Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just having a moment

A moment when you are just tired to.the.bone. and you But everything needs to be done.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cindy thinks they are getting big

I KNOW they are getting big!

Negative Review of K12 Online School

My DH just asked me what I was writing about.

"Why I think K12 sucks."

His response?

"Let us count the ways."

I wanted my oldest two to work with an online public school because I need time with the little kids. I needed the big boys to be accountable to another adult, understand the rigors of "regular" school and how the system works before they enter the middle college next year. This would free me up to allow me to concentrate on the younger 4 kids; three of whom are learning to read this year (4,5,6).

When we started researching online public high schools we researched. I looked online for reviews. Most of them glowed. But they didn't really answer a lot of my questions.

My sister had experience with K12. She explained that most of the work is done on the computer. We weren't incredibly happy with that because of the pitfalls of being on a computer too much (pornography, gaming and more). We solved this problem. We installed monitoring software. Essentially there is a program running in the background logging every single thing they do on the computer: texts, email, games, everything, The program also records so we can see what they are doing and view a log of what they are doing on the computer.

I went to the informational K12 meeting. They talked about accreditation, curriculum, how happy other families are. Yada yada. I asked about monitoring. How am I going to to know my kid is actually doing the work? (I remembered my sister complaining about how all the sudden she would find out that one of her kids was 2 weeks behind and it blindsided her.) How am I going to know if they are logging on? How am I going to know if they are struggling with the work? How am I going to know if they have overdue work? "Don't worry Mrs. Brownhead. You can monitor all of that as a learning coach." They told me about this login system where a learning coach sees what assignments are due each day and can see what live classes they have each week. "You can see all of that Mrs. Brownhead." I breathed a sigh of relief. I asked about organizational skills training. "Yes, there is a class you can log into." It sounded okay. I came with a list of questions and they answered them.

We started late due to the state requiring something or other with the school and government. We got our login information one week after classes had begun. The boys could login but I couldn't. I call the 800 number for K12. I am nowhere to be found on either of the boys' accounts, the address is wrong (like in a different state wrong) and I find out some complete stranger is named as the boys' learning coach.

The phone calls start. Who is this person? Why is she listed as my kids' learning coach? Why am I not listed as my kids' learning coach? How is she actually going to do attendance because she isn't actually going to know if my kids are here or not? How is she actually a coach? What type of contact can I expect from her? K12 didn't know who she was. JST didn't really know what she was going to do. And the Virtual Academy told me the state made the virtual academy designate a liason between the student and the teacher and that is who is listed as the learning coach but I won't be listed as a learning coach.

Oh, heck no.

Phone call. I would like to be listed as my childs' learning coach. "Well, Mrs. Brownhead, we do expect high school students to work independently." They will be working independently. I want to make sure they are actually doing the work. "We don't do that here, you are going to have to call..."

For each issue I had to make 3 phone calls, one to the school, one to JST and one to K12. What I didn't understand at the beginning of this is there are actually three levels to this schooling biz. The S. Virtual Academy is where the boys' are registered for school at the local level. They administered the placement testing and registered the boys for classes. SVA then handed all the paperwork over to JST who is the contracter/franchise owner for K12 for the state. JST handles some tech support but not all. Then the actual K12 organization is the third level. They have tech support and plenty of snotty customer service reps. If you get firm enough and insist to talk to a manager then you might actually get some of your questions answered.

The functionality of the program for monitoring students is completely different than what they showed us at the meeting AND on the online tours that they encourage all parents to watch. The learning coaches are to watch all of the online videos so they know how to do attendance and everything. One small problem. Absolutely none of the online video tours apply to high school level. But absolutely not one of them says that they do not apply to high school level nor do the videos say that they apply only to K-8. (I actually had a customer rep say, "Did you look at the copyright date on that video? It is an old video and you should check the copyright date." HUH? This is your online learning system.)

