Welcome to our blog

This is the story of two educators on one journey. Each day we will record our reflections on the process of being involved in an innovative educational environment. The decision on our part to leave the public education system was deliberate due to our growing frustrations over the factory "one size fits all" model of education. This model has dominated the educational landscape and is not designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Step one in our journey was to find a place that would allow us the freedom to break out of the system. We needed a chance to just breath and facilitate learning in the ways that we both know are best for children. That step has led us to Rosemary Beach Florida to work with the students attending the OH Institute. The OH Institute is a unique educational environment that we find humane. The curriculum focus is on the individual learner with an infusion of technology project based learning. Currently, it has 20 students in grades 4-11 all of whom are seeking something different than what the factory system of education has to offer. This is where our adventure begins...

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Thursday September 30-


Today was nice because we are done with the standardize testing. It really brought me back to what I enjoy about being here. I started out with a bunch of students brainstorming ideas for our Costa Rica trip mission statement. The students came up with some good ideas which later in the day morphed into some really powerful mission statements.

First work block I was suppose to work with elementary students on math. However, when I got to their room they were working on projects which they indicated to me that they were suppose to continuing doing so. I did learn a little later that they were suppose to suspend project work when I came in and do math but it all worked out. We started math at the end of the block and finished it before lunch.

During lunch Randy and I had a discussion about the direction of the school and our roles within the process. There seems to be some disconnect between what we are doing with the kids, our backgrounds and the product that the director wants. Randy set up a meeting to discuss the disconnect and better communication.

Planning time was fairly productive. Mira stayed to work on catching up and I worked on looking for literary response prompts and information on how to write a good literary analysis paper. This information will be shared with the high school students next week after they have selected their books.

After the students came back from tennis the fun work began. We all looked over the mission statement brainstorming and worked in pairs, groups or individually to come up with our Costa Rica Trip mission statement. Here is what they came up with:

Kylie:OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica to learn about other languages, help the lives of others, and learn about other cultures.

Leah and Mira:
"To immerse ourselves in the unique culture and language of a different country while enriching the community, experiencing new adventures, and conserving the environment at home and in Costa Rica."

Hunter and McKenzie:OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica to immerse ourselves in other cultures, to learn more about the language, and to give back to other communities through conservation and education.

Mitchell:"We are going to Costa Rica to immerse ourselves in different cultures, to help the locals and to work on our Spanish."

Davis: To learn and experience new things.

Elementary sent me some powerpoint slides: http://docs.google.com/a/oh-institute.org/present/edit?id=0AU4Tckp9O_WRZGY3Mjhyc3BfMzFmMnJ3cHpmaA&hl=en

What I really like best about OH is moments like these. When students form groups together based on a common mission and create. They create really good things that capture what we are doing. We are working together to construct our learning with the world as our classroom.

The students enjoyed sharing their mission statements out and I think we came up with a good one that combines all of the ideas:

"OH Institute is traveling to Costa Rica
to immerse ourselves in the unique culture and language of a different country while enriching the community, experiencing new adventures, and learning about environmental conservation at home and in Costa Rica."

All in all a great day of learning at the OH institute.

Daily list 9/30/10:

8:00am student fundraising meeting to work on our mission statement
Elementary project work
Contacted Chef Nelson to confirm our visit tomorrow.
Brain break
Elementary Math
Community time: FLVS letter, Chef Nelson, Mission Statement work
Elementary mission statement
Clean up
Community time-sharing of mission statements
Condensed mission statement with Randy after school
Met with Tim and Russ to go over website after school
Wrote reflection

The morning was productive with hs and ms working on FLVS classes. The elementary did some inquiry early and then switched to some math lessons. During PBL time, second block, we had some strong progress on the new round of middle school projects. Davis, Mitchel and Mason are particularly interested in the Red Panda and they did some work with Mr. Russ on how to get a movie-like slide show that plays for an audience. Alyssa and Hanna are continuing their work on their Costa Rica project and have decided to construct an advanced symbaloo page. We contacted symbaloo to figure out how they got pictures to go across all tiles and we are waiting for reply.

On the HS side, we went through their project up on the board and realized we in fact do have some errors that need correcting. Most were grammatical errors and a couple of broken links. We then sent these projects to experts, which were surprisingly hard to find with hybrid cars. Some chose mechanics, others writers or articles on pollution and others.

After tennis, I was in a meeting with Tim so the students put on channel one and watched that with Amy.

The afternoon was spent on catching up on FLVS as well as writing a mission statement and sending and email to their FLVS teachers to explain what we do here. After cleaning, we got a chance to share our mission statements.



