Learning At A Different Pace At Home

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As online education proliferates and the ability of charter schools to open their doors, actual and virtual, increases, home schooling is gaining popularity.

Charter school Arizona Virtual Academy is one of several options for Arizona youth and their parents looking to manage family time and progress though lessons faster.

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What kind of relationship do you need to home school your child? "You have to be willing to grow with your child," said parent/teacher Candace Crandall.

"We finish lessons faster and, in fact, do several lessons a day," said Candace Crandall who is teaching Shiloh, her first-grader, at home through AVA.

"It's a public school, but I choose the schedule," she said.

Parents are obligated to meet federal guidelines for school hours.

"The subjects are math, phonics, language arts, science, art, music and physical education, and history instead of social studies, which I really like," Crandall said.

Shiloh just finished a history unit on Egypt that overlapped an art project on that country.

"She's learned where it is on the world map," Crandall said. "She's learned about the equator and the seven continents. She just finished a lesson on King Tut and Egyptians and what they believed. We delved into Mesopotamia."

Basically, subjects are taught on a four-week schedule, said AVA lead teacher Briget Schleifer.

At weeks two and four, teachers conference with enrolled families but parents and students can pick up the phone and call teachers anytime between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. if they need advice.

Tailored lesson plans for a specific student were another reason parents said they chose to home school their children.

"We'd been thinking about home schooling for a while," said Kymbie Alexander.

She and her husband, Christian, decided to make the leap when they moved to the Rim Country in September.

"The public teachers (here) were great, but we wanted our children to get the best education they could and I felt I could do it better in less time," Alexander said. "We have a couple of advanced kids they were going to have to try to make special arrangements for in the school."

Storm and Journey each advanced a grade after being tested by AVA.

"Our program has lessons that are made for a child who is a kinesthetic learner or a visual learner or an auditory learner," Schleifer said.

The Alexander household has set school hours of 7 to 11 a.m. Piano lessons, physical education and reading time at the library happen after those hours.

It's "harder work" than being in a regular classroom, said third-grader Storm Alexander.

Her favorite subject is history.

"I like it because it's sort of like a story and I like reading," she said.

Her dad helps with math and science which are not as much fun.

Sometimes families have conflicts and Kymbie Alexander said she worried at first that those small arguments might interfere.

"I've noticed everyone getting along a little better, actually," she said. "They aren't quite as tired. After a long day at school, trying to get them to take piano lessons was just crazy. Now they are confident and more willing to do the work."

Crandall finds AVA development standards realistic and said it is great to have a teacher to communicate with when she has a question about her daughter's progress and abilities.

"I am responsible for seeing that Shiloh's work is done, but there is a support system and that's what I like," she said.

The Arizona Virtual Academy began in 2003. Approximately 40 certified teachers work with the 1,700 students for the 2005-2006 school year.

They provide students with a computer, monitor and printer. A reimbursement for Internet services is provided so the student can access the K12 online school for lessons and assignments. Books, materials and planning and progress tools are provided.

AVA is tuition free for residents of Arizona.

Parent information sessions happen at 5 p.m. for grades eight and older and at 7 p.m. for grades K-12 at Best Western Payson Inn on Thursday, April 20.

For more information, call (520) 623-1483 or visit www.azva.org.

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