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Connections Academy and K12 Pros and Cons


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#51 NapLover

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:04 AM

We are currently enrolled in CA. My son started in January of this year so we are fairly new.

Curriculum

I do feel that the curriculum is rigorous and thorough. There is a good mix of text and virtual learning tools. Most lessons have a Discovery Movie, BrainPop, or other virtual learning activity integrated into the session. He also has the option in most classes to use the online textbook if he prefers.

My sons courses are

Language Arts
Science
Math
State History
Social Studies
Art (Pass/Fail)
PE
Skills for Success (Pass/ Fail) -- Study for state testing
Intro to Computers

His grades are determined by a mixture of Quiz/ Test / Portfolio grades. Every class has a different ratio but the portfolios are a big portion. In LA the ratio is Q 35% / T 25% / P 40%. Portfolios are written assignments or projects that can be submitted electronically (scan to pdf) or mailed (envelopes provided)

Here is an example of a portfolio due in SS

Create a one-page (three-fold) visitor's guide for people visiting the Southwest. Work with your Learning Coach to research historic landmarks, physical landscapes, and areas of interest in the Southwest. Then write a short blurb describing at least three of these unique Southwestern features in your visitor's guide.

Include illustrations or images where possible.

Additionally, you may want to include facts about famous or interesting people from this region. You may choose to research people, features, and landmarks that appear in the textbook, such as Route 66, the Navajo, saguaro cactus, Jerrie Cobb, or the Grand Canyon.


Some examples of LA portfolios

Business Letter
Plot Summary
Story Review
Opion Essay
Character Sketch

He has a Quick Check assesment at the end of most lessons. These consist of 3-5 questions related to the lesson and are not counted toward the grade.

------------------------------

Teacher Involvement

There are 2 Live lessons every week. One of them is mandatory attendance. The teacher usually goes over a topic. All the students can see and hear what she is doing in their virtual classroom. They have the opportunity at different points in the lesson to ask questions and participate. CA provides a headset for this purpose. They all seem to enjoy it.

We also have a monthly phone conference with her. Part of the the conference, she speaks with us. For the other portion, she talks directly with the student. She may do reading assessments or other assessments at that time. My son also can discuss any of the subjects during this conferences.

We can email her at anytime and she usually answers within the hour. She also makes lots of comments on his tests and portfolios.

__________________

Other stuff

Field trips-- There are several opportunities to participate in field trips. Since we have been with CA, three or four of them have been close enought for us to go (2 hours or less) We have not gone to any yet, but plan to in the future.

Attendance/Flexibility --- We do have to log in attendance, but it only takes about a minute a day. We have to log in 25 hours (states may vary) a week, but we can and do this in a very flexible manner. My husband and I both share the Learning Coach role so we 'do school' on nights and weekends too. Vacation days are also flexible. The school has vacation days (the teacher won't be available) but you don't have to take the same days that they do.

___________________

Good luck making the decision! It has been a great experience for us so far. We sometimes struggle with adjusting to the teacher role, but that won't be as big of an issue for someone already homeschooling. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them if I can. :)

#52 Tidbits of Learning

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:16 PM

I really appreciate your in-depth reply. I am really leaning more towards Connections at this point and hoping that they all get in to it.

We are currently enrolled in CA. My son started in January of this year so we are fairly new.

Curriculum

I do feel that the curriculum is rigorous and thorough. There is a good mix of text and virtual learning tools. Most lessons have a Discovery Movie, BrainPop, or other virtual learning activity integrated into the session. He also has the option in most classes to use the online textbook if he prefers.

My sons courses are

Language Arts
Science
Math
State History
Social Studies
Art (Pass/Fail)
PE
Skills for Success (Pass/ Fail) -- Study for state testing
Intro to Computers

His grades are determined by a mixture of Quiz/ Test / Portfolio grades. Every class has a different ratio but the portfolios are a big portion. In LA the ratio is Q 35% / T 25% / P 40%. Portfolios are written assignments or projects that can be submitted electronically (scan to pdf) or mailed (envelopes provided)

Here is an example of a portfolio due in SS



Some examples of LA portfolios

Business Letter
Plot Summary
Story Review
Opion Essay
Character Sketch

He has a Quick Check assesment at the end of most lessons. These consist of 3-5 questions related to the lesson and are not counted toward the grade.

------------------------------

Teacher Involvement

There are 2 Live lessons every week. One of them is mandatory attendance. The teacher usually goes over a topic. All the students can see and hear what she is doing in their virtual classroom. They have the opportunity at different points in the lesson to ask questions and participate. CA provides a headset for this purpose. They all seem to enjoy it.

