Today’s highlight is of a Colorado Connections Academy family. Kathy enrolled her oldest, John, in Connections Academy 4 years ago, and this year he is a senior. My family has known John and his family since 2007 through the Civil Air Patrol. I am very proud of John and all of his accomplishments, especially for what he is about to take on tomorrow when he assumes command of Valkyrie Cadet Squadron as Cadet Commander; a great responsibility and honor.
Please help me welcome Kathy as she shares about her oldest child and his journey and successes in an online school.
How did you learn about your virtual school?
Through friends with children attending on-line schools.
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?
John was extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with his early weeks as a 9th grader at a large, urban public high school. From the beginning he disliked the extreme crowdedness and the rude behavior of many of the students. It was clear to all of us it was not a good fit for him. A few weeks into the semester John said he had never been anywhere that felt so wrong to him. We knew him to be a thoughtful decision-maker and to have a very strong sense of self, so took his statement to heart and we began looking at alternatives.
There’s a variety of reasons why parents chose a virtual school for their child, what’s your reason for enrolling your child in a virtual school?
As we investigated other brick and mortar school options, each had pluses and minuses. John kept coming back to the idea of attending a virtual school, which he was much more familiar with through friends than either his parents were. We were at a point where nothing could be worse than sticking with his current placement, and began researching virtual schools as viable option. We found in Colorado Connections Academy a school that was public, accredited, had certified teachers, offered a full range of college-preparatory classes, and had a local physical presence.
What has your experience been with your virtual school and how satisfied are you with your virtual school?
Without exception, the faculty and administrators John has interacted with at Colorado Connections Academy are outstanding. They have all been responsive, caring, flexible, and hard working. John has gotten to know the principal, his counselor and several of his teachers well, in fact has had several for more than one class during his 4 years at Connections. The curriculum has been high quality and academically rigorous, providing John with the full range of classes, including many Advanced Placement options, he needs to be a viable candidate for selective colleges. The school prepared him for scoring solidly on both SAT and ACT exams and for passing AP exams.
How do you as a parent help your child socialize? What activities is your child involved in?
Coming into Colorado Connections Academy as a 14-year old 9th grader, John was well beyond the age where a parent could orchestrate social activities, yet socialization was of course a concern as we ventured into the world of on-line schooling. It took John the first couple of months at Connections to figure out what was required of him if he was to have a social life, but he adapted beautifully to the new situation. He had been a member of the Civil Air Patrol for a couple of years already, and made an effort to develop stronger friendships and greater involvement in numerous leadership and volunteer opportunities through that organization. He has also interned for a local political campaign and served as founding president of his school’s National Honor Society.
There are so many benefits to virtual schooling, what is the greatest benefit for your family?
Most importantly, John has been happy and academically successful with his schooling. He enjoys the flexibility of planning his own time, has become highly self-motivated, likes to bypass his own crummy handwriting by doing most course work on the computer, and finds satisfying the immediate feedback on objective portions of tests and quizzes. As an extremely fast reader, John appreciates being given a choice in the different ways material is presented to address differing learning styles, opting to read on-line material himself at his own fast pace rather than listening to it read to him as a video presentation.
What are your thoughts about choice in education?
We are extremely thankful the option of a high quality on-line public high school education has been available to John. While no single school model can provide exactly the right fit for every child, we have grown to feel that public virtual education is one choice that should be available for all families to evaluate. If there is a concern with accurately identifying the number of students attending an on-line school for the purpose of providing per-pupil funding, the solution seems obvious: do a head count more than once during the school year.
From the perspective of a family with a college-bound student, Colorado Connections Academy provides an extremely economical college preparatory curriculum unmatched in the brick and mortar public school system. A computer is provided free of charge to all students attending Connections Academy and a subsidy given for Internet access. Advanced Placement textbooks from nationally recognized publishers are provided at no cost to the student, as are extensive lab materials for such classes as AP Biology.
There has been much thoughtful and in-depth discussion of the successes and failures of current K-12 education in the U.S. In our family’s experience, Colorado Connections Academy’s on-line schooling offers a unique choice in providing quality education through a highly successful alternative model.