When it comes to home schooling your child, what’s the best curriculum to use? How do you keep your him or her on track? Where can you find help?
These are just some of the questions parents might have when deciding whether or not to home school their child. But with a little bit of guidance and support, parents can successfully teach their students at home. And that’s where the Virtual Learning Academy Consortium, also known as VLAC, comes in.
This high-quality, tuition-free, home-based learning program has been offering students an alternative educational option since 2012. VLAC, which is open for kids in kindergarten through grade 12, was one of the first three programs to launch virtual learning for elementary students in the state of Michigan – and it has been providing families the tools they need to successfully home school their children ever since.
“We are an outreach to families who want to do home-based learning,” says Julie Alspach, Ed.S., online learning program administrator of VLAC.
Many families choose to home school their children because their kids need a more flexible schedule – whether it’s because of health issues or involvement in high-commitment athletic activities or other extracurriculars that call for a different pace in learning. But for those parents, it can be tough to know where to begin.
“We get a lot of people that say, ‘I wanted to home school but I just didn’t know how.’ We’ll show you the how,” she says.
VLAC partners with public school districts throughout the state of Michigan, including districts in Livingston, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
“We span six counties, and I have partnerships with 60 school districts,” Alspach says.
Parents must enroll their child in a local school district that is a VLAC member. Kids will receive a report card from their local school district, too. Open enrollment takes place from late April through the Friday after Labor Day. If your child’s local school isn’t a VLAC member, there’s still an option. “We have districts that even will allow schools of choice in or out of the county,” she says.
While learners at all levels are able to enroll, VLAC does conduct a placement exam for its students to ensure they are being placed at the correct level of education.
Once enrolled, students are given Chromebooks and internet access to complete their course-related work and to be able to communicate with VLAC staff. Books are sent to their homes, as well, she adds.
Students learn the Calvert Education curriculum, which is a research-based, standards-aligned program with an emphasis on communication, critical thinking and problem-solving. Parents are provided pre-planned lessons to help their child succeed – all while enjoying a flexible schedule at home.
“I think it’s important to point out that it’s an aligned curriculum that’s rigorous,” Alspach says. Students are getting the same education through VLAC but they are doing it in a different way than the traditional classroom setting.
Seven mentor teachers are on the VLAC staff, and each teacher is assigned to roughly 40 students – similar to the size of a typical classroom.
And instead of focusing on timestamps, VLAC is focusing on a student’s weekly progress. “Nobody is expecting you to do math at 10 a.m. every day, but we expect you to do five math lessons a week,” Alspach says.
And that sort of flexibility can really benefit kids who haven’t necessarily thrived in a typical classroom setting.
“If you want to do this, but you don’t know how,” this is the option for you, she adds. “We’ve got the lessons planned. All you need to do it sit down and focus on sharing that learning journey with your child.”
For more information on the Virtual Learning Academy Consortium or details on open enrollment, visit the Virtual Learning Academy Consortium website or call 248-209-2071.