Our Families

Leavenworth Teacher Spotlight

A profile on Leavenworth Virtual School’s Mr. Kevin Austin

Mr. Kevin Austin (center) pictured here holding his Calvert Legacy Award along with fellow Leavenworth Virtual Teachers: Kay Hunter, Graciela Cavazos, Mollie Dery, Lori Lott, and Lori Humble.

Teacher Appreciation Month is the perfect time to recognize dedicated teachers like Mr. Kevin Austin of Leavenworth Virtual School. Leavenworth Virtual School is a K-8 public virtual school in Leavenworth, Kansas run by teachers. Mr. Austin has dedicated 38 years to teaching. Since the inception of the Leavenworth program in 2004, Mr. Austin has been a fixture in the school, where hundreds of students have used Calvert’s curriculum.

Mr. Austin is being honored for his years as a virtual teacher with an award for his constant and longstanding dedication.  He will be retiring from teaching at the end of the school year.

We caught up with Mr. Austin to ask him a few questions about the Leavenworth Virtual School program, virtual education and Calvert, since he’s seen so many changes in virtual learning technology and Calvert’s curriculum over the past 14 years.

 

Q: Why do you think families are attracted to Leavenworth Virtual?

Mr. Austin: The reasons are pretty consistent. They want to be in charge of their child’s education. They want to be empowered and in charge of what their children are learning. They want their children to learn on their own schedule instead of the school schedule, or they feel like they want to be more involved. They like expanding on the lessons more: they can take a field trip on their own or go to the library and bring something to go along with
the lesson.

 

Q: How do you and the Teachers at Leavenworth assist parents and students so they are successful?

Mr. Austin: We are assigned to a family instead of a grade level, because our families may have 3 or 4 children who are all at different grade levels. I’ve had students that started with me as kindergarteners and they’re in high school or out of high school now.

We introduce new parents to the program and do tutorials with them and show them how things work. Some parents just take that and go with it. Some parents are less hesitant to ask for help or they’re not sure that they’re teaching correctly and so we help them quite a bit.

Families start to feel more comfortable with you when you’re actually working with them as a partner instead of them being the teacher and you being teacher. You actually begin working together after a while once you build the relationship with them.

We tutor and provide services, and we can go to the home or they could come up here to our lab depending on what they are most comfortable with. we try to help make sure they’re on the right track and give them reinforcement and assurance, that they are doing the right thing even if they don’t feel like they are.

 

Q: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the past 14 years teaching virtually?

Mr. Austin: When we started virtual 14 years ago, we didn’t have the technology and the online pieces that we have now. It was more of just parents teaching out of the textbooks. Now when a student is in a lesson, they can see videos and go to other websites to go along with those lessons. They didn’t have that back 14 years ago when it was mainly books and workbooks and teachers editions for the parents.

“We were just looking at our state assessment scores for families that have followed the program and the ones that have really done the lessons diligently scored very well on our state assessments.”

Mr. Kevin Austin on Calvert Learning’s project-based curriculum

 

Q: How do you feel about Calvert’s Project-Based Curriculum that was used this year? How are your students performing with it?

Mr. Austin: They have really turned in some fantastic work in the assignments and research. They put a lot of thought into how they’re doing the assignment. Our parents have been talking to other parents about it and we’re starting to get questions and inquiries about it.  Our families are our best ambassadors.

We were just looking at our state assessment scores for families that have followed the program and the ones that have really done the lessons diligently scored very well on our state assessments.

I had a home visit last week with a family for a 4th grader’s final project. It was a lesson on math and science. He had cooked me an Italian meal for lunch. He researched and outlined step-by-step in sequence how he cooked each thing in the meal.

I thought this was fantastic that a 4th grader learned this. It incorporated math, working with measurements, I thought that was fantastic – for a kid to be able to take what he had learned and be able to apply it as he did.

 

Q: Where do think education is headed in the next 20 years?

