Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Connections Academy -- A Homeschooler's Review

This passed fall I enrolled my children into a free online school program at the Connections Academy.  This financially was one of our best options for charter school because...well, it's offered in my state for free.

We were very excited to get our boxes of supplies in the mail.  They shipped them quickly and neatly.  We got textbooks, workbooks, art supplies, a jump rope, and even a yoga CD for the kids to do.  I was optimistic and excited to have my kids home again.  We had missed each other tremendously the few weeks they had gone to school at the local public school.

Before I say any more about this program, I need to say this.  This is NOT a homeschool program.  This is a public school program done at home.  The work load my children had to complete each week was so much, we had a hard time keeping up each week.  My son was in their gifted program for third grade, and there were days he worked 9 hours or more and still did not complete his day's work.

I had to take attendance every day, and their teachers had to touch base with them at least once every two weeks.  If structure is what your child needs, and if they are independent workers, this program may work for you.  My children though started to hate school, they complained when it was time to do school work. Piles of worksheets had taken the fun and enjoyment out of learning.

Just this passed week, I have sent in my notice of intent to the state.  I'm pulling them out of their state funded program, and finishing the school year on my own with them.  I've been eyeing the Oak Meadow curriculum for years, and purchased my son's curricula this passed week.  He will finish out his third grade year with a slower pace.  One that enables him to look deeper on his own, and hopefully will give him a love of learning.

For my daughter, I will be trying the Christopherus curricula.  It's a heavy Waldorf inspired curricula.  Hopefully her inner spirit will shine through with creativity and joy, instead of having to do hours of worksheets every day.

I'm relieved and happy with my choices of dropping them out of the Connections Academy.  It wasn't an easy decision to come to.  In the end, I didn't want them to hate learning.  I want them to be lifelong learners.  Before I was their mother, I was a teacher...and if something isn't working as it should, it needs to be fixed.  I would love to hear if anyone has had any experiences like this, or if they've used these curricula before.

32 comments:

  1. It's definitely given me some food for thought regarding Poot. He needs services, but the amount of work they are requiring him to do over and above the regular curriculum is daunting. They are making him do the first semester all over again simply because of how they test and the days he missed when we had to wait for them to get supplies to us (two and a half weeks in to the semester) and a few sick days that were made up on Saturdays. He has a 95% and has completed everything, but when I try to give them suggestions on how to word questions, etc. so they can get a better sense of what he knows, it falls on deaf ears. They aren't even willing for him to do the second semester over the summer so that he won't have to be even further behind. I now have to send in a daily "accountability" sheet of what we did and when and send in all of his work. His continuing the program is on a week to week basis. So, if he even misses one assignment or phone call, they will kick us out and notify the school district. They even wanted to put him on a strict schedule and only give him one 15 minute break and a 30 minute lunch for the entire school day. That just doesn't work for Poot. We are sort of between a rock and a hard place as he needs services I can't afford to pay for on my own and they provide them for him. I can't really buy curriculum either. He has an amazing speech therapist that they provide to us. We are definitely going to sit down this week and figure out what we can do. I checked in to the Calvert School and they look promising. They have curriculum specifically designed for kids with special needs. It's still a public online school, but they require less contact and babysitting of the parent. We know that a home environment is best for him, and I hope to continue it. I hope this works for your kiddos and perhaps we can set up some play dates and/or field trips. Hugs to all. :)

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  2. You don't have to buy your curriculum. I home schooled Mickey in first grade with out a curricula. There are lots of resources online.

    My experience with the Calvert Academy is that they are similar to connections. I don't think the workload is as intense, but they still require attendance and weekly check ins with their teachers. I tried that last year with Erin, and then withdrew her.

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  3. We have two students enrolled in Connections gifted program. They are in 6th & 8th grades & it's our 4th year. The program was & remains a great fit for our family. It's definitly not for everyone; I wouldn't do it if our kids hated it.

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  4. Im jordan. Im in 6th grade and am really looking forward to going to connections academy. The main thing that im wondering about is how long does it take to enroll? Because i got up this morning at 9:30 thinking that i would be enrolled and starting my classes by 10:00. Now im findind out that i have to take a state test and do a hole load of stuff before i can even start. And how long does it take for your textbooks and other supplies to get here? Because my mom says it will probably take at least a month for everything to get worked out.
    Please help me out and comment cause i reall want to start!

