It’s probably safe to say that few parents know by preschool that an online school will be the best fit for their child. But, sometimes life takes unexpected turns and we discover options we otherwise wouldn’t have pursued.
That’s what happened for the Boedigheimer family, whose son Drew is currently in fifth grade at Arizona Virtual Academy.
Like some other fifth-graders, Drew Boedigheimer is an avid baseball fan who enjoys learning, baseball, spending time with friends, Pokémon, and did we mention baseball? But, Drew has always had an extraordinary story all his own.
When Drew was two, he was diagnosed with a severe heart issue and received a heart transplant that saved his life. In the aftermath, he battled ongoing medical challenges that made him susceptible to illness and infection.
As he neared preschool age and his parents considered education options, they knew they’d need to keep him away from germs to help him fight for health. At the same time, Tara Boedigheimer was a working mom and knew that traditional homeschooling wasn’t a good fit for her family.
When a friend suggested the Embark Preschool Program through K12 online learning, Tara thought it worth a try. When it went well, they transitioned Drew into online kindergarten. Tara remembers thinking, “If he doesn’t like it or it doesn’t go well, we could easily send him to the private school down the street, or there’s a lot of really good public schools in our area.”
But Drew did like it, and today virtual school continues to make education easy and enjoyable for the Boedigheimer family. The cyber nature of the school means that Drew is less exposed to germs than he would be in a brick-and-mortar school, yet there’s plenty of opportunities for socializing when Drew isn’t at a ballgame.
“It’s a really nice fit for our family because Arizona Virtual Academy has such a big presence in Arizona that they do a lot of events where you can still meet your teacher in person, you can still meet your classmates,” said Tara. “You aren’t in a room with them every day, but you’re in a virtual classroom with many of them.”
While protection from germs was a benefit of online school the Boedigheimers realized from the start, another benefit of online learning has unfolded more gradually.
“You’re learning along with them,” Tara described. “So you can see why they’re frustrated if math isn’t going well, you’re there to experience, you’re listening in on a lot of the classes.
You just are so much more in tune with what they’re doing. That’s such a benefit that you wouldn’t have when sending your kid through another schooling option. – Tara Boedigheimer
Plus, the pre-crafted curriculum makes it easy for both Tara and Drew to follow along, and gives Tara peace of mind that it has been selected by an experienced team of educators.
“I didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “This was a great fit because it’s very clear what you need to do every day. It’s very clear if you’re on track or not. Even if you’re not a techie person, the website is easy to follow.”
For the Bodigheimer family, choosing virtual school also means six years of starting Drew’s first day of school at his Grandma’s lake house in Oregon rather than in hot Arizona. They stay until the weather in Arizona cools down, usually mid to late September each year, explained Tara.
Some fear that with online education, children with special learning differences or who face health challenges are somehow left behind. Drew’s experience demonstrates just the opposite! While there are times that Tara and Drew are at therapy three or four times a week, they’re able to schedule his class time around his appointments. Plus, Arizona Virtual Academy has been able to help Tara ensure that Drew receives occupational therapy and physical therapy.
Given Drew’s extraordinary life-story, the Boedigheimers know better than anyone how unique family circumstances can be, and how valuable it is to have options in the face of that.
“The kids who don’t fit into that majority mold of brick-and-mortar schools need another option where they can be successful and included and have the same opportunities as kids who can be in a classroom all the time, who don’t have the conflicts of medical appointments or even ADHD or autism or another issue that prevents them from being completely focused,” Tara said.
For Drew and many others, the online environment is that success zone, allowing fifth-graders to take breaks, go to therapy, check how the Oregon State Beavers baseball team is doing, and learn lots as well.
Tara put it best: “Every kid is unique and every family is unique and what works really well for even the majority of people might not be the best fit for another segment of children. That’s okay. That’s why we have options, and it’s why we should continue to have options.”
"Shining a spotlight on effective educational options for every child"