Read Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four of Waving Goodbye to a Brick & Mortar School before reading Part Five, the penultimate article of this series following the decision, enrollment, highs and lows of leaving regular public school and attending a virtual online school from home.
The Year To Date – Nally Interviews Mom!
As promised I asked Nally to sit and think of questions to ask me about my experience as a Mom with a student in Virtual School working from home to manage her own education with Florida Virtual School.
Her questions follow with my answers written exactly as I responded to my daughter.
Do you as the Educational Caretaker manually record your student’s attendance or does Connexus (FLVS management software) do that automatically?
Wow, you should design software, what a great idea. No, I have to do it manually. I have to log in and submit your lessons for grading. I don’t really know why I have to do this, perhaps I am supposed to ask you if they are finished correctly but I just submit them automatically.
I can see if something is overdue and freak out at you for being tardy. I then put in how many hours you were working on school work the day before. It’s funny at the beginning of the year I used to time you and now I just estimate based on your day. You always do more than the required 5 hours so I think it’s no biggie.
How much time do you need to spend per day on Connexus in order to get the requirements finished?
It takes me about 5 minutes to do what I have to do; lesson submission and attendance. I also take another 5 minutes to do the items I care about such as checking grades and the percentage of the course work that is completed versus the percentage that should be complete by that particular day. It’s the emails that drive me nuts and they can take about 20 minutes per day.
Is there anything that you would personally fix for the system to have better performance?
Stop copying me in on every single email they send you and furthermore all those copy-emails are in amongst the ones they send for me. If they really thought it through then the caretaker would have multiple inboxes; one for the student that holds the copies and one for important school stuff. When you are on track and nothing is outstanding or overdue, your grades are good, why would I want to read every email about every lesson, I just don’t need to be that much up your butt!. For a high school student who is on track with straight A’s that is just redundant and it desensitizes me to emails that might actually be important!
Also, as mentioned in previous posts, the system is very disorganized, you have to go to one place for this and another place for that, read this here and find that there. It is impossible to find the information that you have to have to do certain things. If it’s not in my To Do area, then it simply does not get looked at. Crazy system. Does that make me a bad Mom?
What do you think of the Safety Policies that FLVS provides for your child?
They have safety policies? I think that just reinforces my previous point.
What do you like and dislike about Virtual School from your parental point of view?
I love that there is no drama. The drama around schooling has gone. There are no emotional issues with other kids at school, there are no tears, there is no dreading going to school, and there is no having a bad day. Everyday is calm, it follows a pattern and is predictable and there is no emotional roller coaster with school anymore. I love that you are happy and have discovered your joy in learning and look forward to school and get bored when you get ahead and actually find stuff to do, that is amazing and heartwarming.
On the flip side I worry that you are not learning the skills to deal with drama and difficult people and being able to work in an environment that is stressful, as all working adults need to be able to do that. I worry that if it is not all calm you will not be able to cope but education comes first and I will deal with those worries on another day.
One thing that I have found hard to cope with or deal with is the loss of my space when I work from home. Every parent, well I am assuming most normal parents, see the school bus pulling away as down time to a lesser or varying degree. I miss that, but it has got easier as we discussed boundaries, space and rules.
Are there benefits to Virtual School?
Yes, lots. On the practical side there are no backpacks, no equipment supply lists from each class, no packed lunches/lunch money, no bad hair days, no bullies, no peer pressure, no demands for cell phones or the latest thing that everyone has in school.
From an educational point of view I think the results speak for themselves. Your grades are better, you are more organized and calm and spend more time thinking about positive things than negative ones which makes you generally more positive and focused.
From a scheduling point of view the flexibility is priceless. As long as due dates are met, it does not matter when or where the work is done. For a busy family with lots to do, not having to schedule around school is a huge bonus, one that I did not foresee as being quite so important as it has been. Our latest house move would have been a complete nightmare if we had to move house and school halfway through a school year. We didn’t have to wait for the end of the school year, we just moved. Awesome.
What are your thoughts about me being responsible for my own educational courses and has there been an improvement in overall responsibility since my being at FLVS?
Are you fishing for compliments? I was concerned to begin with that you would not be able to handle the self-organization, the self-motivation and the responsibility and we had a shaky start because it was all new, to both of us.
I am very pleased and proud of how you have learned to schedule and organize your time and to prioritize your work and have kept up to date with your courses. The only time you had a hiccup was the first time I asked you to work forward so you could have two days off to join me in Orlando; that went horribly wrong with overdue assignments all over the place. However, and most importantly, you learned from it and the next time you had to work forward for a day off it was smooth sailing.
Do you think FLVS will help me (the student), not only academically but socially as well?
This is a tough one as I am very torn with my feelings about this. Dealing socially with your peers and learning to deal with difficult or nasty students the answer is a resounding no. I worry that my decision has shielded you from hardship and as we all know adversity maketh man.
But, and it’s a big but, I have seen the way you deal with adults totally change and you have grown up so much in one year. If you need something you find out who to get it from and contact them and deal with them as an adult, either on the phone or by email. Not only have you stopped asking me to solve your problems but you don’t see the small stuff as problems anymore. It’s the initiative you have shown which has blown me away, so from a life-skills angle then yes, it has helped you greatly because your school is now like the real world. Brick and Mortar schools are not like the real world but working from home is, many people do it and the number of tele-commuters is rising all the time. You have learned to be self reliant, self motivated and meet targets, show me an employer who does not want that!
Are there certain things that other parents should know about or worry about when thinking of enrolling their child at FLVS?
Socialization is one of three worries I have. Force your student to join activities in the evenings and keep up with friends, face to face, in their downtime.
My second worry is screen time. But as schools have computers for everything now I need to learn to chill. Computers and staring at wee screens is a fact of life but I still feel the need to limit your screen time when not at school. Sorry, won’t bend on that one.
The third is mobility. Life is sedentary now, so you may get your own sit-stand desk and do an hour sitting and an hour standing like we do at Oases.
Oh, and one more, when testing time comes around you have to take your student to the local school for testing and then be back there 2 hours later for pick up. Make sure your employer, if you have one, is good with this!
Is there anything you regret about letting your child take FLVS – if so, should parents look out for this as well?
As already mentioned my regret is selfish, just the loss of my personal space during the days I work from home. So the environment is crucial, you have to have your own work spaces, boundaries and rules. Set a time for your student to come and find you and talk about school issues otherwise they interrupt you all the time. We’ve totally found our groove now so I don’t think it will be a problem again but the adjustment period was tough as I am sure you will agree! I’ve also just got over my big bad self.
Thank you Nally for your thoughtful questions and trust my brutally honest answers are okay with you!!!
As the school year winds down, or it is for Nally as she is weeks ahead on her course work, we will wind up this series with a final summary and conclusion in a few weeks. Find out final grades, Nally’s hopes for next year and if we will be staying at FLVS.
If you have any questions about our experiences with Virtual School please use the comments below.