Mr. Austin: I see it as being more individualized. I see more individualized programs for kids that are in the classroom. It used to be a child only had an individual program when they have an IEP, but not every child has an IEP. Yet, they have different levels of learning; they’re not all ready at the same time.

 

Q: You’re retiring soon, what will you be doing with all of your free time?

Mr. Austin: My wife was a teacher and she retired 2 years ago. So now it’s time to be retired together.

I have seven grandchildren and they are bugging me to go camping and fishing. They can’t wait for school to be out because they’re ready to go. They’re all involved with city recreation softball and basketball. This past winter I coached to my grandkids for their basketball teams, and I got another bugging me to do football in the fall, so I’m going to stay busy.

 


 

Mr. Austin was awarded with the Calvert Legacy Award for his dedicated work in the ever-changing field of virtual education.

We wish Mr. Austin a happy retirement filled with fun and family time.

We are so inspired by Mr. Austin and all of the dedicated teachers like him around the world who support families and teach students in virtual and blended learning settings.

Enrollment in Leavenworth Virtual School is now open.
To learn more about the Leavenworth Virtual call (913) 684-1540

 


 

 Benefits-of-Virtual-Learning-Header-300x218

The Benefits of a Flexible, Virtual Learning Environment
(Kansas City Moms Blog – August 2016)

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How to Keep your Child Learning this Summer While Still Having Fun!
(Kansas City Moms Blog – May 2016)


10 Reasons Why We Love Leavenworth Virtual School

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Kerrie is the chaos-loving, homeschooling mama of 5 living in Overland Park. You can find her (and all her offshoot projects) at TheKerrieShow.com.

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We’ve been homeschooling since 2006 and I had never really given virtual school any thought. I figured it would be too intrusive on our free-spirited lifestyle and didn’t want my kids to be interacting with a computer all day instead of with me and with the world.

In the past, I had always used a variety of DIY curricula and also store-bought curricula and things purchased online. Last summer, though, I was faced with homeschooling four kids while keeping a fifth occupied and it was a little overwhelming. I also needed something to keep me on track.

I started doing some research and talking to other moms who did virtual school and made the leap. We’ve been thrilled with it and plan to have all 5 kids in Leavenworth Virtual School using the Calvert Education curriculum next year. These are just my top 10 reasons why we love it:

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1. We love when the boxes of curriculum arrive on our doorstep.The kids go through them like it’s Christmas, and they are excited to see what they will be learning about. The little ones love their clay and crayons and small books while the bigger kids love their science kit.

2. I love that I am not spending hours researching and tracking down curriculum for the individual needs of each of my children. I am also not spending hours each week lesson planning. Instead, I have more time to spend with my family and on doing other things I might need or like to be doing.

3. We love all the online extras. Resources like Streaming Discovery Channel, BrainPop, online textbooks, online libraries and tech lessons like how to send email, how to create Excel spreadsheets, how to type, use Paint, etc.

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4. I love that they accommodate all types of learning styles. If your child is “behind” for their grade, you aren’t ridiculed or made to feel different or less than. They have a program called Verticy for struggling readers and a software program called Kurzweil, which reads to a child. As for math, if you don’t like the math program, Leavenworth Virtual School will find you an alternative. They want your child to succeed.

5. We love that we can go at our own pace. We can take a vacation and do work before we leave or catch up later. We can travel with my husband for work and take school on the road. We can do one lesson in each subject every day or my good-at-English boys can knock out all their Spelling for the whole year in a week. You can send your kid off with their lesson manual and have them do their work independently or work alongside them. You can do the work at night or on weekends even.

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6. We love that it’s cost-effective. I would spend thousands of dollars on all the times Calvert Education sends to our door through LVS for just $45 per child. That’s it. You can rent a laptop from them if you need to and return it at the end of the year for a reasonable fee.

7. I love that there are no requirements for the kids to be online for a certain number of hours per day. You need 160 days of attendance online but they are not counting your every move. If your child already knows something, he can simply answer the checkpoint questions (like a little quiz) and move on.

