(ARA) - Thirteen-year old diver Jordan Windle is nicknamed "Little Louganis," because his diving style is so reminiscent of his idol, Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis. Windle, a seventh grader at Indiana Connections Academy - and the youngest diver who competed to represent the U.S. in the London Olympics this summer - is being mentored by Louganis.
But Windle has another training secret weapon, one he shares with diving partner and schoolmate Zach Cooper, and many of the country's most promising young Olympic hopefuls: virtual public school. Windle and the other young athletes attend Connections Academy virtual schools that help them juggle schoolwork and their rigorous training and completion schedules. So these world-class athletes no longer have to choose between following their Olympic dreams and getting a top-quality public education.
Nationwide, a record number of K-12 students are getting their public educations virtually: roughly 250,000 K-12 students in the U.S. are going to school virtually today, and current growth trends show double digit growth every year in the number of virtual school students.
But the trend is even more pronounced in the world of elite amateur athletics, where young competitors have to practice for multiple hours every day, and travel around the world for competitions - while still doing their ABCs. "Virtual school is especially well suited to student athletes who desire to compete at the highest level in their sport, yet do not want to compromise on their academics," observes Dr. Patricia Hoge, senior vice president for curriculum and instruction for Connections Academy. "In the short term, virtual schools offer the flexibility the athletes and their families need. But even more important, in the longer term, quality virtual public schools deliver a world-class education that will serve the athletes well long after their athletic careers have ended."
The Olympic hopefuls and Connections Academy students are:
Jordan Windle - Windle is not only a world-class diver but a published author who has also created a video for the "It Gets Better" tolerance campaign. Jordan has also been featured in the Disney Channel's video, "Getcha Head in the Game."
Seventeen-year-old equestrienne Catherine Chamberlain - Chamberlain , a senior at Arizona Connections Academy, is a champion in the equestrian event of dressage. She began riding when she was 5 years old, and with her horse Chance, most recently won two silver medals in the 2010 North American Junior & Young Rider Championships. Catherine hopes to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
Many other families - without future Olympians - have their own reasons for choosing full-time virtual school. The majority have children who are simply not thriving, for whatever reason, in a traditional classroom setting. Many find increased personalization and flexibility of online schools enable their students to succeed academically, since they can work from home at a pace that is more in line with their learning style, and at a level that suits their educational needs.
Educators suggest that parents carefully consider whether this newest form of public education is a good fit for their student and family. Factors to weigh include: the availability of a parent to be on hand to monitor student progress and work with certified teachers who direct instruction; the student's level of self-motivation; parent and student comfort level with technology; and the student's willingness to tackle a challenging, comprehensive curriculum.
If virtual school seems like a good fit for their family, educators recommend parents do their homework and pick a high-quality school. Parents should look for a school with a track record of delivering student achievement and growth and high levels of parent and student satisfaction. Other quality benchmarks include accreditation from a recognized accrediting body, full-time certified teachers who direct student learning, state-of-the-art technology resources and learning materials and community activities like clubs and field trips for students.
In most states, virtual school enrollment is open for the coming school year. In states where virtual public schools are not available, there are tuition-based virtual private school options.
To learn more about virtual school and if it's right for your family, visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com.