Schooling in Pajamas

Why we love Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA)

This is our second year at GCA. We started last year in kindergarten and moved to first grade this year.

First I will give you a bit of background on us. I homeschooled my older two sons until 5th and 3rd grades. We loved it but had just moved back to Georgia and I ended up getting a full time job along with having my third child. I was highly upset with this scenario but circumstances didn’t care.

In middle school both the older boys began playing instruments and took an immediate love to playing music. Point number one for allowing them to stay at the middle school. My oldest is a junior this year and is a member of his school’s marching band. The first thing he has taken ownership of.

Point number two comes with my middle child being accepted into the early college program our county runs. This is a great program especially since he is advanced and even the ACE program would not have been enough for him. Now he has incentative because starting this year in 9th grade he could qualify for college courses.

Those reasons are why I have two in the traditional brick and mortar schools. However, we are in the process of registering my middle child (the early college one) for GCA. (That’s a totally different post altogether.)

Now for why we chose GCA for my youngest.

We sent my youngest to preschool when he was four. It was a horrible experience for us. Being four, he started out as the youngest. (His birthday falls in June.) His teacher was switched four times which did not sit well with him. Then everyday I was hearing about his behavior and how he didn’t want to do what they were doing. When I asked what they were doing, well that answered the why of his behavior. We had been working with him since he was 1 or so with just fun things. SO by four he was already writing, knew his shapes, could count to 25 and so on. That did not sit with his teacher who did not want to find him something more challenging. Then she did not take into account that all the kids where a year older than him. He had just turned four when they were all five. And by the end of the year he was not five yet but they were all six. Talk a gap in maturity. So we always heard he won’t sit still or won’t line up, etc etc.

After talking to a teacher friend, she said he would be doing all that again for kindergarten. We started talking about all he could do and she gave him a “test” type evaluation (informal) and stated that he was were the kindergartners would be at after Christmas.

That was all I needed to hear. We had previous experience with GCA when we first moved back to Georgia. So I looked into it and made the decision to enroll him. We have not regretted it at all.

Yes, I thought some things in kindergarten were silly and that he already knew a lot of it. But that is what is great about GCA. Constant contact with his teacher allowed us to sped up his pace. He took the assessments for what he already knew (80 required on assessments to move on) and passed with flying colors. So we were able to concentrate on what he did not know and master those. We were working in first grade math and ela right after Christmas break.

Would the regular brick and mortar school have allowed that? NO, they would not have.

That is perfect point number one: moving at your own pace.
Another reason we love GCA is the way the lessons are laid out. K12 gives a lot in there lessons to cover different learning styles. Some lessons we used what they had on the online school and the student books and some days we used library books and printed out games to get the lesson across. Then we would take the assessment and move on.

Having previously homeschooled, I love not having all the planning and finding materials to do. And I love being able to do that anyway when needed because I already have a guide of what needs to be learned and how in depth to go or not go. The best of both worlds I think. Even if you have not homeschooled I think you can easily adapt the same way. For kindergarten, we used youtube a lot for math and science.

That is perfect point number two: easily customized.

GCA also has class connects which are done over the internet in a virtual classroom. No special equipment needed but some teachers allow the kids to talk so having a microphone is a good idea. No need to worry about having a web cam since very few use them. If anything, the teachers us it to allow the kids to see them as they talk but not always. The classrooms allow the kids to interact with the teacher while going over things they are learning or will learn. There is interaction between student and teacher. It is not the teacher talking and the kids just sit there. For kindergarten, you might want to sit with them but I did not always do that. It depended on the class but I was always close by listening.

Along with the class connects there is Dibels testing which depending on teacher is done over the phone or through the virtual class. Ours was combined. We would sign in, then she would call. He would look at the screen for what to read or do and then tell her over the phone. All teachers have one face-to-face test date. But since we lived over 3 hours from her, we did not take up on this. We also had weekly newsletters sent via the school email system as well as annoucements and other items.

Perfect Point three is: lots of ways to communicate.

The online school system can be challenging to learn but once you know how to use it and tweak what you need to (such as the schedule) then it is a breeze to set things up. I like being able to check our percentage of progress in each subject as well as see what is coming up next week or even next month. You have daily schedules provided as well as weekly schedules. You will know in advance and what day and time a class connect is because the teachers add them straight to your plans for you to see. The learning coach (the adult that helps the student) can see what advanced prep is needed, the supplies needed, what workbook pages needed, and some courses have the teachers book online not a hardcopy. If a course has a hard copy then you get that teacher book in your supplies that are shipped to you.

Perfect point four: you can easily prep for what is coming up.

Just so you know, not everything for us went perfectly smooth or was welcomed. But when keeping in mind that we are still in a public school and not a private “home school” then it was a bit easier to take.

Internet/web issues always happen and always seem to happen when something is due that day. Two ways to deal with this is use the ability to prep ahead and use the ability to communicate with your teacher by phone. Or even use the handy dandy smart phone you might have and email through that.

One of our pet peeves last year was during certain class connect sessions (mainly during the ALP ones) was that certain students always seemed to distract or not listen to the instructions. This distracted my son and kept the teacher constantly stopping for these students.  Depending on the teacher and how your student is, you may not have to attend the classes. After the second month of school, we did not unless it was something he needed or required. We stopped ALP classes even though he like them for the reason I already stated.

A few subjects that were added to kindergarten felt like a waste of time. But being positive we worked on these and sometimes doubled up on them to get that subject out of the way. Problem solved.

There is so much more I could write on all the positives and I only have a few negatives  but overall, I love our experience with GCA.  Look for other posts about our kindergarten experience as I post them. They will be tagged “kindergarten”.

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