Read Part One and Part Two of Waving Goodbye to a Brick & Mortar School before reading Part Three of this series following the decision, enrollment, highs and lows of leaving regular public school and attending a virtual online school from home.
Enrollment & Getting Started – The Parent’s Role
The decision to leave mainstream schooling was made after the research on alternatives had been completed. From my position as Operations Manager for Oases Online I had ‘bumped’ into the Florida Virtual School whilst researching for Tutor Report articles and my own personal reading.
This is virtual school, not homeschooling. I am not in a position to home school nor would I want to. I have the wrong personality and work full time. This is why the Florida Virtual School met most of our requirements; at a high school level there is minimal daily parental involvement, the core subjects are covered and it is a free public school provided by the State of Florida with graduation and a State of Florida diploma.
All that was left to do was to enroll and get started.
I started the sign up process in April or May of 2014 for the 14-15 school year and the process with regards to submitting your basic information was quick and simple – just four or five online pages of questions and answers. It was finding the sign up area that delayed me somewhat. The FLVS website leaves a lot to be desired and when you realize it is broken down into Full Time and Home Schooling assistance and supplemental classes it is easier to navigate.
Advice – book mark every page you use to ensure you can find it again.
Once the initial online forms were submitted the stress began. I collated most of the documentation that was required such as proof of residency in Florida and proof of citizenship, proof that I was a legal guardian and so forth. All understandable to prevent fraud from children logging in all over the world for a free education! The proof of immunizations made me laugh as we were going to be at home, but whatever, it’s the government.
Advice – Collate your documentation at the time you sign up.
The stress for me arose due to the knowledge that space is limited and enrollments are on a first come first served basis and this fact coupled with constant email reminders to complete your enrollment leaves you feeling a bit helpless if, in fact, you cannot complete your enrollment right away. I was missing one item and the final document I required was my daughter’s unofficial transcript from Middle School, a document that her current Middle School was not going to have available until at least 3 weeks after the end of school. The worry of losing that place was beginning to mount so much so that I asked Nally’s principal to pull the transcript and email it to me as soon as it came in.
Advice – Do what you can then chill out.
Once the final document was submitted, by email as the document up-loader on the FLVS website never worked, I sat back and and heaved a big sigh of relief. This relief proved to be short lived as the email reminders to complete enrollment kept on coming. Now I was beginning to think I had done something wrong or forgotten a step so I finally broke down and called the help number and was told that everyone gets the emails regardless of status and to ignore them.
Advice – Ignore the constant emails.
But why wasn’t my daughter enrolled? Well, enrollment is not confirmed for anyone until July 15th and then you hurry up and wait 4 more weeks or so for the teacher lists and classes to be posted on the student calendar. All in all it was 2 days before school started before anything started trickling through. We busied ourselves with watching orientation videos, signing agreements, reading the school handbooks and watching training videos on how to complete the student calendar/planner which were all nicely done and easy to find.
Advice – Create a teaching moment for you student on how to do as much as you can before the crazy starts.
Literally two days before school started the classes were posted to the student calendar. However, how to create the student schedule did not work like the videos and classes we had attended. Nothing worked, so again we called and were told that those functions covered by the video and training do not apply to high school – high school students create their own timetable when they want to work. Thanks for that FLVS, total waste of time! So we sat and created our own schedule from the list of the classes to be taken on any given day and then changed it all around about 7 times as the teachers finally got around to emailing when the Live Lessons would be held. We had a situation of two teachers wanting to do a live lesson at the same time so we had to deal with that conflict.
Advice – Use the scheduling as a teaching moment as you will be surprised how little our tech savvy offspring know about calendering recurring events.
After the fist week everything had fallen into place and into a good routine. Technical issues had been worked out and my daughter had learned that every teacher has a different way of doing their live lessons. Some go through the live lesson portal and some email out a link at the beginning of each week. There is absolutely no consistency with how anything is done – but I guess that’s the same between teachers in any school.
What could I have done better during the enrollment process? If you think about regular school, the first few days are always crazy and students don’t receive anything until they go into that school on the first day. My expectations of having a timetable and one set in stone before the first day were perhaps, in hindsight, a little unreasonable. Take the morning off on the first day.
What could FLVS have done better for the enrollment process?
Clearly communicated the difference between High Schoolers and the other grades when it came to scheduling.
Had document upload technology that actually worked.
An interactive email list that drops people that have completed the enrollment process.
Other than that, we successfully enrolled! Next time in part 4 we will speak with Nally for her impressions of the first few days and getting set up.
Well now you can, with the Oases Online fully automated Session Bid.