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    1. Hi Jordan,
      I'm not sure I can be of much help to you. I think it depends on your state as to how long it takes to start. My kids got started in about a week or so. They did need placement tests if I remember correctly.

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    2. It took about a week (or for us) to get all the different forms and things faxed in, then it takes them about a day to receive and verify all of them. Then sometimes you have to take a placement test in which it takes another day. Enrolling isn't quick and it's not meant to be. Just be patient, I'm in 8th grade, I understand being impatient to start. haha

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  5. We also are first year at Connections in Louisiana. I am currently working on building my own curriculum for both of our girls. The amount of work daily is crazy. They are all LEAP all the time. There is no flexibly, which enrollment will tell you over and over there is. Once we were in about two weeks they were adding more classes to practice the state LEAP testing. Now they are dropping assessments and replacing them with the new style LEAP practice that is coming along. What is upsetting is that not one person from enrollment to the homeroom teacher was honest with us about the prep for the LEAP. I asked if they stressed the test the entire year and they told me no. From what other parents are saying, as the year goes on it gets worse and they start dropping important lessons to practice the test. The 6th grade teachers are difficult to communicate with. When you have a problem with a lesson they take forever to come back to you to solve it and the lesson sits overdue and you can't move on. Then the homeroom teacher fusses because there are overdue lessons and they change your attendance hours. We are completely discouraged with the program. Also, the teachers DO NOT like those of us who are homeschoolers and make no bones about tell you that. They like to remind you that THEY are the teachers, yet they have no contact with my children AT ALL. I will use the rest of the semester to build our own work using the internet. We signed up for this because it was free and we seem to be getting what we paid for. I think we can get better free elsewhere. If someone has never homeschooled before and aren't opposed to state high stakes testing Connections might be a good choice, but for those of us used to freedom to switch gears when your child is excited about a topic or to take a fun learning day trip, this is NOT a good choice. We can't even visit a museum and count it as a school day unless the entire school has it planned as a field trip.

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    1. Jenn, what you state is one of my major problems with public school in general. In most cases the Connections Academy is an at home public school, not homeschooling. I hate to get political here, but with No Child Left Behind most schools are gearing up for test taking. One of the local schools here I have heard has just finished a 3 week round of testing. During this round there were no specials (art/music/pe) and no recess. Students were not allowed to do anything when they finished their portions of the test either. No books, nothing else. They just had to sit there.

      This is actually one of my reasons for homeschooling. I want my kids to learn and discover passionately. I want them to enjoy reading, and just have an overall fantastic childhood. I don't think the stress of testing, and teaching to pass tests fits within that scenario. My children are learning material, not learning how to take a test.

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  6. I was searching google to find out how to UNENROLL my kids from Connections and came across your blog... My 3 youngest kids have been doing connections since August and they all hate it. They are all way behind on the portfolios and , quite frankly, it is not working for our family.
    How in the heck did you unenroll them from conncetions?

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  7. Hi Lucia,
    I had to call to take them out. It was a simple process and they sent an empty box to put all the supplies back in. Here is a link to the enrollment section of their website. Call the 800 number on the top.

    http://www.connectionsacademy.com/enroll/enroll.aspx

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  8. Hi everyone, I was wondering if anyone else had problems with their children sumbiting work (mainly portfolios) and your children were told it was the wrong work or it was never handed in? I am a bit frustrated and would love feedback. Thanks :)

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    1. Hi Cynthia,
      I would email your child's teacher. If there was one thing I remember about using Connections Academy was that the teachers they had were tremendously helpful. Good luck.

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    2. Hi concerned or Frustrated parents!
      I'm currently employed by CA and I have children who were enrolled. Both completed high school. My daughter is currently pursuing a degree as a RN. She has 2 semesters left. CA is definitely not a home school program. If you are not committed nor have the time and an active participant in your child's educational path, then it's not for you. Especially in the early stages of education, ex: K-8. As students get older they become more independent and require less help from parents. Now, remember this is state funded programs, but a more tailored to suit your child's pace. If the work is too advanced there are counselor and teachers always available. Which in my opinion is a plus, because unlike home schooling, you're not alone. In addition, this program works well for children with behavioral issues and children who are bullied constantly. I'm not being biased. I'm being honest. This is a wonderful opportunity for so many children (at no cost to the parents) without the classroom settings. And also a wonderful way for parents to bond with their children.

