Virtual school makes me virtually crazy

I think I mentioned that Monkey is taking a couple of virtual school classes this semester, and as part of filling out the hospital/homebound paperwork for Chickadee it was suggested that she do so, as well. (Translation: Oh, we are legally obligated to send a teacher out to tutor your kid, but she’s too far away for us to feel like doing that, and we are too lazy to coordinate with the district where she’s currently residing, so instead how about we pay for her to take virtual school courses and you don’t sue us? OKAY!)

Actually—now that I think of it—the craziness started really early with this. Back in the late spring/early summer we went through a whole thing where Monkey was registered for classes as a homeschooler, and that’s supposed to be paid for by the state, but then good ol’ Georgia passed a bill about something else entirely that had a wee little line in it about counties taking on the expense for homeschoolers, so we then received a tuition bill, and Otto spent an entertaining week calling around to the school district, county offices, and state legislature until someone finally paid for it. That should’ve been my first clue that this was going to be entertaining.

And then, of course, Monkey has already tried to school one of his teachers without success. Heh.

It figures that after writing about how proud I was of my son for handling disappointment over a grade that a few days later we would be faced with a complete smackdown: Yesterday Monkey logged on to his virtual school account and gasped. Loudly. By the time I’d gotten up to go see what the problem was, he was practically incoherent.

He’d gotten a big fat zero on a paper. Telling your nerd-tastic Aspie that he’s gotten a zero on an assignment is just one step up from telling him that you killed his dog and flushed all of his Yu-Gi-Oh cards down the toilet.

Now, it turns out that he’d somehow turned in the wrong file, because his nomenclature for his online class files is… ummm… well, honestly, it’s incomprehensible to me. And he had four files, all with very similar names, and ONE was his paper (not turned in) and ONE was notes on his paper (what he accidentally turned in). Should he have double-checked before turning in? Absolutely. But as the first paper of the semester, was the teacher going to refuse to take the actual paper, along with an apology and explanation? No.

None of this made sense to Monkey, though. He just saw that 0 and figured the world was ending and taking him with it. Honestly I’m glad we’re starting these classes now, otherwise he’d end up heading off to college someday and having a coronary by the second week of class.

We contacted the teacher and cleared up the confusion and turned in his actual paper. It was all resolved quickly, which was a relief because I was beginning to seriously consider sedating him.

You’d think this mess was the first time I had to step into the virtual school fray and help one of my kids resolve something, but you would be SO WRONG. See, when our home district decided that Chickadee should do virtual school as well, they were kind enough to offer that she could choose any class she wanted to go along with the Spanish class she was enrolling in to replace her regular class. We went over the course catalog and my little CSI addict lit up at the prospect of taking an actual Forensic Science class. Could she do that? We checked with the Powers That Be and they said sure, no problem. She was enrolled in her two classes, I worked it out with the folks at the hospital, and all was well.

For about a day.

Well. Turns out, there’s a few lab supplies you need for the Forensics class. Nothing too crazy, of course. Some tape… glue… talcum powder… a fresh calf’s heart… and a medical-grade scalpel. (Oh, I know. Here, let me: WHAT THE EVERLOVING @*$&%!!!????) I know I am prone to hyperbole in this space, but I can assure you: 100% truth. Hey, homeschoolers! Does everyone have their fresh baby cow heart ready? LET’S BEGIN! RAISE YOUR SCALPEL!

Setting aside the UTTER CRAZY of requiring students to get their hands on calf hearts, it turns out that—GO FIGURE—when you are a patient in a psychiatric facility they are not entirely keen on you having access to sharp objects. Ahem.

We had a little discussion with the virtual school folks; it was gently suggested that in the future, the course catalog include some indication of which classes require additional materials, and that perhaps those materials should then be listed. I mean, obviously the challenges to the animal-loving, vegetarian psychiatric patient are extreme, but frankly I am buying a calf heart for NO ONE and I think most people would not see “Forensics” and think “Let’s go buy a calf heart.”

Chickadee was withdrawn from Forensics.

