My husband and I [Terri] live in the Atlanta area with our daughter, Elle, who is a competitive, level 10 gymnast. She has attended OC Online for 8th and 9th grade, and she plans to continue her education with OC Online for her upcoming 10th grade year.
Education is very important in our household, and our daughter attended a local, prestigious, private Christian school from Kindergarten through 7th grade where she did very well academically. She attended her brick-and-mortar school for 35 hours a week on top of juggling her passion for gymnastics which included 25-27 hours in the gym each week. We knew she had no margins in her young life. Then, when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, we noticed there was a gap in the schools transitioning to online education. God used this period in our life to re-evaluate priorities, perspective and to start weighing options to help Elle create balance in her life. We wanted to continue valuing education while still creating balance with her love and pursuit of competitive gymnastics. So many young competitive gymnasts do online school, but it had never appealed to me as I was under the assumption that we would have to sacrifice the quality of her education. But prompted by the worldwide events of 2020, my child really wanted to try non-traditional schooling so she could follow her athletic dreams …so my search began for an online program that mirrored the quality of her K-7th grade in-person education.
In Spring of 2020 I reached out to Dean of Students, Jeff Ogne, to discuss OC Online, and he took the time to answer ALL my questions through multiple calls and emails.
I soon discovered that OC Online met ALL of my criteria:
Christian Worldview: OC Online is a faith-based program that does not just leave the Biblical worldview to a religious class but incorporates our amazing hope and Christian faith in Jesus in all academic areas. From her math teacher opening the class with a scripture to discussions in history how faith relates to the material or world event, OC Online incorporated a Christian worldview into everyday teaching. In addition, OC Online requires a Bible class as well as a Spiritual Life class where the students meet weekly (it seems most equivalent to her weekly chapel that she had at her brick-and-mortar Christian school!).
Academic excellence: OC Online has a college prep program that offers honors and AP options during the high school years, including an Honors diploma. In addition, the teachers require the students to participate in live classes/discussions and encourage thought-provoking writing, not just regurgitating facts. School at OC Online is not just about checking boxes but about analyzing, thinking, comparing, discovering, and interacting in a flexible but online setting.
Accredited, NCAA: In high school, the courses are NCAA certified! My child hopes to compete in division 1 gymnastics one day so her time at OC Online will be accepted and valued by college/universities and meet the NCAA standards.
Treating my child as a real person: By OC Online offering a weekly live class in each course, my daughter gets to know each of her teachers, to interact and to ask questions. In addition, even if you cannot attend the live class, teachers are available for conferences throughout the week to discuss the material. There is real accountability and relationships. In addition, she has a Student Life class and Spiritual Life class where there is time for further interaction with both teachers and with fellow online students. It is amazing that even though she is participating in an online program, at OC Online I believe my child could reach out to her teachers for a recommendation if needed. In addition, my child is even assigned “group” projects where she is required to reach out to her fellow students and collaborate on an assignment. She has friends across the country now.
Community Not Just Classes: OC Online Student Life offers multiple opportunities throughout the year to get involved outside the classroom including virtual book clubs, cooking classes, painting night, escape room, virtual 5ks, lunch with animals, trivia nights, etc. While the students are not required to participate in all of these, it serves as a great opportunity to connect with fellow students in a more casual setting as the student’s schedule permits.
Real Academic Deadlines: I really wanted an online program to mirror brick and mortar school with either daily or weekly deadlines while offering flexibility as needed since my child is a busy student athlete. I know some online programs just have a general deadline to get everything finished by the end of the semester, and my child would have just zoomed through school in 3 weeks just to get it done. I appreciate the fact that OC Online has weekly deadlines. This is attractive as it creates some structure and accountability while allowing for flexibility during the week (instead of daily deadlines). Of course, OC Online offers flexibility and a very reasonable late policy. Most teachers are very accommodating if my child is ill or has a busy travel week for her sport.
Branches of a Good Tree
Overall, OC Online was a standout from the beginning. I appreciated that I was treated as an individual and could speak to someone directly about the program as part of my research. No question was too small. In addition, some of the other learning programs sacrificed academics either through limited course offerings, no live teaching, poor student/teacher ratios or did not offer a genuine Christian faith-based education. Some programs I researched even required parents to actually be the teacher to their child, something I prefer not to do. I also really appreciate is that OC Online was founded out of a traditional, brick-and-mortar school that already knows education, particularly Christian education. They know how to educate in person so they can use some of the same curriculum, values and standards found in many of its brick-and-mortar courses in its online program. Finally, I like knowing that Oaks Christian’s brick and mortar students often take an online class or two from OC Online which to me means that the education in the online program must be of comparable quality and must meet the standards of Oaks Christian school.
Additionally, the curriculum has been solid with great teachers, and the teachers have provided encouragement and support for my student. I was highly surprised by the caliber of teachers and their credentials as well as the opportunities my child has had to connect with peers even though it is an online school. My child’s spiritual life teacher will even send encouraging notes through the mail! Finally, my student enjoys her teachers so much that she wanted to make sure to visit one of them during our summer vacation!
A Word to Prospective Parents
As a parent, OC Online has exceeded expectations in most areas. As a parent, I am able to ask questions to the administrative team, participate in course planning as well as get involved in a parent book club where I met other parents, virtually! Prospective parents should do their research, ask questions and feel confident that OC Online will meet and/or exceed your academic expectations, but more importantly, the teachers will interact, support and encourage your child both academically and spiritually. Your child will not be a number but a valued individual. In addition, your child will have opportunities to get involved and interact with their peers which surpasses most online programs.