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Georgia Cyber Academy Review - A Learning Coaches Take On A Tuition Free Online Public School Program
Before the invention of brick and mortar schools, home schooling has been the major method of educating our children.
Granted, in earlier times this form of education took on a less academic scale for girls and young women then it did for boys and young men. Over time however, much has changed.
In this day and age, home schooling takes on several methods. These include but are not limited to; the traditional home schooling method; the unschooling method, the online home schooling method; as well as the online charter school method.
While each method provides its own set of advantages and disadvantages, it is up to the parents/guardians and the student to determine which one will work best for them.
Personally, the traditional home schooling method worked extremely well during my eldest first four years of life. As time went on however, it became increasingly obvious that I could not keep up with her thirst for knowledge.
At this point I came to a fork in the road. While I still desired to play a major role in my daughter’s education, I felt we both needed a curriculum that would provide us with a little more structure and substance.
Therefore, it was on her fifth birthday that I began my journey into searching for the right home schooling program that would provide just that. Since we are a family of four surviving off of one budget, it was extremely vital that I chose a program that would meet my family’s needs without breaking the bank.
* Basic Home schooling Program Requirements - My Search Begins.
While different families’ home schooling program requirements will vary, there are four basic things all parents or guardians look for.
- An up-to-date home schooling curriculum.
- A home schooling program that will meet their child’s/children’s academic needs (I.e. their child’s skill levels, mental and emotional faculties, as well as their learning type)
- A home schooling program that is accredited or meets the state curriculum.
- A home schooling program that will fit their budget.
Thus began my search for a program that would fit our family‘s needs. As I daily perused the Internet for a home schooling curriculum, I came across the online home schooling program called Georgia Cyber Academy (once known as Georgia Virtual Academy ).
At first glance, GCA seemed like any other online home schooling program that simply provided families with a home schooling curriculum. Further inspection showed that Georgia Cyber Academy was uniquely different.
This charter school is a state funded, tuition-free, online public school that offers children from grades K-9 a more flexible and individualized approach to learning. In addition, it is one of the fastest growing schools in the state of Georgia and uses the K12 curriculum to provide students with a state-certified curriculum that includes four core subjects - Language Arts/English , History, Math, and Science .
This online home education program should in no way be confused with traditional home schooling or other home study programs available to the public. Georgia Cyber Academy literally brings the public school right into the home of the student via the Internet, workbooks, and other basic supplies such as reading and writing materials, as well as hands on materials for Math and Science .
* My Experience with Georgia Cyber Academy .
A.) Several Weeks before the New School Year.
While the first day of school started on August 16th, 2010 , there was a massive amount of work necessary to ensure we would have a successful and smooth school year.
After the initial sign up process was completed and the necessary paperwork was sent in, calls from a Georgia Cyber Academy representative followed shortly to ensure that everything was in order.
Several weeks before the school year began, all my child’s study materials arrived at my home. As instructed, I used the checklist that was provided to ensure nothing was missing and that everything was in working order. That was just the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to reading over the GCA Elementary School Parent-Student Handbook for 2010-2011 , the following weeks involved attending live or prerecorded online School Assembly sessions and online Elementary Orientations.
These sessions provided information and answers to new and returning parents or guardians concerning what was expected of them and what they should expect from Georgia Cyber Academy , as well as vital information vital for a successful school year.
Shortly thereafter I was contacted my child’s state-certified homeroom teacher and the first introductions were in order.
The rest of the weeks were filled with setting up a quiet and stress free workspace for my daughter, organizing curriculum and school materials, getting acquainted with the online school login system, watching the tutorial videos, and ensuring we had the necessary additional school supplies needed for my child’s learning success.
I honestly have to say that I was quite overwhelmed and wondered what I had gotten myself into once the school year officially began.
B.) Several Weeks into the School Year.
It took me several weeks to get into the groove of things but all the work was well worth the time and effort. Finally my daughter and I had a workable and flexible schedule that made learning efficient and fun.
Since we are required to spend at least four and a half hours in school during the weekdays, we found that rising early and getting everything done in a timely fashion left the rest of the day to pursue other activities. In addition, completing at least one subject on the occasional weekend has enabled us to get ahead and stay ahead.
