A while back, I wrote about the orientation classes for Namine’s virtual school and the homeschool co-op. Now, a few weeks into the school year, we’ve settled into a pretty solid schedule. Every family that homeschools for one reason or another has a routine that works for them, and I’d like to share a little bit about ours.
School at home
I’ve written before about the RVA — Rural Virtual Academy — the virtual school that is the primary source of Namine’s education. It’s a public school, so as far as the state is concerned, it’s no different than sending her to a brick-and-mortar public school down the road. Namine has a teacher who communicates with us via email or SMS and gives assignments, but for the most part is a teacher in job title alone. It’s Jessica who does the teaching from day to day, grades the assignments, and helps Namine when she gets stuck.
This routine has been pretty standard for Namine since starting with the RVA in Kindergarten. For most classes, it hasn’t changed. But one classes has changed: her science class is held at a certain time in an online virtual classroom. This is new for Namine, since in this case she can’t do the lesson at any time; she has to adhere to the teacher’s set schedule.
There are usually some pretty good reasons for a child to attend a virtual school, as opposed to a traditional brick-and-mortar one. In Namine’s case, one is therapy. The RVA gives us the flexibility to work school around her PT/OT sessions… except that science is scheduled at the same time as therapy, one day each week.
I’ve written at length about how understanding the RVA staff has been with regard to Namine’s needs. Similarly, she was excused from science class so she could attend therapy. The live lessons are recorded, so she can watch the lesson when she gets home. (The teachers encourage questions, so she’s always welcome to email her.)
I want to mention one other thing about the online class. For the first few weeks of school, students are required to attend the live lessons. With the exception of the one day a week due to therapy, this was true for Namine too. If the teacher felt the student was capable, students may be granted “flexibility” — that is, permission to be absent from the live lessons with the understanding that they’d watch it and still complete the classwork on their own time.
We were pleased, but not especially surprised, that Namine’s teacher granted her flexibility in her science class. After some discussion, Namine agreed that she would still continue to attend the live lessons, despite the early mornings. Doing so has several benefits: she’s up early to get school done, she can ask the teacher any questions in class, she benefits from other students’ questions, and she can greet her classmates in real time.
As if a full sixth grade workload isn’t enough, the RVA isn’t the only school Namine attends. She also attends Bright Rising Arts & Education, a Christian homeschool co-op that puts quite a bit of emphasis on the arts (hence the name).
Last year Namine was in twoplays with them. She’s looking forward to playing a Lost Boy in their production of Peter Pan in December, and next (calendar) year she’s planning on being in The Music Man.
In addition to the plays’ rehearsals, Namine is also taking Unit Studies, a class which covers a wide breadth of material including history, geography, and literature; Drama, which is closely tied to acting but still a separate class; Choir; and Sign Language.
If I had to guess — which I don’t — I would say that learning American Sign Language is the highlight of Namine’s year so far at Bright Rising. Ever since relearning the alphabet, she’s been forcing Jessica and myself to keep up with her. She’s definitely taken to heart her teacher’s instruction to practice every day.
I say “relearning” because when Namine was younger, we did sign to each other quite a bit. Namine had a tracheostomy breathing tube from birth until she was about two and a half years old. While she had the trache, it was difficult for her to vocalize, so Jessica and I started signing.
Namine was proficient in what she needed to say, and made her own signs when she couldn’t imitate the correct ones. Our use of ASL fell away once she was decannulated (a word which here means “got rid of her trache”), but lately she’s become interested in learning it once again.