Child Parent Power Matters!

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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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  1. 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”).

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. 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!

  5. 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.

    1. 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.