Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and the Plan For Next Year

Since Abi started school, we've used the Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA) so that we were in a state charter school and could get services. This has gone well for the most part. There are many things we've liked about it, and some things that have been a huge pain.

We decided next year to withdraw her from the IDVA and go to only homeschooling. 

It's not a decision we came to lightly.

Here are a few of the good and bad things about using the IDVA this year:

The Good

This year, they managed to get most of our braille materials to us on time. I say most, because we still didn't get everything. Still having lots of books is never a bad thing!

The lady at the Idaho State School for the Deaf and the Blind who transcribed our math book has been wonderful! She emailed me asking the best way to make certain visual problems work for Abi and to ask how I planned to teach certain things (ie "under/above" or patterns). I've loved working with her.

Having the math book in braille was cool, although we haven't used it all that much. So much more of her math instruction has been done using the abacus and magnetic math board that I didn't feel like the book was worth all the trouble.

Having Teacher J come every two weeks to give an Orientation and Mobility lesson has ended up being a positive thing. All year last year, I found her lessons stressful as they were way below Abi's ability level and ended up holding her back. This year, our communication has been better, and Teacher J has been delightful to work with, as well as giving us ideas for coping with the total vision loss Abi went through this summer.

The Braille teacher, Teacher D, has been a blessing too. At the same time, he is here so few hours every week that most of her learning is with me anyway. Still, he's been a good resource for teaching strategies and he has a ton of experience, so he anticipates pitfalls and works around them.

So, there are many wonderful things happening. Still, a lot of those things can continue, although I'll have to make sure to do them myself. I'm not too intimidated, since I've done a lot of research and had good training.

I will miss Abi's SpEd teacher, Miss B. She has been wonderful in helping us problem-solve and get equipment. She is the reason we had our braille on time this year. She had to put in the request last January. That's a gem of a teacher!

The Bad

One of the things that has been a pain is that the lessons in the IDVA curriculum are so very visual. I've had to adapt or skip every. single. lesson. Every one. Which pretty much makes double the work for me.

Not only do I have to reinvent the wheel with each lesson, I still have to go back and jump through the hoops in the online school. Making sure attendance is marked and progress updated on lessons that we didn't do is a major headache. For example in the screenshot above, Abi is supposed to be learning subtraction using Common Core principles such as number lines. In reality, she is learning subtraction using skip counting on the abacus and using objects. So she is learning subtraction, and meeting the objectives, but I still have to mark attendance and progress on their lessons.

Another big problem has been materials and equipment. Last year, we didn't get all her braille books until nearly Christmastime. This year, I requested science eqiupment, and we have never gotten it at all. In the box of science stuff, there is a pair of safety glasses and a magnifying glass (irony, anyone?) but not the swing arm balance that Little Mister got in first grade. We requested one for months and never got it. Finally we went to the Science Center in town and used theirs. 

I could have done that, without an IEP meeting, yards of email space and all the time and frustration I put into trying to get a balance.

Speaking of the IEP, those things are such a pain! Not to mention the crazy tests that rarely get transcribed or administered smoothly. All of the red tape that state schools have to go through staggers me.

The Plan

Next year, I'm going to take all the time, energy and work I've been pouring into adapting the IDVA curriculum into creating my own, hands-on, unschooly curriculum, like I do with my other kids.

We did a fundraiser and asked for donations to purchase a 40-cell refreshable braille display (that belongs to us, not the school). Using that with the BARD, Kindle and iBooks apps on my iPhone, we have access to thousands of books. Like I've already done, I'll transcribe books myself, too,

We'll keep using the abacus, Perkins brailler and magnetic math board to learn all of the math, money, time, graphs and such that she'll need. 

With these tools, we are poised to start schooling just like the other kids do, pursuing our interests, using hands-on and real life learning to delve into science, history, reading, math, vocabulary, art, music and PE. I'm excited, and am just trying to hang on until we are done with this year's shenanigans!