Jennifer Reinmuth-Birch is a Learning Coach for her sons, Jack and Michael, who are students at Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA). The traditional schooling system wasn’t a good fit, so she and her husband decided to switch the boys to online learning. Jennifer is pleased that her sons are now able to get a personalized learning experience at ORCA. She shares more about her family’s story below:
"While the bricks-and-mortar school Jack and Michael were attending was top-notch, it did not meet my boys’ individual learning needs. Michael is on the autism spectrum and has a processing disorder, so he needs one-on-one support and specifically designed curriculum in order to succeed. Jack is an exceptionally gifted learner who was reading and doing math three grades beyond his educational placement. In short, they were both getting lost in the shuffle until we found ORCA.
I first learned of ORCA through an ad in Portland Parent’s magazine. I discussed it with my husband and after many long hours of research, phone calls and exhaustive questioning of both staff and parents, we agreed that ORCA was the ideal choice for our little family.
Our only regret after our first year with ORCA is that we didn’t enroll years ago! Jack is accelerating through the curriculum while being kept challenged by exemplary teachers. His favorite part about ORCA is that he is encouraged to pursue his personal interests. For example, Jack is a passionate environmentalist and his science teacher allowed him to create a beach clean-up campaign for his semester project; and when Jack’s Language Arts teacher learned of his interest in military history, he encouraged Jack to complete a PowerPoint presentation on the Allied and Axis powers in WWII and how that related to their discussion of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Michael, too, is soaring to new heights with ORCA. His planner and schedule reminders provide the support needed for his processing delay, and the constant connection to teachers and support staff allows him that crucial one-on-one piece he so desperately needs. In one year’s time, Mike went from a child who would cry and shake each school morning to a happy, relaxed child who couldn’t wait to do his schoolwork. Both of my boys went from struggling learners to honor roll students, thanks to ORCA.
My favorite activity as a Learning Coach is to find new ways to take our learning out into the world. For instance, if the boys are learning about local government, we can take a field trip to the courthouse to watch justice in real time. For our family, the best part about ORCA is that it allows learning to take place within the structure and the individual priorities of our family, and not the other way around. We’ve done schoolwork everywhere from Starbucks to a park bench to 35,000 feet in the air. With ORCA, learning doesn’t take the place of life experience – rather, learning is the ultimate adventure!
As a family, we are incredibly outdoorsy and adventurous. We love how ORCA allows us the freedom to travel across the Northwest with my husband’s work and gives our boys the time and flexibility to pursue their many outside interest, including karate, community theater, and the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Online education, like that of Oregon Connections Academy, really gets down to the meat of your child’s learning. Gone are the two hour school bus rides, the regular fifteen minute intervals between classes, the heavy backpacks and arbitrary assemblies, and the stacks of nightly homework."
My favorite activity as a Learning Coach is to find new ways to take our learning out into the world.