My son has Tourette syndrome and a mild autism diagnosis. He attended a public school and seemed to be doing okay until 7th grade/middle school. Things went downhill quickly throughout that year with multiple IEP meetings and phone calls. My son just didn’t seem to “fit” into the available resources the school had to offer. The regular class room was too overwhelming for him, special education was too restrictive. No in-between was available. So after informing the public school he would not be back, the big question was, ”Where to now?” So we looked for private schools within a two hour radius of our home and still did not find a suitable solution, not to mention the yearly costs involved.
Then it was on to homeschool. Where to begin? Numerous options, but again seemed not the right fit in our state. At this point, while my stress level was at an all-time high, I just happened to stumble across information for WiloStar 3D Academy and I knew instantly this was the answer. I called Janet Hale, founder of WiloStar and expressed my interest in her school. She explained what was available, I signed my son up immediately and easily. Done deal. Instant relief. Then my husband and I began to worry about our son’s verbal tics with his Tourette Syndrome and if that would pose a problem. My husband called up Janet and she reassured him our son would be able to use typing in chat as a way to communicate. Well, school began, and my son has loved it since day one.
He is in his second year and has made huge strides in his academics, behavior, and self-confidence. In the beginning he had so many tics he couldn’t verbally talk to his class in audio, now he is such a relaxed speaker he is using audio frequently to communicate. He has learned to type, research information on the internet, build 3D virtual worlds for learning, and attends a virtual school in avatar form. WiloStar has a unique approach to educating students-not a one size fits all. Teachers and administrators respond promptly to questions and there is a genuine interest in the students with a relaxed atmosphere. This allows students to be creative in their own way with projects and assignments, and makes learning fun without the pressure. I am able to see what is expected of him, how he is doing, and the results on a daily basis.
There are other students that he has become friends with that have autism too and this has helped him to cope with his own diagnosis. Before it was a secret/denial, now he is cool with it. He has made friends with students from all over the United States and some foreign countries. I highly recommend WiloStar!
WiloStar3D Academy implements accommodations for students based on individual needs. Many online homeschooling and virtual schools do not offer accommodations. WiloStar does! Special needs homeschooling does not have to mean using materials that are not engaging. Your child can learn in a fun, interesting and interactive setting with WiloStar.
How do we determine what accommodations are needed? We like to begin with obtaining a base-line of abilities for each individual child as they start off with our program. Based on the information you provided upon enrollment we then identify some strategies to implement to improve your child’s success. Each student will have a different threshold for success with technology so it’s important to come into this experience with a mindset of determination and patience. Our many years of experience working with students with varied backgrounds has shown us that all students can succeed provided we work as a team! It’s important to also understand that the student ILP will evolve and grow, just as your child will evolve and grow during their time with us.
ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS FOR STUDENTS NEEDING ACCOMMODATIONS
1- READING LEVEL
Students being admitted to our program who are going to require accommodations must not be more than 1 grade levels below their current grade. We give a reading assessment to screen for reading ability. Due to the high level of reading our program requires we have determined the threshold of 1 grade level below is the best in order to help them succeed.
2- STUDENT AGE
Students can not be more than two years older than the current grade level placed into. Again, this is due to socialization issues. We have live class meetings and many live virtual world projects and interacting with peers close in age is beneficial to the students as a whole. As an example, an incoming freshman who is typically 14, can’t be older than 16.
3- COMPUTER PROFICIENCY
Students must pass a computer proficiency test and be able to demonstrate at least average computer schools on Windows based computers. We require a full PC, not a tablet or ipad. This means students must be familiar with and comfortable with Windows PCs.
4- STUDENT RECORDS
All incoming special needs students must have grades/transcripts and preferably a professional evaluation that is done within the last year in order to be admitted to our school.
Sample ILP Strategies Used
1. Your child will be encouraged to complete every other question on the daily written work. For lessons that are marked with a * on the questions, those are the ones they need to attempt to answer. As the school year progresses and skills improve, we may phase out this strategy over time.
