This post is sponsored by Connections Academy. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Some states have already decided how they will execute school openings this fall. Some have already executed on them and have opened (like the state of Georgia). Many parents who were forced into homeschooling due to the pandemic, are now frantically trying to figure out what to do with their child(ren) come fall. I know because several have reached out to me to help them figure out a good game plan.
And while I don’t have all the answers, I am super excited to continue sharing resources that will help other parents in the same predicament. This is why I have decided to collaborate with Connections Academy. The best part? Connections Academy schools are tuition-free online public schools for students in grades K–12. Yup, you read that right: tuition-free. The other best part? Not only does Connections Academy have a first-class curriculum, but their professional teachers work with students and parents one-on-one. Whether your child is struggling or gifted, they are there to help.
Why Connections Academy?
As if what I already shared wasn’t enough, I wanted to give you some additional reasons to look into this program. So may parents like myself are either teleworking full-time now or are entrepreneurs. And while we’ve been homeschooling for seven years, we understand the challenges that come with these times.
So one of the requests I made of Connections Academy, was to connect me with another mom who had experience with the program. I wanted to know some specific answers that I couldn’t find on the website.
I was so grateful that Leigh Anne from Erie, PA took the time to tell me about how this program helped her daughters. Leigh Anne has a background as an educator but knew that traditional homeschooling wasn’t for them.
Her daughters, Charlotte and Caroline are currently in the 6th and 9th grades respectively. This is their fourth year with Connections Academy. When asked what made Leigh decide to use Connections Academy for her daughters, here’s what she shared:
- Caroline was having a lot of social problems in school (bullying, exclusion) and the teachers weren’t interested in meeting her needs as an individual.
- They were forced into the 1-size-fits-all landscape of a private school, and it just wasn’t working out.
- Caroline didn’t have positive experiences with other students
Top highlights as a Connections Academy Student
Leigh Anne shared with me some incredible insights as to why they chose this virtual school option. There are so many resources out there, but when you find the right one, it can change everything! Here are a few of the things she shared with me:
- Flexibility was first and foremost in making their decision.
One of the things that really stuck out for me after hearing back from Leigh was the ability to build school around your life. Most times (which Leigh Anne shared during our interview), we are forced to build our lives around our kids’ school schedules. This was one of the main reasons my husband and I decided to start homeschooling seven years ago. Being able to travel on our own terms/schedule was important to us.
Leigh Anne went on to share with me that, with Connections Academy, you have a lot of control over when you complete the lessons. Charlotte and Caroline were able to adjust their classes around travel, activities, and even just on a whim (think emergencies, sick days etc).
With Livy being a kidpreneur, Brielle in competitive gymnastics and Jr. playing basketball (in addition to martial arts), flexibility is key for us. We don’t know what this coming year will look like, but it gives us peace of mind knowing we have some control over it.
What I loved (which I didn’t immediately get just from the site) was the fact that there is a big focus on STEM. Leigh Anne shared that aspect as being one of the biggest pushes to enrolling. Our kids were all in a STEM co-op once a week before the world shut down. They were making some pretty cool things. So it’s great to know that they can continue this in a virtual setting.
Teachers that care about more than just your homework
One thing that nearly brought me to tears was Leigh Anne sharing the experience that Caroline had with her teachers. I know some phenomenal teachers that go the extra mile. But I have also heard horror stories from parents about how teachers have made their children feel less than.
As my kids are getting older, and schoolwork getting more challenging, I know we will begin to need more support. Whether we get it from a tutor or from the top-notch teachers at Connections Academy, it will be needed.
Leigh Anne shared that “they really and truly are above and beyond when it comes to individualized support.” She has never waited more than 24 hours for a response from a teacher.
At one point, Caroline was really struggling with anxiety and got three weeks behind in work. Her five teachers all came together and worked out a single plan to get her back on track…within a SINGLE DAY of Leigh Anne making a panicked call to the guidance counselor.
The principal called her by the end of the week to see if she was ok with the plan and if they needed to make any changes. About a month later, Caroline got an e-mail from her math teacher that was unexpected. It said, “How are you? Not your schoolwork – that’s fine. How are YOU?” She cared, and it was so evident. Caroline gets to meet with her counselor every other week, and the counselor touches base with Leigh Anne once a month. They have recently had a super smooth transition to high school and she has already talked with the new counselor twice.
I know some parents that don’t get near this level of support and involvement from traditional schools (whether private or public). Find out more about their teachers here.
Advice for parents considering Connections Academy
By now, if you haven’t been convinced to go check them out, maybe these words of advice from Leigh Anne will help. When I asked her what she wanted to tell other parents, she didn’t hold back. Here is what she had to say:
“Just dive in. My only regret is that I waited so long to make the switch. Trying something new is scary (what if it’s worse than where we were?). But for us, it really paid off. I truly believe it is the #1 best decision I have made for our family, hands down. We’re a better family because of our experiences with Connections. We have less stress, and more time to be a family because school fits into our life, instead of being forced to fit our lives around a school.”
To find out if Connections Academy is available in your state, click here. If it’s not yet available (like MD 😫), you can request more information. You can also check out the private school they offer, Pearson Online Academy. Can’t find your state listed in the available options? Connections Academy is actively working with parent groups, education officials, and others to launch full-time online public schools in more states. If you want to stay informed on the latest efforts that Connections Academy is making to bring it to your area, click here.
You can also check out more about their curriculum as well as see sample lessons here. We got to sit down and review an actual (recorded) session. I loved how it allows the kids and teachers to be interactive almost as if they are in the same room. I highly recommend checking out Connections Academy for your child’s virtual schooling!