Things were going well. About as well as they could for a new homeschooling mom. This whole concept of homeschooling was completely new, and I had no idea what to expect or what was going to work.
We jumped on the K12 bandwagon right away. I was excited because it was a new adventure, and in doing my research, it seemed to check off all of the boxes right off the bat. In my research, I learned that K12 is a curriculum program that is taught by many online schools across the country. They also have an international program as well. We chose to enroll in the public online school, which was completely free of charge.
The enrollment process was a bit long considering our son was going into the 3rd grade in Texas. We were under the assumption, based on literature that the school provided, that the school would provide an advanced learner track. This was great because our son was coming out of his previous school as a G/T student.
Once accepted, our materials arrived within a couple of weeks. This was a very exciting day for both our son AND me! We dove right into the boxes to see what goodies had all arrived. You can view that video here.
A few weeks later, school began. It was a bit of a rocky start as every new school year is. This year was particularly rocky as Hurricane Harvey affected many students and teachers from our new online school, TOPS. However, for us, there was a bit of transition time to get used to schooling at home, and on a different schedule. This transition lasted about a month. With each passing week, it got a little easier, and our son got more and more used to homeschooling. However, as the weeks progressed we ran into some challenges with this program. I will make an important note here that most of our challenges and reasons to finally withdraw from the program were school based and not curriculum based.
The K12 curriculum itself seemed like a good, thought-out curriculum. The school that was implementing the curriculum that we enrolled in seemed unorganized and unprofessional. From the turnover of teachers within the first week of school beginning to communication flaws between teachers to parents.
The following were some of our biggest concerns with the program which eventually led us to withdrawing completely.
Coursework / Workload
Students were required (by our state) to work 6 hours each day with a one hour lunch/break time. This didn’t really catch us off-guard as our son was in regular school about the same amount of time. We had created a system for ensuring that all of the lessons were complete by the end of the week. The system was working well until the weeks continued. As the quarter progressed, the coursework and worked increased. As this happened, our son, who was working well past the 6 hour instruction time, was beginning to drown. Instead of focusing on the fun things in life at 9 years old, he was consumed by school work and completing lessons online. This was no longer acceptable by us.
For our school, we were given a different course calendar than what was provided in the K12 Online School. The course calendar was the same for every student across the entire grade level. This was a pretty good indicator that everyone was working on the same material. When I had asked about advanced learning options, I learned that the school did not actually offer such a thing. This was frustrating as we went with this program based on the ability to advance at the student’s pace and the school published that it had offered an Advanced Learning path.
During the first month, I had reached out to our homeroom teacher asking for some guidance with some challenges we were facing. We were told that teachers and staff would respond within 24 hours. However, in practice, it was usually 48 hours or longer, if we received any response at all. Communication is really important to us, and I believe that with good communication, parent-teacher relationships thrive. With it being so difficult to reach a teacher when help was needed or getting a response back when reaching out to the teacher, this was a big deal for us. This issue followed us all the way until the day we requested to withdraw.
Lack of Truly Flexible School Hours
As I mentioned above, with the amount of work that our son had to actually do and turn in for grades, there was no true flexibility in the end. For example, we were taking our son to a horseback riding lesson, but in order to not fall behind and stay on track with lessons and work, he had to work in the car all the way there and back, about 45 minutes to an hour one way. There was no time to “be” without the pressure of school getting complete.
In addition, classes were required for attendance. Although recordings were available to listen and watch at a later time, it was discouraged to watch the recordings. Also, classes were at least an hour in length on top of all other required work. Having classes did not mean any reduction of lessons within the course calendar. We just felt that school should not dictate that much of our schedule, especially for a program that marketed flexible hours.
These were just a few of our biggest challenges. We even reached out to lead teachers prior to withdrawing thinking we were doing something wrong or that we were missing something, but never heard back and further pursued withdrawal. When it came to withdrawing from the school, we went through the required process, filling out the necessary forms. Already frustrated, we submitted our forms with the requested withdrawal date, but our school access was terminated the next day, a whole week and a half before the requested end date. We were so frustrated, but in the end, it was no surprises that this was how our school experience ended.
With the withdrawal from the K12 program, we learned that we were more ready than we thought to take on the full capacity of homeschooling. Though we doubted ourselves at the beginning of the school year to be able to provide a quality education for our son, we knew after all that we went through with the program that we could provide a better school education that what was offered. So we made the transition to full-on homeschooling.