My children began their education in a traditional school. I liked it that way. I had a traditional education and did just fine. I never considered any other option for schooling UNTIL my then active-duty military husband and I were discussing our next duty station. Several of my military friends used home school curriculum or enrolled their children in virtual public school programs such as Arkansas Connections Academy to keep their children’s education consistent. At that time, however, I chose not to pursue an at-home schooling option. I was – quite honestly – scared to death to try it.
As life often goes, we found ourselves in an unexpected situation. My husband separated from the military, and we needed to move out-of-state for his new job. While we transitioned, I took courage from my non-traditional schooling friends and ordered homeschool curriculum for my children’s grade levels (at the time 7th and 9th grades). We found that we all loved it. I also realized that my children’s learning styles were completely opposite; however, classes could be customized to fit them individually. Perfect!
Since I “blame” these friends entirely for my leap into the non-traditional school world, I decided to connect with one family to learn more about their decision to switch schools. While the choice of curriculum varied in my group of friends—some used a free virtual public school; others preferred a Christian-based curriculum; yet others mixed it up—I was especially intrigued by the online education option.
I chatted with Angela Borkowski, who enrolled her daughter Julia in Arkansas Connections Academy three years ago. Angela opted for this school after searching for an alternative to home schooling; she wanted a school that would provide Julia with the structure she needed, but also the schedule flexibility to go on frequent family trips and pursue Julia’s passion for theater.
I wondered how online schooling compared to traditional forms of education, and whether students could find success in an online setting. I found out that Arkansas Connections Academy is a free virtual public school for grades K-11 statewide, and the school provides you with all the learning materials you need such as textbooks, science kits, manipulatives, and PE equipment. Certified teachers work with your child to make sure they understand each lesson and are moving through the curriculum. And the school provides plenty of in-person field trips and increased flexibility for students to spend time with friends.
Angela, and all of my friends using an at-home school option, have told me they are satisfied or very satisfied with their decision. For the Borkowskis, the flexibility and individualized learning approach allowed Julia (now in 9th grade) to adapt and adjust her learning to her own needs and abilities. Julia can work at her own pace and spend more time on subjects she struggles with due to dyslexia. Online school also allows Julia to work ahead on the subjects she doesn’t struggle in, giving her more freedom to do extracurricular activities.
Personally, my own feeling of inadequacy were what initially held me back from any type of at-home education. While Angela had ample experience with home schooling, she had concerns about the tackling the more challenging subjects through an online platform, and wasn’t sure what her role would be when working with the teachers to support Julia. She soon realized that the parent didn’t need to be the expert at Arkansas Connections Academy, but more of a facilitator or learning coach helping to motivate at home. Now, she has the peace of mind that certified teachers are delivering the instruction as well as assigning grades.
I still sometimes wonder if it will really be enough: my at-home school choices and my best intentions, but the Borkowski family’s success in an online setting helped me settled any doubts about online education. Julia quickly became a tech-savvy natural in the online platform, even willing to help new or struggling students adapt online. She’s succeeding academically with straight A’s, and best of all, she’s able to stay on track with school while dedicating time to theater, going on family vacations and working at a veterinary office.
My friends will tell you I am very hung up on structure, schedules, and following the lesson plans 100%, while other families enjoy a more care-free approach to their school routine. What works for me and my family may not work for you and yours, but that’s the beauty of individualized education options such as Arkansas Connections Academy.
Non-traditional schooling isn’t for everyone, I know; but if you are interested, don’t be afraid to explore your choices. Remember you don’t have to know it all! School options like Arkansas Connections Academy provide you with an award-winning curriculum, local, certified teachers who will make sure your child understands each lesson, and the support of the entire school network!