2. For longer written assignments (long answer, essay, and longer projects) the grading will be modified to allow for shorter responses. We will work towards helping your child distill the main concepts and main ideas to demonstrate mastery of the content.
3. The use of Dragonspeak or other audio software to both dictate responses and read pages may also be used to help with longer assignments.
4. Audio books via the WiloStar3D Academy Learning Ally site may also be used alongside the print edition of novels to help reading comprehension and reading fluency.
5. Readspeak TextAid is also highly recommended as students can install the plug in for Google Chrome and have relevant Web pages read aloud in a natural sounding voice. It’s further recommended that parents obtain a subscription to audible.com so their student has access to the audio version of novels used for Integrated Studies.
What does a classroom of the future need? Students come in all shapes and sizes and have their own unique set of needs. I think if you ask any parent or good educator they will tell you that. WiloStar3D Academy has always been a firm believer in recognizing the individual yet also encouraging them to respect and integrate with others. Learning from each other is a valuable skill but it’s not always a tangible thing to measure or track. This is because human beings and children in particular have their own special flavor to add to the mix. How does education help encourage and foster a student’s unique needs and talents yet make sure they are mastering core objectives, standards and course materials? Is it by designing a curriculum (or re-organizing it) around untested, unproven and unrelated objectives that are set in Washington? We think not. The Common Core has many fundamental issues and from our standpoint, and they are not something we choose to adopt or promote in any way. Standards imposed from above have no baring on what our students can and do achieve. Standards that were drafted primarily behind closed doors by Washington policy makers have no place in the WiloStar3D Academy program. Not to mention the fact that the Common Core devalues classical literature and pushes information texts. Of course informational texts have their place but students can have immensely valuable learning experiences with classical literature.
Consider the Unique learning styles of Students and Vary Assessment Strategies
Common Core deals only with standards, but for those standards to be effective they must be aligned with a curriculum. This puts constraints not only on content but also on how subjects are taught. This is where the real issues come into play. WiloStar3D has carefully crafted our 3D immersive learning program so students of all backgrounds and abilities can find success. It’s an educational process and a framework. All that we have created and designed is so students can be successful in our immersive 3D learning program and beyond. Molding this to the Common Core is out of the question. At one point back in 2011 when we first started investigating the Common Core we went in with an open mind. As time progressed we soon saw this was a very negative and detrimental thing for our particular type of student. From the inception of the school, WiloStar3D Academy has been setting our own standards and assessment strategies to measure student learning. We also successfully used the original Florida Sunshine state standards for over a decade. There is a lot of great meat on those standards! Setting clear course goals and outcomes and then using a variety of assessment techniques is much better suited to our students than teaching to the test or spending all school year preparing for a standardized test. Changing and re-molding the WiloStar3D Academy curriculum to match the Common Core is not something we will are willing to compromise on or participate in.
Do your Research on what works best for your Child
For parents considering an online homeschool program, we say do your research behind the core values, curriculum and standards in place in that program. For us, this means basing our program on tried and true educational standards that work for our students. We promote higher order thinking, creativity and active student learning. We won’t compromise on any standards that we feel detract from this central philosophy and as a private school we have the right to set what we will and will not adopt. It’s also our hope that schools and parents in traditional settings take a second look at what it means to have your child in a classroom of the future.
With online homeschooling programs reaching into the thousands, it’s more important than ever for parents to research the best option for their child as you consider homeschooling. Not every approach used in online homeschool programs is the same! Things to consider include your child’s learning style, your own commitment to the teaching process and the level of interaction the program has. If your child is a visual learner, loves online gaming and video games, and computers in general, then WiloStar3D Academy may be a great fit for them. Here are other key reasons our online homeschooling program works!
1. Our students attend an interactive live class meeting in a fun, engaging 3D campus each day.
2. Our teachers supervise, grade, give daily feedback. Parents do not have to be the ones doing the teaching and grading.
