This past spring we made the decision not to send our girls to the local middle school for the 2012-2013 school year. For those of you who don’t know, both of our girls are on the autism spectrum. Skylar was diagnosed with autism in 2002 and Hailey was diagnosed with Asperger’s earlier this year. (You can read the story about Hailey’s diagnosis HERE!) We absolutely knew that the girls needed something more than our public school district could give them. The big thing being TIME!
After exhaustive research of various homeschool curriculums and virtual academies, we decided to use the K12 program. You can read all about what K12 is HERE! Now that we have a full month under our belts I wanted to share some of the things that I have learned so far.
1) GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO ADJUST! DON’T PANIC!
-When we decided on this program, everyone told us it would take at least 3-4 weeks to get into a good routine. It was totally true! I will be totally honest when I say that the first 3 weeks of school were BRUTAL! My husband was gone for the first 2 1/2 weeks completing some military training in Mississippi so I’m sure that added to the stress, but getting a routine down was really hard. I cried! The girls cried! There was LOTS of crying! I’m pretty sure that when Chris called me each night he had NO idea what he was going to get. (Some days were REALLY bad!)
-I’m so thankful for those friends, family, & the girls’ case managers through the virtual academy who were such encouragers to me during that time period!
2) EXPECT LONGER HOURS IN THE BEGINNING!
-Our first 2 weeks of school we were putting in close to 9-10 hours of work a day PLUS we were working through the weekends. I remember thinking “There is NO WAY I can keep up with this schedule!” I was exhausted both physically and emotionally.
-We are no longer putting in that many hours. We usually put in anywhere from 4-6 hours of solid work. That does not include breaks and lunch. Surprisingly, Skylar likes to do multiple subjects back to back so she can take breaks that are a bit longer. Hailey likes to take a small break between each subject.
3) K12’s CURRICULUM IS ACADEMICALLY RIGOROUS!
-This curriculum is NOT easy. Yes, there are some easier subjects, but overall the curriculum is rigorous. Those of you who are looking for an “easy” homeschool curriculum….this is NOT it! That being said, they are learning a TON!
4) PICK WHAT IS IMPORTANT!
-This is more focused on Skylar. Hailey usually has no problem going through the entire lessons, doing all the reading, and completing every question. Skylar however, loses focus quickly, gets overwhelmed with massive amounts of reading, and doesn’t always complete every question.
-Chris and I have talked about this a lot since starting. It is important to us that Skylar learns, but there are definitely things that we come across that we say “This is not helping Skylar at all! It’s just NOT important.” We tend to touch on the main points in History, Science, and Literature and move on! Both girls struggle with concepts in Literature such as theme, mood, & symbolism, but Skylar REALLY struggles. If it isn’t “black & white”, it’s difficult. These concepts can be difficult for neurotypical individuals, so you can only imagine how difficult these concepts might be for individuals on the spectrum.
-Skylar’s case manager is also getting together videos that she can watch for her History lessons so that she won’t have to read as much. It is amazing how much information she retains after watching a video.
5) SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO “CALL AN AUDIBLE”!
-Oh yes. I just threw out a sports reference. I’m married to a sports fanatic!
-Some days things are just NOT going to go as planned. Either or both of the girls might be overly-emotional, tired, or not feeling well. One day while Chris was gone, both girls were weepy. They were crying at every little thing. I finally said “Ok girls! Get your shoes on. We are going out to lunch and to a movie!” I knew that no work was going to get done in the emotional state they were in. I recognized that they missed their dad and needed a change of scenery. That weekend we did work on Saturday morning and got everything done.
-Last week, 3 of the 4 of us had bronchitis and sinus infections. We were a hot mess! One day we only completed 2 lessons because we could barely keep our eyes open. We ended up making that work up another day and that was just fine. Being flexible is key!
6) THROW 8 TO 3 OUT THE WINDOW!
-After one month, we have only had 2 days in which we started school by 8:00 a.m. and were done by 3:00 p.m.
-On Friday’s we have therapy down in Phoenix for several hours. With travel time, we usually aren’t even home until 2:00 pm or later. We try to work ahead during the week as to not have a lot of work on Fridays, but if that doesn’t happen, we start late. This might really drive some people crazy, but it just doesn’t bother me.
7) THE HOUSE IS GOING TO BE MESSY!
-This is possibly the biggest understatement EVER! The girls usually need my attention for most of the school day. This obviously cuts into the time in which I would normally clean, do laundry, etc. There are some lessons (usually math) that they can do with a lot less help. When they start math, I usually jump in the shower, fold a load of laundry, & put the dishes away. This past month has taught me that I can accomplish a lot in 15-20 minute bursts.
-Last week I shared how the house being overly messy & cluttered throws all of us out of whack. Go HERE to read about how I am working towards alleviating a lot of that stress & clutter!
So there you have the things that I have learned so far! I know that as time goes on I will learn more and more.
Next week I will be sharing some of my favorite things about homeschooling through a virtual academy so far! My list makes me smile! As always, I welcome any questions or comments you might have.
I hope the rest of your week goes well!
Make it great!
Oh Julie, I have totally been where you are! After 4 years at a virtual academy, if there is one thing that I have learned is that the daily plan is at best a guideline. Some days it is a downright mean joke! We really do try to slog through our work and we do our best to get everything done daily, but some days the sun is shining so bright and the waves are calling our names, so we toss aside the books, grab our swimsuits and towels and head to the beach or the pool. And high school is SOOOO different than middle and elementary school, so we are having to adjust to that. Kaitlyn will literally sit at the table from 8 am until 6pm some days, but it is really because she is such a perfectionist that she will write, re-write, and re-write her papers and answers over and over again. The great thing is that the curriculum really is flexible and you can adjust your schedule everyday if you need to. I really do try to get our work done during the week so we can have a break on the weekends, but we have had to break down and work on a Saturday morning to get things done. I also always knock two lessons out when we have a review and assessment scheduled. We do them both on the same day. This REALLY helps with math for Jocelyn since that is her toughest subject. You may find that something that has been working for you suddenly does not, so be prepared to make adjustments. I know that you will do well! And don’t forget to take time for yourself. Teaching your children is very personal and emotional. If they struggle, you begin to wonder if YOU are the reason why they are failing. You need to have things that you enjoy that have nothing to do with your kids so that you can handle this process and so you can appreciate how much they are learning. Keep up the great work!
You made it through that first tough month and I knew you would. Why? BECAUSE you are my child and you are tough! I also know much you love the girls and you would figure it out. You are an awesome teacher and they just can’t help but learn from you. A great learning and teaching experience for all:)
Love you all! Mom