Schools are closed. Children are at home. Parents still want their kids to continue learning. Now what? Teena Case and Jessica Jansen are experienced homeschool educators. Beth Fuller has years of experience with online public school that also happens at home. Each one has a different approach based on the needs of their individual families.
The Fuller family tried traditional homeschooling for a while when their oldest Ella, 14, was little, but it became too much for Fuller. She then sent her oldest two to a traditional public school. Her second child, Nic, 10, started to have problems.
“I wasn’t excited to have to do all the work for traditional homeschool,” said Fuller. “One day, I heard a radio commercial about virtual school and after looking into it I was so excited.”
Nic and their third child Lily, 8, now attends an online public school at home, called Iowa Virtual Academy (IAVA). IAVA is the public-school option using the K12 platform. Currently, K12.com is offering free resources through June 30.
This is Fuller’s fourth year schooling this way. Nic participates in the sixth grade band and the SEAL program at ADM. Ella decided she wanted to do traditional public school, so she is currently at ADM in the ninth grade.
Fuller and her husband, Nate, a physician’s assistant with UnityPoint in Waukee, have two other children at home, Adele, 5, and Rosalie, around 1.5 months.
The school provides the resources to explain how to teach each lesson.
“The school has all the curriculum. We get all the books and materials shipped to us. We have traditional teachers who meet with the students online,” said Fuller. “It’s a fantastic mix between traditional school and homeschool and it’s what works best for us.”
When the Fuller family first started doing online school, they tried to make it look like a traditional public school. They had a desk to hold the supplies and they did things at certain times of the day. They have evolved into a more relaxed schedule.
“We read where we want. Our desks are portable laptop desks. We take school work on the go sometimes. We do the classes in the order that fits our schedule,” said Fuller. “We listen to music during class, and we take time to do lots of fun activities.”
Their school days vary depending on attention spans and the course load for the day. Typically, they spend 3-6 hours on school work, but they take a lot of breaks.
For supplemental work to go with their lessons, Fuller finds things on Pinterest. They use apps as well to help with spelling. When the kids have specific interests, they look for materials and resources to supplement those topics.
The Fuller family does a lot of other types of education as well.
“We like to sew, cook/bake, work on coding, continue playing with the ideas we learned that day, music- piano, trumpet, dancing, etc.,” said Fuller. “We’re also in homeschool groups, and we love to go to live shows at the civic center.”
The children really like any type of painting, chain reactions, and experiments that are quick and give instant results.
“Something I learned along the way was, to use the materials as they are laid out in the activities, and then let the kids play with them after. It’s amazing what their minds will dream up,” Fuller said.
The Fuller family enjoys being able to set their own schedule and take vacations whenever they want.
The Fuller’s online school is in the Clayton Ridge school district, so they follow their academic calendar. They have breaks and take the summer off.
“My family has always really been into learning, so over the summer, we still take classes, but only things that really interest the kids,” said Fuller. “We keep up on things like math and reading so we don’t have the summer slide.”
Fuller shares tips about doing schooling at home.Relax.Your child is constantly learning. Our job is to lead that learning.Breathe.Remember you’re the parent and they need to learn.Try to find things that interest them most and use those lessons to start.Also, incentives are fantastic. We use learning games at the end of the school day for those who have done their work without complaints.Remember also, that younger kids learn well with play.My teen learns best with incentives, like if you get this done, you can have x time on your phone.
When not in school, the Fuller children love to play outside, play with their friends, go to parks, swim, music lessons, and imaginative play.
The Fuller kids shared their feelings on doing public school online.
Nic feels that learning from home is easier, once the work is finished, he can move onto something else that he wants to do.
“If you have a hard time understanding things, the lesson is always there. If you work ahead, you can take days off and do learning that you want to,” said Nic. “Make sure to do your work, because if you get behind, it takes time to get caught up. Also, talk to the teachers, they are always helpful and nice.”
Lily enjoys learning at home, being with her family, and snuggling her pet. She also likes the extra breaks and free-time.
“It’s fun to talk with your teachers online and they help you learn and they have special sessions for you if you need help,” said Lily. “The teachers will answer any questions you have. You can get ahead in your work and you can get your school work done before the end of the year so you can work on things that interest you.”
Fuller reminds families to give yourself grace as you start educating at home.
“Realize that your child is special,” she said. “They have their own learning style and timing and you’re just trying to find that groove. Once you find that groove, it’s actually fun and exciting.”