So, to make this long story shorter, if you are a parent, you must log in to each child's account, go into each of the courses, look at their assignments and gradebooks. The see it all on one page function does not apply to high school level. In the 12 hours I (and DH) was on the phone with K12 trying to figure this out we were told several things like, "Well, Mrs. Brownhead, you are supposed to be cutting the apron strings" and "High school students are supposed to be more independent in their work and you don't need to monitor their work" and "Well, Mrs. Brownhead, we expect that middle school students would be learning the organizational skills at this level and high school students are expected to fly" and "This isn't homeschool anymore Mrs. Brownhead, the teacher is really in charge."

Excuse me?

Excuse me?

Excuse me?

Excuse me?

K12 specifically targeted homeschooling parents in my state. And yet they don't seem to understand the mentality of a homeschooling parent. As any homeschool mom knows, there are moments, oh, even hours, oh, let's go with DAYS, when a student just does not want to do the work. I have a child that is happy to watch dust float in the sunshine. But I am not supposed to be monitoring their work. :dripping with sarcasm:

They are getting adjusted to high school. They still need support because they haven't had this experience yet. They are learning and to just drop them in to a situation without me knowing what is going on is ludicrous. How can I help them if I don't know the system? I am not going to be holding their hand for their entire high school career but you know what? You bet I am for the first semester. Cut the apron strings. Condescending customer service woman.

And you know what? If I don't monitor their work and the boys get behind, guess who they come after? ME. I signed a document saying I would keep track of them AND K12 doesn't really let you easily track what they are doing.

I had to say to the director that I cannot be the only parent that is monitoring their children's progress. I want my children to succeed and for the time-being they need monitoring to make sure they are learning to do the work. I cannot be the only one that has a child that if given the opportunity will slack off. I am not being over-controlling I am living up to my end of the agreement that I signed.

He backed off after that.

Our materials didn't arrive until almost 2 weeks into classes. Two weeks behind in Biology is never a good thing.

I don't have an opinion on the curriculum yet. I don't like how much is on the computer but we addressed that with the monitoring software. The boys seem happy with the labs. You know when you read reviews by other homeschooler we normally talk curriculum. We want to know about the books and the things our kids are learning. To be able to see what they are reading, I have to log in to their accounts and possibly mess up their assignments.

From an IT point of view DH found like 12 bugs and problems. But you can't submit a trouble ticket just by calling, you have to go through layers of customer reps to do that.

The customer service, as all customer service, has good people and bad people. Unfortuately, both good and bad don't seem to understand that our school is a virtual academy and has a different set up than a charter school. Therefore, most of the answers they have given me were wrong.

The teachers, so far okay. I don't have a lot of interaction with them. The boys are unaccustomed to having a teacher and aren't clear as to what they should address to the teacher. We have some teachers that because we started late adjusted the schedule. We have others that said, too bad, catch up. Even though the school is virtual, we have a teacher we can only contact during their ONE office hour a week and we have no other way to contact her. So, if you have a question you can get her between 9 and 10 on Monday morning. How ridiculous is that? One hour at the beginning of the school week? Others have multiple office hours with yahoo IM ids published and are very accessible.

The teacher information is not standardized so to find assignments for the boys it can be in three or four different places. The kids are supposed to have a tab that they can see if they have overdue work. #2 has all of his course in the overdue tab, the year they are due is 1900.

So, Michelle, you on the teacher side probably would not encounter some of these issues. It may be a good fit for your family.

The majority of my issues would have been solved if they would have just been honest up front about the monitoring. Because if I hadn't been on the phone for so many hours I wouldn't have had so many wonderful minutes with those ever, so lovely customer service reps. The majority of my issues are not with the materials but with the service we have or haven't received.

I am still reserving the right to change my mind but my experience thus far is negative-- 2 thumbs down.


The days are so different. Instead of mess and homeschool teaching I have a DH working from home and quiet until 2:54 when #6 (who is 10)...