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How online high school prepared my sons for NASA

How online school gave two STEM students the flexibility to finish high school courses at an advanced pace, freeing up time to go further with personal interests.

You could say my sons are on an education fast track! At 16 and 17 years old, Matthew and William graduated from high school with 60 college credits apiece and are now enrolled with honors in their first year at McNeese State University. In four years, William and Matthew will have three Bachelor of Science degrees between them. Matthew will graduate in 2020 with two bachelor degrees, in electrical engineering and computer science. William will earn his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering by 2019, and will finish his MBA the following year.

In their first year of college, Matthew and William are involved in some exciting projects, much of which I’ll admit goes a little over my head–literally! Both boys are making time to work on highly-impressive NASA research projects, while adjusting to life on a college campus.

This summer, Matthew worked with the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium (LaSPACE), a NASA partner program. His team designed and launched a device that took pictures and recordings from 100,000 feet in the atmosphere, to track effects from the recent solar eclipse. William is working through a different NASA grant, running simulations of waves impacting specialized plates, to help minimize erosion on the coast of Louisiana.

We as a family credit much of their academic success to their online high school, Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA). The high school and college dual enrollment opportunity at LAVCA gave them a leg up on their future plans, and now they’re working side by side with leaders in their fields.

Why Online School Worked for My Family

The boys have always been academically advanced for their age and attended public and private brick-and-mortar schools for their first few years of school. But when we moved to Georgia in the middle of the 2008-2009 school year, I knew it would be disruptive. I wanted to find a form of learning that would make the transition easier for all of us, and would provide the strong academics we knew the boys were up for. I was interested in homeschooling them but I was nervous to go it alone.

I learned about K12’s challenging curriculum, and loved that the schools have state-certified teachers leading the classes. We enrolled at the K12-powered school in Georgia when they were 7 and 8 years old, and have never looked back.

William and Matthew started going to online school when they were in third and fourth grade. From math to language arts, from homeroom to electives, all of their classes took place online. They connected with teachers and classmates via live online sessions. Using live chats and video, they would engage with their teachers in real time, asking questions, participating in class discussions, and completing assignments from our home.

(Next page: How online school prepared my sons for the future)

Online school gave them the flexibility to finish high school courses at an advanced pace, freeing up time to go further with the topics they were most excited about, such as the STEM subjects. The boys explored their interests in science, technology, engineering and math, and moved through their coursework to graduate ahead of schedule.

Like so many busy families, we are always looking for ways to spend more quality time together. My husband is a chef, working the kinds of days and hours that go along with that career. When the boys were younger, he only had Sundays and Mondays off, and very few holidays that most families get to spend together.

Online school let our family create a schedule that worked for us. The boys could spend more time with their dad outside of a traditional school calendar, and we could take trips as a family at the times of year that worked for us–all while the boys met their requirements and shot ahead in school.

When we found out we would be moving again, this time to Louisiana, William and Matthew really wanted to keep going with online school. LAVCA hadn’t opened yet, so we opted for private online school. You can bet that we were among the first to enroll when LAVCA opened in 2011!

When they logged on from our home in Lake Charles, Mathew and William were always greeted by amazing teachers and staff. Mindi Petitfils, their high school math teacher, really gave them the math spark to go along with the science and technology they already loved. Matthew will tell you he actually hated math before LAVCA! We initially thought William would become an architect, given the enthusiasm he threw into Ms. Petitfils’s creative assignments.

How Online School Prepared My Sons for the Future

Ever since they were young William and Matthew have loved computers, science and technology. As they got older they knew they wanted to one day have careers in those fields, and they were eager to push themselves ahead in school to get there. With virtual high school, nothing stood in their way.

Online school really opened their eyes to the ways technology can change the world. After a few computer electives at LAVCA, engineering quickly caught their attention. Their interest in technology careers really took off, and Matthew hopes to one day work with bio-robotics to help people in need of high-tech prosthetic organs. William will get his MBA in a few years and is excited to have a lot of options to explore.

For many students, the transition from high school to college can be a rocky one. For our family, online high school made things easier, since the boys were used to completing their schoolwork on their own schedules. Like college, online school requires discipline, self-motivation and strong time management skills. Because of LAVCA, William and Matthew were prepared for the independence that college demands.

Although they could have accelerated through college as quickly as they did high school, they are enjoying all that campus life has to offer. They’re living in the dorms, making friends, and balancing their school work and research projects with I’m sure more fun than they’re sharing with me!

We couldn’t be more proud of our boys. I know they will succeed in anything they put their minds to. Online school gave them the room to explore their interests and achieve academic success, and helped them become independent young men who are prepared to enter the 21st century workforce.

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