As noted in a previous post, I am really excited about the possibilities inherent in cyberschooling your children. It seems like a nice blend of public school and home school, especially since in Colorado, we have school choice, so we can choose any of a number of cyberschools (many of which are charter schools).
So I've been doing a lot of research. There are actually many cyberschools in Colorado. We think we've finally chosen CDELA. Here's a rundown of my reasons for choosing/not choosing some schools:
COVA--Colorado's biggest online school. They are actually just the K-12 School, a well-known homeschool curriculum, administered by the State Online. The reason I didn't choose this one: The online information is condescending in the same way public schools are ("WE know more than YOU about what's good for your child; you have to do it our way because we are RIGHT.") and it isn't really a "cyberschool" (one that takes advantage of the possibilities of technology), just a paper school administered online.
Branson School Online--Seemed like a good possibility. They never gave me a "yea" or "Nay" about Caleb's application, and when I emailed them, they said "Busy time of year" and then "Call the office"--but the office closes at 4:00 pm and isn't open on Friday, so I haven't managed to reach them.
Rocky Mountain ESchool--Uses the CompassLearning Odyssey curriculum, but all their email links are broken. They are administered out of VILAS, CO, which is essentially a ghost town, so they may be defunct. Who knows. They went through "host Schools" anyway, so I'm not sure what that's all about.
Connections Academy--a national "franchise" cyberschool. I was really excited about this school because they have gifted and talented programs for kids once they reach the third grade curriculum, and they can get there as fast as they want. So we applied. But then we got the course listing, and it turns out they are just an online-administered Calvert School (another well-known homeschool books-and-paper curriculum). They are also heavily involved in supervising how you supervise your child's education. Both they and Calvert Curriculum are for "box-checkers" and also seem to not "get" what technology and education should do for each other. It's a fairly traditional "read the book answer the questions" approach to schooling, and you don't spend much time on the computer, and they micromanage a little too much for me. Plus, when I read their print materials, I got the impression that, while they have a gifted program, the school is really geared toward remediation rather than acceleration (which may explain their micromanaging of kids and parents--they cater to people who haven't been succeeding). So I kept this as an option because Caleb was accepted, but it's not my first choice.
CDELA--Colorado Distance and Electronic Learning Academy. This is also a branch of a national "franchise" kind of cyberschool, but it is only in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania so far. It is also the CompassLearning Odyssey curriculum. But they had links to the curriculum on their website, and I liked it. It is actually an online curriculum, mostly animated, and fun. Caleb even re-did the "dry" lessons over and over, loved taking the tests, incorporated the jokes into his daily idiom, and (most importantly) remembered every fact and detail he heard on it. The school mandates "class attendance"--once or twice a week, each class meets with their teacher online, and participate in a lesson together through cameras, microphones, and the internet--the kids even have to raise their hands to answer questions, which is one of the three things Caleb cited as his reasons for wanting to attend a "big building" school. They do their informational sessions for the parents online, too. They do send book and paper kind of materials, but that isn't the whole curriculum. Also, they don't micromanage parents--you are required to take attendance hours, keep track of lessons, etc, and report in once a week (instead of once or twice a day). And the class size is small (6 first graders), so the teacher can pay attention to Caleb and talk to him on the phone when he struggles, etc. They seem to cater to the "advanced" students and responsible, college-educated parents. We'll see what happens next--if Caleb can get in, what curriculum actually gets assigned, etc.
I've decided that the trouble with educators is they are a self-feeding system: people who did well at school the way it is now are the ones who go into education, and because they did well, they see no reason to change things up. Consequently, even when they "embrace online education", they do just the same thing they've always done. Very few people (if any) have actually sat down and said, "What can technology really do for education" and made a school out of THAT.
We'll see what happens--I'll keep you posted.