Recently, I have gotten a bit of flack for our decision to allow our oldest daughter to switch from public school to the home-based virtual school that her brother attends. It has caused me to think a lot about the reasons we chose K12 to begin with.
First, a little background…
I graduated in 2014 with my BS in Early Childhood Education after 8 long years in school. I fully intended to put my degree to use in a public school classroom, and ultimately, that is still my goal. However, I didn’t find a teaching position right away, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Our son, Carter, started kindergarten that fall, and shortly after, he was diagnosed with ADHD. It didn’t come as a surprise to us. He had been receiving developmental and speech therapy for 3 years by then. My husband was also diagnosed with ADD around that same time. That entire school year we struggled with how best to help our son.
By first grade, two new diagnoses were added: Disruptive Behavior Disorder NOS and Encopresis. The behavior disorder wasn’t a surprise since it goes along with the ADHD, but encopresis threw us for a loop. For those of you don’t know, encopresis is voluntary or involuntary fecal soiling in children who have usually been toilet trained. In short, Carter doesn’t have control over his bowels, and in his case, it is involuntary.
Throughout the school year, we began noticing changes in our sweet boy. He started struggling with school and complained that his friends were laughing at him. He began fighting about going to school, and I lost count of how many times I had to put him on the bus kicking and screaming. We continued struggling with how best to help him. Then, I received an email from his teacher requesting a conference. Carter’s accidents were becoming more frequent, and poop was falling out of his pants in the the classroom causing his classmates to laugh and tease him. She didn’t know how to help him.
We had already been discussing options, trying to figure out what to do. I knew about the Arkansas Virtual Academy (ARVA) through a friend of ours who had transferred her daughter to them a few months prior. I did some further research. Since ARVA is a public charter school, Carter’s IEP would transfer and he would still receive his speech therapy and all accommodations. Still, transferring Carter was a very difficult decision for us.
Our local school district is one of the best in the state. Our high school is in the top 10% in the country. We love the schools and the teachers. I was in tears sitting in the parent-teacher conference telling my son’s wonderful teacher that we would be pulling him out of her classroom. To my happy surprise, she completely understood and fully supported our decision. She truly did want to help Carter, and she still stays in touch with us.
Carter started school with ARVA in February of this year. (ARVA is powered by K12. For more information, visit k12.com.) He finished the rest of first grade with them, and he did well. It was a challenge for us in the beginning. We all had to adjust to a new routine, but slowly we saw Carter regain some of the self-confidence he had lost. He still continued having accidents, but gradually he became the happy little boy he had been. Our goal is for him to eventually return to a regular public school classroom, but right now this is what works for him.
Now that you have the background…
We had given our daughter, Skylar, the option of switching to ARVA when we switched Carter, but she wanted to stay where she was. As she watched some of Carter’s lessons, she got confused and started asking questions. In first grade, Carter was learning things in history and science that Skylar had yet to learn, and she was in the sixth grade. He was doing science experiments and art lessons as well as other hands on activities. It really caught her attention.
On top of her peaked interest, Skylar had been struggling socially for most of the year. The group of girls that claimed to be her friends seemed to have a “mean girl” attitude. A few seemed to be good friends, but Skylar was really having a hard time dealing with all of the drama. Then the bullying began and for a few weeks she left the group she hung out with, only spending time with the two girls who seemed to be true friends. It didn’t last long, and she was back in that group again. It was no surprise to us when the drama began once again. Then Skylar’s closest friend moved out of state.
When school ended for the summer, Skylar began asking about transferring to ARVA in earnest. I showed her sample lessons from her grade level. We talked about what her schedule would be like and the classes she could take. We also talked about why she wanted to switch.
Queue the tears…
Skylar had complained throughout the school year (and the year before) about having trouble focusing in the classroom. It frustrated her that her classmates would continue talking even when the teacher said no talking. She also felt bored and distracted. With ARVA, she felt like she could learn more. She could work at her own pace, which is much faster than many of her peers. She could start a foreign language now instead of waiting until high school, and she could choose from five languages instead of just two. Her only hesitation was that ARVA doesn’t have band. (I did discover that the local school district can allow her to attend part time for band. They already do this for athletics.)
Skylar made her decision, and we began the enrollment process. She was approved, and materials for the new school year are pending shipment. Skylar is beyond excited!!
So… why the flack?
Children need social interaction. I agree wholeheartedly. That’s why Skylar is in Girl Scouts and why we are working on getting involved with the local 4H clubs. ARVA parents coordinate field trips and outings so students can interact face to face. We are also working on getting Carter involved in Boy Scouts. That is proving difficult, but that’s a story for another day.
With all of the social drama Skylar has dealt with in the past year, it only increased when she told her friends of her decision to move to ARVA. They have given her nothing but a hard time. So, just maybe a change is exactly what she needs. What good is coming from the socialization she has been getting? Socialization is important, but it is my belief that the QUALITY of the interaction is much more important than the QUANTITY.