We also have a monthly phone conference with her. Part of the the conference, she speaks with us. For the other portion, she talks directly with the student. She may do reading assessments or other assessments at that time. My son also can discuss any of the subjects during this conferences.

We can email her at anytime and she usually answers within the hour. She also makes lots of comments on his tests and portfolios.

__________________

Other stuff

Field trips-- There are several opportunities to participate in field trips. Since we have been with CA, three or four of them have been close enought for us to go (2 hours or less) We have not gone to any yet, but plan to in the future.

Attendance/Flexibility --- We do have to log in attendance, but it only takes about a minute a day. We have to log in 25 hours (states may vary) a week, but we can and do this in a very flexible manner. My husband and I both share the Learning Coach role so we 'do school' on nights and weekends too. Vacation days are also flexible. The school has vacation days (the teacher won't be available) but you don't have to take the same days that they do.

___________________

Good luck making the decision! It has been a great experience for us so far. We sometimes struggle with adjusting to the teacher role, but that won't be as big of an issue for someone already homeschooling. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them if I can. :)



#53 NapLover

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 12:34 PM

I really appreciate your in-depth reply. I am really leaning more towards Connections at this point and hoping that they all get in to it.


Glad to help. :) I forgot to mention that my son is in the 4th Grade. So his course work is what you would expect for upper elementary :)

#54 blessed4life

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 08:08 PM

Has anyone tried CA private school? Unfortunately, the free public school option is not available in MD, although CA headquarters is based in Baltimore, MD...that's another story in itself.

I've been interested in CA for quite some time, but held off in hopes that a charter school/public school option would be available.

If you or someone you know have or is using the private school option, please share your thoughts and insights.

Thank you kindly~

#55 beccad777

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:28 AM

We have used K12 for my older ds in 2nd and we liked it well enough except that there was a lot of writing in the LA portion of the curriculum. That was difficult for him. I felt like the curriculum was challenging and engaging. We did have to change/omit parts of it due to our beliefs.

We are currently using it for K for my 5yr old ds. It think it is too much for K. The phonics is very long and involved and very boring. That said, he went from not knowing his letters or sounds at the beginning of the year to reading cvc words and currently is working on the digraphs th, sh, wh, and ch. We skip pretty much all of the LA. We just check that day's lesson complete and read whatever he wants. He didn't like any of it and there is a lot of busy work. Math is good. He likes it and it is a good mix of on and off line work.

The teachers at our VA (OHVA) have all been very nice. They are as hands on or hands off (which I prefer) as you want them to be. There are many class connect sessions that he can attend although they are not mandatory. He only has to hand in work 2x a year. The spring assignment was for him to write a sentence about himself and illustrate it. Then I scan it and email it to the teacher. Otherwise, I just do my own thing and use what I want or skip it. It is all pretty flexible, I think.

I have looked at CA, but I don't like the way they do (or don't do) history for the lower grades. Also, it feels much more like ps to me, and that's not what I am looking for. K12 seems like a more classically minded curriculum.

#56 mamato4girls

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 06:10 PM

Bumping this to see if anyone else has any input.

#57 Tidbits of Learning

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 07:20 PM

We are going with K12. It is the school we got into. CA was asking for more and more items and the kids would not have been able to work advanced even though they tested a grade level higher in math and language arts with CA's placement tests. They require a Gifted IEP from their previous school which is impossible for home school students to supply.
I decided since the kids wouldn't really be working at their own place since they wouldn't be placed in the proper level work that I wasn't going to jump through any more hoops sending anything else in to CA at this time.

#58 Jyniffrec

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:18 AM

My 2nd grade dd struggled with the LA in K12 this year so her teacher got her placed into a remedial LA program called Mark12. I like it a lot and will keep her in K12 for next year because of it. I also like the Class Connects. It is nice to have someone else teaching so that I can get other things done. It also makes my dd feel like she is connected to the outside world. She is one of four kids but that isn't the same for her. She is too sick to be able to attend brick and mortar public school so this is a great alternative for her.

I homeschool my older two but I plan to put the youngest into K12 for K-2. All my kids are late readers (likely dyslexic) and I find it is helpful to have an outside source helping them to learn to read. I am considering putting my older two into K12 once they reach high school. That depends on whether we can afford to pay for outside courses or not. If we can't then K12 will probably be our choice.

