Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Virtual School Report

So what's new with the younger set?

Both Chicklet8 and Bantam11 now have one semester of virtual schooling under their belts.  Both finished strong, with straight A's.  No surprise for Chicklet, since I work closely with her every day, but for B11, it was quite an accomplishment!

As a final project for both Social Studies and Language Arts, he had to write a dialogue between a famous character in history and one other character, as if it were a scene from a play, complete with stage directions.  It had to be something that could have happened--no cars or aliens in ancient Greece, for example.  B11 created a scene in which Alexander the Great and his top general argue vehemently about whether to keep fighting the Battle of Granicus or surrender to the Persians. The scene ended with them both being killed, thus settling the question--and changing history forever!  It was well done and humorous, but I was concerned that his teachers didn't mean for him to rewrite history.  He argued that it could have happened, and it was better to rewrite history than to rewrite his whole assignment.  We added a few lines to show how history might be changed if they lost the battle, and we were both delighted when he got full credit from both teachers!

I have been very pleased with the kind of projects, like this one, that he's been assigned through iQ Academy.  They are creative and engaging, and they require the student to think and use what they've learned.  For sixth grade, it's been a comfortably challenging level of work for B11.  He can read material and answer questions independently, but occasionally he has these bigger projects that require a little more of him--reading directions carefully, checking over the grading rubric ahead of time, drawing information from several sources, having someone proofread. I like having just that much involvement, but I love it that someone else grades everything!

I also like how they give him the week's worth of work on Monday of each week, although nothing has a drop-dead due date until the end of the semester.  He has had little difficulty staying "on pace," but it's been great for him to learn how to manage his time to get it all done.  Occasionally he's gotten behind by an assignment or two, and he's learned how much easier it is to stay on track than it is to catch up--a valuable lesson if there ever was one!

Chicklet's program--the second grade Little Lincoln curriculum through Wisconsin Virtual Learning--is similarly flexible.  They tell you what day you should be on, but it's fine if you submit assignments late or early.  We'll be taking advantage of that flexibility during the run of Willy Wonka, I'm sure!  Her workload is a little heavier than I like for second grade and her abilities, so I modify assignments in order to stay on track (with the blessing of the supervisor who checks in with us every few weeks).  For example, I'll let her answer questions verbally instead of writing out them out--if comprehension is the point of the exercise, not grammar or writing--or I'll write down her ideas as she brainstorms possible topics to write on, conserving her limited handwriting energy for the actual composition. We only have to submit a few assignments a week, so we have that leeway.

I must say that I've been happy with our choice to use these virtual schools this year.  It has really been good for B11 to be working so independently, and it has been good, this year, to have the accountability to force me to spend a great deal of time investing in Chicklet.  I chafe under it sometimes when life gets crazy, missing the days when we could just cancel school and make up in the summer.  If she gets two days behind, due to sickness or other activities, it's a LOT of work to make up.  And we rarely have enough time or energy left over for art, cooking or sewing, to our continual disappointment.  But she's learning a lot and becoming more independent as we go.  I'm planning to re-enroll them both for next year.

And B5?  For kindergarten, he's not in a virtual school, so I'll include his activities in a different post. There more than just academics going on around here!

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