Friday, February 24, 2012

A New Way of Schooling

*Introduction: This will probably be a long post, so I did not make sure all of my spelling is correct and I am not going to use spell check to correct any mistakes, so please just kindly overlook any spelling or grammar mistakes that I might have made--thank you!

I have known about the Maize Virtual Preperatory School for over a year now and have thought about it many times throughout this year. Here is the website if you would like to know what I am talking about and/or learn more about it:

It has intrigued me and you know when you can't stop thinking about something that just maybe you are meant to investigate a little harder into it because it might turn out to be a prompting from the Holy Spirit and it might turn out to be a path God wants you to follow? That is what I have been feeling all this year regarding MVPS. We belong to a homeschooling co-op that I love! We have been involved with this co-op for a total of 5 years (with two years taken off during that time to concentrate on full time schooling at home for a while). However, this year I have found myself thinking I need a break from co-op. I didn't want to teach, but last semester I ended up teaching 2 classes. Then this semester, I am a helper in 4 classes instead of teaching and have enjoyed that very much, however, I didn't want to be there all day (9:00-3:00), but it ended up being that way simply so my kids could enjoy being with their friends.

I am not sure I can describe this right: I still love teaching and didn't mind the 2 classes, and I don't really mind being at co-op all day, and it's like when we are there on Mondays we enjoy it, but the other days of the week when I think about going, my spirit just isn't it any more. Have you ever been in a place (job, church, school, sports activity, etc.) where you still enjoyed it, but at the same time you just felt like you were growing apart from it and you didn't understand why, especially because it was/is your passion? If you've experienced this than what I am saying makes sense to you. If you haven't experienced this then you have no idea what I am trying to explain and I've just confused you--sorry, but believe me it's a little confusing to me too. However, the times this has happened to me before, it was God's way of weaning me off of what I was used to and leading me to something better. For example, We attended a church for 7 1/2 years; our kids were born into that church; those people were our family; we were actively involved and loved the activities and the preaching, but then all of a sudden I stared feeling like these people and this place was strange to me. After a few months of feeling this way and then sharing this with my husband he started feeling the same way. We decided to try out some new churches, and during the week of considering which church to try out first, I had a dream about a certain church twice, so we went there, and that has been our church for over 4 years now. God weaned us off of the first church that we loved so much because he wanted to take us to a new church that has been better for us in our walk with him. Okay, did this church example help you understand what I've been trying to describe about co-op and moving onto a new way of homeschooling? Maybe MVPS is the better option for our family now. We are believing this is the path God wants us to follow, so we are stepping out in faith and enrolling our son into the program for next year. We will continue to use our favorite homeschooling curriculum to teach our daughter for at least another year at home, maybe a little longer until we enroll her into MVPS.

The MVPS website gives a lot of good information about the program, but I learned a lot more information by attending the meeting last night, talking with the creator of the program and some of his staff, and looking over the curriculum. Here are some notes that I took last night:

*The first step after enrolling will be to take the placement tests they have for math and language arts. This will help determine at what grade level your child is in and how it matches up to the Calvert curriculum. However, if you disagree with the level the tests placed your child in, then you can discuss that with the administration and they are open to what you have to say because they believe we know our child's abilities best. Last night someone kept talking about how their child was gifted in math--he had been tested in the public schools and was able to do calculus at an 8th grade level. I didn't hear all of the conversation, but I know that they were discussing ways they could accomodate the child by not stifling him in that area by making him work at an 8th grade level, but getting him the curriculum he needed to allow him to work at his level.

*The curriculum can be adjusted to meeting your child's needs/levels. So, your child may be considered a 4th grader in public school, but if they are struggling in reading, then you can work with them in 3rd grade reading, but if they are advanced in math, you can work with them in 5th grade math. This is great because it means you don't have to order and receive all the materials for just 4th grade, they can mix and match whatever materials your child needs to help them be successful. If in the middle of the year they have overcome whatever gap there may have been in reading, then you will meet with the teacher assigned to your child and they will get us new curriculum, or give us resources online that the child can work on to continue their education--the child is not stuck waiting until next year to begin the reading curriculum for next year. Will this be an additional cost? I'm not sure but, it didn't sound like it would be. I might need to email them and get some clarification for that question.

*If for some reason we decide this program is not for us, we can unenroll at anytime. However, they don't want that to happen--they want to help us in any way succeed with this program. Some people new to schooling their children at home may become overwhelmed, but that is why we have teachers assigned to us to help those parents adjust in schooling their child, help them create a schedule, help them adjust the curriculum, or supply them with online resources to help them succeed.

*Most of the staff of MVPS have educated their children at home for some amount of time, so they understand the challenges, but fun that homeschooling offers. I am not sure what qualifications are needed to become a staff member of MVPS. I don't know if you need a degree in teaching, or what. I guess that is something I can talk about with whomever teacher we get assigned to.

