We find this homeschooling lifestyle to be ideal for our family, but it is still a time consuming endeavor for myself to come up with curriculum and motivate Autumn to do enough work each week, and just like anything, at times it can be a challenge. We were using a delight/literature based method of teaching that followed Autumn's lead on almost every subject. This meant lots of trips to the library and research into topics of curiosity, but not much structure.
This has been working great for us, and I am sure we could have continued using this method happily for many years to come, but then I came across some information advertising Michigan Connections Academy (MICA). It is a public school system that is government funded and offers a K-12 curriculum online for free. The school provides many of their students with computers and internet vouchers, and all students recieve textbooks, workbooks, art supplies, science experiment supplies etc. Each student is assigned to a grade, recieves a teacher, and is required to log so many hours of work each day. Students turn in work and are assessed through portfolios that are mailed or faxed, online tests, phone calls from their teachers, attendance in live sessions using skype, and standardized testing such as the MEAP.
We decided to give MICA a try for six reasons:
1. We were looking for some structure to motivate us, give us some goals to work for, and provide a bit of schedule into our day, yet still allow us the freedom to decide when to do the work. With MICA we will have to log a certain number of hours each day and complete all the assignments, but if Autumn wants to do school work at 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. or on a computer in Florida or Europe it should be O.K.
2. We wanted school records for Autumn's future in case she decides to return to a brick and mortar school or for college.
3. Autumn is advanced in certain subjects and just average in others, and MICA tested her and placed her into the appropriate classes based upon her test scores. This is somthing that we know wouldn't occur in a brick and mortar school. We like that MICA is willing to acknowledge that a student might be working at a different grade level than they should be.
4. It is FREE, and is going to save us a TON of money! Even though most of our homeschool materials were found at the library, we still invested money into math texts, tutors, workbooks etc. Even with plenty of creativity, we were still spending money on our homeschooling.
5. If we don't like it we can leave! Since MICA is a public school we are under no obligation to continue if it is not working out. We have already decided that even if we don't like it at first, we will commit to finishing out the year, because just like any new experience there is a learning curve and some time that needs to be invested into getting used to the change. However, at the end of the year if we are unhappy all we need to do is return the computer and texts in their orignal boxes and decide not to enroll again in the fall.
6. So far all of our experiences with MICA have been positive. They responded to my request for information with lightening speed, they helped my through the online enrollment process with a few friendly phone calls, we recieved more positive and friendly phone calls when they were in the process of placing Autumn in the appropriate courses, they called again to alert us when she was accepted and enrolled, and immedietly shipped Autumn a desktop computer within the week she accepted her enrollement, they offered wonderful online courses to guide us through their system and teach us our responsibilities for the year and what to expect, and this week we recieved our second delivery from the UPS man containing all of Autumn's t school supplies. I can honestly say that so far they have been the friendliest and most informative organization that I have dealt with. This leads me to believe and hope that this trend will continue throughout the school year.
Our only worries about this new school adventure is that it will either be too much structure and work and throw our feelings of freedom off, it will be more "busy work" than we expected, or we will find out that we are behind somehow in a subject. However, Autumn has decided that if the assignments take longer than she is used to she will just start earlier in the day or do additional work at night.
I think overall we are more excited about this new homeschool experience than we are nervous! Below is a video I took today of Autumn going through all of the materials she recieved via UPS. It was like Christmas, and Autumn was so excited that she plopped down on the couch and read both of her reading books straight through from cover to cover! She thinks they are great and wants to start working already....that's a really good sign of what is to come!
I will continue to make updates throughout the year on my thoughts about MICA in case you are considering this school or a Connections Academy in a different state.