Earlier this week I shared a little about what exactly Connections Academy is, and how students learn #OutsideSchoolWalls via online school. Today I’d like to share my interview with Connections Academy parent Vicki Baker. Baker has had three children graduate from Ohio Connections Academy, and her fourth child is currently enrolled in 7th grade. I had the chance to learn all about her experiences as a parent and hear about her children’s experiences as Connections Academy students.
- What is the difference between Connections Academy and Homeschooling? Or is it considered a form of homeschooling? Connections Academy is not homeschooling. It is an online public school that combines credentialed teaching with parental involvement and accountability for each student. Connections Academy teachers are certified and trained to engage students for online learning, and the parents act as Learning Coaches. Students will engage in LiveLesson® sessions with their teachers each day and the parents help with homework and projects as needed.
- How did you and your family decide on Connections Academy over other online schools? I chose Connections Academy because of what they had to offer my children. A little over 8 years ago, I heard about Connections Academy driving home from picking up my children from the traditional public school they were attending. I came home and immediately called to get more information. I loved everything I learned about it! I looked at the ratings of the schools that were available to us online and Connections Academy was the best based on my research, so we chose them.
- How do your children get the social aspect of school, since it’s primarily online? I get this question all the time. My answer is always the same. Some people think that just having their child go to a traditional school,is the only socialization he or she needs. But is it? I worked in the local school system as a volunteer with various duties, such as teaching a non-bullying program and tutoring for reading and math. The “socialization” that I saw in the schools was not always what I wanted for my children. As they made the transition to Connections Academy, all of my kids began to flourish in a way I had not seen before. They were all great students but they were also challenged in a way they had not been in traditional school: they could focus on learning and not the politics of school. Outside of their lessons they also went on school field trips and began to get to know new kids from Connections Academy. They are all very active in sports, so they socialized at all of the events they went too. All of my children have very active social lives with friends all over the state of Ohio. There is no shortage of “socialization” due to online schooling.
- Why did you decide to virtually educate your children? Our district began taking out a lot of programs that I felt were necessary in my children’s education. They took out music, art, and PE. Sports fees went way up due to budget cuts and they completely took out the gifted programs. They only offered two languages. Connections Academy offered my children the type of education they needed, with many choices. I wanted what was best for them and to prepare them for college.
- Where do you get additional support if your children need extra help in a subject? This is one of my favorite parts of Connections Academy! I LOVE the fact that when one of my children needs (or needed) help in a subject, they have access to one-on-one help from the teacher with no interruptions. They can call or webmail the teacher and ask for help, or they can speak to them on the phone or use a LiveLesson® room for as long as is needed. There is no pressure or fear of other students making comments about them not understanding something. I have had nothing but positive responses from my children’s teachers over the last 8 years. For example, my youngest had some issues with some math concepts. His teachers spent so much extra time with him and he now gets A’s and B’s in the class and actually LIKES math!
- How is the transition from Connections Academy to college or the military? This is a question I can fully answer! I have had three of my children already graduate from Ohio Connections Academy. One joined the Army just after graduation. Aside from the Civil Air Patrol, Connections Academy also helped him get ready for the military because it made him a self-starter. He knew how to rely on his own decision-making and time management. The military is all about time management and discipline. For the other two who graduated from Ohio Connections Academy, they have gone on to the University of Cincinnati and are both science majors. Guess what? The school teaches a lot of the classes online! So my kids are already knowledgeable about how to focus and manage the class since that was how Connections Academy classes were structured! Ohio Connections Academy prepared them for classes that they’re taking in college because they had already learned to think outside the box– they were “thinkers” instead of “followers”. What I mean is that, through Connections Academy, they learned to apply what their studies to everyday life, they didn’t just learn things to pass a test. It is all hands-on learning at Ohio Connections Academy!
- Do your children get to participate in extracurricular activities? In Ohio, you have the option of still joining extracurricular activities as part of your local school district.. With the flexibility online school offers, we also have more freedom to socialize and participate in activities on our own. For example, my daughter was a competitive gymnast and she also competed with her horse. My sons played basketball, baseball, and competed in weightlifting.
- How do you balance family life with children attending school online? I LOVE being a part of my children’s day! I get feedback immediately from teachers and can read the comments as soon as something is graded. It makes me feel like my child is the only one the teachers have in the class! We have the flexibility to have lunch together, go to appointments during the day if needed and to have one-on-one time. We are a very close family, thanks to Connections Academy.
- Do students have to be online to start school at specific times each day? If they have a LiveLesson® session set at a certain time that they need to attend, then yes. They will need to sign into that LiveLesson® room at the time specified. To work on the lessons for the day, no, there is no schedule. They are free to start at 7:00 am if they want, or 9:00 am if that’s easier. My rule is always to finish the days’ work, but I let them choose the start time for the most part.
- How do your children like attending school online versus the traditional education atmosphere? This is a good question. My first three children had attended a brick-and-mortar public school before Connections Academy so they are good ones to ask. The first thing they all said after a few weeks with Ohio Connections Academy was that they felt free to learn. There were no interruptions from other students in a classroom setting and they did not have to worry about the extra “drama” that went on at the school. They became much more focused and were able to move at a faster pace because they could stay on task more easily!
11.What are 3 “must share” things you tell interested families about Connections Academy? I don’t know that I can just give you three, but if I did, I guess it would be these: Ohio Connections Academy has given our family the opportunity to move at a rate that worked best for each child. They are all very quick learners and needed to be able to go forward so they did not get bored or begin feeling un-challenged. It also provided a safe and secure environment in which to learn without the hassle of distracting drama that sometimes goes on in traditional classrooms. They could focus on learning for life instead of what to wear to school. The last thing is the sheer joy of watching my children learn in a positive environment each day and getting to be involved at the level I was able to be. I can honestly say that I would never even think of going back to what we were doing before. My youngest started at Ohio Connections Academy in kindergarten, will go on to graduate from Ohio Connections Academy for high school and I will be the proudest parent ever because of that!
Personally, I felt that this interview was very enlightening and it was great to hear Vicki’s experiences! Her answers sparked my interest about Connections Academy and the fact that she has had three children (almost four) successfully go through the program is amazing!
Ever since we made the decision for Emma to do another year of Pre-K, I have wondered about “traditional brick-and-mortar education” and if it would be the perfect route for her. I have been researching schools and learning about the options that are available to children in my state. , and, since Emma is considered special-needs, was curious to know whether Connections Academy programs are available for students that have IEP’s. I learned that Connections Academy works closely with parents and students to provide access to its education program, and makes available a number of virtual special education services that can range from consultation to curricular accommodations and modifications. They will also provide students with IEP’s related services that could include virtual speech language and virtual occupational therapy.
Have you ever thought about sending your child to a virtual school like Connections Academy? What helped you make your decision for your child?