a little crazy. You have to realize we have never been big home school advocates for many reasons. We will take it one year at a time and if at any point we think they will be better off back in brick and mortar school, we will do it.

I am actually very excited about it. A little nervous. I know it will be a lot of work and full time but I can't wait to know what my kids are learning, see their progress and have more hands on opportunity to help them and watch them grow. With the Lord's help and feeling that this is what He would have us do I think they will do well. Of course not with out lots of struggle, learning for myself, and a lot of crazy moments including at times a crazy mom.

Let the Homeschooling Begin!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Afternoon at the lake

Friday after school we ran to grandma's to pick up our life jackets from grandmas. We didn't think we would be going to the lake anymore so left them there. We had a blast. Friend of our's, Curtis, took us out on his boat on Lake Alatoona. Curtis' daughter, Whitney and her friend, Brandon, Conner, and us all went. The kids got to go on the raft and play on the beach. The "big boys" went out wake surfing. The kids enjoyed playing on the raft near the beach something reminding me of king of the mountain. Ady showed us her great swimming skills like floating on her back. Of course she was in her vest. One of the highlights was playing in the mud.
We had our first experience with having to potty, like the kind you don't want to be at the lake for, thanks to Loryn. Only casuality was an ant got in her bathing suit and bit her a few times before figuring out it was there. Poor thing - she comes up to me "mom there is something keeps poking me in the back". So I look and find the little bugger. At least that was all that happened.  
I got to try my first wake surfing experience. They tell me what to do to start and I was able to get up but didn't know what to do after that. I was different than anything I have tried before but I really enjoy it. Next summer we'll have to try more of that. 
We headed back late, Caleb talked us into spending the night with Conner (Curtis's son), and settled the kids to bed finally. It was a great day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New City, New Home, New friends... over a year later

 Yes... it has been over a year not only since we moved but since I have done any blogging. I  think I just got too overwhelmed and something had to go.

A lot has changed. We are in a new house living in Cartersville, Ga, and a new school. Caleb is in 4th grade, Loryn in 2nd and Elijah is in 1st. Adyson is still home with me. She just turned 3. It doesn't seem possible. Ben is still working at Aramark route driver servicing the Mars plant in Knoxville TN. He is having to drive a lot. He is looking for a job closer to home and one closer to his career path. Prayers are needed!

We are adjusting well. We just started a new school year and I have been trying to organize and set up a routine for the kids and myself. I still find it hard to get up and move in the mornings. I'll have to share my new system and some of the things we did over summer. I'll try to catch up although it will be slow in coming and I am still not sure how I will do it.

last year
We have been blessed with wonderful neighbors. They are quickly becoming dear friends. Our new ward has also been welcoming. We have met many new friends and they have all been great. We have amazing babysitters. Hazel is our main one. The kids love her and so do we. She is smart and responsible and we appreciate those qualities. We hope some of that will rub off on Caleb and the others.

I'll give a quick recap of what has gone on in the last year and what I hope to go into more further detail later.

We sold our house quickly in Ooltewah TN. We bought grandma's house in Cartersville Ga and moved in a week after she moved out. She moved down by my dad's house in Acworth GA.

our new backyard
new roof
80ft poplar tree lightening hit
The first month lightening hit the tree next to the house, the air conditioner went out, and master bathroom leaked and had to be torn out and redone, and the roof had to be replaced. So the first month was crazy and stressing. Everything was fixed and all was good.

renovations - fun fun
Kids started their new school with Elijah in Kindergarten, Loryn in 1st and Caleb in 3rd. Caleb was accepted into the gate program (gifted) and got to dissect a sheep's brain and do other cool stuff. Loryn got her reading cap of which she had to read over 100 books and pass test to do it. She still was having trouble with her ABCs at the begining of the year and finished strong at the end with reading on her on.  Elijah is starting to read and once he puts his mind to it I think he is going to sky rocket ahead.  Now they have started 1st, 2nd, and 4th. I plan on being more involved this year, especially making sure the kids are getting the care they need. The boys played baseball this year and the girls learned ballet from a young girl at church, Hannah. They have had a good time with it.

Adyson and I have lunch with grandma every week and sometimes visit more. She is only about 15 min south of us. It's been fun being closer to grandma. I sure enjoy her company and am glad we are close to help if there is ever a need. The last year I have been watching a friend of our's little girl Rylie. She is 4 and will be starting preschool end of August. The kids have loved her being over. Especially now that the bigger kids are in school, Adyson has enjoyed having her playmate all to her self.

This summer we were able to go to the lake a lot and mostly swam off the dock at my dads/grandma's  house. Dad would take us out every now and then if we could catch him down there and he had time. The kids took swim lessons, had a few sleep overs, and at the beginning of summer we went to Mississippi to visit my mom and grandma and family. Oh yes - and we have been babysitting Chris (my brother) and Aimee's dog, Rylie, for a few months while they are in transition for his job. Kids have loved having her around and she really is a good dog. I am just worried when she leaves, the kids are going to be begging me for new dog. And yes there is a Rylie GIRL, and a Rylie DOG. And we do use those terms sometimes to distinguish. Kind of funny when you hear the kids say it.  

Some projects I completed this summer were having a garage sell, cleaning out the basement making a playroom (which Ben does not like), painted the kids rooms (boys - doger blue/silver, girls - pink), and re purposed an entertainment center to use in the dinning room for organization (well save that for later - I am very proud of Ben and I for that one).

Just in case I don't get back to any of that there is a snapshot of last year. I am sure I am forgetting something. I'll try to keep up. I have stopped teaching classes for now, feeling like I need to put more effort at home and with the kids. So there is the not so quick catch up and I look forward to keeping this updated with all the fun things life has to offer. We are truly blessed and as time goes on life becomes more and more exciting.