The list is all I can get on my reflection today. I will be better tomorrow!

Community Time
Contacted Olivia’s mom
ITBS testing
Written reflection
Website design
faxed Corchis ITBS to Walton county
elementary math
grade ITBS
clean up
web site brain storm again

Today was our second day of ITBS testing in the morning. It took a bit longer than usual, but we will not have any testing tomorrow which I think is great. During our game break, we played steal the bacon and Kylie was the number caller. It is fun to sit back and watch the students cooperate and encourage each other in these short, but fun game breaks. The second half of the morning was spent on FLVS catch up from the time we missed. The elementary kids were constructing their family trees while Jack wanted to start some research on severe storms and lightning.

Many students stayed in the room during lunch and I figured out this issue is because they have their own food and containers and they don't like to come back up to the school after eating and this gives them more kickball time. Speaking of kickball, it was another exciting game. The butterflies of hope were hoping to clinch a win that would put them even with the Dominators for total wins. It was a defensive game that tied at 4-4 leaving both teams feeling a bit unsatisfied. I suppose this will lead into another epic game this Friday. Maybe we can do something special.

After kickball, we went back into another FLVS block deciding to hold off on PBL until tomorrow when testing is done. The elementary did math with Amy and I had a meeting with Tim, Russ, and Dana for about 1hr about the peblr website and OH website. They seem to be really good at thinking of graphics and designs to help make the school have a positive Internet presence.

Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday but we will have music in the afternoon instead of design. I'm hoping to have the students continue to do their reflections and improve on their blogs each day in the afternoon as well.



The morning started before school working with Alex on chemistry. It surprises me (but shouldn't) how linear and anticreative the flvs way is. I think chemistry should lend itself to being creative, but is is very dry. It seems to me, and this is my opinion, that FLVS is something to get done, not learn from. I guess this has it's parallels to our school system as well.

We did ITBS today also, and all seemed well. Not very exciting, but just fine. These scores will help us look at growth during the year. The rest of the day is spent on catching up on the FLVS classes. Same schedule tomorrow as it will be our last day of testing.

Getting in a reflection time is still tricky, but we'll get better. We did a blog entry today and I hope we can encourage the students to really think about strong reflections and how to make those entries something that is very nice.

Today and tomorrow we are giving the ITBS test of basic skills. It was a lot of direction reading and watching the kids test. We also have to hand score 20 tests and convert them to Standard Scores, grade equivalent scores and NPR which can be inefficient and leave room for errors. While they were testing I worked on composing a letter to the High School students talking about book selection fro their language arts course. I gave them things to remember for their selection and a website that is a good resource for them to find books. I also encouraged them to find books on different genres. They will be using their self selected books to write weekly literary reflections as well as a literary analysis.

After the testing was done we moved on to elementary math time. Mr. Tim joined us and we had all students working on EDU2000 math. We found that there were some inconsistencies in the system such as the assessments do not randomize questions nor do they ask new questions each time. A student that takes an assessment has the opportunity to see what they got wrong and then they can retake the same exact assessment. The assessments are only 4 questions long so it was pretty easy to figure our how to cheat the system. The dilemma that I have with anything online for elementary math is really are the students learning? Both Randy and I feel that this is not a developmentally appropriate way for them to learn and should be used as a supplement to another curriculum. We feel like it is not best for kids and that they are not learning. I am going to talk to Mr. Tim about it tomorrow in a meeting but I think that he is pretty set on using an online curriculum with them.

During planning time with Randy we sent the High school email out and worked on the ITBS testing schedule for tomorrow. I also shared the virtual school letter with him. The good news is that we did not get much planning time in and I say this is good news because we had students using this time to get some one on one help with their course work. As I said to Randy the student needs come first, we can find time later for planning.

When we did have time to do some hand scoring of the ITBS it was really interesting to see how the students fell out on the testing. Some did extremely well and others did well in some areas but not others. However, the make up of our student population is still way above average and there are not concerns when looking at standardized test scores. Today we had reading and tomorrow we have math.

The final task of my day was to have a five week check in with Leah and her mom. Leah came in after school had already started so I was curious to see how she was liking things. She is always on task and sweet as can be. Even though my impression was that she was liking it I wanted to be sure. My suspicions were confirmed that she is really happy at OH-yay!

Community time:
elem/ms/hs vocab and reading comprehension
Letter to HS
FLVS letter
Math with Elem
grade ITBS
met with Randy to plan for ITBS tomorrow, share virtual school letter and go over HS language arts.
Met with Leah and her mom for the five week check in

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday 9/27/10


Today was a long day. It was not long in the sense that any big issues came up but it was long because I worked a good part of the weekend and then worked today until 6:00pm and then still went home and did some things.

