First let me say we don't get anything for mentioning the schools that we have used. I have been asked many questions over the years by many families considering cyberschool about our experience with them and I thought it would be easier to write it down for everyone to view. We currently use CCA (Commonwealth Connections Academy) as our cyberschool for our Middle School and High School students.
Our first experience with school at home was with my now 8th grader, C., who was in 1st grade at the time. C has some health issues that caused her to miss a significant number of days and the district was discussing holding her back even though she had completed the work at home. We knew someone who knew someone who cyberschooled and after reviewing the available information we enrolled with PAVCS (Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School). They use K12 materials and we were very satisfied with the results. We did the second half of 1st grade and all of 2nd grade with them. In 3rd grade we placed her back in public school. More information about her experiences at the end of this intro.
Our second experience was with our 12th grader, K., when she was in 8th grade. K is gifted and after trying several schooling options and after K began showing some serious social issues as well as a lack of desire to do any school work we opted to cyberschool her. We really felt like we needed step up and take control of her education. We also felt like, for her emotional well being, she really needed to get reconnected at home. We chose CCA (Commonwealth Connections Academy) for her. One big reason we chose CCA is that they have an office where all the teachers work together during the day and that is close to our home. Many of the cyberschool teachers at other cyberschools work from home, which is fine, but for us we liked the availability of having them accessible at an office.
K's 8th grade homeroom teacher was amazingly flexible during her "time of adjustment". It took her a full marking period to figure out that her choices and actions would be directly reflected in her grades. CCA allows acceleration, so when she figured out that she was actually challenged and could move at her own pace she flew through 8th and 9th!! grade in one school year. During her last two school years she has opted to take AP English courses and tried a variety of electives. We have found all of the CCA teachers to be very willing to help when needed via phone calls, live lessons over the computer and on occasion tutoring on the computer and or at the office.
One of the most frequent questions we get is concerning socialization. She is involved in several student clubs including Government Club where they go to the state capitol and participate in mock policy making. We attend field trips and optional academic opportunities organized by the school, additional activities through a local homeschool group and trips we plan our selves. She had the "Prom Experience" when she attended a local homeschoolers prom last year. She graduates this year :-) and will be giving a speech at Graduation. K has done an amazing job and has been accepted to all of the colleges that she has applied to :-) She has had all of the "typical high school experiences" without the massive peer pressure and mediocre expectations. We have never regretted making this choice for her.
Our 3rd child, N., is profoundly gifted. I will discuss him more in the "gifted homeschooling" page. We started him in a gifted charter school for K & 1st grade. N has some sensory issues which made it very difficult for him to focus in the class room. N had developed some fidgetting that helped him cope with having to attend so long in the class room but these fidgets were a distraction to his teacher. I will talk more about "sensory issues" in the Autism & Homeschooling page. Our 4th child, J, is on the Autism spectrum and deals with sensory issues so I feel like that will be the place to really develop this subject. N became very distracted, bored and his progress at school was not equal with what he was doing at home. For example the teacher was certain he could not read when he was reading chapter books at home. By this time we knew cyberschool was a viable option and it was very easy to make the decision for him. We chose to work with Agora cyber school for the remainder of 1st grade. He tested into their 3rd grade level. N easily completed their work and still was not feeling challenged. We were feeling like the teacher thought we were doing his work for him. I can't understand what the point of that would be?? but at any rate we moved him to CCA for 2nd grade. He tested into their 5th grade math and 4th grade everything else. His homeroom teacher was AMAZING!! She raised two gifted boys of her own and really believed in our sons abilities. If he could have had her this year we might have opted to keep him with CCA but we decided to homeschool him as we didn't feel he was ready for middle school content at 9 years old. CCA is bound by public school rules so while the acceleration was a positive we feel like we have more room to make adjustments between N's age and capabilities as a homeschooler. So again more about N in the gifted homeschooling tab :-)
We began our cyber experience with our 2nd child, C, and we put her back in public school when her health allowed for it. She is extremely social and we felt it was the best option for her. She did well transitioning back in 3rd grade and was doing well academically. When she went up to the middle school she began showing anxiety about the school violence. Several incidences related to school violence and bullying in her 7th grade year led her to literally BEG to be cyberschooled with her siblings. Our final straw with this issue was when C was surrounded in the hall way, in view of a teacher, and physically harrassed by a group of bullies. The teacher went into her room and did nothing! When we reported it to the principal he said it was not caught on one of the school cameras so he could do nothing about it!! C was terrified to return to school and frankly we were very uncomfortable sending her. We called CCA and explained our concerns and C was enrolled with supplies and a computer all delivered within 2 weeks. C has done an amazing job, as expected, with her grades. ALL of her teachers have been wonderful to work with especially concerning her struggles with Algebra. I believe C and I share something called Dyscalculia which makes math very difficult for us to learn and retain. :-( C is in Honors LA which offers her challenge where she needs it :-) She still keeps in touch with her friends (she loves Facebook!! a good tool if monitored…we set up her account, pass worded it and she must be finished with daily work in order to get on) and she has made many new friends through CCA, church, volunteering for local organizations, a drama group etc. Another plus is her overall health has improved drastically with the decreased exposure to illness at brick and mortar school. When she is having a rough time she can take the laptop to bed or work later in the day or on weekends. Above all C feels safe to learn and be herself in the cyberschool community which is what is most important to us as parents. So again cyberschool continues to be the right fit for C :-)
Beyond how well cyberschool has worked for our children, I really feel more comfortable letting someone else teach Algebra and middle/high school Science. I like them having teachers to go to with problems while I just have to make sure K & C are keeping on task. I also like that I don't have to do portfolios for them for middle/high school. I love that the cyberschool supplies all of the books and the computer etc. It is a very nice "half way" or blending between public school and homeschool for us.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask. There are over a dozen cyberschools in PA and all have very different options. CCA is the PA branch of Connections Academy which is based in Baltimore MD and offers programs in several other states. I encourage you to Google cyberschooling and your state to see what is available to you. There is a wealth of information out there as well as experience and I hope that this is a bit of both for you.