#59 Tidbits of Learning

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Posted 01 June 2012 - 06:52 PM

We are going with K12. It is the school we got into. CA was asking for more and more items and the kids would not have been able to work advanced even though they tested a grade level higher in math and language arts with CA's placement tests. They require a Gifted IEP from their previous school which is impossible for home school students to supply.
I decided since the kids wouldn't really be working at their own place since they wouldn't be placed in the proper level work that I wasn't going to jump through any more hoops sending anything else in to CA at this time.


Well, they approved the kids for Connections Academy as well last week. I didn't send in anything else either.
I went back and forth about whether to do K12 or Connections. Connection's catalog came in the mail and it gave details about clubs and electives. I called K12 to see if they offered anything similar. They don't offer electives until high school. My middle school children were already drooling over Digital Art and Home Life electives from Connection's catalog.
I had went ahead and bought a course for kindergarten of K12's to get a feel for it. I was really nervous about how much my kindergarten would be expected to do and how much it would require of myself. All of the instructions were on the computer for me (not in any teacher's guide or book). i basically had to sit through a slideshow and teach my k'er as we went and then do 2-3 worksheets and check them as well as an assessment daily. There were also optional worksheets as well.
Connection's uses Calvert's kindergarten program which seems more my speed for a kindergarten child.
So I called and dropped K12 and we will start Connections in August. I hope it is the right choice. I feel better about it than I did about K12 kindergarten at least. It is going to be very different for us after 3 years of home schooling to go to virtual school. I am hoping it will be a positive change.
My main reasons for choosing Connections in the end-
1. Actual grade and report cards
2. Electives for elementary and middle school as well as high school
3. Kindergarten options

#60 Elizabeth in MN

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 04:04 PM

I'm going to bump with some questions. My dd has been asking about a virtual school and all we have in Minnesota are Connections and k12. Today I met with a Connections parent who talked to me about some stuff. My main concern at this point is how much work I'll have to do with a virtual. It looks like it's the same amount of work I already do with just plain home schooling, only with Connections I'll have a few people looking over my shoulder (not something I enjoy). For sixth grade it looks like it'll be all text books and work books. We really do like the idea of the clubs that my dd could join, though. There is almost no socialization for home schooled kids in this part of the state.

#61 phathui5

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Posted 09 June 2012 - 05:17 PM

My question is for those of you going through a state charter: How did attendance work? Could you swap out a weekday for a weekend day? What if there's a day you have to skip?

#62 Closeacademy

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Posted 10 June 2012 - 06:24 AM

I've not read the other responses.

We did Connections Academy 6th grade this past year for my oldest dd. This is how I felt:

Math--we had an excellent teacher with great live lessons where she interacted with the children and really showed them how to do the work, My dd did all of her math online even though she had the textbook and it was good. She did very well.

Social Studies--We also had an excellent, very helpful teacher who made this come alive. The reading in the text was good but the quizzes/tests tend to be nit-picky. It's almost as if they chose a random sentence in the text and turn it into a question. We loved the projects and making powerpoints. She had a great time in this class and liked it a lot.

The rest of her classes had a teacher switch in October because so many kids were enrolled in the program.

Science--Good teacher, boring live lessons, reading could be interesting or dull, heavy on vocabulary, tests again were nit-picky, labs were dropped for the second semester so it was all reading and movies. She did OK.

Language Arts--overwhelmed teacher, chaotic and confusing live lessons, all but 4 of the writing assignments were dropped, little grammar, no spelling, and the reading was torture for my dd. The stories were so boring and unrelated to her life experience that she wouldn't retain the information long enough to take the quiz.

Art--more of a intro to art/art medium class. It was interesting for her. There were projects but she only got graded on the tests covering vocabulary.

Physical education/Health--unseen teacher, You have to turn in 150 min a week of physical exercise (playing outside counts). The health text was OK. Just about average.

Technology--1/3 of the class is about bullying, the rest about using various programs in office. It was really more of a busywork class than a learning experience.

She did not take any electives because they did not have a teacher for Digital arts and she was interested in the other things they offered. We didn't do the field trips and she didn't join any clubs.

We did this total from a online public school point of view and my dh calls it the worst of both worlds. There was lots of good and plenty of bad.:001_smile:

#63 Tidbits of Learning

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:59 AM

I received a lot of helpful replies from this thread, but I did come to realize that asking about a virtual school is not like asking about curricula. Every virtual school is different. Some states have really good K12 programs and some have really good Connections programs. You can't ask a person going to ps in Georgia what it will be like for your child going to school in Louisiana. The experience won't be the same. Some times the curricula isn't the same. The same way each state has their own home schooling laws...each state has their own virtual school set up and requirements.
I found that the best way to figure out between the 2 charters in my state was going to be the same way we picked private day school. I was going to have to go to the information meetings for both as well as talk to people in my area already using the program. I was lucky and able to look at books for both schools and check out their online learning systems as well. It really helped me to make my decision.
This is what I suggest to anyone looking at virtual schools. Sign up for online information sessions, attend an in-person event or information session, sign up for their talk to a parent using the program (this is the most helpful), join your local facebook group for the virtual school, and really look at it the way you would if you were going to send your child back to brick and mortar school. It isn't so much about the curricula used as it is the actual school philosophy, environment, and administration.