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  9. I want to drop out of connections academy I hate it so much and it has caused nothing but problems for me, I've been so stressed out about the work that I haven't even learned anything at all. I'm living with my grandparents right now and when I tell my grandpa how I felt about it at the beginning of the school year, he just said to suck it up and now I'm about to take the yearly testing which I probably will fail now. I just wanna give up I don't know what to do, I'm in grade 8.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear you're having such a rough go at things. Is there a teacher you can talk to? My children had a teacher when they were enrolled. Perhaps they can help?

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  10. I want to enroll and am going to tell my mom about Connections. Will they mail me everything I need? I am having trouble in my school because people disrupting the class and my teacher couldnt care less if we passed or not. Is there anything GOOD about Connections or is it a waste of time. I am dedicated. Also can the school be completely online or do you have to go to the school? Does the school send a computer or do you have to buy one? Is there chat or skype or anything where you talk to a teacher? Please give me any information please! Pros and cons would be great too! Thanks? Ps: I am in texas

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    1. Hi Samantha,
      Let's see if I can get through all your questions. :) Yes, they will mail you everything you need. The school is done completely online, however if your state requires standardized testing you may have to go to a testing facility when it's time to do standardized tests. I do believe the computer is an option, they will send you a loaner (I think!). They have an online class room for some activities and it's kinda like skype, but it's different. You're not looking at everyone, you're looking at what the teacher is doing, and yes you can talk with them.

      As for it being a waste of time, that's entirely up to you. I'm sure if you're motivated and ready to work hard you'll be just fine.

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    2. I am so happy that I found your site. I've been debating on signing up my twins for this upcoming school year for kindergarten. I've been homeschooling their Pre-k and have truly loved our experiences. I'm expecting our 3rd little girl and I thought Connections Georgia would give me more flexibility along with peace of mind since the lessons would be provided. Since the baby arrives in September I would love to have my lessons put together along with which curriculum I will use.

      Can you offer me advice as to where I can find the different curriculums and your experience with them for the K- 2nd grade? How many hours a day are you homeschooling the younger kids? Do you simply follow one curriculum or do you combine them? I would love to keep my kids enthused about school and learning and I'm afraid connections won't be our answer after reading your responses.

      Any help is greatly appreciated ASAP.
      Momovtwins

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    3. Hi Kristina,
      If you're used to homeschooling, I would suggest you continue homeschooling. If you want an altogether curricula, Oakmeadows would be my suggestion for kindergarten. It's BEAUTIFUL, and creative, and just awesome. I don't recommend it for further grades, it didn't work well for my son because he's very scientific, very type A personality, however my daughter loved it...she's a creative type and learned well this way. Christopherus is another beautiful creative Waldorf styled curriculum. If you have any other questions, please email me. I tend to check that more often then comments. :) Best of luck!

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  11. I have used time4learning this past year for my six year old daughter and although she loved it, I have found that it did not challenge her and she did not retain the information. It was 90% online and very basic studies. I have also been researching these public virtual schools and have decided to not attempt the work loads. I removed my daughter from the public school so I could allow her to learn a more independent study and enrollment in schools as such would take that away from her. I am considering the Oak Meadow curriculum. Does anyone have an opinion on it?

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  12. I am so glad I came across this blog post! We have been enrolled with one child since 6th grade and we are only a month into 8th grade and I just initiated the withdrawal process last night. I went from working full time to staying home and using connections. At first I LOVED it. At first it was amazing and we finished all of our schoolwork easily. I loved almost everything about it. Then 7th grade workload doubled and the teacher load increased as well. Going from 1 teacher to 10 teachers. All of whom have modifications or complete different ways of doing the curriculum assigned. We stuck through even though it was difficult because we believed it was our only option. I didn't feel qualified to homeschool and somewhere along the line someone convinced me that I wouldn't be the person knowing what was best for my son. 8th grade has been far worse. The curriculum from the administrative level has forced teachers to modify and drop complete lessons. It was taking my son 3 days to get through a lesson that should have been an hour. 4 videos on Tone?? Really? But God forbid he skip a video because it would most likely be the randomess question on the assessment that had no bearing to whether he learned about Tone or not. No science book this year but full expectation of memorization and passing the assessment. My son is methodical. He likes to take his time and get it right the first time. He loathes having to backtrack anywhere in his life. Connections was making it very discouraging because he had to pay such close attention to every specific detail when 90% of it doesn't even matter to the meat of the subject. I could go on all day. My experience with the teachers was more one of, "we have our hands tied" and I understand that. My experience with the teachers has been amazing. If I could scoop em up and pay them better I would hire them to be tutors =)

