Guest post by Terri Gake
“I will never homeschool!” is the mantra I lived by for many years. I knew people who did that, and I thought they were crazy. I couldn’t fathom why they would want to school their children at home. I mean, there are perfectly good schools all over the place!
And yet just like you, I find myself living this crazy life that is homeschooling and loving it.
When we first started on this ride, we had friends all over the place in terms of curriculum. Eventually the ride took us to a virtual school (VS) informational meeting and everything clicked for us.
“Why wouldn’t we do that?” is the question that fell from my lips when the meeting was over. I couldn’t sign up fast enough.
Everything delivered to our door? Check.
A trained teacher who knows what’s going on? Check.
A free laptop with lesson plans easy and accessible? Check and check.
It was the perfect place for us.
Well, like everything, our time of virtual schooling came to an end. It was overall a good experience for my daughter and a good introduction to the world of homeschooling for me. We had the “safety” of a public school system while still identifying ourselves as homeschoolers.
Reflecting on virtual schooling versus what we do now, which falls on the eclectic side of educating, three things in particular interest me:
Ah, the free laptop. What a dreamboat you were. You vacationed with us and went into my bag anytime we traveled anywhere. Apart from being provided for my daughter’s schooling, you were my personal window to the virtual world. Oh I will miss you.
But do you want to know the reality? With the curriculum we use now, we do not use any computer-based anything. Now listen closely, this is not condemning you if you do. This is about me and my pea-sized attention span.
As hard as I tried not to give in, having an open computer with internet access sitting in front of me on the school table was at times more temptation than I could bear. I can remember one day in particular that our focus on the Romans was interrupted by cute boots that I just couldn’t live without.
When we started schooling at home I hadn’t a clue where to begin to set a schedule or a lesson plan or anything. Since VS is all pre-packaged, I didn’t have to figure anything out. All I had to do was turn on the computer and follow the instructions.
The downside of this is not having control over the structure or what has to be done when. My daughter saw it as a game. She would sign on in the morning as early as possible and seek to check off as many lessons as she could each day. Which sounds really awesome. But if she’s racing through lessons just to get that check mark, is she learning anything?
I loved having a professional teacher to call upon with questions and needs for guidance. As I was learning how my daughter learned, I was able to call the teacher or email her with questions about how to get across a particular concept.
The downside of this was the intrusive nature of the teacher relationship. Again, since a VS is part of a public school system, the school needed to know what was going on with my daughter through phone calls and interface time on the computer. On their time table. During my school day.
Some days it was really hard to get any traction knowing that a call was coming that would hijack our momentum. I understood that the teacher needed to see for herself that my daughter knew what I said she knew. The first couple of years I felt like Big Brother was watching, although I’m sure that was my own insecurity talking!
In short, I’m glad to have had the experience of a virtual school. It gave us the skills we needed to go out on our own and it helped me see where my daughter’s strengths and weaknesses were so I could tailor a curriculum to best meet her needs.
|Terri Gake, MS, is a wife, birthmom, sister, friend and homeschooling mommy of two girls. When she’s not schooling her girls, she enjoys reading and blogging. She and her husband of 18 years live in Kansas.