Why Do Parents of Gifted Students Turn to Virtual Education?

Why Do Parents of Gifted Students Turn to Virtual Education?

Virtual education or distance learning is becoming more and more common. Regularly, now, you can see advertisements for distance learning establishments on the television and receive information through the mail or online.  The establishments or more accurately, institutions, include services and classes for both K-12 education, college courses, and even degrees.  There are many reasons why parents and their students turn to virtual education. For many, it is a last resort.  However, the purpose of this blog post is to explore why gifted students and their parents turn to a virtual education platform.

You might be familiar with the story. Great grades, involvement with extra-curricular activities, a job, some socializing – and, maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend. High school seems to be going great! And then, you realize, or maybe your child tells you – they want out……Out of what, you ask? They inform you that they want to complete high school differently! What!? You express shock and disbelief. You thought they were doing so well!  This is the scenario we experienced when my oldest, then a sophomore in high school – ranked first in his class of over 200 students, came to us seven years ago.

It was clear. He thought that finishing high school via a virtual classroom setting or distance learning, as it is now commonly called, was the answer for him. As it turned out, he was right but what led to this decision? What attracts gifted students to distance learning? Our student was perceptive in determining his own needs and even desires for what his education should look like. And, it was not reflective of a traditional classroom.

These are some of the reasons gifted students might turn towards virtual education:

  • better use of time. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “down” time in schools today.  Gifted students have a need to move through the material at a quicker pace. Our student determined at the time he was in school, only about 3 hours a day were spent learning. The other five hours of the school day was “fluff” or mis-spent on things he just did not need (this includes assembly time and things like character education).
  • more challenging curriculum. Very often, gifted students have been accelerated and are topping out of course options. Even with the chance to take courses via dual enrollment at local colleges, very often virtual schools offer more in terms of course flexibility, more foreign languages, and more AP classes.  At the time of our decision to let our son finish high school virtually, AP classes were restricted at our high school.  He was denied the chance to take three AP courses as a sophomore and I believe that planted the seed of disenchantment with our traditional system. It also showed a lack of understanding of him as a student who very simply, “needed more.”
  • faculty are more used to working with students who do not “fit” in the traditional “box”. As a parent, this is huge!  Although individuality and individual academic needs are said to be valued in traditional systems, problems exist in conveying that value to the students who are sometimes denied what they need (see above).  This applies to learning styles as well.  There is more flexibility with a virtual system to allow the students to learn the way that is best for them.
  • more time to pursue outside interests. Since the gifted student might be able to progress through curriculum at a faster pace, more time is left for “serious” hobbies! These could include music, sports, art, or any number of other things. A great deal of the newly found, extra time that became available once the virtual education was underway for our student was spent on extending his musical abilities.  Gifted students may be extremely passionate about a talent they possess and the flexibility in scheduling allows them to follow or enrich that passion.

All in all, I believe there were about nine reasons my son came up with for wanting to finish high school via a virtual platform. Is it for everyone? No. Is it for all gifted students? Definitely, not! One has to consider the pros and cons for each individual situation and student.  It might not work for all students. But, it worked for us and increasingly is working for other students who need options.

But, when I look back on this now, I think the stage was set with an early history of virtual course enrollment. Aleks Online was used to take geometry the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Additionally, health was taken online via the K12 platform the summer before 9th grade.  After a struggle to “get what he felt he needed” during the first two years of high school – which did include AP Calculus AB, Calc II at a university,  AP – US History, and a trip to the National competition for National History Day in Washington D.C.,  the decision was made to exit the traditional classroom and complete high school, virtually.  As parents did we worry about this? Absolutely! Did we investigate what it would do to his options for college? Absolutely. (And, the answer to that is that it did not make any difference at all – as long as the virtual program is accredited). Did it turn out alright? Absolutely! Was it the right decision? I would say, yes, without any doubts!

There are many reasons students (and parents) become disenchanted with our educational systems today.  And, possibly, even more reasons for the gifted student to be disenchanted. For all these reasons, and others not mentioned that might exist – like social issues – virtual education is a viable option for the gifted student today.











A Writing Lesson for Gifted Students SOL#18

A Writing Lesson for Gifted Students SOL#18

Recently I was called on twice in as many weeks to serve as an educational consultant. The topics in question were in separate disciplines but both have ties to my boys and their capacities as learners and individuals.  Both instances made me feel good and reinforced what I believe is my true calling – teaching gifted students.

Continuing along this trend, last night I saw an article on my social media feed from the SENG organization. SENG stands for Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted. The article talked about how important it was to avoid giving too many writing instructions to gifted students. It was detailed and contained two examples of extremely high quality expository writing by high school students. In a nutshell, it told fellow educators to follow several simple guidelines when it came to teaching gifted high school students to write expository research papers. The suggested guidelines were:

  • Do not load them up with unnecessary advice, but rather stay out of their way!
  • Do not kill their motivation by front loading them with the paper requirements on conventions, bibliographies, footnotes, citations, etc. This can be daunting!
  • Do use other exemplary peer examples to motivate them as to what they could produce themselves.
  • Do realize gifted students can quickly pick up on the technical end of the paper requirements – this can be done later in the process, rather than front loading.
  • Do realize that to be a great writer, the students must first be thorough readers of their chosen topic.
  • Do allow them topics of their choice.  (They will really be thankful for this!)
  • Remember that the more interested in content the student is, the more likely they will be motivated and invested in producing a high quality, well-written paper.
  • Do not place unnecessary limitations on length.
  • Do not project your own limitations on their capabilities.
  • Do be available for questions. Gifted students have a lot of them. Get used to it.

