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  1. #1
    Member Enlightened gypsylovecircus's Avatar
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    Default Connections Academy

    My dd is looking at starting online schooling next year (going into 7th grade). Does anyone have any experience with Connections Academy? Thanks!
    Life is a verb ~ live!
    We learn, we laugh, we do things our own way...cut and paste style!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Enlightened elvesandgiants's Avatar
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    We used Connections for half a year for kindergarten, and our experience was not a good one.
    Here's the good: 1)My daughter had a wonderful teacher. She was professional, enthusiastic, and her live-lessons were the highlight of my daughter's school week. 2) The materials were free.
    Here's the bad(for us): I had initially chosen CA because I was under the mistaken impression that it would be less work for me. I've been homeschooling for about 15 years, and I was just tired and a little burned out, and wanted some help. My daughter likes more formal type schooling so I thought this would be a good fit. Wow, was I ever wrong. It was filled with busy work we HAD to complete, portfolios that needed to be in on time, and projects which had questionable educational value. It had all the bad elements of public schooling without much of the positive. My daughter found most of the kindergarten work tedious and just too easy, so the teacher assigned her the first grade skills online tutor, but we still had to complete all of the too easy kindergarten work. It didn't make any sense. We were really frustrated. I watched my daughter's love of learning disappear. She would cry over her lessons. It was really sad. By the end of the semester we withdrew from CA and watched her excitement over learning gradually come back.
    I belonged to a facebook group for our state's CA, and from all the complaining about teachers not returning assignments and not answering web mail, I realized we probably lucked out with our teacher. She always answered queries, and graded everything promptly.
    When we signed up we were promised field trips to meet other CA students and teachers. There were only 2 trips while we were with them, both 3 hours away. We live in one of the largest cities in the state, so that was disappointing not to have anything closer.
    One thing that really bothered me was being called the Learning Coach instead of teacher. Since I did 99% of the teaching, this just bugged the hell out of me. But that's a small thing.
    Connections was an all around bad decision. I really don't know what I was thinking. I should have unschooled until my burnout disappeared instead of putting my daughter through a half year of boredom and frustration.
    Since your daughter is going into 7th, maybe your experience will be different. There are people who genuinely like it, but from the amount of complaining in the facebook group, I didn't know too many. Those who did like it came from a public school setting. If I had to choose PS or Connections, I'd probably feel more positive about CA.
    Homeschooling mom to three elves(7yrs,6yrs, and baby), and two homeschool-graduated giants(21 and 20)
    My Blog: Three Owls Homeschool

  3. #3
    Senior Member Enlightened Rainefox's Avatar
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    You can check out the curriculum under "Pearson Homeschool curriculum". It is textbook oriented. They use some Calvert in Kindergarten.

    My experience with CA itself was more positive. They had the kids take assessment tests to determine their level and the courses they were assigned were a good fit. There was some busywork, but having had some experience with cyber charters in the past I was perfectly comfortable skipping it and skipping over anything that my kids already knew or were proficient in. Sometimes that made for a light load in terms of lessons but my kids were perfectly content to spend any extra free time reading or doing something sef-chosen and educational, and it didn't make me nervous to sit back and let them do that. I did notice that the folks who tried to complete all of the busywork were likely to burn out. Even our teachers (really excellent bunch, honestly) told us to skip over what the kids knew or were comfortable with.

    Although I didn't expect it, our CA actually did have plenty of local events and field trips for us to attend and we live in a fairly rural area. I liked that they paid admission for not only for the kids but for me too. Other cyber charters would have us pay our own way.

    Another positive for CA is their student clubs. They are not just an afterthought, there is a lot of time and planning put into making these positive experiences for the kids.

    The computers they sent us ran well and were not bogged down with odd proprietary software that frequently crashed, like some other cyber schools I could mention. The weblinks in the lessons were up to date and actually worked. The teachers were really closely involved with my kids and answered emails promptly and telephoned me regularly.

    Overall, CA was a good fit for my crew. My kids tend to be naturally textbook oriented (weird, right?) and enjoy learning that way. My kids are also mildly gifted and CA did stretch them a bit and work them a little harder than I would have. I could nitpick the curriculum, but actually it was pretty good. I wasn't impressed with the social studies, but then I'm not a fan of "social studies" to begin with. We stuck with our own history readings as a read aloud (The Story of Mankind by Van Loon, free on google play, and some other history books on the Baldwin Children's Project).

    On the downside, there is the usual mandatory testing. Some assignments had to be scanned in and sent to the teacher (portfolio items, they called them). When we skipped say, a chapter in math, the child still had to take the final test for that chapter to 'prove' competency in that topic. The selection of electives is limited. Like most things, CA isn't perfect, but they do tend to be better at what they do than some others.

    I'd recommend CA over the other cyber charters we tried.
    Mom of six, step-mom of four, grandma of thirteen
    Kids ages 29 to 6, grandkids ages 9 to brand new.

    www.thestingyhomeschooler.com

  4. #4
    Member Enlightened gypsylovecircus's Avatar
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    Rainefox, Thank you so much for your post...you actually answered one of my major questions - if we can skip over, say math, that my kids had already mastered. My kids like book work (yes, a bit odd here to but I love it) and I am not sure how they will do being online, but it looks like it is not too much.

    One question I had (and called about) was the gifted programs. My 3rd grade son is quite gifted with science and we use middle school programs for him at home. Saddly, it looks like he couldn't do the 4th grade gifted science though, because it requires a 5th grade reading level, which he is not at. That means we will most likely stay true to our homeschool style with him (which I like).

    My daughter needs more structure than I can provide because she and I are both a bit disorganized. I will be sad to have to stick to a bit more of a schedule and to have to "take attendance", but maybe this will help her take more control of her education. She "dropped out" of public for social reasons anyway, not academic (I and the one that has complaints there). On the plus side, we just started a really advanced (for her - it is 8th grade level) literary annalyses program, and she wants to know if she can stick to it as an extra (yeah!). We also read a lot of historic fiction to supplement history, and she wants to continue that. It is nice to see that she is getting excited and wanting to take on extra. We shall see.....
    Life is a verb ~ live!
    We learn, we laugh, we do things our own way...cut and paste style!

  5. #5
    Junior Member Newbie ohioDad's Avatar
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    We tried connections at the beginning of this school year. It was almost entirely composed of busy work. The kids were stuck in front of the computers for hours each day completing assignments of little to no benefit. In my opinion the program is a joke. They spent ten times as much time doing work and covered not even a tenth of what we covered on our own in a typical three hour day.
    The program is a series of micro lessons with nonsensical assessments at the end of each module in what seems to be an attempt to show a grade for everything. As for the gifted programs if you call and ask they will put you're kids in it without an assessment. With the gifted math program (for my third grader) the only difference was they sent a fourth grade text book along with the third grade one and once a week they completed a problem from the fourth grade book that was completely unrelated to whatever area they were covering.
    - Mike
    I'm a working writer and homeschooling parent.
    We started homeschooling in January 2012
    Three kids at home; two daughters age 12 and 2 and a son who is 9 yrs.

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