3. Students get to create interactive virtual worlds as part of our online homeschooling program!
4. We are fully accredited.
Love it while it lasts, you cannot go wrong with this school. Don’t be someone who just ‘does’ the assignments, don’t be someone who just gets by with minimalist work even if that’s all you need to do. Be someone who doesn’t look up to the others in the class, be someone who everyone else looks up to. When an assignment comes up, don’t see it as the end of the world; see it as something new to do and to learn from. Do the best you can and always do more than what’s required; if an assignment asks for 5 paragraphs, write 7 or more.
I used to hate how my mother would tell me to write more than what is required; I could never understand why I would want to do that. I finally understand it, even if I can’t explain it; the feeling I have when I see an assignment get anything less than what I know I deserved is heartbreaking and infuriating because I know I could have done better.
I know how after a while things can seem pretty easy; you can get your work done so fast so regularly that it just becomes another chore but you shouldn’t let it be. Part of what makes WiloStar3d so great is that it makes you a better person and lets you learn what you want to learn. If it only takes three hours to finish your work one day then you have five hours more than other schools give to learn about anything you want. If you notice that your spelling and grammar could use improvement, use that time to do just that; improve. If you notice that everyone else in the class surpasses you in typing speed, take that as a challenge and practice. If your passion is computers then take that time to learn everything you possible can about them. If you want to learn to draw, then draw! If you decide spontaneously that you want to learn the piano, take that extra time to work towards it and get the best piano you can. Just because what you want to learn isn’t relative to the main course doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn it and that’s what makes WiloStar3d so great; they’ll give you everything you need to learn and let you decide what else.
Even if you feel that what you’re learning won’t help you in life you’ll be surprised how often you use that information. It may take time for that information to be of much use but after just one or two times where something you learned pops into your head and makes sense with what you’re doing; you’ll be glad. It’s nice to be able to answer any question with Google but it’s impressive and smart to be able to answer any question through knowledge alone. Knowing an answer is important, knowing how to find answers is necessary; never forget that, always remember that someday in the future what you’ve learned will help you.
This isn’t even to mention the good amounts of fun you have in the school. What other school lets you build an entire world, or design a giant display in any way you want? Don’t put four crooked signs around the place, make an artistic masterpiece out of those signs and use them to your advantage! No matter how little the building assignment, make it perfect to where everyone looks in awe. Even if you don’t have a building assignment, build something that you can be proud of and remember forever. Make everything personal, make everything fun for yourself. Never forget the most important thing; take pictures. I sorely wish I had pictures from way back when I first started, but I have no shortage of pictures now.
There are so many things I’ve learned that I didn’t learn in class or through the assignments but learned on my own due to the time and independency that WiloStar3d gave me and that independency is what made me who I am today. I’m someone who can find the answer to any question I’m given and solve any problem I have on my own. I’m someone who does more than what’s required and is glad to do it. I’m someone who doesn’t live with problems; I’m someone who fixes problems. Even if I didn’t learn it directly through WiloStar3d, I learned it because of WiloStar3d. I had fun and still have fun at WiloStar3d, I’m happy with everything here and I wouldn’t trade it for any other school in the world. Most kids can’t wait to graduate and get out; I only wish I had more than one semester left to stay.
In short, love WiloStar3d because when the end nears, you’ll know you’re going to miss it. Treat WiloStar3d like it’s the best thing in your life because it surely will be. Make everything personal and don’t be afraid of what people think. This school is what will let you be who you want to be and learn what you want to learn while having fun. Never forget that and you’ll do just fine.
Homeschooling does not have to be such a struggle for students with ADD! The WiloStar3D Academy has over a decade of experience with students identified with ADD, ADHD and other learning challenges. Our 3D immersive learning environment and virtual worlds for learning and especially successful with our ADD students. Many ADD homeschool students are experiencing the same issues they may have faced in a traditional classroom setting. This is because the learning environment must be geared towards the unique needs of the ADD student. Simply taking the traditional teaching methods of a bricks and mortar program and plunking it down in the online setting does not work for students with ADD. Students with ADD need an environment that is stimulating, holds their interest yet still keeps them accountable during the day. WiloStar has carefully crafted our online homeschooling program for the ADD student!
Watch some of our demos and then give us a call to discuss how WiloStar3D Academy can help your child succeed!