Spanish should be a no-brainer, especially as she actually took this class last year, and ended up dropping it towards the end of the year during her other hospitalizations. But part of how they do assignments for Spanish is that the students have to record themselves reading assignments, and the hospital wasn’t sure they could accommodate her with a “quiet room” to do so. Chickie contacted her teacher to discuss, and I got the distinct feeling the teacher suspected she was making her story up. (Note to students everywhere: Would you ever tell a virtual school teacher you were currently hospitalized in a psychiatric facility if you weren’t? No? That’s what I thought.)

After about a zillion phone calls, THAT has finally been worked out. I think.

At certain points it all seems like more trouble than it’s worth, honestly, but then there are little gems throughout the process that bring me back to appreciation. Like, if Monkey wasn’t doing virtual school, I’d have to be coming up with a curriculum for him myself, and let’s face it—he’s smarter than I am. Also, I am enjoying watching him put his uniquely Monkey spin on things.

For example, the aforementioned “discussion” of how averages work took place in his Physical Science class. I like that this teacher tries REALLY hard to relate various topics to real-world applications, even if it sometimes results in badly-worded story problems. Heh. Today he worked for a while this morning and then asked me to come review what he’d done; they’re doing a unit on force and motion, and were told to write a brief story on what it would be like in a world without force.

This is what my darling son came up with:

Bob’s stomach rumbled. He had been moving in a straight line for several days now, and hadn’t found any food. In his world, there was no force to stop objects from moving. He sighed, and then gasped as he saw an apple speeding towards him. He opened his mouth, and the apple shot inside, but didn’t stop moving. It ripped right through the back of Bob’s throat. Bob wished he could stop and get some medicine, but there was nothing to stop him from keeping on moving forward.

Eventually, Bob shot off into space and smashed a hole through the center of the moon, breaking all of his bones in the process. Now Bob was just a crippled dead lump floating through space. And he would never even get to have a proper funeral because he couldn’t stop. Poor Bob.

Good thing our world has force!

That, right there? That makes me love virtual school despite the hassles. But maybe check back with me when he gets to a unit where I have to go find him some goat testicles or something.


  1. deva

    I’m giggling uncontrollably at this entry and also having my mouth agape at the idea of a virtual school using a real calf heart and a real scalpel. I went to virtual high school. We virtually dissected things without dissecting real things, and looked at websites illustrating a dissected frog/heart/etc. so we wouldn’t have to do those things in class (this was for bio). So, there’s that anecdote for you.

    And, Monkey’s essay/answer is AWESOME.

  2. diane

    Wouldn’t it be “udder” crazy to need a calf’s heart, at least in some situations?

    Um, yes, one of my biggest pet peeves is not being told all the requirements or guidelines up front. Interestingly, the times when full disclosure is not offered are the times when doing so would have changed my decision.

    In spite of your craziness, it does sound like Monkey is enjoying his classes. Prayers are still going up for all of you, sweet Mir.

  3. Jim

    Monkey wrote a heck of a good story there Mir. There is nothing wrong with his imagination, that’s for sure. He’s awesome!

  4. Rini

    I totally saw the punchline coming there. The punchline where they wouldn’t let Chickie have… glue… A calf’s heart? An actual.. but.. I…

    There are no words.

  5. bonuela

    i feel guilty, but your plight gave me just the chuckle i needed this morning. i can just see your brilliant vegetarian daughter with self harm issues, standing over a tofurky with a plastic knife.

    [Ed. note: Bonuela wins for comment of the year. I am still laughing!]

  6. Nichole

    Monkey’s story made me laugh out loud. He’s awesome.

  7. Beth A.

    I LOVE Monkey’s story!

  8. CIndy

    LMAO! That is the kind of story that is too weird (and FUNNY) not to be true! I would like to know where one places an order for baby calf hearts? I mean, I was raised on a farm and we butchered all our own meat so I don’t have an objection to the whole animal consumption/usage for science. (altho, I did develop a serious revulsion for touching raw meat of any kind and prepare all my dead critters for consumption via knife and fork, I am crafty that way.) But do they give you a list of places to obtain such an item? Are you on your own? Can you imagine explaining THAT to your friendly neighborhood grass fed cattle raiser?