    I called our locals edu service office and when she told me the guidelines to REAL home schooling..... I felt like a big gigantic weight had been lifted and all of the freedom I had wanted for my son has finally been granted.

    Connections will speak of flexibility and while there is a little.... there really isn't. You are tied to an internet connection unless you want to kill a tree and print out the lesson. If you don't have a text book to work out of, you have zero flexibility. It feels like they are trying to go paperless which I don't agree with. We neeeeeeeeed our books for reference, for beauty, for respect..... etc.

    I am very relieved in our choice other than the guilt I feel for leaving all of those great teacher who were trying to work with us.

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  13. We do Connections Academy. I have a K and 2. We LOVE it! We do school work 2-5 hours depending on the day and that's including lunch and lots of breaks. The school day total number of hours is made up in other educational activities that I chose. You need around 6 hours a day. We work ahead and have ample flexibility. If my child knows the material, I test them out myself and let them go ahead and speed through the assessments. We have done an entire math unit in a day. I'm sure it gets to be much more in upper grades, but for now it's fantastic!

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  14. This is the worse school ever. My 11th grader is being picked on with honor code violations left and right. He did a few by answering his questions by online looking up but in 8th grade. Now they single him out and always look for that. They gave him 2 violations in 2 days and there is no fighting it because they are always right. I have trusted my sons high school years with a bunch of nit wits. I will be disenrolling him after I find another program. Does anyone know of a better program for high schoolers? Does anyone know where I can complain?

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  15. We have tried many schooling options.Seems like eschools were always pushing useless busy work,but atleast you got new books,a computer,printer,supplies,and money for internet and gym classes.That was in 2005.Even then it was still the parent doing all the work ,but the school calling the shots. Annoying.

    Now I see there is still busy work,and the eschools are pocketing more cash while supplying you with less. Old computers.No textbooks you have to read scanned pages online.No gym money.Internet money is less while they expect you to be online more.

    Still the parent doing the work while teachers juggle 100+ kids. How accurate are grades? Eschools can be useful if you want to follow someones schedule.

    Imo, life is far to short to live it stressed and unhappy. If you like it stay. If you hate it move on.My kids have done public,eschool,homeschool,and private montessori. I am glad we have so many options.Nothing wrong with moving on.

    Passed should be past.

    Best wishes with homeschooling.It is a wonderful option.

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  16. Feeling disenchanted and upset with intnl conn acadmy myself. Have a 9 th grader at desk ALL day everyday and was an honor student! Has like 30 plus overdue assignments! Unreal. She doesnt have time to pursue her music literature which is why she wanted to leave a brick public school! Time is precious and our schools are failing our USA children!!!

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  17. I can't wait for the nightmare of Maine connections academy to be over. failing math, and the Japanese is a joke. You don't even speak it. Classes are useless. I wish I had reached this point back in December, which I was close but thought we had to finish the school year. She works 10 hour days, 7 days a week. time for anything else? even family time? NONE! This is a money factory using the kids as their factory workers. Some tests come back where the computer didn't pick up the answers and I get, sorry, she will have to do the whole test over. I am paying a tutor to come twice a week to hopefully get to a decent place with a math grade. This is my child who was pegged to be valedectorian at her school, loved school, had big dreams for college. now her attitude is, 4 more years of this? and wishes she could drop out. My A student gone from loving school to not even wanting to go to college. All thanks to Connections!

