As most parents of school-aged kids are well aware, it’s school enrollment time. While some parents are reenrolling in their local private and public schools; others are opting for less traditional options.
Such is the case with Claremore mother Shay Wright-Goff, who is reenrolling her kids in Oklahoma Connections Academy for the seventh consecutive year.
Her daughter Jaiden is a high school freshman, working ahead of her grade and on-track to become a junior by the end of this school year. She plans to attend Baylor University and become a neurologist.
Her son Sawyer is in the fourth grade and is a competitive swimmer.
Oklahoma Connections Academy is a tuition-free, virtual, public school for k-12 students throughout Oklahoma.
“I primarily chose Oklahoma Connections Academy because Jaiden goes through a lot of medical visits,” Shay said. “At the time I enrolled her, she was going to be put in the hospital for an undetermined amount of time. We happened to see a commercial right before the next hospital stay, so I looked into the program. Connection Academy offered a curriculum aligned with the brick-and-mortar school she previously attended making it an easy choice to transition. “
Sawyer also started out in a traditional school setting, but Shay was concerned for his safety.
“Sawyer experienced bullying at his brick-and-mortar school and the teachers and staff seemed unwilling to help him,” Shay said. “Knowing I had another choice for his education made a huge difference, and I chose Connections.
In addition to being their mother, Shay is her kids’ learning coach.
While they interact with certified school teachers live online every school-day, Shay is there to provide a structure to the school day, proctor tests and hold the kids accountable for their work.
On a typical school day, Shay said, “We wake up, then eat, the kids take their showers and they get started. On most days have a Live Lesson with their teacher.”
“There are days it is stressful like any other school, but for the most part it is so much easier to let the kids learn,” Shay said. “Both Sawyer and Jaiden have taken great strides to be where they are. I truly believe they would not have the same opportunity at a traditional school as they do with online school.”
Jaiden finished one whole grade in one semester and Sawyer has tested high enough that he is working on sixth grade subjects.
“Neither of those would be possible in our current school district,” Shay said.
Oklahoma Connections Academy provides students with the textbooks and materials necessary to complete the curriculum.
Shay said, “The first advantage that comes to mind is the ability to revisit or re-watch a Live Lesson if for any reason you miss it, like for an emergency doctor’s appointment. This also allows each student to hear what happened in class and stay up-to-date with their peers.”
“A second advantage is the kids are able to work at their own true pace in the program,” Shay said. “If either child doesn't understand the work that is given they can stop and re-evaluate, email or call their teachers with questions and re-approach their work.”
Oklahoma Connections Academy is not the same as homeschooling, Shay said, dismantling a popular misconception.
“The common misconception is that this program is homeschooling, and it is not. Another common misconception is that children lack social interaction with their peers and become socially award,” Shay said. “Connections Academy is an accredited online public school offering tuition-free education statewide to those in need of a flexible, independent education. The school also offers field trips throughout the year for students and teachers to gather and socialize.”
“I would recommend Oklahoma Connections Academy any day over traditional school for the simple fact you have a choice in being truly involved in your students’ lives and most importantly their education,” Shay said. “Online education gives parents and students an opportunity to see what they can really accomplish in their own lives.”
Shay said that online school is not necessarily for everyone, because not everyone learns the same.
“If your kids have never tried a traditional public brick and mortar and have only done online they have nothing to compare their hands on education to as they get older. I think kids and parents should have the opportunity to see the differences in the two programs,” Shay said.
Both of her kids have benefitted immensely from online school, Shay said.
Jaiden has been asked to represent the school in a leadership program based on her academics and interest in medicine. She is earning college credits before most kids her age (15). Enrolling with Connections also gave Jaiden more flexibility to work on her homework while sick or while traveling for competitive swimming.
Jaiden completed one medical program and has been asked by two neurologist and one cardiologist to shadow them at some point this upcoming summer.
“All of this has allowed her to reach her goals of attending the college she wants and going to med school,” Shay said.
Although still technically in elementary school, Sawyer has been given the opportunity to enroll in a gifted program through Duke University.
“He would not have had this opportunity at a traditional brick-and-mortar school,” Shay said.
“I would make the same choice again and again to move to Connections,” Shay said. “I believe that Oklahoma Connections Academy genuinely cares about the students and their families as a whole.”