Highlight of a Virtual School Family: Sarah DeHerrera

I am very excited about today’s guest, Sarah DeHerrera.

Sarah has been a Learning Coach with Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA) for 4 years, and she is an esteemed Board member at Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families.  Sarah is a friend and an advocate for virtual schools and choice in education; she gives of her time to ensure that the virtual school option remains a viable option in Colorado.

Sarah has one child enrolled in COVA and he is currently in the 3rd grade.  Please read about Sarah’s experiences with her virtual school.

If you moved from a traditional brick and mortar school to a virtual school, what was the defining moment when you realized something had to change?

When my oldest was failing in a brick and mortar I began to search for a better alternative for her and it just carried forward when my youngest was ready to begin school.

There’s a variety of reasons why parents choose a virtual school for their child, what’s your reason for enrolling your child in a virtual school? 

To give him the best education available while still making sure that he’s kept safe.

What has your experience been with your virtual school and how satisfied are you with your virtual school? 

We love our online school, I am very impressed with how well the curriculum is put together and my son loves the flexibility it gives him.

There are so many benefits to virtual schooling, what is the greatest benefit for your family? 

We can school anywhere, most people are under the impression that we are tied to a computer screen and that is not correct.  A lot of our studies come from printed lessons and offline activities that we can pack up and take anywhere such as, the library, restaurant or even the doctor’s office.

As a parent, are you satisfied with your child’s academic performance and progress since being enrolled in the virtual school? 

I feel that my son’s performance and progress exceeds those of his Brick and Mortar counterparts in many areas of his studies.

How do you as a parent help your child socialize?  What activities is your child involved in? 

My son is very active in our youth services at church and he also attends a neighborhood Bible study every week.

What academic or fun field trips does your virtual school offer throughout the year?  What about student clubs?

Our school offers a variety of activities and clubs along with Co-ops throughout the state.  Although we seldom get to attend, they are still available if our schedule allowed.

How does your child interact with and communicate with the teachers in the virtual school?

He attends one live lesson a week with other 3rd graders and his teacher.  She is also available through email or by phone anytime he needs her.

How would your child describe his/her experience with the virtual school?

He loves this model of learning he can wear his pj’s to school and sit and drink hot cocoa while doing lessons, he also loves the fact that he can take a break whenever he feels the need to.

Do you feel that your child is receiving individualized learning?  If so, please provide examples.

Yes, we can take as long as needed to master a concept verses a brick and mortar where the student either gets it or doesn’t timing doesn’t always allow the student the extra time needed.  Also as learning coach if he needs more assistance than I can provide I have support from his teacher or the school in order to get additional resources or set up live lessons either one on one or within a small group all struggling with the same issues and their teacher.

Describe the schoolroom or the effective study environment where school typically takes place.

We have one room in our house devoted to keeping all materials. It also has several study areas (we have 2 college students and my son in the home so quiet places are a must) but really I leave it to my son as to where he would be most comfortable each day, so it can change daily.  Sometimes we work outside, sometimes at the park or other days we could make a fort in the living room and work there.

How important do you feel it is for your student to be self-motivated and a self-starter in this online model? 

Because we are only in the 3rd grade this is a skill we are still working on, he still requires a lot of involvement from me so self-starting is not so important yet.  But he has learned the concept that the sooner he gets started the sooner he finishes and the more time he has to do his own things.

Do you feel that your virtual school is preparing your child for college or the workforce after high school?  

Very much so, by the time we finish he will have the skills to be an independent thinker, have problem solving skills, and will be able to work without supervision.  He will also have the work ethic lacking in most employees or college students today.

As learning coach/mentor, how much time do you devote every day to your child’s education? 

At this time about 80% of my time is devoted to his education but as he advances in grades the amount of time needed on my part will decrease.

How do you as a parent/learning coach/mentor partner with your student’s teachers?

She is the best resource and support I have.

Years ago we didn’t have the educational options that are available today.  How important is choice in education to you as a parent? 

School choice is very important to me as a parent.  As a mother of 2, with my oldest being failed by the traditional school model, I am not willing to have my second child go through the same frustrations and having him feel like he’s a failure as my first child did.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Sarah! I completely agree with your response to: Do you feel that your child is receiving individualized learning? Seat time is not an appropriate measure of learning, yet mastery-based learning allows the student, as you said, to take the time he/she needs in order to understand before moving on. In an online model, the lessons are there 24/7 so revisiting those lessons are always an option. I enjoyed reading about your experiences with COVA.

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