Final discussion on Florida Virtual:
The school year has ended so this is a good wrap-up on using Florida Virtual, Connexus, K-12, or other similar online schooling systems.
First of all, it is free. That does make a difference. Second, you do get a lot of time interacting and teaching your children. For those parents that wanted to home school to be more involved, this is one way. Third, you have the specifics laid out for you. There is no planning as a parent or deciding what "course work" for that day, per se. You do get to run a scheduler to outline out many of their classes (for instance, putting your child in math and only math all week long), but each lesson is pre-planned with what must be learned, tested, and accomplished. Fourth, there are extracurricular activities. Unlike some schooling programs, you do get to go out and meet your classmates in field trips. They really make an effort with these throughout the year and in various, interesting places. Fifth, the teachers really care and are always there to help. It is not unusual to miss them when calling them, but you have a teacher dedicated to your child and able to help them with the course work. I also found the teachers less interested in 'grades' and more interested in making sure the children learned the information. For example, if they did poorly on a project, they would let them re-do it. What mattered to them was mastery of the subject. I really, really liked the teachers. Lastly, you can opt into a International Baccalaureate and college equivalent classes in HS. This is a big deal and really makes it a program to consider.
These negatives are primarily from a cruisers point of view, as you will see. First, we were forced to take the FCAT. This was no simple process because as cruisers, we move. Yet, the test is based upon your registered address. It ended up planting us in Marathon (and at a marina at 21.50/foot) for a month. Yikes! Second, the internet aspect was difficult to maintain. We used the ATT Wifi unit, but always went over our 5 gig/month. It also restricted us to places that had good wifi. This ruled out going to the bahamas or Tortugas for any length of time. Third, the classes are too strict. Many cruisers, for example, may spend a month in one place then travel a week or two, then spend a week/month in the next place. Although you are allowed vacation, it is short (like a regular school) and does not allow you to really work ahead. So the option of letting the kids get ahead for a few weeks then take a few weeks off was not an option. Fourth, the "live lessons" really tied us down. The kids had multiple live lessons with their classes online and during random times of the day. This again tied them to the computer and did not give us much freedom to venture out and dive or snorkel when it was cool or the weather was nice. Fifth, you are technically tied to Florida (or the state of assignment). We stayed in Florida, and so stayed within the rules, but each time we moved, we had to update our address with them and provide proof of residency. They did allow us to use one-month leases from marinas, but as you can imagine, those get expensive. It also keeps you from anchoring out much or spending time away from the dock. Not to mention, should you wish to travel outside of the state, it would become a real issue and technically is not allowed.
So overall, I would like to say this is a wonderful program. The teaching methods and system is good. The people running it are top notch. I almost wonder if they are the 'best' of the teachers because they too get to work remote. For those who are interested in primarily living aboard at a marina and being pretty fixed to one spot, I would recommend it. For those who are cruising, it is tough to make it work. Many of the things that make up the positives of this program are actually negatives for cruising families.
There ya go. A years review for those parents who are interested.
PS It appears we are going to move into a different program this year called SeaScape. I will update on it when we are settled in it.