School woes help!
July 5, 2012 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any experience with Georgia Connections Academy/online public school/homeschooling? What do I need to ask/be aware of? Any other non-traditional schooling options? (snowflake details..)

So my niece and mom, previously and previously are now living in an area that doesn't have a great school. She went the second half of the year, and was the subject of bullying (the only white girl in the school) and some fights (if someone hits her she hits back). My mom finally got custody of her mid spring year, but after the school choice applications were due. So, switching schools for this year doesn't seem to be much of an option. (Note: she's still going to fill out the application, and see if she can get in as late choice, but we can't count on it.) The school choice department says that if my mom had record of all the incidents, they might be able to get a hardship transfer, but my mom didn't record dates and details.

The school says that the incidents aren't bullying, but altercations. (Because my niece responds.) The school board says there's nothing they can do except for my mom to move to a different school district.

Private school isn't an option - my mom is still job-hunting, and the funds simply aren't there.

So, my mom has found this Georgia Connections Academy, and thinks it might be an option. I can't find out much about it - mostly homeschoolers reviewing it who are unhappy about the way it is set up. They have an informational session on the 17th, which I plan on attending. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing? What questions should I ask? Is it easy to do this for a year, and then potentially put her back into public school next year?

My mom has her GED, but not a lot of understanding of math/science, and I'm really concerned that this will lead to my niece falling behind and dropping out of school. She's getting mostly As and Bs right now, and wants to go to college - I really want that to be able to happen for her.
posted by needlegrrl to Education (9 answers total)
Considering her grades, you might take a second look at private schools. Some of them have scholarships or significant grants/financial aid. There is also something called the GOAL program that is specifically for Georgia students who are moving from public schools to private schools.

Sorry if you already have inquired into this, but a lot of times these scholarships etc. aren't apparent on first glance.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:54 AM on July 5, 2012

(Also, unfortunately a lot of the money will have already been given out, but it is worth calling these schools' financial aid offices and asking about your niece's situation. They might be able to work something out for the spring semester, or they might have some funds's worth a shot.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:57 AM on July 5, 2012

Plenty of people homeschool and go on to college and do just fine for themselves. Even ones that don't use a highly-structured curriculum such as the one that Georgia Connections Academy seems to offer.

Go to the informational session and relay your fears about whether your niece will be making a terrible mistake or hindering herself professionally. Listen to what they say. Talk to other homeschooling parents -- both ones who use this program and ones who don't. You will find, I think, a very supportive community of people who are trying to do right by their kids, too, the same way you're trying to do right by your niece.

From your previous questions, it sounds as though your niece has had a rough time of it in her current situation. She might do well to take a year out from the pressures she's feeling at school. A lot will depend on the local school board, but it is by no means unheard of for schools to take homeschooled students back after a year or two.

In some places, homeschooled students can take advantage of school resources like science classes / labs, drama clubs, or can play on sports teams without being enrolled as actual students. Talk to the principal or the school board about how they work with homeschoolers, and talk to the homeschooling parents about some of these things as well.

Good luck to you. My parents homeschooled me and my siblings (including one who has overcome a serious learning disability) up through high school and I would be happy to answer any questions if you want to memail me.
posted by gauche at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2012

Oh and finally, if your niece has any documented special needs (and serious emotional issues that lead to angry outbursts/fighting are definitely special needs) you might be able to get her a place at an alternative school OR an IEP that will provide for a different classroom environment, which might mitigate the bullying/conflicts that she's running into. It might be time to talk to a therapist about whether her emotional needs are significant enough to be disabling for her (meaning she can't function in a normal school setting without additional support or accommodation.)

Apparently having an IEP can give her special access to scholarships/vouchers, so that the year after next she might be able to go to a private school on the county's dime. However, it seems like she might need to be in the public school for another year in order to get this benefit.

It might also be worth a shot to talk to the school choice people about her emotional issues, her therapy, her family issues, etc. and see if they will consider that a "hardship" above and beyond the bullying. In this case a therapist's letter would be helpful as well.

Sorry to give you lots of tangential information about multiple options--I feel like I have seen this situation a number of times, where the bureaucracy runs roughshod over a child/their parent because they're not familiar with the system or don't know what their entitlements are, and I don't want that to happen to you. In my ideal world, y'all would have the money to hire an attorney who specialized in school situations like this, because I know they'd get a move on to solve this problem if that were to happen.

Good luck with all of this; I'm pulling for your niece. I think you and your mother are doing a FANTASTIC job with all of this and your hard work and care really shine through.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:15 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would recommend that your mom get in touch with these folks or at least read through the web site and understand what exactly is required for homeschooling in GA. Given that it is a conservative leaning state, odds are the requirements are minimal to non-existent. The dirty little secret about teaching (homeschool or in a school) is that the best teachers mostly support you in teaching yourself. If your niece is self-motivated and a good student that doesn't have to change with a non-standard education approach. She might find the freedom to study what she wants completely liberating and far surpass what should could have achieved in school. Between Khan Academy and other online resources (almost all free) you can put together a damn good math curriculum. Science is a little more difficult to do, but not out of reach.

Your mom "only" having a GED is not an issue. My wife is a college graduate, but didn't take a single math class in college. My son starts college in the fall after being homeschooled for 12 years. He scored way high on the SAT and had schools throwing six figure scholarships at him. You don't need to be a genius to homeschool, you mostly just need to really care.

BTW GHEA looks to be associated with HSLDA, which means they are evangelical Christian. If that is an issue for your mom she might want to find a more inclusive homeschool support group in GA, if she goes that route. However, for understanding the main issues with HSing in GA, they will be fine.
posted by COD at 8:34 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Clayton County? Pretty much ANYTHING would be better than going to school there. They lost their accreditation in 2008. (I'm not sure they're a whole lot better now that they got it back.)

As for the Connections Academy, it will probably be better than being in an over-crowded, underfunded public school.

My recommendation is to use it as a guideline. At 6th grade this is a perfect time for a child to start becoming self-sufficient and responsible for helping to design her cirriculum.

As a former High School Teacher, I can tell you that a little attention at the age of 12 will go a long way to preparing your neice for future academic success.

If your Mom is committed and so is your neice, this could be the perfect opportunity for a re-boot. Next year is middle school, so you don't have to worry about continuity or anything like that.

It looks interesting to me, with lots of opportunities to mix and mingle with other kids on field trips, etc.

She may like it so much that she'll want to continue on.

I got next to nothing out of my public school education in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade. I did fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a former homeschooler, I need to nth COD.
posted by MeiraV at 7:33 PM on July 6, 2012

I just wanted to add that, if your mom does go the homeschool route and is concerned about her ability to cover any particular subject, tutoring might be an option. If your niece has trouble with science or really wants to take French, for example, and your mom doesn't feel able to help guide her through the lessons, you might be able to find a local tutor who can help out with just that one subject.

Good luck!
posted by kristi at 1:38 PM on July 7, 2012

Response by poster: We went to the GA Connections Academy informational session -they sounded great. We've got her enrolled, and she starts on Wednesday. They say that they work with each child on an individual level and check in with the parent at a minimum of once every two weeks.

I asked about the ease of transferring back into public school - they say that their highest concentration of students is in middle school, and then many of their students transfer back to public schools for high school.

My niece is excited, and already has her school supplies and has started looking through her books and making note cards!
posted by needlegrrl at 6:36 AM on August 6, 2012

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