Each and every January, National School Choice Week (Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014) shines a positive light on the importance of having effective education options for all children. Our family has found a non-traditional school choice that has been an unexpected blessing for us. Perhaps our story will lead you to evaluate your current school situation. Is your child thriving at school? Is your school schedule and that of outside activities working for your student and your family? If not, there may be another option.
I am a busy, working mother of two. As a Public Health Nurse, I have been fortunate to telecommute for many years and have experienced first-hand the benefits of working in an online environment. However, when it came to education, we were taking a traditional path with our daughter. She had attended both public and private brick-and-mortar schools.
At the age of 10, our daughter had just started working with an Elite Figure Skating Coach, Tom Incantalupo. Haley loved it and, after a few months, wanted to devote more time to skating. This became difficult to accommodate while attending traditional school and having the desire for family dinners and quiet evenings. Tom had many skaters over the years attend a variety of online schools. He introduced us to, and highly recommended that we consider, MTS Minnesota Connections Academy (MTSMCA), a K-12 online public school that students across the state attend from home.
This was a very difficult decision for our family. We liked the small classroom and community of the private school she was attending, and Haley had a great network of friends that she would miss. I was a busy working Mom with a baby in tow, could I really fulfill the role of learning coach?
We interviewed other students and families that were currently attending MTSMCA. We participated in an online information session and read testimonies online. All of our research was reassuring and Haley really wanted to try it. We decided to make the switch mid-year of 5th grade. If for some reason it didn’t go well, Haley could go back to traditional school for 6th grade.
One of the things I was most worried about was my ability to fulfill the role of learning coach, but the switch was seamless and the support was tremendous. The school's education management system, Connexus®, was easy to learn and so well organized. The ongoing support from Haley's teachers has been instrumental in her success, with frequent phone calls and ongoing communications thru interactive web tools, online lesson plans and instruction, email, secure message boards, and more. Haley has demonstrated a high level of responsibility and has excelled through this personal approach to education.
In addition to the high quality curriculum, some of the other benefits at MTSMCA include the ability to control your learning environment, flexibility, and many social opportunities. Haley has benefited greatly from the lack of classroom chatter and distractions. It is much easier to process and retain the curriculum. She likes the variety of teaching methods; interactive videos and virtual labs are her favorite. The flexibility to bring school anywhere, or attend school at times that work best for her have been invaluable. There are many social opportunities and field trips to choose from. Haley has enjoyed some of the many field trips and has met new friends through MTSMCA.
As for me, being a learning coach has proved to be very manageable while I continue to work. It was more hands-on for me in the beginning, as Haley was learning the system and understanding how to use all of the tools and resources. But, the learning modules and state-certified teachers do the teaching. As her learning coach, I ensure that Haley is accountable and completing her assignments. The real-time grade book and daily quick checks help me see that Haley is on track. It’s also great to know and incorporate her current curriculum in our everyday lives.
MTSMCA ensures a quality education, while giving us the flexibility and control to meet all the demands of life. Most importantly, Haley is doing great in all aspects. She is a very happy and well-rounded 12-year-old girl and looks forward to continuing her education at MTSMCA.
Maria Briesch, Learning Coach and mom, Maple Grove, Minn.