*I can create my own schedule and do however many hours/lessons a day that I want to. I sat with a mom last night who has been involved with this online school for some time (MVPS is a branch of the Lawrence online school that has been around for some time now) and she said that there are a total of 180 lessons, but only 150 are required to finish the year, and if you happen to finish in March, then your school year is done. Or, you may want to continue through the summer. They do recommend that we spend 4 days of the week doing math and language arts. We try to do math and language arts every day, so I can live with that reccomendation. :)

*A calendar is set up for us online that is kind of like a checklist for the student to keep track of their lessons. If we miss a day, we simply record that online and the computer self adjusts everything for us.

*There are 2 audit days in September where we will have to fill out paperwork. This is required by the state of KS to make sure we are enrolled in this school--like an attendance record. This is different than homeschooling because we don't have to really keep any kind of records at all. I keep a lesson plan in case I ever have to prove we homeschooled, but that is not required by the state, that is just what I do. MVPS receives money for each student, but not as much as public schools receive, so there is a little bit of answering to the state that they must do.

*This year MVPS was K-8th grade, but next year they are adding 9th grade, the year after that they are adding 10th grade, and will continue adding 11th and 12 grades the next consecutive years.

*There are no grades granted. This school is a pass/fail program. This to me is no big deal because I don't give grades in our homeschooling now. However, there are many parents who feel that once high school is added that there need to be grades given. I agree with this. The creator of MVPS has asked the parent committee to come up with a way to record grades. I think this will happen because we need to have some kind of transcript for college. Since Evan is entering 6th grade, I am going to believe that by the time he enters 9th grade, there will be some kind of grading system in place--that's 3 years from now, surely something will be developed.

*Right now they only allow a maximum capacity of 400 students/50 students per grade level I believe for 1st-8th grade because if they included kindergarten that would be a maximum of 450 students with 50 per grade level. I asked the question if we were to enroll Evan and then in a couple of years wanted to enroll Lauren, but her grade level already had 50 students in it, would she not be able to be enrolled? He said she could be enrolled because she would be a sibling of somebody already in the program. So, if there were say 3 other families in that position, then they would make allowances for that and let that grade level have 54 students in it. He also told me that if I wanted to just enroll Lauren for one subject I could. I am thinking if I want to enroll her for science and just use our favorite homeschool curriculum for the other subjects--I haven't decided yet. However, I would get all of the curriculum books for her grade--they couldn't just seperate out the science books, so I could use those books if I wanted to without answering to MVPS for those subjects, or I was thinking ebay maybe for those extra books I wouldn't need?!

*The computer is an enrichment tool--this is not an online course where the student does all of their work at the computer. The assigned teacher will provide us with additional online resources/activities to help our children explore a topic or favorite subject further if they want to, or to help them learn a topic they may be struggling with. There are texts and workbooks they use and we as parents still sit down with our kids if they can't work independently, or if we just want to work alongside them to complete their lessons. There is a technology curriculum, so of course they have to sit at the computer to learn that subject. When I looked over the technology textbook last night that Evan would be using I joked about how computer illiterate I was, so I would be able to sit with him while he was learning, and be able to learn right along with him! LOL

*If you already have a laptop, then you can opt out of using theirs.

*They are still trying to develop the high school courses, but they are thinking of doing them like college classes, and these would be using I-Pads or Notebooks--I couldn't follow all of the stuff they were talking about concerning this. But, one of my friends who was there with me last night understood, so I'll have to ask her to explain that better to me and Roger. Anyways, they were thinking that for example Biology would be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:00, or something like that. Just creating some kind of college like schedule--it's still in the works.

*There is a foreign language elective, but we have Rosetta Stone for Spanish and French so I don't know if we would use theirs. I think they offer spanish, french, chinese, latin and sign language. I would be interested in the sign language for my kids.

*The teacher assigned to us will work, or loop, with our kids every year, so they really get to know our students and our families. I really like that!

*There are field trips and socials, clubs, like science or math, are being developed by parents, and they want to hold workshops/expos twice a year.

*One of the things I don't like is that my kids will have to take the state assessment tests. But, they need to get used to taking tests, and the way I look at it is this will help prepare them to take the ACT or SAT, or any tests for that matter if they decide to go to college. MVPS will help us prepare for those tests.

*Thankfully, most school districts in the Wichita area allow for dual enrollment meaning if my kids want to take an art, band, photography class or play on a sports team at the local public school, they can. I already knew this, but just letting any of you reading this that might not have known about this read this. However, a school district can change this at any time, but why would they when they get a little bit of money even if our children just enroll for one class?

I didn't take notes on the philosophy of this school, but it lines up with what I agree. This program kind of allows you to have the best of both worlds while schooling your child. Your child gets to be home with you; your schedule can be pretty flexible; the curriculum can be kind of flexible as well as adjusted; your day and year can be as long or short as you want; and you have a support teacher who is there to help you whenever you need it and just to check in on you a couple of times a month to help hold you accountable to things. I LOVE this! I do feel this is the path God wants our family to take right now. Now, you never know, things could change down the road, but for right now, this is what we need to do. For Evan for sure starting next year, for Lauren I'm still deciding about enrolling her for just one subject. If you are a Wichita area friend reading this, enrollment starts March 1st. Don't forget that there is a maximum capacity of students per grade level, so don't put off enrolling for too long.  Go to the website and do as much research as you can on everything, and praying.

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