I was so happy with the high school students for stepping up to the plate and getting things done with catching up. These kids are amazing and they want to succeed.

It was also nice to hear from Nathan while he was away at his golf tournament. Kickball was funny today because we thought that the Butterflies of Hope were behind when in fact they were destroying the other team.

Ellee did a nice job piloting a new math program for Mr. Tim.

I really liked Mira's dogs even the one "that might bite." All in all a long but good day.

The daily list:

Before school: answered emails from Tim

Community time-met with HS to talk about Language arts and PSAT

Check in with:
Mira-checked on dropping Spanish/called PK to double check her electives
Hunter-did all assignments needed to get done over the weekend and has set realistic goals for catching up this week-yea!
Connor-caught up
Mason-caught up
Talked to Olivia’s mom on the phone because they are having trouble submitting work

organized answer sheets

Met with Olivia and Randy for a check in

Brain break: looked over incol email that Tim sent about start up.

elementary math: looked at ilearn with Tim and then looked at EDU2000


community time-channel one news

quick email check

outline of OH structure/study for year-worked on written portion of this

Community time-attitudes of gratitude

Randy: met with and checked on weekly schedule/ITBS

Parent meetings: Mullins-at school Syed-at their house


Friday 9/24 and Saturday 9/25 and Sunday 9/26

Weekend Update:

  • Five week family check ins-These are so nice to do. I get to hear about things going on with the families that we work with and have a chance to highlight the amazing things the students are doing every day. It is good to work in a community where we have the chance to meet and work towards a common goal. I wonder how can I translate this to future work with communities of greater need?
  • Tim and Paige meeting: We had a two hour meeting with our supervisors to look over their Language Arts standards spread sheet that they developed and to talk about the direction of HS language arts in general.
  • Blog-I updated the parent informational blog. Here is the link if you want to check out our informational blog: http://oh-info.blogspot.com/
  • Brain dump systems and structures in place. I did this on Sunday and it has helped me with my thinking in terms of how to structure things.
Friday September 24:

Today was a great day of finishing projects for high school and middle school. The middle school project on tarantulas has been sent to multiple experts and I'm excited to see what the response from them will be. High school has put together a project on hybrid cars that is a four way, multi directional slide show.

Today started with a meeting with Tim about elem curriculum and HS language arts. I went on to the parent meeting feeling a bit out of sorts from my first meeting with Tim because we had to meet in a hurry. I had a great time with the students the rest of the day. Whenever things look strange or I feel a bit down it is always nice to come in and work with the students. Today I did the high school check ins and many were falling behind so I did some goal setting with all of them for things to accomplish over the weekend. We will see how things look on Monday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday 9/23/10

No Reflection Yesterday Amy turned 40 and she took the day off!


The day started off with elementary. It has been my goal to continue to work with writing through science content and social studies. Yesterday we focused on the differences between reptiles and amphibians so I was thinking we would do social studies today. However, when Ellee brought in a dead "mystery bug" in an envelope, it was going to be another day with science content. We spent some time arguing on what it was before doing research, sharing and publishing. The general online content time seems to be working like this.
  1. Assess background knowledge - talking, arguing, using the white board, putting down observations
  2. Timed (by watch) research time - quite, individualized
  3. Document findings (google shared doc, spreadsheet etc)
  4. Writing forms that express findings (on blog or document) - 4th grade working on solid paragraph writing, 5th grade working on advanced multi-paragraph writing
After elementary time, I move to middle school and high school project time. Middle school is in in their final steps, finding experts and doing final revisions. They used amazon.com to look for authors about tarantulas and use this information to help find experts. Also, it was recommended that they look for forums on this topic as that was a successful finding during the sea hare project.
High school's project time was spent on the main structure of their project on hybrid cars. Each student has put together their section and is revising and checking each others work. Most interesting is Nathan and Leah who will be bringing their bikes tomorrow to go count cars to get a ratio of hybrid to regular cars and compare that to the national average. They will go to state road 98 about a mile down the road. Great research idea and use of real research strategies. I look forward to their findings.
We will also share their spreadsheets with their parents and have them work on daily reflections today. It will be really great to have these projects finally complete and published. They seem to be happy with their projects and I know they will be proud of their progress.


Today was a low energy day all around. There was nothing bad about it everyone seemed just to be really relaxed and working.

I had a two hour meeting with Tim and Paige.

