Child Parent Power Matters!

Today is our last post in the child advocacy series and is written by Colorado blogger and friend, Lori Cooney.

Although we each have our own reasons for education advocacy, we as parents all have the same goal in mind and that’s for our children to receive the best possible education.  For me, advocating for choice in education has become an important and significant part of my world. I am a passionate supporter of parents having options in choosing a school that best fits the learning needs of their child and in helping to ensure that public online schools remain an option for Colorado families.

I’m Lori Cooney, mom of 3, 2 who are currently enrolled in Colorado Virtual Academy (COVA), an online public charter school and 1 who is attending CU Boulder.  I currently serve as president of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families (CCCF), I am the past president of the National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO), and I served a 2-year term on the Governor’s Online Advisory Board.

My story started back in 2004 when the traditional year round brick and mortar elementary school my daughter attended was not working for her.  My oldest son graduated from this elementary school and went on to middle school where he participated in the AIM program, an advanced learning program, while my younger son continued on in the 3rd grade in this elementary school.

When I realized this was not a good fit for my daughter, I explored my options.  I was familiar with the traditional homeschool model, but I was looking for something with more accountability and structure.  I researched K12 from a friend’s recommendation and I liked what I found on the K12 website.  I talked to a mom who had her children enrolled in COVA and I attended an info session hosted by COVA with my daughter. My daughter and I delved into the fabulous core knowledge curriculum, listened to a power point explaining this unique model of education, and I asked many questions; we were both hooked!

I was a bit scared to move from something I was so familiar with to something so new, but I knew one thing for absolute certain and that’s that the situation she was in was not working. I also knew that something had to change.

So after careful thought, I enrolled my daughter in Colorado Virtual Academy and day 1 of school was a wonderful explosion of learning and a whole lot of fun.  Although I found a great fit for my daughter’s educational needs, I was aware that there were detractors out there who would attack or misunderstand our choice in this public school option.

At that time online education was still in it’s infancy in Colorado and nationwide as well.  I became passionate about protecting this option which worked so well for us and for thousands of others, and I wanted to help make sure that online schools remained an option in Colorado.

In December 2004, a few online schools and a few parents of online schools started organizing in Colorado and around the nation as well.  In Colorado we formed the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families (CCCF) and today our coalition and others just like ours, represents tens of thousands of parents in states from coast to coast.  The coalition’s represent a group of parents who came together to be vocal advocates for cyberschools, e-schools, online schools, and virtual learning.

There’s definitely a misunderstanding about how different models of public education work and many elected officials and members of the public don’t understand why parents want public education options for their children. As a coalition we wanted to help policymakers and others understand the value and importance of virtual schools, how virtual schools work and why we choose this option for our children.

Over the years online schools have faced many challenges, but as bills relevant to online education were introduced during legislative sessions, our parents testified at hearings and contacted legislators in order to have their voices heard.

For example, HB-1236 restricted home school and private school students who wanted to enter an online program.  The bill said that if a student is not in a publicly funded institution, he/she may not enroll in a public online school the following year, but instead must complete at least one semester in a brick-and-mortar school first.  In 2007 this restriction was lifted in part thanks to our active parent advocates who made their voice heard on this particular issue.

Another example is the 2007 legislative session which began with many concerns for online schools and parents, but the coalition worked hard to make sure parents’ voices were heard throughout the process.  In May of 2007 Governor Ritter signed SB 215 which was the legislature’s response to the audit and although the bill wasn’t flawless in its support of online education, we were very pleased with the results.

CCCF sponsors several events throughout the year to help bring our cyber school families together and to help raise awareness of the online public school option.  Check out our website for more details and our facebook page too.

I am proud to be a part of an organization of parent volunteers who have become powerful and vocal advocates for public online schools and choice in education.  We have all worked hard to make sure parents have a “seat at the table” when policymakers make decisions that affect our children’s public online schools.  We work hard to help policymakers understand how we school and why we chose this public online model.   We have become a force should there be efforts or initiatives that would negatively affect our choice in public education.

Parent power really does matter and parents are their child’s biggest advocate.

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  • http://www.dontmesswithmama.com Tracey @ Don’t Mess with Mama

    I LOVE this post. My kids are 4 and 6 years old so still young but we enrolled them in a Montessori program for the same reason – I didn’t feel like traditional schools worked. I’m still interested in homeschooling and other alternatives.

    How did you know the school for your daughter wasn’t working? What signs did you see? This is great education for parents. Thanks!

  • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

    Thanks for the comment Tracey. I realized that the traditional B & M school she was in wasn’t a good fit when the teacher suggested the GT program for her in kindergarten. My older son participated in GT at that school and it’s a pull out program where the kids miss their classwork while they attend GT. I volunteered many times for her class and I realized that she was not being challenged and she was completely bored. I knew what that boredom could possibly lead to so that’s when I started exploring my options. I was interested in homeschooling too, but I really needed and wanted something that offered more accountability and the online model was and still is a perfect fit for mastery based individualized learning for each one of my children with a world class curriculum.