  9. Sheila

    “Poor Bob.”

    I love your son. (Uh, in an admiring, totally-from-afar-don’t-worry-it’s-definitely-not-an-unhealthy-attachment kind of way.)

  10. Kim Smith

    Goodness! My son took a forensics class in a brick and mortar high school (in GA, even)and didn’t need calf hearts or a scalpel.

  11. Jen

    Maybe if Bob had a calf’s heart and a scalpel…

  12. Aimee

    Somewhere, between shaking my head over needing a scalpel and calf’s heart for a virtual class, and laughing at Monkey’s story, I think I sprained something.

  13. Paula

    Monkey has a future ahead of him writing post apocalyptic fiction. The story is brilliant; the prose is better composed than that of many published authors I have had the misfortune to read. (I’m a librarian, and I review young adult lit.)

    I’m not kidding, encourage this kid to write fiction!

  14. Ingrid

    OMG – I love Monkey’s story! Thinking back on some of the anecdotes in the Toweled Avenger/Tumbleweed saga, it is quite obvious that he is your son!!

  15. Otto

    You know, I bet Monkey could have built her a working calf heart out of Legos and she could have dissected it with a spatula.

    Guess we’ll never know now.


  16. Jen H.

    Poor Bob. Snort!

  17. Mandy

    Awesome story, Monkey!

  18. Tara

    That’s AWESOME!!!

  19. Nicole

    Ok, we’re definitely gonna need an update on how that story was received by the virtual teacher. ;) priceless!

  20. karen

    oooooh Nooooooooo Bob!!!…… kinda reminds me of the days of Mr. Bill

  21. victoria

    I hope your son grows up to become a science fiction author :)

  22. Lucinda

    I’m not sure who’s funnier. You, Monkey or your readers. Dear Lord, I’m still giggling. Which is good because my daughter will be attending a virtual school this year for the first time and I was already shaking in my boots at the concept. However, ours is a charter school and provides all the materials for free so I think we are already a step up. Glad you can find the humor still in all the craziness. And yes, yes, yes!!! I want to know how Monkey’s teacher reacts to Bob’s plight.

  23. Arnebya

    A crippled dead lump. Poor Bob. Hilarious Monkey though, so lucky you!

    (Also, I’m with Otto’s thought on the Lego calf heart).

  24. dad

    We live in the country but I don’t think we can help with the goat testicles.
    The goat will not fare well…but much better than Bob.
    Thank goodness for a nonforceless world.
    We can all sleep tonight secure in the fact that we are safe..except for not being able to stop laughing.

    Also, I completely concur with your assessment of Bonuela’s comment.

  25. Katherine

    Loved Monkey’s story! I, too, would be interested in whether there was any response from the teacher. Sounds like virtual school is quite interesting! That’s crazy that they would need a calf heart and it not be mentioned when you sign up for the class! I’m glad to see that Chickie is getting to take a few classes, but it doesn’t sound like they are making it easy.

  26. Tracy B

    I can’t stop laughing………crippled dead lump floating through space….bahahahahaha….poor Bob.

  27. Rebecca

    Where do you even GET a calf’s heart? Are their butchers that specialize in entire intact animal organs? :P

    Despite the minor glitches, it seems like the virtual school experience agrees with Monkey though. Gotta love the critical thinking skills, and the imagination. :)

  28. Julie

    Weirdly, you can get a cow’s heart at your local grocery store (sometimes you have to give them a week or so to get it). My husband I buy them to grind with other meat (for sausages and stuff) or to eat slow cooked and thinly sliced. It is super lean and super cheap – and given how much fatty pork Southerners consume, the leanness is a selling point to me. It’s flavorful once you get over the ick factor. We definitely picked it up the first time as an experiment having no idea how to cook it or what it would taste like. Now is it a calf’s heart suitable for dissecting? No idea. They’re pretty big.

  29. Celeste

    You know, I could just visualize Bob as I read Monkey’s story. I’d love to see that in cartoon form, on YouTube. I bet Monkey could do that in a heartbeat. (Sorry!! Couldn’t resist!)