The student work is phenomenal at this point. Their projects and thinking is just amazing. Listening to elementary students discover what they thought was a spider is actually a bug called a "cow eater" and middle school students produce blogs with arguments over whether or not tarantulas are good is just heaven. Experts are responding to the students which is always exciting. It is nice to have the student work reviewed by an expert on the topic.

Elementary curriculum continues to take the majority of the facilitator's time. I thought that our students were working pretty autonomously until I spoke to Randy and he is guessing that he is spending 80-90% of his day with elementary students. We set up a meeting with Tim about this dilemma and HS language arts.

As I sit here all alone in the school at 5:35pm I think about things like how are our students feeling at this point? Are they happy to be here? They are a wonderful bunch of students and this is a great place to be during the day.

My mantra is trust, respect and professionalism.

The daily list:

community time: talked about Chef nelson and did a community builder
checked email and confirmed parent meetings for this weekend
met with Tim and Paige 9-11:00am
11:00-12:00pm worked on planning list with Randy, organized notes and tasks for the day.
12:00pm lunch
12:30-2:45 Planning block with Randy:
  • parent meetings talk through and plan together
  • excel sheet and FLVS/PBL work-student understanding process, where we go from here
  • pace and organizing time at home
  • October 13th PSAT
  • Field Experience
  • December travel window:
    • what are your plans?
    • student need to have these plans set by mid October so the project background info can be done and project plan in place
  • Lingering questions/issues/support that I can provide
  • look at week #5 together
  • look over graffiti from student fundraising meeting
  • music HS see notes
  • LA conversation
  • PBL accountability structure-so it does not get overshadowed by FLVS maybe:
  • p1: group project
  • p2: individual
  • p3: partner
  • How do we keep them moving forward? check ins?
  • Do they have to choose different types throughout the year (individual, group, partner etc.)?
  • How many projects do they do each year?
  • list of things juggling:PBL, working one on one, planning, tutoring, check ins..what else? SAT, ACT, PSAT, planning, music and teaching elementary curriculum
  • (language arts, reading, PBL for Science and Social Studies)
  • reflections
  • Student feedback form: Music, Design, Schedule,PBL process
Community time:
  • talked about field experiences and the way they are set up
Looked over parent meeting notes and follow up list
Looked over iphone list and updated weekly meeting document
Scheduled weekend time for: Dissertation work and PBL work
Emailed/Text Tim about: HS Music class, fundraising meeting, new PBL website, ISTE proposal
Answered parent emails
Updated: Weekly meeting document, parent communication, reflection blog
Looked over and organized tomorrow’s priorities
Wrote reflections


Tuesday September 21

Today was a nice day in terms of feeling like OH is working. The parent meeting was reinforcing of the fact that we have support and that they are on board. i also like that they are having a voice in what happens at OH.

Right now it is 9:23pm and I am tired in a good way. I feel like today was a day where we are having healthy conversations as a community. It is great to hear parent concerns but also hear the same parents offering solutions to their concerns (mainly over the cost of the trip).

Things that worked today:
  • Wow! The middle school duo of Hannah and Alyssa rock. They finished their project complete with contacting an expert in the U.K. ad also presented it in front of all the parents.
  • It was also nice to connect with Sara in South Carolina to hear her successes and frustrations with her group. We share some of the same dilemmas and I feel like we can help her with strategies. Randy is really figuring the balance out at this point. One of the things that takes a lot of time and energy up front is giving students the skills to be autonomous so that in the long run the facilitator has more time free to spend with students and projects as needed.
  • Parent meeting: went well I am excited about working on fundraising for the trip.
Daily List:
Community time: Chef Nelson, Writer’s conference, coming on time, design swap
Checked in with Hunter about what she is working on today (oral at 2:30)
parent concern over costs of trip
ilearn to follow up on getting Sara in the system
sent Sara an email to let her know that she would be set up today
Tim: writer’s conference, netrakker log in
Called and left messages for Todd and Stacey at ilearn to follow up
Talked to Stacey at Ilearn to get Sara set up
tried to log in to netrakker and could not do it
brain break
sorted through ITBS and made sure that we had enough booklets and answer sheets
logged on to netrekkar and looked at HS and MS language arts things
11:30-12:00 talked to Sara Carey about:
language arts
balancing instruction for multi levels
time management
documented the facilitator’s process week #4 PBL
Planned a community builder
updated week #5 to include current plans for community builder
worked on parent meeting:
cleaned up my role in the agenda section
slide show
Planned with Randy after school:
went over agenda and prepped for parent meeting
planned for tomorrow with Randy-since I will be out
updated document: week #5
parent meeting
At home:
Reflective journal
parent email to set up meetings

