As a parents, my husband and I have struggled with the decision to have our daughter, Rebecca attend a virtual school. The decision was difficult but after great debate between us and her doctors, virtual school seemed to be the best option to manage her physical, emotional and social well-being.
Rebecca’s humble beginnings…
Rebecca is a true miracle, born only after 26 weeks of gestation and weighing a mere 1 pound and 9 ounces she was sure to have many obstacles along the way! Defying most of the odds, making it through the first night giving her a better chance for survival and after a few weeks being taken off respirator to only needing oxygen. The celebration of her achievement was halted because she was put back on the ventilator because she went into respiratory distress due to a main line infection. However, there was no doubt, Becca was a fighter, each set back she fought back with fury. As the result, after a few days she went off the ventilator in favor of a cannula to receive oxygen therapy.
After three months of a roller coaster ride of a life time, Becca came home from the hospital weighing 2 pounds and 3 ounces with the assurance of monitors and oxygen. The infamous ‘Oxygen Baby’, Becca was often referred as thanks to her NICU nurses. We were naïve at the time, this would be the health issue to follow her well into her youth. Ironically, having to deal with her chronic illness is what feeds her will to survive and makes her the most compassionate being ever, some say an ‘Earth Angel’.
Rebecca’s struggles with traditional school…
As a proud parent, I remember the first day of school and the precursor event that led up to the decision to enroll her in kindergarten. Few short months before hand, Becca’s preschool teacher was reluctant to say she was ready for kindergarten because she missed so many days of preschool. It is true most preemies have a weakened immune system that often leads to respiratory illness such as phenomena and RSV. Becca had already had several ER visits and three admissions for hospitalization. Seeking the advice of the doctor we sought help from specialists and they favor pharmaceutical treatments. The doctors, press on for her to continue with schooling as a way to build up immunity.
Fast forward to first grade, Becca had already shown chronic absenteeism and academic progress suffered due to her missed days from school. Her newest diagnosis of moderate-severe asthma and allergies were complicated by a preemie condition called Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. According to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “[Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia] BPD, is a serious lung condition that affects infants. BPD mostly affects premature infants who need oxygen therapy (oxygen given through nasal prongs, a mask, or a breathing tube).” (S.1) The advice of allergists and pulmonary specialists were followed up with care plan with medications consisting of steroids, antihistamines and albuterol nebs although relief was felt Rebecca continued to suffer from respiratory infections which resulted in more missed days from school. The doctors reassured us that as she got older and her lungs would get much better. Unfortunately, each year past she barely made it on the growth charts for her age and her dependence on medication worsened. For instance, the school had some issues with mold if she happened to be in a trouble area of the school she often needed to go to the nurses to receive a breathing treatment. As a result, her missed days combined with loss of class time due to those visits she was struggling academically.
Fast forward to 6th grade which proved to be a challenging year, not only did she still have her lung issues and continue to miss school days her academics took a dive. Her emotional and physical wellbeing was jeopardize, as a result Becca’s confidence plummeted. One night I happened to be exploring online about her medical issues and discovered other preemies have these kinds of issues and that they too continued to miss school. Trying to figure out my daughter’s chronic health issues escaped me, instead I needed to figure out a way to help her at all levels which meant that I needed to look at other options to help my daughter achieve in all aspects of life.
The major issue with missing school was making up the work and most daunting was the material she needed to learn to do the make-up work. We truly needed an alternative setting, a flexible one that would allow her time to treat her condition on a daily basis and give her the option to start her day at any time than a traditional school would allow.
We were on the hunt for a virtual school that met the state standards and that met our budget or perhaps free. As luck would have it, my husband’s cousin just happened to be the principal of a charter school called Connections Academy. Setting up a meeting allowed us to ask the important questions pertaining to the validity of the school. For instance, my husband was worried about her transcript and how it would influence her ability to get into colleges should Becca graduate from high school with a Connections Academy diploma? Our cousin assured us that Connections Academy had to follow all the guidelines our state to be able graduate from high school. Furthermore, she indicated that their course work was above average and CA continually embrace technology to ensure a world class education. (S.2)
After much discussion between my husband and family members along with the input of the doctors we decided Connections Academy was the answer. Now just finishing her first semester of eighth grade, we are solid in wanting Becca to graduate from CA. However, more support is needed to help her be successful so that is why I took a position at work to enable me to be home with her during her school day! We are excited to see how we can combine her virtual lessons with other opportunities allowing her the unique educational experience that will influence her to be a well-rounded individual. Finally, allowing her the same flexibility dealing with her chronic illness.
The Innovative Scholar is born…
The Innovative Scholar more of an idea than one specific entity. This is a chance to share with readers the experience of a virtual learner in addition to other learning opportunities outside of her virtual school that will enhance her educational experience. Finally, it is my hope to provide you an entertaining read and perhaps useful information needed to help your child succeed in their educational endeavors.
1. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Health Topics: Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/bpd/
2. Connections Academy. Overview. http://info.connectionsacademy.com/national/search/national-select-state/mn–school-overview-notepad-2YU-8168M5.html