Read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of Waving Goodbye to a Brick & Mortar School before reading Part Four of this series following the decision, enrollment, highs and lows of leaving regular public school and attending a virtual online school from home.
Getting Started & The First Semester – The Student’s Perspective
Well it’s nearly Christmas indicating we are half way through the school year and it’s time to catch up with Nally to see how things are going at Florida Virtual School from her perspective. We last spoke with my daughter in Part Two of this series back in September about her thoughts and feelings prior to school so let’s see if she still feels as positive as she did back then!
How did you feel at the beginning of the first day?
Excited and scared, kinda like, “what did I get myself into?” I was nervous as wondering what the classes were going to be like.
Did you know what to do?
No. I was overwhelmed as not used to the software system. The video tutorials only helped so far and it took some time to warm up to it. I was very panicky when the scheduling planner did not work the way the video said it would.
How did you feel at the end of the first day?
Mostly confused like any first day at any school. Hard to tell if the confusion was because I was in virtual school or because I had moved from Middle to High School. I had to get used to being in High School and the amount of electives and the different subjects available. People say the first year of high school is hard and add that to FLVS it was worrying.
How do you find the Live Lessons & the Self-Guided Lessons?
Self Guided lessons are good but the live lessons are glitchy. The links do not work. You have to dig around to find each teacher’s live lesson link and then save it to your favorites rather than using the links on the teacher page.
Black Board, used for the Live Lessons can be glitchy as it has lags (could be my connection). InBlack Board you have a Chat portal, it is super annoying as students have private chats about things not pertaining to the lesson and the teachers don’t do much about it so the teacher ignores it and they don’t see valid questions. Black board went down for a whole week once. It’s good when it works, easy when you get the hang of it, but not great software.
Do you prefer live lessons or self guided?
I prefer the self guided lessons as live lessons are to go over stuff we have done already and you can’t always read the white board. I ask questions on the chat and they never get answered. In the whole time in school in Algebra for example, I have asked five or six questions per lesson since the beginning of the year and only one has ever been addressed. I have had to sign up for extra algebra tutoring to compensate, so I don’t see the point of Algebra Live Lessons.
French makes more sense as you need to see and hear and chat yourself and French is the only one where I can see my teacher and interact. It’s my favorite because of this. All the others could be made into power points and self guided lessons.
How are you doing managing your time and classes?
Overwhelmed as have never been taught how to schedule my own time. Mom helped at first when we did not understand the schedule then let me sink or swim. We started with the Live Lessons then built the self guided lessons around them. The self guided lessons are different because at regular school they give you work to do but in virtual school you have to look for the assignment yourself then read it and work out what you have to do. In the beginning I was slow and now I am faster at arranging my day and getting through the work as my week has become more familiar.
What’s it like being at home all the time?
I like being at home on the one hand, but it’s like school as I have a routine. School stress still gets to you even though you are at home. It’s not emotional from the other kids but just from the curriculum and not wanting to forget or miss anything. I miss the feeling of coming home at the end of a school day and home being that special place, now I am always home and don’t have that mental break between school and home. I get cabin fever and understand why my Mom has to get out sometimes.
What do you miss about regular school?
I don’t miss school life at all but am aware that I don’t have access to good extra curricular activities in particular JROTC as I want to join the Marines and JROTC increases your Marine graduation rank to Private First Class, so what I miss is stuff for my future not for my now.
What could FLVS do to improve virtual school?
Make the planner better. For example if I am working ahead and finish an assignment and refresh the planner it goes back to today rather than where I was, super frustrating. The mail system is antiquated and the mail box flashes even if you are in it. Mail shows as open if that happens to be where you are when you enter the mail area and I have missed things thinking that I have already read it. The message board is just crap and annoying and the interface is so dated.
It sounds like many of the issues are software related?
Yeah, teachers cannot do simple edits to planners. So if they move the date that an assignment is due or drop the assignment they cannot change it on my planner, so it shows as overdue and I get grounded for overdue work. So I have to email the teachers and show my Mom the email that the assignment was dropped or moved otherwise my social life is over.
Have you made any friends?
Yes, I have made several good friends but if their parents don’t release their mail box then I can’t contact them after school. The privacy rules are really strict but parents can relax them.
In Part Two you told us what you would do for exercise, have you stuck to this?
I’m doing great compared to the other kids. I could do better – especially as I want to be in the Marines. But I’m not a sporty person so it has been weird getting into the groove of running with Mom in the morning. Have I done what I said I was going to do? Not if I had been left to my own devices but I have done my daily home stuff. I have not signed up for an after school activity yet and hope to have that nailed down in the new year.
Have you got a job or volunteered?
No, not yet, there are not many opportunities around here that you can volunteer for without a parent having to be with me all the time, which kinda defeats the purpose. I am thinking of applying for a job at Publix and volunteering at the local dog boarding kennels. Again, I want to get it nailed down in the New Year. With my brother shipping out and the holidays coming it all got away from me.
At this point are you glad you switched to Virtual School?
Yes. I feel like I have more knowledge and know more life skills and responsibility. I have gained some maturity with how I deal with my days. Educationally I have grown more as FLVS seems to lay the ground work and build up the foundations of a subject much better than in the classroom. Because there are no classrooms FLVS is forced to present material in a really clear way and because there can be over 400 kids in a live lesson sometimes you have to find the information yourself which is annoying, but makes you grow.
What are your grades right now?
See for yourself!
Have you ever had straight A’s before?
No never, ever, ever before. All C’s and B’s prior to this year and it’s a great feeling. A really great feeling.
We’ll be back in the New Year with another candid interview. This time Nally will interview me.
If you have any questions about our experiences with Virtual School please use the comments below.