By Megan Alley
Digital Learning Day on Feb. 23 meant some students, along with their family’s support, have chosen to utilize instructional technology programs every day by enrolling in an online school.
“Most people have it in their heads that this is ‘home schooling’ with no direction,” said Vicki Baker, whose son Zach is a seventh-grader at Ohio Connections Academy, a fully accredited, tuition-free, online public school for Ohio students in grades K-12.
She added, “It could not be further from the truth to say that about OCA.”
Vicki, of Amelia, has six children ranging in age from 25 to 13 years old. Four of her children, including Zach Baker, the youngest, have attended OCA.
“I decided to enroll with OCA when we first began hearing about the program. My youngest was getting ready to start in the school system at West Clermont and we were not happy with how things were going there at the time,” Vicki explained. “I decided to try first with my youngest to see if we liked the program and went from there with the kids I had left in the school system.”
Three of Vicki’s children graduated from OCA – two went on to college and one is serving in the military.
Vicki likes that her children were able to move through their studies at their own pace, and that they received a “quality education.”
“They were all self-disciplined and self-starters because that is the way they had to be with OCA,” she said. “All of them have gone on to college and the fact that they were already used to learning at a very fast rate and online, they had no issues with college-based classes.”
She also likes the individual attention that her children received.
“If they have questions, they are either answered in a live lesson room or one on one by phone,” Vicki said. “If needed, the teacher will spend as much time as it takes in a live lesson room to help them understand what they need to in order to move forward.
She added, “I have never once felt like they were rushed when they had questions.”
Sarah Bradley, 17, of Batavia, recently graduated, a semester early, from OCA.
She attended Archbishop McNicholas High School, a private school located in Mt. Washington, until the end of her sophomore year, but transferred to OCA so that she could focus on her dance career. Sarah is part of the Cincinnati Ballet’s Trainee program.
“[I liked] the flexibility and structure of the program,” Sarah said in an email. “I could work at my own pace, and the teachers were easy to work with even though I had a crazy schedule.”
While Sarah said that at times, she missed the “classroom environment,” she was excited about attending OCA because the program allowed her to dance full time.
“I think overall it’s been very good,” Angela Bradley, Sarah’s mother, said. “What I can say is that, what made it easy, honestly, was the program was pretty easy to understand. It wasn’t overcomplicated.”
She added, “But, part of it also has to do with Sarah. It was the right kind of program for her.”
With a full-time ballet rehearsal schedule, Sarah focused on her studies in the evenings and on weekends.
“Honestly, it’s time management, and I also think it’s drive,” Angela said. “For us as a family, education was important, but really it was time management, she was really motivated, and she knew that she needed to do well.”
She added, “I feel very confident that if dancing is not the avenue we go, if she goes to college, she’ll do well.”
For those considering attending OCA, Vicki recommends that they research the school and the programs offered.
“There are so many options for languages, clubs and so on for the students to take part in,” she said.
Angela recommends that families consider their children’s goals, and if they’re achievable.
“If you have a kid who is not focused, and they don’t have good time management, then you need to plan how you’re going keep them on track and on focus,” she said. “It requires a lot of accountability to finishing things.”
She added, “One, making sure you put enough hours in the day. Two, making sure that you meet those deadlines that teachers are putting out there. And, honestly, staying focused on those lessons that you’re learning.”