  • http://sewsimplesewjess.wordpress.com Jess

    I don’t have any children yet, but my hubby and I have already been talking about alternatives to B&M schools. Mainly we are not encouraged by some to the education matters that are started to come to head in MI, plus we both found B&M school to be completely boring. So glad to have read your article this will be something my hubby and I will be discussing as we get closer to having children some day.

  • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

    Good for you, Jess, that you and your husband are already talking about options. When my oldest was ready to start elementary school in 1998, I always had in the back of my mind that our neighborhood school would be just fine and in walking distance, boy was I ever wrong. I checked out our neighborhood school only months before school started and I was so disheartened. I finally found an out of district school that was a good fit at the time but I didn’t find that school until 2 months after school started. I sure wish I had checked things out soon, so kudos to you both!

  • http://www.jdaniel4smom.com JDaniel4′s Mom

    I love all that you have done for your family!

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      Thanks for stopping by to read my story.

  • Tillie Elvrum

    Well said, Lori. Parents are their children’s very best advocates! Thanks for all you’ve done on behalf of the students and families in Colorado.

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      Thanks Tillie and thanks for your time and energy in joining us on the board as our newest board member and advocate of online learning and choice in education in Colorado.

  • Jennifer

    Lori, I never tire of hearing your incredible story. It’s always hard as parents take that leap of faith in doing something for our children that we’ve never done before. Thanks to you and many others who tested those waters and proved that online education works. Thanks also for being an advocate and preserving and expanding options for students everyone. You’re one STELLAR parent!

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      Thanks for the kind words Jenn, and thanks for your dedication not only to the National Coalition but to all of the families in Texas who have chosen the online option for their families. You are an amazing leader and advocate for what you so passionately believe in!

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  • http://lulalola.com Lula Lola

    Your story is so inspiring! I think my family is proof of just how inspirational it is! You’re fighting the good fight! Your voice makes a big difference!

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      I’m so glad you have found a good fit for your children’s educational needs, LL. You are an awesome mom and voice for your children.

  • Angie

    Thanks so much for your blogging and for being an advocate for all of us concerned parents. Your story truly helped me with the decision we made to do what is best for our son. He is now doing COVA for 7th grade and we’re both learning so much! My husband loves it, too. Our son is so much more happy. Online schooling is the future and we are grateful to have that choice.

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      Hi Angie! I’m so glad you found a great fit with Colorado Virtual Academy. I hope to meet you and your family at one of our upcoming events or field trips.

  • Ava Philippus

    My big question about homeschooling is, has anyone tried it with an only child? My child is not a very good socializer anyway, it takes him a loooong time to feel comfortable with somebody, and I’m concerned that homeschooling will take him from his best practice place, school (yes, I know that school is for education, but it’s also important for learning ‘emotional intelligence”).

    • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

      Hi Ava, great question, one that I get asked often. Traditional homeschooling is different than online schooling. Online schools are public schools, so the social opportunities for online students are similar to the social opportunities for traditional public school students. We have meet and greet and back to school events, prom, student government, National Honor Society, field trips both academic and fun, field day, HS dances, and a wide variety of student clubs. All of these social opportunities are available online and/or face to face. In any environment, socialization is what the student makes of it, and for younger children the parent’s role is important in helping their child connect. Having only one child would mean having the parent help their child interact with others by devoting the time to arrange positive opportunities other than the social opportunities he/she would have available through online connections.

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  • http://WriteMindOpenHeart.com Lori Lavender Luz

    It’s so important, with an endless variety of learning styles and family situations, that choices are available to parents in how to best educate their kids. I love that you have become so knowledgeable and involved in making online schooling an option for others. When I taught in a homeschool coop, some of my colleagues had taught through COVA and had only good things to say about it.

  • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

    I agree Lori, there are an endless variety of learning styles and family situations and choice helps us to set our children up for success. And that’s good to hear about our COVA teachers, I agree there too, we have an amazing staff of certified teachers.

  • http://www.missourieducationwatchdog.com/ stlgretchen

    You raise some good points and it is certainly a choice to virtual homeschool. Parents should have choices. However, are you not concerned with the curriculum provided by the public school?

    The issue I have with virtual schools is they are under the same mandates (common core and P20 pipeline) as traditional public schools in terms of standards, assessments and curriculum. Students educated virtually via public school districts are part of the data base used in longitudinal data systems. While the learning and pace is certainly advantageous to parents and students, I am concerned about WHAT the student is learning and the data trail left by that student.

  • http://lorislolz.org/ Lori

    The most important thing is that we as parents have options in choosing the best educational setting for our children in order to meet their individual learning needs. For my children, the public online model works and our school offers a world class curriculum with individualized learning to help my children succeed. For others this option may not be a good fit for the student and/or the parent, and again that is why choice is so important. So whether you chose a public school with public accountability, a private school, or homeschool, the parent should be knowledgeable and informed about the responsibilities and requirements of that model to ensure that this option will serve their child well.

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