Big day here at OH today. We had our first complete, beginning to end, project done and will be presented tonight at our parent meeting. We contacted experts from all over the world and did a one on one interview with an expert in England. The project topic was the Sea Hare, a weird creature we came across on our first field experience. The students working on the project come from elementary and middle school. What a great job well done.
Elementary finished their main steps to completing their project on carnivorous plants. They spent some time finding experts and will compose emails tomorrow or even contact experts. I'm looking forward to their completed work. We are also planning a writing prompt this week to see where all of the kids are in their writing process.
High school began to move into step 3 today with some more research involved with hybrid cars. They are putting together a choose your own adventure type of project like the middle school group where the reader can choose which part of the project to view. Neat idea.
Middle school has one half of the project done today. Some members were still finishing the sea hare project and will catch up tomorrow. We will post this project to a popular tarantula online community to see what they think. We will likely encounter many comments and ideas from having so many people view it. We are excited. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Week #5

We apologize up front for not starting this blog sooner in the year but we figured better to start now than not to start at all.

Daily Reflections: Randy - Monday September 20

It's a Monday for sure. The morning was quiet and subdued as we began to wake up our brains. We changed the project work time to accommodate students so that I could be with them during the entire process. Elementary did their project work first looking up information on carnivorous plants ranging from species, maps and what they actually eat. Trae and Hanna were the only ones here so they worked simultaneously on a shared document both on different slides. It was actually really amazing to see them using their technology at such a high level. I also was very impressed with how meticulous they were when they cited their work. We joked about how the plagiarism SWAT team would come through the roof on tether ropes and arrest us if we didn't cite our sources.

Middle school was next after a very fun, but short, brain break. Their project focuses on tarantulas and what I like best is the argumentative and opinionated structure of their project. The project will have 2 directions like a "choose your own adventure" where the audience can choose between the arguments of "tarantulas are dangerous" or "tarantulas are not dangerous". What a fun way to integrate content and standards. On a side note, we did get to hold the tarantulas and even used the microscope to look at the irticating hairs of one of the species. Really amazing for sure.

During this second block, we were able to also get work done on the high school project. Their essential question is "Are hybrid cars really better for the environment?" I don't think you can get a better question than that. They divided the question in to parts that they will work with a partner on to gather information to put the project together. We are in the process of discussing the best way to put the project together (wiki, slide show, glogster and even the idea of an actual poster board). Walking through the project is really a great way to learn together and I'm enjoying the great insights of the students.

After lunch and kickball, we did music. All bands are doing some great work and it was fun to hang out with "Someday Soon" consisting of the high school girls. They picked a tricky song and it amazes me how fast they can learn when they work together.
All in all, what a great day. We had many accomplishments and I think is was one of our best days of work yet. I can't wait until tomorrow!

Daily Reflections: Amy-9/20/10:

  • My schedule a brain dump: community time, meeting with Tim (Parent mtg), Create Randy planning after school list, trip time line list, work on parent email for parent meeting, worked with Sea Hare group on pictures for presentation, work on rough draft of table of contents for the documentation of the year, set up field experience with Chef Nelson, lunch/kickball, ilearn math with elementary, check in Hunter, updated documents: parent communication log, week #5, dilemma sheet,day by day sheet, created daily reflection shared document, planned/debriefed day with Randy, worked on the following at home: resent attachment to parent group, created blog for reflections, answered and composed email, set up ilearn for Sara...
  • Today things that worked well: PBL time and parent mtg planned and looks good.
  • Persistent dilemmas: still the amount of time ilearn takes for elementary, lack of consistency when it comes to reflective blogs for students, I need to get away to be able to focus more on administrative tasks/documentation, not feeling like I can actually send anything out before it gets approved holds up the process a bit- I will need to get ahead of things more to get things out in a timely manner.
  • Questions/wonderings:
    • Roles: Is it possible for Randy to facilitate all the things during the day and keep students on track academically and is he suppose tutor them as well?
    • Balance: how much time should be spent with students vs me getting tasks done to document process as well as moving towards an independent school model?
    • Did Jordin get his spreadsheet done?
    • What kinds of structures do we still need to put in place for ourselves (facilitators) to keep everything moving ahead
  • I am working on this issue:
    • Several students falling behind. I see some starting to do avoidance behaviors like staying home and coming in late. Need to help them manage their time. All of our students are capable of this type of work but the rigor is starting to become a reality.
  • Overall: Things are moving in a good direction and today was one of the best days in terms of the balance between project work, virtual school, music and students being accountable for their learning-yay!