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Parent blog: Why we chose an online school

In celebration of School Choice Week Tillie Elvrum, parent of Colorado Connections Academy high school student, says online school has been a lifesaver for her son and family.

Nine years ago, I became a school choice advocate. My son’s local school wasn’t meeting his academic needs and I knew that I had to find an alternative. After much research and deliberation as a family, we decided to enroll my son in a public online charter school. My son is now a sophomore and in his eighth year as a cyberschool student.



We have always loved the flexibility of cyberschooling. The ability for my son to work at his own pace has helped him to master concepts before moving onto other areas. The mobility allowed through cyberschooling has enabled us to visit many of the places he has studied over the years. What better way to learn about Gettysburg than to take our laptop and schoolbooks and visit the actual site?

After eight years of online school, my son is a true digital native. This virtual learning environment has even influenced his career aspirations: he plans to pursue a career in the video gaming industry. This career field is still emerging and ever-changing, and his online charter school can provide relevant experience for him that a traditional classroom just can’t match. At the same time, I know he’s being prepared academically for his future beyond high school. His online high school offers engineering design, video game design, and web design courses. Before he graduates he will have the opportunity to take 3D art, digital arts, and other cutting-edge technology courses. He’s learning skills and getting an inside peek into the technology that he will be using in the workforce of the future.

But my son’s classes are much more than electives – he also gets the foundational classes equally imperative to succeeding in the real world. These classes are all the more “real” because they are online. In this day and age, many of society’s planning and decision making take place on some sort of online platform – from email to multi-continent Skype calls. We do everything from checking our bank accounts and paying bills, to scheduling appointments, applying for college and jobs and buying groceries online.

My son recently finished a personal finance course where he learned everything from basic banking principles to how to manage a 401K and choose a healthcare plan. His experience was only enhanced by the fact that this was all taught through an online forum, thus mimicking how he will one day make decisions as an adult in the “real world.”

Additionally, the course that has had the most impact on my son was a career exploration class, where he was asked to investigate post high school education, vocational, and military options. He researched his career, where he would like to live, his lifestyle and ambitions for the future, and, accordingly, had to create a budget, all online. All of these “lessons” make future decision-making scenarios applicable to students in the here and now, thus demonstrating how digital learning provides education far beyond the classroom. This wasn’t just idle work – it was a wakeup call.

As I look back on the last eight years of our cyberschool journey, I am amazed at my son’s growth as a student and as a person. He has a love of learning and immense school pride. I am so grateful for the amazing teachers who have guided his way and the high quality curriculum that keeps him excited about learning.  As we look to the final years of high school, I am excited to see where his cyberschool education takes him. It’s because of my son and his cyberschool journey that I will continue to work to promote and protect this important educational model for students to come.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.