A public school setting can be stressful for kids who don’t fit the traditional educational mold or who learn differently from other students. It’s easy for students to become frustrated and disenchanted with school and fail to reach their full potential.
Unfortunately, public school budgets usually don’t allow even the best teachers to give the one-on-one time such students need. The need to serve the greater student population often leaves less conventional students without much of a support system.
Meet Thomas Vann, an 11th grade student in Virginia with Asperger syndrome, who sought a more suitable education for his learning style. When he was beginning middle school, Thomas and his family found the public school experience increasingly stressful and unproductive, in ways that inhibited Thomas’ overall education.
After exploring all their options, Thomas and his family found a flexible online private school that allows students to learn at the pace that works best for them: The Keystone School.
Setting up for success
“For Thomas to have the fairly consistent class setup has really made it easy for him to succeed each year,” Larisa Vann, Thomas’ mother says. “Being able to get feedback from the teachers in both online and print classes has also helped him figure out where he needs to spend a little more time and effort.”
The Keystone School had the flexibility and support structure Thomas needed to get the one-on-one attention from teachers, counselors and advisors for him to receive a great education. The schedule flexibility has allowed him to pursue interests and reach personal goals, like becoming an Eagle Scout and landing his first paid part-time job.
“I think I do have more perseverance than most of my peers,” Thomas says, “because I feel that I’ve always had to work harder because of my Asperger’s. Taking online classes removes the distraction of gossips and bullies, but the challenge to learn the material is still there.”
Flexibility Helps: Thomas’ Keystone Experience
Keystone allows students to move through their coursework at their own pace. Thomas, for example, sometimes has trouble concentrating, so this extra freedom is especially beneficial.
“Regular classrooms can be too small and too loud to concentrate, and regular hours don’t always work for me because of my work and karate schedules,” he says. “Plus, when I know what I have to get done (to stay on track) I can work hard on it and finish it early.”
In a traditional setting, if a student wants to set their own hours, or only work on one subject for a whole day, they’ll probably be met with a hard “no.” As a Keystone student, Thomas can adjust his learning schedule to his own pace.
“Some days I work only on one class, and kids at a regular high school don’t have that option. Also, if I finish what I was planning to complete, I have the option of continuing or being done for the day — more game time if I want it!”
What’s the future hold for Thomas? He wants justice. Thomas plans to attend college and earn a degree in forensic science.
“Right now the main thing that keeps me motivated is that I know I need to finish my classes with good grades so that I can get into the college that I want to attend,” Thomas explains. “I want to be a forensic scientist and I know that I need to have good grades to get into the school that I’ve chosen. I’d like to get a job where I can make a difference,” he says, “and hopefully help guilty people get arrested, and innocent people freed.”
Larisa Vann, Learning Coach
Larisa Vann acts as her son’s Learning Coach, overseeing his day-to-day school time and helping him to understand his work when needed. In relation to Thomas’ Asperger’s, Larisa told us, “I felt that, since I understood how [Asperger’s] manifested in him, that Keystone would provide the academic lessons and I would be able to provide the support and assistance.”
Finding a schedule that works for Thomas, she noted, is important — and she uses Keystone’s online tools to keep him on track.
“I use the Parent Observer account (a function of the Keystone platform) to see what assignments Thomas has completed, what kind of progress he is making in each class, and then comparing that to the schedule that he and I have worked out,” she says. “If he is behind, we add school days, meaning that he will spend a few hours on the weekend catching up.”
The right school for the right student
Online schools can potentially offer a number of advantages for families and students like Thomas. The most important benefit can be the flexible scheduling.
“The biggest thing,” Thomas notes, “is that I get to take more breaks during the day instead of having to go from class to class. The struggles that I had to deal with in public school have actually made it easier for me to do online school. Now the only issue is allowing myself to get distracted with games.”
The flexible class schedule gives Thomas the time to participate in outside activities. In addition to a part-time job and ongoing commitments to his Boy Scouts of America troop, Thomas also balances out his schedule with one of the martial arts: karate.
“Thomas started taking karate when he was four years old and continued once we moved to Virginia,” Larisa says. “He has continued with his classes and is currently a purple belt in the adult class. This gives him time with his peers every week.”
When asked about his social life compared to his public school peers, Thomas says attending online school hasn’t really made that big of a difference, outside of the daily interactions during class.
“Having a job has introduced me to new people and I talk with them on breaks, so that’s something new that is kind of cool,” Thomas explains. “I have friends that I see in karate class, friends that I work with, and friends from Scouts. I’ve also made some closer friends in Scouts and we sometimes get together to game or just do whatever.
Is online education right for your family?
Keystone offers a quality education to students who excel when they have more freedom, flexibility and responsibility. For Larisa Vann, finding a school that worked with her son, and not against him was hugely valuable.
“I think the greatest benefits [of Keystone] were more noticeable over the long term,” Larisa says, “Thomas had been in brick and mortar schools, but they consistently failed to provide the support he needed as a child on the autism spectrum. His safety and his ability to learn were my main concerns and the public schools were not doing their job. Thomas is actually the one who chose Keystone after looking at all the options available for homeschooling.”
To learn more about how The Keystone School could help your family, visit us online today.