The upcoming school year will be Namine’s seventh enrolled in Rural Virtual Academy — she’s attended since Kindergarten — so these orientations are nothing new to us. In fact, we remember when the meetings could fit everyone in a single room and were held in a school building. Now there are so many people at each meeting that they hold it in a hotel.
The RVA’s growth is astounding to us, and we’re so proud to be a part of it. They’ve helped Namine — all of us, really — in a time when we didn’t know what to do. We had pulled her out of the public school with no alternative yet in mind. We didn’t know where to go, but we knew that we couldn’t keep Namine in that toxic environment any longer. It was only by word of mouth from a fellow parent at Namine’s therapy that we found out about the RVA, but that’s the beauty of it. By that same word of mouth, we’ve told other families about the RVA, and some of them have since enrolled their children as well.
Another of the RVA’s advantages is its flexibility. Unlike brick-and-mortar schools, students are not limited to a single curriculum. In fact, this year Namine is enrolled in two different curriculums: BookShark for most classes and RVA Online for science.
I want to take a moment to talk about BookShark, the curriculum which Namine has been taking for several years now. It’s literature-based, which means there’s a lot of reading. I mean a lot. Namine has books that she has to read by herself, books that she reads with Jessica, and books that I read to her in the evening. It works for us because Namine loves to read, and that’s the beauty of the RVA: each family can pick what works for them. If something doesn’t work out, the student’s RVA teacher will help to find something more suitable.
This year will be Namine’s first in participating in a live online class. That is to say, her science class is held at a particular time — 8:00 every morning, in this case — and Namine joins the video call to attend. Unfortunately, she also has therapy once a week, and its time overlaps with the online science class. But this is another example of how flexible the RVA is, even with a nonnegotiable class time: the video call is recorded, and Namine has permission from her teacher to be absent from that one day a week.
One of the criticisms home schooling receives is the lack of social interaction. Fortunately, the RVA is aware of this and it does a wonderful job of mitigating it. In addition to requiring each student to fulfill a number of community service hours, they also organize field trips throughout the state. It was through some of these field trips that Namine has met some of her classmates, and become good friends with them. The RVA also holds what they call Gallery Night, an optional event where each student can present whatever they wish. In the past few years, Namine has spoken about one of her personal heroes, Harriet Tubman; the places she’s visited in Wisconsin; and animals she’s learned about.
You can probably tell that we like the RVA a lot. They’ve done so much for us, helping us out with Namine’s education as much as they have. As they continue to grow, we consider ourselves extremely lucky to be a part of it. We can’t wait to see what the future brings!