101 Cherished Moments from Our Virtual School Journey

kids playing at the beach

Each time I place one of my daughter’s graduation announcements in an envelope, these words jump off the page as though I’m reading them for the first time. “We are pleased to announce the graduation of our daughter from INSPIRE Connections Academy.” This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. The final assignments have been completed, the ceremony planned, graduation announcements mailed, cap and gown have been purchased, and the diploma is being printed.

My daughter and I have spent over a decade together working toward this moment. As she readies herself for her big day, I can’t help but look back in amazement at everything she’s accomplished and the academic milestones she’s reached along the way. Starting the education journey with a virtual school seemed like an easy decision to make for both of my children. It was the right choice. I made it for all the right reasons—exceptional teachers, specialized and engaging curriculum, and pristine school track record. I saw my son graduate in 2009 and am now seeing my daughter reach the starting gate for the rest of her future too. I have a deep assurance in my heart that my choice was the right one.

As I thumb through pictures from the past 15 years, I am in awe of another precious gift that the virtual school choice has given me. Flexibility—a simple word that delivered more than I had ever hoped for. While the school helped prepare my children with the book knowledge they needed, it also offered us the rare gift of time that has bonded us together as a family. Working together with the school teachers, our family was able to structure the school day schedule and overall schedule without sacrificing the requirements of a quality virtual school. This scheduling flexibility allowed us to accommodate a variety of unexpected opportunities our family may have otherwise missed out on. And still, my kids learned everything they needed to excel and prepare for their transition into adulthood. Here are some of the most cherished memories of things we experienced during our virtual schooling years:

  1. Slept late because we stayed up all night watching meteorite showers
  2. Found a beautiful rock, and another, and another
  3. Built a rock garden
  4. Created a family museum
  5. Took spontaneous family road trips
  6. Ate a lot of lunches together
  7. Had Wednesday night pajama parties
  8. Camped out in the backyard
  9. Made pumpkin pies from scratch
  10. Watched Sammy Sosa hit a home run
  11. Cried together on 9/11
  12. Spent hundreds of hours volunteering in our community
  13. Planned gardens
  14. Gathered cool leaves during long walks
  15. Walked in a parade
  16. Read books on a trampoline in the warm spring sun
  17. Searched for items on scavenger hunts
  18. Made kites without a kit
  19. Found the longest string possible to see how high the kite could go
  20. Chased a kite until we couldn’t see it anymore
  21. Laughed so hard we cried, and then did it again
  22. Felt the sand on several beaches
  23. Jaunted out for a picnic lunch by a lake
  24. Cuddled up for a long winter nap
  25. Saw every animal in the zoo
  26. Watched puppies born throughout the night
  27. Started a business
  28. Played backup “mom” for my daughter’s babysitting jobs
  29. Advocated as a family for school choice in our own backyard
  30. Patiently built models from start to finish
  31. Fed a tomato worm because there was a chance it was a caterpillar
  32. Found a real caterpillar and watched it turn into a butterfly
  33. Tried amazing new hobbies
  34. Finger painted with chocolate pudding
  35. Celebrated the first “A” on every report card together
  36. Heard the first words read aloud
  37. Experienced countless AHA! moments
  38. Brainstormed to overcome obstacles
  39. Made homemade presents for each other
  40. Racked up countless smiles with heart-shaped apple slices served during math lessons
  41. Learned how to connect with outstanding teachers
  42. Played in the mud during science lessons
  43. Dissected owl pellets
  44. Raised pigs
  45. Delivered a surprise party in the middle of the day
  46. Adopted grandparents
  47. Started new family traditions
  48. Took a three-day train trip through the Rocky Mountains on the California Zephyr
  49. Cuddled up together during social studies LiveLesson® sessions
  50. Climbed mountains
  51. Supported community orchestras
  52. Helped friends in need
  53. Cooked for a party of a hundred friends
  54. Watched baby birds hatch
  55. Went spelunking in the North Dakota Jewel Caves
  56. Overcame fears to try something new
  57. Walked a mile on the Oregon Trail with new friends
  58. Made new family friends all over the world
  59. Celebrated the first day of school with a sleepover
  60. Explored a lava tube with flashlights
  61. Made keepsake snow globes
  62. Created our own school yearbook pages
  63. Surprised friends with flowers
  64. Experienced the joy of teaching kids about random acts of kindness
  65. Reported a fire and saved a home
  66. Tore apart used appliances and put them back together again
  67. Created a scale model of the solar system with friends
  68. Buried a time capsule
  69. Planted trees
  70. Learned that math wasn’t just numbers on a page
  71. Raised money to help tsunami victims
  72. Made bird feeders every fall out of pinecones gathered on evening walks
  73. Constructed obstacle courses for rainy-day fun
  74. Celebrated good news together the moment we got it
  75. Learned to play the djembe together
  76. Declared every first snowfall of the year an official snow day
  77. Played in the rain and got as wet as possible
  78. Picked apples and berries in secret spots
  79. Took cooking classes together
  80. Learned first aid and put it to good use
  81. Put family first on several occasions
  82. Learned to get along together, even when it wasn’t easy
  83. Hunted down ingredients for old family recipes
  84. Floated the river on a warm September day
  85. Went fishing
  86. Mastered the snowboard
  87. Studied American Sign Language as a family
  88. Shot off on a virtual trip to the moon
  89. Shared innumerable spontaneous moments of happiness
  90. Helped my kids achieve their best, even when it wasn’t easy
  91. Ran out the door to see critters in the field
  92. Survived driver's education twice
  93. Listened to old-time radio shows while sipping hot chocolate and nibbling cinnamon toast
  94. Hosted Tuesday afternoon art parties with friends
  95. Spent the day “in Greece” with webcams and Greek treats
  96. Watched pheasants flock together in the field and cranes in the pond
  97. Cared for sick friends in need
  98. Spent a month in Texas to help a grandparent
  99. Spent a month in Maine to help a grandparent
  100. Watched street performers in Seattle
  101. Answered the question “why?” thousands of times

The few memories I’ve gathered together on this list will continue to grow, as I’m sure yours will too.

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