#64 MicheleStitches

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:07 PM

I received a lot of helpful replies from this thread, but I did come to realize that asking about a virtual school is not like asking about curricula. Every virtual school is different. Some states have really good K12 programs and some have really good Connections programs. You can't ask a person going to ps in Georgia what it will be like for your child going to school in Louisiana. The experience won't be the same. Some times the curricula isn't the same. The same way each state has their own home schooling laws...each state has their own virtual school set up and requirements.



I agree, and that is why I really WISH everyone who commented would have mentioned their state. I am currently home schooling in NC. We are getting ready to move to WY and are investigating the possibility of enrolling our daughter in the WY version of CA or VA. It is very hard to find out whether this is a good idea or not because I can not seem to find any first-hand reviews by Wyoming users. I have been voraciously reading all the threads here, hoping for some direction, but I have yet to run across anyone who says they are in WY and use either of the two options.

We have ALWAYS homeschooled our seven kids. 5 have graduated and #6 is technically a senior next year, although she has completed the required academics. My youngest is 11 but is doing 6th grade this year (she's a year ahead.) We are considering doing some alternative to our usual because I will be going back to school myself.

If anyone here is from WY and has personal experience, I would LOVE to hear what you have to say about either program!

#65 swimmermom3

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 06:39 PM

The complaint I've been hearing from a lot of friends about K12 *through*the*state*charter* is that a number of the classes have been altered from the original K12 to fit the state's annual standards. Apparently each year it has gotten worse, so while when they began, families got the whole K12 program for the grade levels, in years since then it's been more and more watered down and focused on state standards. They felt cheated.

That's one question I would really want answered. When you do the free K12 (rather than buying it independently), will you get the whole thing? How many adjustments have been made?


This is what I have heard as well. The materials we used independently for history and Intermediate English were fairly good for K12 for middle school, but it has been a couple of years. The Human Odyssey texts are wonderful for history as are the Classics for Young Readers for Literature The curriculum my son used for Connections last year for eleventh grade was mediocre at best and that was through our state's virtual school. For British Literature, someone had the bright idea that they would do everything in a parallel text from Perfection Learning. This meant that the kids were covering a new author a day, 4-5 authors a week. The teacher ended up having to remove the whole last section - everything after the Victorians

#66 ksr5377

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 08:48 PM

I totally get this.

If this is the case, I'd still be cautious about K12. The curriculum was designed for the parent/teacher to pick and choose what assignments would work best for their student. For most families, including mine, doing *all* of the assignments included with the curriculum was too much and very quickly became a terrible experience. But many VAs don't seem to understand how the curriculum was designed (from what I've heard) and require that everything be done.

You can get a demo account by calling K12 and asking for one. This gives you access to most of the materials so you can see for yourself if it would be something that might work for your family.



I just wanted to agree with this. My sister and I both did K12 with our children for one year. In my state, the teacher told me to pick what we needed to do and just put in the amount of time we needed to in order to be OK. So even if our phonics lesson only took 10 minutes, go ahead and mark it the full amount of time. I was only told to do the activities that DD needed in order to learn, not every single thing in the program. This was great to hear, because she hated the tiles. In my sisters state, she was told to do every single item listed and that she HAD to be schooling the full amount of time. MY teacher said to make sure to include other things in the time, like reading to them at bedtime. My sister's teacher said no way to that, only include the curriculum. So it really depends on where you're at.
We didn't stick with K12 mainly because I just didn't want to have to bother checking those silly boxes every day, but I and my daughter did enjoy their curriculum.

#67 Um_2_4

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Posted 15 March 2013 - 10:22 PM

I see this is an old thread, but I just thought I would put this out there. I tutored a girl in Connections (through the state, CA) and it was 7th grade. It was so easy for her to skip stuff and google answers to questions. She "passed" but from what I saw, you only get out of it what the parent (learning coach) is willing to put into it. There was a situation in this girl's home and I offered to help while the mom got a p/t job. I made her read, taught her the math. But I can see where many kids could "slide" through. There was little to no interaction with the assigned teacher (maybe 1 phone call a month). She just followed the next thing on the checklist...
I saw it as an option for a kid who otherwise might not make it through school and just wanted a diploma. Maybe the high school is tougher about this. I think in 7th she wrote maybe 3 papers the whole year?
From my experience it is not an answer for parents who want to step back from teaching. It is more a solution for parents who want to be able to say "well, so and so says you have to finish this by Friday".
This is just from my experience tutoring this 1 girl and from about 3 families I know who tried it for middle school.