Fun and exciting hands on projects abound practically every week and flexibility is allowed if changes need to be made to subject matters or scheduling.
C.) Four Months into the School Year - Why I Absolutely Love Georgia Cyber Academy.
December 16th, 2010, will take us into our fourth month of the Georgia Cyber Academy school year and I must say I am very impressed.
There are several reasons why I absolutely love Georgia Cyber Academy.
- The school is backed by a highly qualified faculty and staff.
- The school has state-certified teachers backing every learning coach (which is what parents and guardians of GCA students are called).
- Weekly whole and part group Elluminate Sessions are provided to help students gain further enrichment with subjects such as Math, and Language Arts/English. These sessions encourage and allow for student interaction with fellow classmates and their homeroom teacher via the Internet.
- Quarterly student/teacher/learning coach conferences are provided via phone or Internet.
- Students have access to the Study Island program that provides them with a good place to practice for CRCT’s.
- The student’s homeroom teacher is very accessible via K-Mail or phone.
- Parent and guardian participation is extremely encouraged by all at GCA.
- Experienced learning coaches are readily available to provide extra guidance and encouragement to other parents and guardians.
- Teachers and parents/guardians work hand in hand to set accessible goals for the students.
- Regular school assemblies and open offices are held to provide additional support to any who need it.
- Socialization is strongly encouraged. Free to low-cost field trips and meet-and-greets are scheduled monthly for GCA students and their families and there is no limit placed on how many you and your family choose to attend.
- Online story-time sessions are made available for K-3rd graders.
- K12 customer support is readily available for technical problems and the representatives are extremely helpful and friendly.
- The materials and state-mandated curriculum are of high caliber and easy to follow.
- Simple and easy to follow teaching guides are provided to help the learning coach teach the student effectively.
- Only 10-15% of the work is done online; the rest involves the use of books, written and hands on material, as well as other fun and exciting outside resources to keep the learning process interesting.
- In the event the student has already mastered a skill, they have the option to skip that lesson and move on.
- While a PE and Health curriculum is not provided by K12, it offers the learning coaches unique opportunities to take learning in a different direction.
- Supplemental activities allow learning coaches to incorporate out-of-the-box learning opportunities for the student.
- The curriculum is very structured and the time set aside for school breaks usually coincide with the local public school system.
- Parent and guardian responsibility is encouraged to the highest. Family Accountability Points are accumulated if a parent/guardian or student is not compliant with the Georgia Cyber Academy requirements.
- Portfolios are required to be submitted throughout the year. This is a great way for the student’s teacher to determine what the child is or isn’t excelling in.
- CRCT (Georgia Criterion Referenced Competency Test), GKIDS Assessments (Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills), a DIBELS Reading Assessment, as well as writing and SCANTRON assessments are given depending on the student’s grade level. These are mandated state test that all children in public school are required to take.
- Truancy is frowned upon. Therefore, there are daily reminders for learning coaches and students alike to login all time spent in school.
- A daily and weekly plan is provide on the Online School login screen to help learning coaches prepare well in advance for upcoming school projects.
- A school newspaper and a bevy of school clubs are provided.
- Fun reward programs such as the Pizza Hut book-it reading program are offered.
- Awesome incentives are provided for students who achieve a perfect attendance record.
- Flexibility of the school hours. As long as attendance is logged in before midnight; the learning coach and student can work together to find the perfect school schedule that will compliment them.
- Flexibility of the program is perfect for military families, children who have disabilities or special needs; parents who want a more hands-on experience concerning their child’s education; parents who children may be struggling in a brick and mortar public school; or families who home school their children for religious concerns.
- You get to do school work in your pajamas!
In retrospect, choosing Georgia Cyber Academy has been the right choice for my family. Both my daughter and I are always eager to see what she will be learning that day.
The hands on activities provide enrichment and excitement to an otherwise mundane day of learning, and the constant support and socialization our family receives takes the Georgia Cyber Academy way of learning to a whole new spectrum of education.
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