Saturday, November 5, 2011

Epic: In The Beginning

In the beginning, Epic had a handful getting everyone's orders in correctly, and making all of the curriculum providers cooperate with us. This meant that different logins for different programs came at different times, and not all of our curriculum items were available at once. We had our core curriculum available right away, but other folks had to wait a week. After that, the supplemental items came in on a staggered basis. We were all a little upset and worried by this, but we still began our work at a normal pace, when compared to our state's brick-and-mortar schools, who usually take about a month to settle in. Anyway, this has actually worked out quite well, because we had time to get used to each new thing before we received the next. Right now, we’re finally ‘in the groove’ and making progress.

Core Curriculum: We love the Alek Math program. It’s really intuitive and has helped our kiddos a lot. We love the CompassLearning Language Arts program. It’s very interactive and fun, and holds their attention. They beg to do their LA lessons first. CompassLearning Science and Language Arts are also awesome, especially if you take the time to complete their suggested hands-on lessons. Today, we’re going to make a model of an atom, using basic household items.

Supplemental Curriculum: We love Mango! We love that you can choose your course level (Basic Mandarin and Level 2 Spanish? Yes, please!) We also really enjoy the Creativity Express art lessons, as well.

Extracurricular Classes: My kids are very much enjoying their gymnastics and kung-fu lessons. The gymnastics classes for my older two are both smaller, and have very supportive coaches. Even though our kiddos don’t aspire to be elite gymnasts, the coaches are still very serious about their training. The kung-fu classes are just as fun, and the three shows each year give them a goal to work towards.

Teacher: We love our teacher! If I had made a list of qualities that we wanted in a teacher, she would hit every one of them. Most of all, I wanted a teacher who would work with us on a weekly basis, and who would not dismiss my experience or input. This was a problem with OKVA, where the teachers acted as though parents had walked barefoot, out of the kitchen, into the OKVA program. Ugh. With our teacher, we discussed their grade placement for each subject and made those decisions together, and we continue to collaborate in regards to their education. This mostly happens when we meet on Wednesdays at the library, where she works with each kiddo, one on one, on whatever topic is necessary for the week.

Special Education: There have been some issues with the special education director. I don’t feel like she’s knowledgeable enough for her position and that she doesn’t seem to have her office together, the way that she should. So in regards to her role (which is primarily organizational), there have been a lot of issues. On the other hand, I was prepared to go in and fight for the services that my son needs, which is sort of the Oklahoma standard way to do things, but they essentially just said ‘Oh, you want specialized curriculum, assistive technology items, and several kinds of therapy? Sure, let's do it.”. This was an amazing attitude to see from any school in Oklahoma.

The other staff members that Epic has chosen for their sped department – the ones who work with my son directly – are all amazing. The school psychologist is like an Oklahoma rock star of her trade, and the speech therapist is very calm and kind (and flexible!).

If I evaluated their special education services independently, I would say that they have some work to do, or a replacement director to find. If I compared their special education services to other schools that I have had experience with, I’d say that they’re fantastic. And since they’re leaps and bounds better than the alternatives, I’m sticking with the latter evaluation.

Tech Items: The laptop is amazing. It runs everything that my son might need to use, and then some. This machine is worth WAY more than the $250 that we allocated from our funds, and I am super-happy to have it. The first one died a quick hard drive death and I had a new one in my hands just a few days later, so I am happy with their tech support as well. (As an aside, a real live tech support person answered their phone. No jail, no queues, and no scripts.)

Overall, Epic is just flat-out amazing. It is everything that I wanted in a school, and I still have to pinch myself and I keep craning my neck looking for the other shoe. Between the two, my neck and arm are a little sore, but other than that...:P

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