#68 Tidbits of Learning

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 05:55 PM

I hadn't been on the forum in a while and revisited my old thread today. In the end, we went with K12 b/c Connections was only going to give us e-books to get around my son's peanut allergy. I did not know this until we confirmed enrollment and it took a fight to get them to withdraw them in time for us to register with k12 before the first day of school. K12's materials were all new shy of a few novels. We had one that smelled of a cigarette factory that we returned and they graciously replaced. We are in the state of Louisiana which is not known for it's educational standards by any means. The curriculum was excellent and my k'er was in 1st grade math and language arts by Christmas. However, due to several stays in the hospital he did not progress much through 1st grade. The teachers were great during my child's illnesses and gave us extensions and private numbers where my older children could get help in pre-algebra and the like. I really can't speak more highly of how great they were during the most difficult time of my child's life.
My 6th grader did have a harder year than my 7th grader b/c they switched the k12 curriculum line-up around to match up with the state test. So my 11 year old was taking physical science meant for 8th grade and it was a struggle at first. I grumbled about it and she grumbled about it...but in the end it was great b/c she persevered. She made an A in physical science and scored mastery on the state test in science. My 7th grader on the other hand wound up with k12's 5th grade history b/c of the topic it covered in relation to our state test for her grade level.
I do want to address my 4th grader since we did do HOD completely for his entire home school experience prior to virtual academy. He did not test grade level at all in math or language arts. He tested a year behind in those subjects. He was diagnosed with dysgraphia (dyslexia of writing). However, as the year has progressed and he has had many writing assignments....his writing skills have improved drastically. Whether this diagnosis will continue through his academic career or not, I do want to say that I questioned his writing ability and frequently asked on the HOD board about whether it was normal and received replies that we should keep doing HOD exactly as written or slow down to half speed and it would improve. I will forever beat myself up over the fact that I felt reassurance and did not pursue it further. We made it through Bigger in HOD. His skills never improved in regards to his ability to take his own thoughts to paper. It was a tough decision to keep him in his proper grade level this year with k12 after receiving his test scores and then his diagnosis. We did a lot on the side to bring up his skills that he had never been exposed to in HOD. My k'er was exposed to things last year that my oldest had only just been exposed to in Bigger the previous year. This isn't to curriculum bash at all, but when a curriculum is better late than early you will discover these things later and in hindsight I realize that he really improved 3 grade levels during our one year in k12 while he was stagnant in HOD. After a year of k12, my 4th grader improved 399 points in language arts on the scantron. That spoke volumes for me. There is a policy when using HOD not to discuss other options or materials and I have seen time and time again people asking for help and having the same advice churned out to them to slow down to half speed or that is normal at that age or such replies. This is not helpful to parents of children who may actually need help and their children may actually need something else to help them move forward and progress.
All of this to say, that no matter what curriculum you use trust your instincts. Also, if there is any chance your child will go back to public school or charter school in the future...be sure you aren't relying on test scores that do not take into account state standards and such. My children scored out of the park on the CAT test but did not score well at all on the state test or scantrons in the beginning of the year. The "new" tests are individualized in that they recognized a right answer and give more difficult questions and recognize a wrong answer and give easier questions until your child misses a certain percentage of questions and the test ends. This is the format that all the tests will go to in 2014-2015. I do not advocate teaching to the test either, but my children were at a disadvantage due to my choices in the past.
We will continue k12 next year and we have thoroughly enjoyed having teachers who care and help and listen to our issues. There are parts of HOD that I loved and still love and plan to implement alongside K12. The emerging readers schedule, the dictation schedule, and the read-alouds to name a few. A curriuclum does not have to be all or nothing no matter how much it is pushed as an all or nothing program. My children have grown so much this year. I had teachers, advisers, and academic counselors who were knowledgeable and could help me to find things for my son to help him. That did not mean it was always k12 materials and the school would purchase any materials that he needed to help with his weaknesses. We are awaiting approval for Calvert's verticy writing for next year to continue his progress in this area. There are pros and cons to anything, but I truly believe the children are receiving a better education now and I have the ability to spend our extra funds on extras such as sports, art, and music.


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