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  18. my child has an IEP and is enrolled at Tecca (connections academy) It isn't what I expected, though touted as flexible, and that is true, you will pay for that flexibility; because if you don't keep on top of all the subjects, lessons and portfolios, work piles up so quickly! You get buried fast. She has gotten so overwhelmed she has given up, I can't say I blame her. You will work 6-7 days a week with all the reading and work to do, "school vacations" and days off? --nope, you will be making up work. The amount of reading is ridiculous and as others have said it is repetitive or unnecessary. She has an IEP, though they recognize it, she doesn't REALLY get the support. Regular schools here are really bad, gangs, etc, but she did get one on one academic support. She learns slower, at tecca, she can't really take more time in areas, you will get swamped. They say they have academic support IEP aides, not one ever was in the picture. They make it sound so awesome and almost fool-proof, well, of course they do, they need to keep the audit grade up to stay accredited by the state, they need the enrollment! She is 16 and a half and is probably going to have to repeat the 10th grade. Before Tecca she got A's and B's! Not at Tecca, so that tells you alot, she's nearly an F on most things, ONLY because she is SWAMPED! She can't go back to the horrible city high schools and this isn't working, so we talked about her just taking the Hiset test, the high school equivalency here in MA. She can get that and go to community college with a part time credit load to start off with in the fall, she'll be 17 by then. I got my GED and still went to college, it's not the end of the world, I was still on the same "playing field" as everyone else and there were flesh and blood people there for extra help and support. It's also a lonely situation for a kid, don't listen to them about field trips and social connection opportunities, it's all bull, there's nearly nothing or it's rare or far far away...My friend pulled her daughter out for the same reason. We went ahead and tried it anyway since everyone is different, but it was the same crazy pressure.

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    1. Hi, I am a peer of your daughter and I am currently enrolled in Connections Academy and trying to drop out; experiencing the same obstacles about overdue lessons and not motivated about my education as it was prior to the program. I'm 16 and I'm a Junior and I want to kickstart the process of dropping out and convincing my mom about GED and college. She's busy due to her job and I don't want to stress her out in uncharted waters. Do you have advice for contacting the school/staff (goodbyes and paperwork) and any warnings about consequences such as the school district being wary(truancy) and intrusive about your personal decisions? Thank you for your time and good luck to you and your daughter's future ventures!

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  19. I too am in the same boat. I enrolled my children in Commonwealth Charter Academy, formerly Connections Academy. My children are in 1, 6, and 8. The workload that these kids have is way too much, and its boring. My 6th grader is a slower worker, and he's only able to complete two assignments a day. Well, the school sent me a truancy notice because of that! Prior to this brief online school stint we were homeschoolers, and that's what we're continuing to be. I initiated the withdrawal process last night.

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    1. Hello, I'm currently enrolled in Connections Academy, and obviously am trying to drop out since I have felt no passion for my education after this program. I'm 16 and a Junior, I am trying to research how to initiate the withdrawal process since my mom is currently busy and I want to convince her I want to take the initiative of pulling out of Connections Academy. How do you start the process and if so do you have any tips? Or warnings such as consequences(truancy) from the school district or state? Please, and thank you! :)

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    2. Hi, I'm also currently enrolled in Connections Academy, and I was also wondering what the process was for withdrawal was? I'm 15 and in 9th grade, the workload I have to do daily is crazy! Recently it was the end of my semester and my teacher gave me an extension on my essay because I had started the semester late and needed more time. I turned in the essay a day late because we had car trouble and no internet access in the country. Well my teacher said she could not except the paper because it was late and it dropped my grade from a B (86 percent) to a D (67 percent) . Now that grade is on my transcript and it really has upset me! That's just one of many reasons why I want to withdraw.

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    3. Hey Lexi. After more researching I found a compilation of things. There is a Withdrawal Form located on your learning coach's Data view or "I" button, and then I think you will see it. Now you can also call your homeroom teacher/ adviser/ counselor or tbh any main Connections phone number and ask for help there. See the thing is depending on what state you live in the Withdrawal Form abides to state laws and attendance so you have to see if the form requires you to already have a plan to either go to another public school or homeschool. Now I haven't checked it out yet so i don't know what my state's certain requirement for Withdrawal is. I'm hoping I can just withdraw without having to figure out what education platform to pursue because I don't want to go back to my old high school nor find another online school. I'm so motivated to just go for my GED and get started with College. Good luck to you too, please update and I will update you too when I start the process.

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