I read this article with interest for several reasons. One reason was that my eldest son, gifted in many areas, wrote a paper on Charles Darwin for his National History Day Project in eighth grade, many years ago. The following year, 2009, the paper was published on Teen Ink, and has had thousands of views through that website.  When I read the caveats presented by this author, I could not help but wonder if he ever felt overwhelmed by writing instruction. My guess would be, yes!

More significantly, however, the article made me realize a mistake I made with a writer’s circle student I had last year. We were starting our poetry unit and I was giving instructions on writing haiku poetry.  Our sessions were short (30 minutes) and I felt pressed for time. I literally blurted out the directions in a rapid pace and set the students to work. But, as I finished, I noticed one of my six students had his head down and appeared flushed. When I approached him,  I could see he was close to tears.  I asked him what was wrong, but he did not respond. I had him join me in the hallway. There, he burst into tears, claiming he could not do what I asked.  Of course. he could and, he did. A week later, he produced some wonderful haiku and was published in a national compilation along with everyone else in my group. But, I realized when I read this article that I had overwhelmed him with my rapid fire directions and list of  technical requirements for haiku writing. I think if I had approached him (and the group) with examples of student written haiku instead of starting with directions and the pressure of having a short group lesson, the tears could have been avoided.

It’s too bad that I don’t have a writer’s circle group this year. I could have put the lesson I just learned into practice. More reading, more examples, and more freedom to write topics of choice combined with less direction and less pressure to learn writing techniques up front might very well be the way to go with gifted writers, even if they are only eight years old!

Why Does Grocery Shopping Get Me So Frazzled?

Why Does Grocery Shopping Get Me So Frazzled?

Is it the crowds of aimlessly wandering consumers?

Is it the new store that just doesn’t measure up to my preconceived notions?

Is it the traffic jams in the isles?

Is it making the time to go?

Is it that I never can actually get everything on my list?

Could it be the foul-smelling fish at the seafood counter?

Is it the empty space where the brand of tea I buy usually can be found?

Is it the packaged peppers that are already rotted but still on the shelf?

It is some of those things but more likely to be the following that frustrate me.

It is bagging my own groceries. Why do I insist on trying to do this. I am not good at it.

It is unloading bag upon bag from the car, by myself.

It is getting things put away where they belong. Or cleaning the cupboards before I go?

It is that it takes time away from other things. Yes, but we all have to eat.

It is a thankless job. Yes, until someone appreciates what I cooked.

And, it IS not finding my brand of tea. Over and over I hunt for this.

It is stocked on the shelves, and then, it is not.

It is other cars, and especially the large SUV’s that RACE through the parking lot!

Today, I was frazzled while grocery shopping, as last week and the week before that.

What should I change?!

Silent Sunday: Mountains

Silent Sunday: Mountains

Napili Coast, Kauai, 2013. Steep Cliffs, Lush Green, and Waterfalls.
View to Walk-in only Beach on Kauai, Near Napili Coast, 2013.
Mountain on Maui, Shrouded in Cloud, 2015.
West Maui Mountain Rainbow of Colors, 2015.
Living Under the the West Maui Mountains, 2010.
Maui Shadowed by Haleakala while on the Volcano, 2015.
Views of Rocky Mountain National Park, 2010.
Hallett Peak as seen across a lake in RMNP, 2010.
Sugarcane Ditch Tubing Adventure on Kauai – A Travel Post

Sugarcane Ditch Tubing Adventure on Kauai – A Travel Post

I have been wanting to do more travel posts. Today, thought I would post about a tubing adventure we took on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in July of 2013.  Prior to leaving for vacation, my husband found the Back Country Tubing Adventure website. In our travels to Hawaii, we have always found it helpful to plan and book one of our larger outings before we go. Our first trip in 2009-2010 entailed a New Year’s Day snorkeling cruise to the volcanic crater of Molokini hosted by the Pacific Whale Foundation. But, I digress. Our snorkeling experience there will have to be saved for another post.

Kauai BackCountry Adventures offered a chance to mix the history of the Hawaiian islands with a present day adventure.  The five of us arrived on a sultry July day, ready for the unknown. We were instructed to meet at the home base for the company in Lihue which ended up being a large warehouse type structure. There, we checked in, and received our helmets complete with headlamps.  After being ushered into several large conversion vans, we were taken on a very bumpy ride up into the island’s interior to the former location of the Lihue Plantation.  The ride itself was an adventure! Just let’s say you are far from civilization when you travel to the head of the ditch where the start of the tubing adventure is located. Once there, you are provided a tube and don your helmet and then jump into a large stream with steeply sloped sides. You suddenly find yourself in an old Sugarcane ditch floating along, being gently pushed by the current and other tubers!  Our youngest son, who was 11 at the time and not at all sure about the trip.  The heat had caused him to become faint and shaky, so jumping into a make-shift river on a tube was not appealing at the time. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and he joined us on the trip.


