I tried one day of free for all “let’s learn about whatever we can find” home school, and quickly realized it was not going to be enough to satisfy my kidlets or me.  A neighbour drove us to nearby International schools to get information about registration (as immigrants we are not permitted by the Ministry of Education to enroll our children into the public school system).  They were full, or really expensive!  I had been informed about K12 iCademy before we left Canada, and had it in mind in the event I would need more support.  It wasn’t hard to decide that we would stick to the original plan and go ahead with the K12 Home School program.

Why homeschool you ask?  I am not experienced, and honestly I am scared about the quality of education my kids are going to get from me.  For the area we’re in (not really knowing how to get around), with the desire to travel (lots of pulling out of school), and the low price (compared to private school) we felt this was the best fit.  Besides, if I ever track down the Beginners Arab classes, I may learn something too!

The kids definitely work at their own pace.  Kirsten likes to be done early, and she wakes up early so she hits the books first thing in the morning.  She had a subject done before I even got out of bed.  Lilli and Jaron, however, need quite a bit more encouragement to stay focused on the task at hand.  They won’t pull a book off the shelf until my uvula is ringing like a school bell.

My biggest pet peeve with the program right now, is that they claim to supply you with everything you need.  Whatever is not supplied is mentioned in a “Materials list” in the Advanced Prep section of my daily or weekly schedule for each child.  The irritating part is that this list only mentions the material they actually do provide, not the materials they expect you to have “lying around”.  For example, Jaron’s math activity required paper clips, not a big deal I substituted blocks (they provided those).  Kirsten was asked to draw and paint a landscape with watercolors…but they don’t provide the watercolor paint, or all the brushes, or the paper even!  Another few items that keep coming up are index cards and notebooks.  Guess what, I missed the “back to school” sales.  You think I could find either of those?  Not to save my life.  Not even a 3-ring binder and loose leaf paper!  For most of the other stuff, I don’t find out the kids need it until they are half way through a lesson, then it’s off to the University Bookstore, nearest grocery store or next shopping excursion to Dubai and they are left in limbo unable to move on in their course.  Most other schools supply a list of additional materials, why not you K12, why not you?

Let’s talk about the material.  It is set up fairly idiot proof.  Each child has a Daily and Weekly Schedule link.  When you follow this link you are provided with a list of courses (core and elective) that your children are enrolled in.  You can adjust what courses show up for what day, and hide courses they may be favouring to allow focus to be shifted towards neglected classes.  Each course lesson is setup like a slideshow, with links and prompts to videos, or interactive material for the kids.  Not everything is done online, and they are prompted when they need to take material “offline” and work on it on there own.  In the slideshow the required materials are listed for myself as the “Learning Coach” and for the kids.  I have my own set of textbooks with solutions and teaching tips to help me guide the kids, and they have their own textbooks and workbooks (mostly) to get through the lesson.  Most lessons are followed by a quick multiple choice assessment to see if they have retained information from the lesson.  This is a point where I need to punch in my password to unlock the slideshow allowing them to progress.  When they complete the lesson, I sign off on their attendance and they get a check next to the course completed.  They each have their own sign in that is monitored by their individual class teachers and homeroom teach contact, as well as myself.  So we are alerted if the kids don’t sign in for more than 3 days.

Your next question is going to be about socialization.  Well there is actually quite a community for the homeschool kids.  I’m constantly getting messages to attend events in the area with other K12 kids.  We have an activity coming up in early November, that will likely depend on my having a driver’s license or someone being available to drive us.  Though we may miss this one, they are happening all the time.  The kids have lots of opportunities to meet the other kids in their classes online in Classroom Connect sessions or Online Study Halls.

The Epicenter, that is literally around the corner from us, opened at the end of September.  The prices were out of our grasp at first and we were very disappointed we weren’t going to be able to send the kids there.  Some discussions must have taken place and the price structure was amended allowing it to be more reasonable for families with MULTIPLE children.  This is the reward the kids look forward too.  If they complete at least 4 courses they can go to the Epicenter during their open hours (which are different everyday).  They have a library/ quiet area (for quiet games and reading), a craft area, climbing wall, theatre/ music room, video gaming systems, ping pong, pool tables and skate park.  Adults are not encouraged to hang out (unless you work there).  So Kirsten takes them over, signs everyone in and they are basically running in all directions for 2 hours.

I really like the independence the kids have, while allowing me to be more hands on.  The last couple of years, with me in school, I have felt completely withdrawn and out of sync with what was going on in their school life.  I know it’s only been 1 week, but I think I’m going to enjoy this.