    We have a small market near us. They have an aisle for Japanese foods, an aisle for Korean foods, etc. The freezer section had me doing a double take the first time I was there and saw the frozen pigs blood. I didn’t think that was legal. I bet they would have assorted sundry animal parts.

  30. Heidi

    Crazy, maniacal laughter…

  31. aadrw

    Lifehacker just posted a “free online education” resources list, and Liberty University has an Intro to Forensics class available on iTunes:

    I remember having to dissect an earthworm in 6th grade. We used a real scalpel and pins to keep them in their trays (what, were they going to scoot off??). What I could never understand, beyond the handing 11 year olds REALLY SHARP POINTY THINGS aspect, was, worms are just pink goop. Here’s some pink goop. There’s some pink goop. Oh look, scoot that goop over there and I see some pinker goop. How is that important to know?

  32. Daisy

    Oh, dear. I was just slapping my forehead over Chickie’s dilemma when I nearly spit coffee out my nose at Monkey’s story.

    By the way, I have had wonderful experiences as a teacher in a virtual school. Monkey would fit in very well with my students. Here’s a taste:

    The question was “A spider making a web is an example of a (an) __________. The student answered “webmaster.” The real answer? Instinct.

    I love my job. :)

  33. Redneck Mommy

    I think I love Monkey.

    Also, I have an unlimited supply to calf’s hearts (and likely goat testicles) if you ever need. For you, they’re free. Everyone else? I’ll charge.

  34. Chuck

    Please pass along to Monkey – his story was made of Awesome. Hope things continue to progress well in virtual school for both him and Chickadee.

  35. Tarrant

    Denise helpfully said you can get these calf hearts on the internet for homeschoolers. I said “Huh?”

  36. Tarrant

    She apparently was going to buy one for Michelle once but it came as a package deal with a frog and Michelle refuses to dissect frogs because she likes them.

  37. elz

    I feel really sorry for Bob. Poor Bob. ;)

  38. Leanner

    Monkey’s story is even better when read out loud. Not sure who was laughing, ok snorting, more me or my husband. 😂

  39. Liza

    I know all of this is really, really hard, in real life, when you’re living it. But for those of us lucky enough to just be reading about it, and reading the comments of other people reading about it, the whole thing is pants-peeingly funny.

    I really hope I never need to acquire calves hearts or goat testicles, but I am so glad to know that Tanis can hook me up. And if that doesn’t work, what with international borders and the like, that Denise and Tarrant can suggest backup options.

    I think Monkey should build a Lego tofurky, which can then be chiseled apart with those tiny Lego tools. The only self harm those are good for is that they do, in fact, hurt like hell when you step on them.

  40. Kris

    Sorry, total assvice, but just homeschool on your own so you don’t have to deal with all that hassle! LOL. Believe me, it’s MUCH easier.

  41. Donna Brazas-Reynolds

    God bless Monkey and his vision! I cannot believe the virtual school didn’t make available necessary items WITH registration and not after. Total incompetence. I am, however, giving Chickie’s Spanish teacher a pass on her disbelief. Unfortunately, too many bad apples ruin it for the rest. As an online university professor, I once had a student lie that shouldn’t couldn’t turn in the final project worth 40% because HER BABY DIED, then say she never said that later.

  42. Wendalette

    Giggling to laughing out loud to tears of funny! From the WTF of Chickadee’s dilemma to the OMG brilliance of Monkey’s essay answer, this post is so full of day-brightening WIN!
    I never came up with anything remotely as fun or interesting (at least I don’t think I did) when I was homeschooled.

  43. Amanda

    I love the virtual school stories and Monkey’s essay answer. We’re doing virtual school with my boys this year for various reasons. We sat in on an orientation lesson with my older son’s teacher last week. Let’s just say he’s so glad he’s not sitting in class with teachers who have poor public speaking skills anymore. He played with a rock and I doodled while she talked. What? I know. Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Good thing she couldn’t see or hear us. It reminded me of some of the awful college lectures I’ve sat through.

  44. Laura

    Monkey’s essay makes me want to go back to school and be a teacher! Very inspirational. I am envious of the teachers now and in his future who get to learn from him.

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