Saturday, August 9, 2008

CVA Flexibility

A recent email response I received from one of the certified teachers on staff at Columbia Virtual Academy made me want to add another post to further demonstrate how accommodating CVA is to homeschoolers.

One of the requirements CVA must enforce due to the fact that it operates under the alternative education laws of Washington state is that enrolled students must complete a minimum number of school hours related to their learning plan each week. For full-time enrolled students, the required hours are 10 for kindergartners, 20 for first through third grade, and 25 for students fourth grade and above. For part-time enrolled students, the required hours are reduced based on the percentage of enrollment.

With my children, who are very fast learners, meeting those hours exclusively with traditional school work is challenging. Spelling only takes up 5 to 15 minutes a day. My son rarely needs more than 5 minutes for phonics and language arts worksheets. My daughter usually doesn't take more than 15 minutes to complete her math work, including any instruction needed. We supplement our history and science heavily with extra reading from the library to rack up hours, but it is not enough. This year will be more challenging than last year because we have chosen not to continue with the YMCA which provided 3 hours a week last year and my daughter has entered fourth grade and its 5 additional required hours. I was at a loss of how to make up the deficit so I asked the certified teacher. The response I got back is typical of the suggestions you can expect to receive.

The certified teacher understood my dilemma because she, too, has a quick learner. Some of her ideas were interesting and not typical school work. Among the more schoolish suggestions were registering the children at Time4Learning for enrichment, researching and creating a "This Day in History" calendar, and designing and writing a newspaper covering the things they are learning in other subjects. Other suggestions sounded less like school work. An invention class was suggested: allowing them to brainstorm, write a proposal, and go through the entire process of creating an invention. Or perhaps my kids were enjoy writing comic strips with a suitable computer program. One idea I had already considered: a cooking class, including such topics as meal planning, budgeting, shopping, and preparing recipes. I don't know about you, but I never had the opportunity to design newspapers, create comic strips, or invent things in my grade schools.

Since I don't have to meet a minimum number of hours until school starts officially at the end of the month, I have some time to think about it. I've already decided to include "Lifeskills" for my daughter to cover menu planning, grocery shopping (price comparisons, coupon usage, how to choose fresh produce and meat, etc.), and various cooking skills. The class will include all aspects of running a home kitchen, including cleaning it. I'll count, especially for my daughter, personal reading and creative writing time. She loves to do both. I'm considering Time4Learning, as it is self-paced and may cover any gaps there may be in our regular curriculum. As always, we'll include plenty of educational videos on topics we are covering, arts/crafts projects, experiments, and field trips.

So, I'm wondering, what nontraditional things do you do as a part of school?

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