8. We love that our facilitator comes to our home. He visits three times per year for check-in and testing, but that he is not calling or emailing me all the time. LVS knows and respects how busy homeschooling parents can get and also knows that we are in charge of our kids’ education! Go figure!

9. I love that they have Fun Fridays. Every month other LVS kids get together in Leavenworth to play and take cool enrichment classes. They also have amazing monthly field trips! Last December we went to see a play at The Coterie at Crown Center followed by ice skating at the Ice Terrace and my virtual schooled kids were all free.

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10. We love that it leaves plenty of time for other activities, time with friends and learning about other things they might want to be learning about. We have time for board games, going to the park and the pool, Scouts, field trips, grandparents, volunteering and more.

Homeschooling can get a bad rap sometimes as either parents letting kids run wild all day or else parents making their children sit at the dining room table doing school 10 hours a day. Our days are somewhere in between: filled with memory-making goodness and we are glad that we can fit school into our fun life!

Article re-posted with permission from Kansas City Moms Blog.


Back-to-Virtual-School Tips and Traditions

Back to Virtual School Tips and Traditions

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Kerrie is the chaos-loving, homeschooling mama of 5 living in Overland Park. You can find her (and all her offshoot projects) at TheKerrieShow.com.

Sure, virtual homeschooling is different from brick and mortar school, but some things are similar. Here are some things to consider when you are getting your student/child ready for back-to-virtual-school:

  1. Set a start date. It’s important for your entire family (and friends and neighbors too!) to know when school is starting. Vacations and events should be scheduled around the first day of homeschooling.
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  1. Go back-to-school shopping. Leavenworth Virtual School (LVS) in conjunction with Calvert Education sends everything a kindergartner would need, including watercolors, jumbo crayons and pencils, construction paper, math manipulatives and more! For the older kids, they make sure to include plenty of scratch paper for writing and doing math problems. Still, your kids might enjoy some new things to call their own, like maybe a colorful fabric bin to keep all their homeschooling goodies and projects in, or a new set of markers or special notebook. I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have a massive list of things to buy, compiled by a teacher, for each kid. The cost and logistics of all those must-have items makes my head spin!
  1. Plan some freezer meals. You’ll want to focus on figuring out the routine and rhythm for your kids and for yourself, and having some freezer meals (or the pizza delivery place on speed dial) ready to go, will save your sanity and help you focus on the lessons each day during those first few weeks.
  1. Plan some extracurricular, active and social activities. Leavenworth Virtual School has Fun Fridays, where there is plenty of time to play and socialize, as well as a short, fun and educational lesson on something cool like hieroglyphics. Get all their field trips on your calendar as well so your kids can meet up with other LVS kids while you get some time to meet other homeschooling parents.

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  1. Have an unpacking party! Once the boxes come from Calvert, full of textbooks, workbooks, reading books, the science kit and so many other fun things, have fun unpacking them with your children.
    1. Review the curriculum ahead of time. Take some time to check out the curriculum so you are prepared to teach the first week of lessons.

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  1. Start the day right. Prepare a special breakfast to get that brainpower going for the whole family.
  1. Don’t forget to take a family photo. The photo of the first day of school is always one to treasure and look back on with fondness.
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  1. Celebrate the first day of school. You might want to go a little bit light and ease into your first day of school, which is a wonderful benefit of virtual homeschooling. After you’re done, consider going out for ice cream or heading to a park so you can all blow off some steam. You could even have your fellow homeschooled friends over for a potluck picnic dinner in the backyard!
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  1. Finally, have your students keep a journal for the year. This can be an inexpensive spiral-bound notebook or in something fancy your kids create and decorate themselves, but the point is to try to jot something down daily throughout the school year. Even little ones can draw a picture of how they are feeling or of something they did that day.

Article re-posted with permission from Kansas City Moms Blog.