Objectively, I would consider my children high-achievers, and I have to give some credit for that to their flexible and personalized schooling. Here is why I decided to take a non-traditional school approach to their education.
My son Jonathan took an interest in robotics when he was barely 15. He began taking college classes in the ninth grade. My daughter Michaela, always a bright student, poured herself into dance and was training with The Georgia Ballet before we knew it.
Parents of high achievers, you have to be methodical about honing your child’s skills. You must keep them challenged. If not, they simply get bored and fail to thrive.
Neighborhood schools didn’t provide the support we needed
For years, we tried to stick with our traditional neighborhood elementary schools, but they didn’t always provide the support our kids needed. As is common with many districts, our schools struggled with overcrowded classrooms and a lack of resources to challenge gifted students. Additionally, the school schedules conflicted with their extracurricular activities.
Are non-traditional school programs on-line a good alternative?
I then learned about online learning opportunities in my state. I really didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure how an online platform could challenge my children any more than a “normal” school could, but we decided to give it a shot.
I enrolled my kids in the Georgia Cyber Academy, a public online charter program ten years ago. It has turned out to be a great option for our family!
For my Michaela, taking online classes allowed her to advance at her own pace. Because of the flexibility of online schooling, Michaela was then able to train as a pre-professional with The Georgia Ballet. It gave her the ability to learn how to juggle multiple obligations. The experience helped her realize that the demanding lifestyle of a dancer was more than she was willing to commit to, and she shifted her focus to her academic goals. After finishing her freshman year at Princeton University, she resumed dancing, but just as a hobby.
Jonathan had an entirely different set of passions and academic needs than Michaela. Always a STEM, tech and computer whiz, Jonathan was able to dual-enroll in college classes that gave him access to an advanced computer science education that otherwise would have been inaccessible. Needless to say, he made the best out of this new opportunity. He even developed an app for a local food pantry to track their inventory, and was featured at the U.S. Capitol as part of the Congressional App Challenge.
Having the flexibility may be the optimal choice for your family
Given the flexible structure of online education in non-traditional school, we were able to experience learning outside the four walls of a classroom, in our case our home. We traveled throughout Georgia to science museums, aquariums and other historical sites on a weekly basis. During these excursions, it was rewarding to watch my kids light up when they experienced learning come to life.
As any parent can attest, there is nothing better than watching your kids thrive. No matter what traditional school or non-traditional school they’re enrolled in. Some kids can do that in a traditional, brick and mortar school. Other parents, like myself, have to become their child’s learning coach. They need to help navigate and advocate for their children’s education in the way that best fits their family. What’s most important is that parents know there are options out there that can work well for their kids.
The flexibility for Michaela to explore her interest in dance and for Jonathan to have exposure to STEM classes has given them a strong foundation for their future. Michaela is currently in her sophomore year at Princeton and Jonathan is a senior applying to colleges and universities.
I want to share my story with other parents not because I want to brag, but because while so much is out of our control as we raise our kids, when it comes to their school environment, we have more choice than we may realize.
All kids deserve the right to be challenged and to have time to nurture their passions. And parents deserve options – options that work for their kids – whether they’re math wizards or athletic pros.
Nedra Daniel is a parent with two children who attended Georgia Cyber Academy, powered by K12 Inc. She resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area.