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A family’s (almost) snap decision to switch to online learning: Part 1

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Posted on: 12 Aug 2020
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A Valenture mom on how her son joined our online high school, almost overnight.

It’s 10:35 on the 8th of October 2019. As I pull into my garage, I hear Kieno Kammies giving one of his customary longwinded introductions to an interview, this time about advances in the digital realm. I reach to switch the car off but pause as he ends off his monologue with the words – ‘a revolutionary new online high school called Valenture Institute’ – and introduces one of the founders, Rob Paddock. I sit back and listen. 

In the back of my mind had always been the thought that my son, Sam, wouldn’t complete high school at a traditional brick and mortar school. While he excelled academically and was well liked, he has matured into a deep thinker who questions everything and won’t accept opinion dressed as fact. Critical thinking is often held up as one of the end goals of a good education. That is, until it leads students to question their teachers and the assumptions on which their education is based. 

I was fiercely proud of who he had become but realised that it was becoming hard for him to fit in comfortably. Add to the mix his increasing sensitivity to sensory inputs, like large, noisy crowds, and I knew it was just a question of time before we would have to look for alternatives. 

In January 2020 he started grade 8 at the same school my husband and I had matriculated from many decades earlier. The long summer break had given him the time and space to feel the relief of not having to conform. I had started to consider alternatives for his future schooling, spending hours googling different options, thinking he would complete middle school and then switch for grades 10–12. 

I remembered the radio interview I’d heard and visited the Valenture Institute website. Suitably impressed, I downloaded the information pack. Within a day I had an email from Adam Kleinschmidt, the admissions officer, (whom we jokingly referred to as Adam Adam because that is what his name was set as on his email then) and started thinking seriously about Valenture as an option for Sam’s senior high years.

I didn’t discuss this in detail with my husband, because he’d indicated he wasn’t prepared to consider online schooling. I began dropping hints and paving the way for a future chat. 

It’s late on the 6th of February 2020. I’m telling my husband the gist of an intense heart-to-heart I’ve just had with Sam. Together we realise that Sam needs a change… soon.  

This time it is Rael, his dad, who contacts Adam who explains the Valenture educational model. We push for Sam to start Junior High in July. It all feels sudden, rushed, unknown, terrifying. He has missed Orientation week and the first two modules.  

“I really want to start right now,” Sam says. “I will catch up what I’ve missed. Please.” The tone of his voice settles the debate. 

And so begins our Valenture journey, which turns out to be our best (and almost terrifying) parenting decision to date. 

Written by Caryn Gootkin

This column is part of a series. Read Part 2, to be published next week...




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