Review of the California Virtual Academy (CAVA) Free Public Homeschooling Program
I homeschooled my older child for one year through the California Virtual Academy (CAVA), so I'm basing my experience solely on that. Considering that we are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, it's a possible option for parents who fear sending their children back to school.
CAVA is actually a group of independent charter schools. The curriculum, most materials and an online system to track progress and attendance are provided by curriculum provider k12.com. CAVA serves Kindergarten through 12th grade students. CAVA is a public school, so books and most materials are sent at no cost. A computer and printer may also be provided.
My daughter was in Kindergarten when we used the CAVA program. She did Language Arts, Phonics, Math, History, Science, Music and Art. There is also a Foreign Language option. You can see the curriculum with samples at http://www.k12.com/courses/k-8-courses.
These are some pros of using the California Virtual Academy:
- Because it's a public charter school, it's free. Most materials and a computer are provided
- It's easy to track your child's progress and enter attendance
- If you are new to homeschooling, you are told what to teach and how to teach. This may be ideal for parents who plan to use it during the pandemic. You won't have to worry about developing a curriculum or deciding what materials you need to buy. All of that will be done for you. You will just have to ensure the work gets done
- Online games, stories and tutorials do a lot of the teaching in a fun way. This can make it easier for parents who work from home. If your children are enjoying the lessons, they may require less input for you
- The program is mastery based, so you don't have to teach your kids things they already know. Kids can progress to the next grade level for whatever subjects they finish early
- A credentialed teacher is assigned to each student. Since this is a public school, there will be accountability. You have to ensure your child is doing their work and showing progress
- Kids can take online classes. Some areas have classes kids can attend, but those might not be available during the pandemic
- The High School program offers honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. More than 90 high school courses are offered
- While this is an online school, not all schooling is done online. There will be workbooks and reading assignments
I left the program after one year because I felt for us that the cons outweighed the benefits. These are cons that may be more of an issue for long term homeschoolers and might not be a problem for families using CAVA temporarily during the pandemic.
- You are told what to teach and how to teach. Many homeschoolers may want to tailor schooling to their child's individual needs. So, the downsides can be the same as sending your child to a public or private school with a one-size-fits-all curriculum
- I didn't like the 1st grade math at all
- The program took up so much time most days, I often didn't have time to fit in other things I really wanted to teach. Independent homeschooling or using independent charter schools provide more flexibility
- Your child will be a public school student, so they will have to take state tests starting in 2nd grade
- My daughter was several grade levels ahead in reading but she could only do 1st grade reading because reading couldn't be separated from the rest of the Language Arts program
Whether CAVA is right for you and your kids will really depend on what your needs are. If you want independence CAVA probably wouldn't work for you. If you want accountability, then CAVA can be a great choice. See Free Public Homeschool Options in California for other free public homeschool options and my review of the River Springs Charter School homeschool program for students located the following Southern California counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, and Imperial.
If you need a temporary schooling option during the Coronavirus pandemic and you want everything done for you, I would highly recommend the California Virtual Academy. It's free, it's engaging and will place less demands on working parents than an independent program.