Elijah Lewis is a 2016 graduate of Iowa Connections Academy (IACA). After making a successful transition from homeschooling, Elijah joined IACA where he formed good relationships with his caring, online teachers. His mother, Jean, shares her son’s story below.
“Our son, Elijah (Eli), was homeschooled since kindergarten. I primarily facilitated Eli's education with his dad, Jerry, filling in the gaps when I returned to seasonal employment every winter. When Jerry made a change in his employment and was no longer available to facilitate school during the winter, we knew we needed a change for Eli's education.
Eli is a bright kid who has a voracious interest in history. Because he was quickly approaching high school, we wanted him to be appropriately supervised, stimulated, and challenged. Enrolling Eli in public high school was not an option for us, so we looked (again) into virtual schools.
We were cautious about this option, because we had tried other virtual schools in the past. Unfortunately, the previous virtual schools we tried were expensive and lacking in dedicated teachers and technical support. Staff members were located in another state, so there was no possibility of in-person face time. Often, Eli's school work would come to a complete standstill because of the school's lack of appropriate staffing. Tech support might take up to two days to repair glitches. Eli became very frustrated when he needed some one-on-one tutoring to 'get' a concept, but he would have to wait for a teacher to be free enough to call him back. That might be a few days, and sometimes he didn't get a return call or an email from anyone at all.
During our time of sampling other virtual schools, we did encounter one math teacher who did an excellent job of engaging Eli in the way that he needed to achieve success. She would telephone or Skype with him on a regular basis when he needed instruction (and even when he didn't 'need' instruction). We recognized that this was how virtual school could really work.
When we learned of the new possibility of a Connections Academy virtual school as a legal educational option in Iowa, we investigated it. Everything we had tried as homeschoolers was an experiment, so we were open to all ideas. What is the worst that could happen? If the new virtual school option in Iowa did not work out, for whatever reason, we would return to homeschooling.
We took the risk, and Connections Academy guided us through the Iowa Open Enrollment paperwork that was due by March 30. We waited, hoped, and continued formulating our 'Plan B' just in case. At the end of June, we got the letter indicating that our request for Open Enrollment to the CAM School District was accepted. Eli would be a ninth grader at Iowa Connections Academy in the fall.
By the time school started, we felt a renewed sense of cautious optimism that this new virtual school option was going to work out. We were pleasantly surprised when that shipment of textbooks and a media headset were delivered. It was really happening! Shortly after school began, Iowa Connections Academy held an open house event in Anita, and we made the 100-mile trip. It was important to us to meet these new teachers and to begin building relationships face-to-face, as well as virtually. An added bonus was being able to meet other students and their families at this event, as well as touring the new IACA learning center.
The next few weeks were a time of patience and learning. Not only were we new to Iowa Connections Academy, but so were Eli's teachers and support staff. Everyone had new roles to learn, but it was evident that everyone was eager for success.
Eli was immediately put at ease when he had a good telephone conversation with his new homeroom teacher, who also serves as his algebra teacher. She was interested in him, not only as a student but also as a person approaching young adulthood. She encouraged him to begin to think about his future plans. She gave him some things to think about and offered support in whatever his interests were, in addition to giving him the necessary instruction in algebra. His teacher also put me at ease by answering all of my questions and making sure that I understood what my role would be as Eli’s Learning Coach.
When asking Eli what he liked most about being enrolled in Iowa Connections Academy, he said, ‘I loved that there was no need for a hall pass to use the restroom!’ On a more serious note, Eli says that he appreciated the staff the most. His teachers made it perfectly clear that if he had questions, they welcomed them. They actually encouraged questions! Eli believes that the teachers cannot assist him if they don't know what his concerns or issues are. We all agree that the IACA staff is fully invested in helping students work to the best of their potential.
As a parent/Learning Coach, I have felt 100 percent supported by the staff of Iowa Connections Academy. We all had a common goal of supporting Eli to be a successful student and to quench that natural thirst for knowledge, particularly his special interest in history. We are grateful that this virtual school option was available to us in Iowa, and we have experienced so many positive consequences as a result of Eli attending IACA.
We feel that in our situation, our son's educational experience has been enhanced because we had this option for high school. IACA provided the educational structure that we couldn’t fully provide when we were homeschooling. Now we can say that we are so glad we took that risk and enrolled. Virtual school has a bright future in Iowa and Eli is proud that he was a member of the pioneering class of Iowa Connections Academy.”
I loved that there was no need for a hall pass to use the restroom! Seriously, I appreciate the teaching staff at IACA. My teachers actually encouraged me to ask questions!