It really is amazing to think that these ditches and tunnels (you go through several – thus, the need for headlamps) were dug out by hand by native Hawaiians who lived on Kauai in the late 1800’s. The end of the tubing adventure is completed with a lunch provided to you by the adventure company. Let’s just say, do not go on this adventure for the lunch! It was adequate but nothing more. Back on the bumpy bus to the home base warehouse in Lihue.

Sugarcane Plantations long sustained Hawaii economically. Sadly, the last plantation closed on Maui in 2016. The plantation on which the ditches exist that you traverse was the Lihue Plantation, established in 1849. The ditches were made in 1870 to help divert and direct water to the sugarcane fields.  This sugarcane plantation eventually closed in November of 2000, leaving the hand-carved ditches for tourists to tube and marvel at this feat of human engineering! More history can be found on the tubing company’s website.

Backcountry sugarcane ditch tubing on Kauai is an experience worth having while visiting the lush Garden Isle. It was fun, different, and made one appreciate some of the history of this amazing place!

Sliding Down a Slippery Slope: Do you ever feel like this?

Sliding Down a Slippery Slope: Do you ever feel like this?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have felt like I am on a very slippery slope, going down hill at speeds I cannot control and no upward swing at the end of the valley in sight.

Do you ever feel like this?

Do not get too worried, as you will see most of my problem is circumstantial. Still, it is slippery!

Since the 15th of January, two of my boys, both in high school, had the flu. They missed more school than they have in years, with the exception of us taking them out for a couple of days for a family vacation which always surrounded a break from the school calendar. No break this time. Just the flu, in the middle of final exam week. Yuck.

I fell on New Year’s Eve, down the stairs inside our house.  Nothing broken, except my pride and a sprained left palm/wrist that resolved within a day. Now, I have been fighting back pain that is either sciatica or bursitis, but no fun, in any case.  I fell. I feel old. I also feel like I have a right to say I hurt. Please let me say this without telling me I am not as old as you! Of that I am aware, but I have a need to be heard, a need to say I hurt, and have that hurt recognized without having it diminished. I’ll be okay but right now, I hurt.

My husband finished his last day with one institution on a Sunday night shift and started with a new employer several hours later, on the following Monday morning (he thought he had a week in between and did, although, was needed for signatures which immediately made him a new employee).  This week he’s been gone – out-of-state – for training. This week, I’ve been tried. So, has he. The flu or at least many flu-like symptoms caught up with him during his time away, so maybe I am not out of the woods, yet! Oh, how I hope I am!

I realized I have only a very short time left to enjoy my senior who is now in his very last semester of high school.  He has asked that I teach him how to iron. I can and I will. Everyone needs to know how to iron a dress shirt and crease a pair of dress pants. I was pleased to be asked. I am proud of him. I do not think he knows how much. I am looking for ways to show him how I feel.

I am glad I made time for my friends this week while I’ve been on that figurative slippery slope.  I am sure I would have ended up at the bottom, if it weren’t for them. Coffee with one, walking with another, a request for some custom jewelry from a third, and lunch with a fourth kept me out of complete winter doldrums while I was a single mom during the last six days. My friends know who they are, but I am not sure I thanked them all appropriately. I appreciate each of them, and all of our conversations. I know three of the four read my posts. I am grateful for that, as well.

My new graduate classes started and are disappointing. Three credits of redundancy and a credit of independent study with a non-existent syllabus await me. I seem to have lost a great deal of motivation. Redundancy steals it away, don’t you know?!  I do. Searching for a quick drop/add has proved illusive; and today, I just plodded ahead – when I forced myself to – after first attending to laundry and cleaning the bathroom. It was procrastination at its finest!

It appears that no one is running for school board against the incumbents. At least, nothing has been announced publicly.  And, while I profess to not understand that, on some level I must, because I made the decision to not run as well. Still, it is disappointing.  I guess the old adage holds that if you want a job done right, you need to do it yourself. But, then again, I find myself in the minority on many related topics!

I am looking for a sign, a swing in the lay of the landscape that tells me to be more positive, to feel better, to have my motivation return, to “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” like Dory says. Soon enough, there will be an upturn in the landscape, upon which I can gain some traction. Maybe, just maybe, I can see it sitting low on the horizon today.




WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme, The Chrysalis

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme, The Chrysalis

When this challenge was first posted, I was at a loss as to what I could share. Then, I remembered the thousands of photographs I have taken of the various stages of the Monarch Butterfly’s life cycle. My favorite stage is the third stage, the pupa, or chrysalis! I have been raising monarchs for 14 years now and I still take photographs of all stages, but most frequently the chrysalis. It is the stage where the miracle of metamorphosis takes place, during which the chrysalis has many different appearances depending on how close it is to the next stage: that of the butterfly.  Enjoy my variations on a theme: The Chrysalis for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. All photographs are mine and subject to copyright. Thank you!



one out one to go.










photo 4