Using K12 to teach, despite themselves.

I hate to admit, but I’m a little behind in Fae’s schooling. Not for lack of trying, that’s for sure. K12 had an influx of new state Virtual Academies (Oregon’s, ORVA, being one of those). These are publicly funded schools through the state that act like a public school in their admissions, attendance, and performance requirements. So, Zae will still need to attend X amount of days in school (online), even though she’s breezing through her Math and Phonics. And when she starts third grade, she’ll have to take regular state-required SCANTRON assessments.

But, it’s free. We even get a decent loaner computer, printer, and flat screen monitor. Plus all the other materials… blocks, colored geometric tiles, something like 30 children books (for Language Arts, Science, and History. Lots of good ethnically-based books, too), magnifying glasses, a globe, etc.

That is, when we get them. Sometimes we have to be creative.

We have about two-thirds of our materials now, with the balance to be shipped hopefully this week. An increase this year of 300%, plus what seems like server and platform upgrades, have caused all kinds of trouble for parents looking to start teaching on the first day. Our first day was September 3rd, so, we’re going to be about 3 weeks behind when all our materials get here.

Science Lesson Plan 9/12/2008

Science Lesson Plan 9/12/2008

Luckily, the online environment affords some flexibility. Each lesson is based on mastery of a concept, not necessarily the busy-work that accompanies the lesson. If we can find a way to mold our own lesson to teach the concept, then we’ve got the green light from her teacher (who is more instructional coach for the parents, than teacher for the kids). Talking about math concepts while baking counts as attendance for math, as does reading bedtime stories while discussing them with Fae counts as attendance for language arts. It just takes some creativity, and planning early on in the day (or the night before, if I can drag myself to the computer after the kids are put to bed).

Last week, the lesson for science focused on the five senses. Fae knows the senses, what they do, etc., so we contemplated having her “test out” of the lesson, especially since we didn’t have the science materials yet (they’ll be here, maybe the end of this week). Instead, Kiki and I came up with a kick-ass lesson using some of our household items.

The first part of the lesson was reviewing each of the senses. We gathered 3-4 items to represent each sense, and had Fae try out each one, then discuss them. She apparently likes salt, cinnamon, ringing bells, and playing the harmonica (really, a pitch pipe).

Science Lesson 9/12/2008 - The Five Senses Mystery Items

Science Lesson 9/12/2008 - The Five Senses Mystery Items

The second part was a mystery game. We gathered some pens, markets, a screwdriver, Fae’s underwear (clean), my keys, crinkly ribbon, an apple, and a DVD. Then, we placed a sheet over the top to hide them. Fae had to guess each item using her senses. She seemed to have fun with it and the first exercise. Much moreso than if she was just coloring the Five Senses or matching them in a workbook page.

Fae got to play with the geometric blocks and the colored geometric tiles on Friday. I was able to do a short 20 minute lesson on the senses, having her feel the differences between the plastic tiles and the wooden blocks; the different sounds when they’re dropped; their smell; and how the wooden blocks were all one color, while the tiles were multi-colored. Then we got about 15 minutes of additional math work out of the way by talking about the different shapes, their names, number of sides, etc.

Today, she’s playing with a magnifying glass that we received today.

“This magnifying glass can do anything! I’m going to look at everything with it,” according to Fae.

I figure I’ll give her about 30-45 minutes of exploring with it, before talking with her about what she saw. I doubt we’d get that kind of flexibility and emergent curriculum from a brick-and-mortar public school.

Then, later today, it’s off to the boring workbook pages.


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About PDX Dad

Simple father from Portland, Oregon. International logistics by trade, economics by education, writer by passion.

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