When COVID hit, my family’s schooling plans changed. We began to look for a trustworthy online program and were introduced to OC Online. Our daughter completed her 9th and 10th grade years of high school at OC Online, and our son completed his 8th grade year of middle school at OC Online.
I [May] grew up in Arizona, attended college in New York, and then moved to Atlanta for work, where I met my husband. Our two kids were born in Atlanta and had attended the same Christian school since the first grade…until we moved to Colorado in 2020 during their middle school years.
My son had also taken an online elective, prior to attending OC Online, from a different online institution for one year. Their program felt impersonal, unorganized, and unreliable. It was very difficult to reach the teacher by phone with questions, and I never got to speak to the same person twice when I called the general administration number. Fortunately, it was just for one elective class, so it was less important whether he learned a lot from the class (which he did not!). But it fit my negative “stereotype” of what I thought an online school would be like.
Until we came to OC Online! What a difference it was for us!
I really liked the fact that, on my very first call to OC Online to inquire about their program, I was actually speaking with the Dean of the Online school without even knowing it! Mr. Ogne was willing to take the time to answer my many questions, and I never felt like he had more important things to do than to take my call. Once we were enrolled as a family, I had the pleasure of speaking with several other members of the administration and always felt heard, like my concerns or questions would be addressed in a timely manner. My husband and I believe that leadership makes a huge difference in the type of staff and faculty that a school is able to attract and retain. Being able to speak directly with a dean or principal to understand the culture and priorities of a school are important to us, as it shows that these leaders are open to parental input, questions, and suggestions.
Having attended Christian schools in Atlanta and Denver before coming to OC Online, I can attest that the academic rigor at OC Online was actually above what we had experienced at either of our in-person schools. While school should be a place where students grow as individuals, athletes, and artists, we believe that the primary goal is still to gain an academic education where their minds are stimulated to think, explore, reason, and gain knowledge – ultimately, to be prepared for the academic rigor and independent study skills needed to succeed in college.
My husband and I were thoroughly impressed by how rigorous the curriculum at OC Online was in middle school and high school. This is a real school with qualified faculty who have high expectations of their students to excel in their academic performance. In fact, the rigor that my son experienced as an 8th grader at OC Online was far more advanced and well balanced than what my daughter learned at her in-person school when she was in the 8th grade. I define “rigor” not just by the daily amount of classwork/homework assigned, or by the number of hours taken to complete an assignment, but by the quality of the content being taught. It is thought-provoking, well rounded, and demanding, all in a good way.
I also appreciate that, as a Christian school, OC Online is willing to use textbooks that are not solely published by Christian publishers. It is important for our students to understand the world as it is, and then learn how to filter what they read through the lens of their Christian faith. I do not like how some Christian schools only use textbooks published by Christian companies, where students are not even given a chance to understand how the broader world at large thinks or knows because they are only taught one perspective. Especially at the high school level, students should be taught the skills to discern what they learn, not simply be protected from “other” perspectives, so that they can flourish when they leave home and know how to think for themselves.
Accessible & Open-Minded Christian Teachers
Especially at the upper middle school and high school levels, we feel that it is important to build trust with a teacher. I was also able to schedule introduction calls with each of their teachers at the beginning of each year to introduce myself and ask them any questions I had or give the teachers a heads up of my daughter’s learning differences and how that might impact the way she learned in their class. Each time, the teachers took time to listen, respond, and communicate their expectations and goals for the class in a way that was productive, respectful, and hopeful.
Many of the teachers were fabulous about encouraging my kids to ask questions or share their views, even if they differed from the “norm.” I especially loved how some teachers provided media responses (instead of written responses) to my son’s questions, so that they could explain in more detail or with more emotion/expression than simply typing an email. My son really soaked up these replies and thought about what the teacher said. Our kids also had access to scheduling one-on-one video calls with their teachers whenever they had questions on homework.
This is especially important in a Christian school setting, where teachers do not just teach dogmatically from the Bible, but they allow students the time and space (and permission) to apply these truths to current events or real-world situations where the truth may not be so black-and-white.
While our kids may sometimes refute or argue with us as parents about the life lessons we try to teach them, they generally soak up every word that comes out of a teacher’s mouth! So it is important to us that their teachers are well versed in their respective fields of study, AND that they genuinely enjoy what they do and are good at conveying their knowledge to their students in ways that are comprehensible to a middle or high schooler.
A Safe Place to Grow
This is becoming a rarer and more precious attribute of a school, but it is important for our kids to be able to discuss their opinions, express themselves, and learn how to disagree with their peers in a kind and respectful manner without being bullied, excluded, or laughed at.
I appreciated how neither of my kids ever complained about being bullied (via chats, comments, etc.) from any of their peers, or being made fun of for giving a particular answer during live classes. They always felt respected by their classmates and were taught to do the same to others.
I also loved how Mrs. Farinacci hosted book clubs throughout the year for parents and faculty to meet and discuss issues that mattered to us (ie. parenting/influencing teens). It was nice to form some bonds with other parents, as that was something I missed from our in-person school.
While the lack of in-person, live social interactions is clearly a drawback of any online school, there were so many unexpected benefits that we gained at OC Online. One benefit is that my kids learned the importance of time management and self-discipline, since they had an entire week to plan out how quickly they would complete each assignment.
At the same time, they missed being able to see other people’s faces or talk to people live, since most students did not turn on their cameras during live classes. They also missed extra-curricular activities like Homecoming, football games, pep rallies, worship team/chapel, dances, etc. That said, they enjoyed student activities like Baking Night, Movie Night, Paint Night, and Lunch with Animals with other students outside of class time. (I thought it was super neat how OC Online intentionally provided these types of spaces for students to get more time to interact).
To sum up everything, I think parents would be impressed to know just how much their students will learn while attending OC Online, and how much personal attention they will get from their teachers if they want/need it. Even if they’ve never attended an online school in the past or may have preconceived notions from a previous bad experience with an online school, they should give OC Online some serious consideration if their child is needing to find a good alternative to in-person school.
We chose an online school for two years because we needed to be more cautious about COVID to protect certain high-risk family members. But the benefit that we received from OC Online far exceeded our expectations.
We are so thankful that the Lord knew what our family needed, especially after moving across the country just before a pandemic started, and He provided above and beyond by bringing our children to OC Online at just the right time.