Ray and I are embarking on a new educational plan for our family this fall. It is called Colorado Calvert Academy. It is a state accredited virtual charter school that uses the renowned Calvert curriculum. Calvert is an over century old K-8th grade private school in Baltimore Maryland. Not long after the school started they began to offer a distance learning program. Over a hundred years later the program has entered the cyber age with virtual schools. Although the education is presented at home, each child is part of a class and has a teacher. The teacher has online lessons with the children twice a week and there are field trips once a month where all the Calvert students get together, as well as beginning and end of the year picnics and field days. Calvert families in the same towns are also encouraged to start study and activity groups to further enrich the program and to help foster friendships.
When I stumbled upon this program during an online search for summer math materials for Caroline, I was stunned. It sounded perfect for us! We live in a town with a wonderful local school, so it is not that we have any complaints, but we have long discussed that we may need to explore other options for Max. Max expends a lot of energy just trying to stay upright in a chair, due to his balance issues. This makes learning more challenging for him. He also compensates with his incredible humor and personality which we know in a class room of 25 kids and one teacher = discipline problem. Almost with out exception Glut 1 kids all have learning issues. They are known to be squential learners. A perfect example of this occured at a recent OT session. Max's OT asked him to throw a ball at a target on the wall. Max looked puzzeled and replied, "I can't do it." She then broke it down saying, "Step back, arm back, release." Max threw the ball perfectly. It is also expected that Max will lose his IEP in May of 2012. This is wonderful news in many ways, it means he has made great progress. But the reality of it is Max still needs help in the classroom. However, once you time out of the preschool program the qualifications change and he is not disabled enough to carry his IEP into the elementary years. This would leave us with only 504 plans to get accommodations for him. I am realistic. I volunteered in Caroline's kindergarten class once a week for a whole year. There is only so much a teacher can do with a full class of kids. Not having to deal with the diet at school, where food and candy are so often used as treats and rewards, is a big plus too.
The Calvert program might very well be a great fit for Max when he starts Kindergarten. However, he still has one more year of therapy preschool that we feel would be a benefit for him. In addition, when I discovered the program Max was not the first one I thought of, it was Caroline. Ray and I have both been concerned with how Caroline will handle first grade. The fact that she ended up in school counselors office with in 6 weeks of starting half day Kindergarten and later we had her with a child psychologist, makes her a unique student in her own right. It is very hard to learn when you are anxious. Then it all began to click. We could start the program with Caroline to see if we liked it while Max is still in school. We are realists. This may or may not be a good fit.
When I presented the idea to Caroline she said yes with zero hesitation. I was a bit surprised, she has many good friends at her elementary school and I thought she would express concern about not seeing them. Interestingly, she does not connect her buddies to school. Most of her play time with them has been outside of school, at parties and play dates, which of course will continue no matter where she goes to school. When I asked her tell me the pros and cons of Calvert she said, "A pro is when you read me a story you will not have to say Danny Sit Down, Danny Sit Down all the time." Ha! Danny, yes he did have trouble staying still. I would watch him last year and think about how that was going to be Max as a kindergartner. She went on to list many pros, like more time for tennis lessons (her new love) or riding lessons, more time to play, not having to get up so early, more time to eat her lunch etc. Caroline could not come up with any Cons at all. Realistically I can think of a few. The main one being, what if I get burned out? However, if this summer is any indication, I thoroughly enjoy being at home 24/7 with these two little people.
This summer has made a big impact on me. We really have had the best time going on adventures and just being with each other. I realize it is summer and summer time is fun and relaxed, virtual school will not be the same as the summer, but something has shifted in me. These last years have shown us that life offers few guarantees and I take fewer things for granted, the children being the best example. They are beyond cute at this age of dolls, forts and laser noises. I know this won't last, kids grow up. Right now I really want to soak it all up and having the kids at home with me attending a virtual school may be just the ticket for all of us.
But of course any major decision can not be made in our home with out the appropriate amount of worry and consternation. Ray was the cool voice of reason, as always. He logically accepted this as a good idea, acknowledging that the decision could be reversed at any point if our needs changed. I on the other hand ping ponged back and forth between extreme excitement and relief (I have been quite concerned about Caroline), to worry and wondering. Although I feel I don't need other's approval, big choices like this highlight that I still feel like I do need approval. We made this decision over a month ago and I just now have the courage to write about it. Let's face it, even though this is virtual learning, it is still a form of a home school and people often can have very mixed reactions to the concept of home school. We happen to live in a very home school friendly state and know many families that teach their children from home. But I know that this is not the norm everywhere.
So before we even start the new school, this has turned into an incredible learning experience for myself. I have to own my decisions and move forward with confidence. I have to trust that Ray and I know what is best for our children, all the while acknowledging we are human and might make mistakes. The saying, "nothing ventured, nothing gained" comes to mind right now. Who knew I could learn so much during summer vacation!