Sixth grader turns to online school, puts ADHD on notice 

When Lindsey Gran Simmons decided three years ago to try home schooling her daughter, she knew her family would need some help in the "classroom."


Although Holly, who is now 11 and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), showed much potential, she was talking too much in class at her public school in Crestview, Fla., and was not fully engaged.

Online is the right setting

Her mom searched the Web to find a suitable educational partner before deciding on K12's independent online program. The K12 curriculum offers just the right balance of flexibility and structure for Simmons and her daughter, who is in sixth grade.

"It's very easy to navigate," Simmons says. "It keeps attendance for you, it keeps all of her grades, it gives you all of the supplies. I can go to look at plans the day before, the week before or the month before."

Today, Simmons and her daughter say their home schooling-online school arrangement is working much better than traditional school. Holly is above grade level in math and performing well in her other subject areas. Additionally, she has ample time for horseback riding, soccer and other pursuits.

Perhaps, most importantly, the arrangement hasn't disrupted their mother-daughter relationship.

"It came naturally to both of us," Simmons says of home schooling. "We went into it a little nervous, but it worked itself out. We had no idea what we were getting into, but it's never been a problem when we're at school. We also have fun when we're doing school."

Adapting to a varied schedule

Each day provides room for some variety for Simmons and her daughter. They're usually up by 6:30or 7, and start the school day after breakfast. On a typical morning, they'll work their way through science, history, language arts and math. After lunch, it's off to horseback riding, soccer practice or another activity.

Unlike in a regular classroom, Simmons can mix up the schedule by spending as little or as much time as needed on a subject.

"Some days, school will take her four hours, some days it will take her six," Simmons says. "We have hard days when it takes longer. If she's having a hard time with something, I supplement with extra [work]. But I can stop and say we're done for the day."

Similarly, Simmons doesn't feel the need to go over and over a particular skill, once her daughter has mastered it. "If she knows the math, I don't make her do all 40 problems. As long as she knows them and can take the test, that's fine by me."

Familiar subjects

Holly's workload, which is spelled out in detail by K12, is pretty much the standard stuff all sixth grade students work on. In science, she's studying biology, using a microscope and slides supplied by K12 (her parents have to buy the samples, however.) "Looking under the microscope is my favorite thing because you can see different types of living things," Holly says.

Math is pre-algebra, a subject for which they will sometimes consult with dad, and Holly also selected four novels to read from a list of 20. She loves to read––she's been through "Old Yeller" and "White Fang," with "A Wrinkle in Time" coming up next––but finds composition to be a chore.

"She doesn't have a subject she really hates, but she only likes composition to a point," Simmons says. "She will write in her journal, but if you give her a topic she doesn't like to write about, she'll just sit there."

Getting out of the house

However, the classroom isn't confined to the Simmons family home. This mom and daughter participate in monthly field trips to a local heritage museum and attend plays at a nearby college. They also go on field trips with other home-schooled kids, receiving the same discounted price public schools receive.

"Our community has a lot of home-schooled kids, so we have a lot of options," Simmons explains.

Holly has the option of participating in athletic and other extra-curricular activities with public school students, who are her teammates for soccer. She's rounded out her time by attending drama classes, taking drum lessons and riding horses. "We're able to do so much more now that she's not stuck in regular school for eight hours a day," Simmons says.

Meeting goals

Besides regular testing at the end of each unit, Simmons provides grades twice a year to her daughter, who still likes to get a report card. Simmons also offers incentives if Holly meets certain goals, giving her stickers and beads on a bracelet to earn prizes.

The Sunshine State requires home school students take a standardized achievement test every year or be evaluated individually; Simmons prefers the latter. "I like to see that's she's grown and what she has to work on," she says.

Also available is phone support from K12, but Simmons has yet to reach out to the program for help.

Back to (traditional) school?

When or if Holly returns to the traditional classroom remains an open question. Unlike private school, cost isn't really an issue, since the Simmons can easily afford the approximate $1,000 in annual fees for K12.

"That will really be up to her," Simmons says of the future. "She likes being home schooled, but since we started soccer, she also likes being with kids. She's also finding out that middle school girls aren't as nice as she thought they were."

The bottom line for this family is to provide Holly with the environment will nurture her best: "If she's not happy, she's not going to succeed––I've always been open to school," Simmons says.

As for Holly, she's still engaged in home schooling, even going so far as to describe it as "fun."

"It's a lot better than sitting in a desk all day long and doing nothing," she says. "I like that you learn a lot more than you would than you would ever thought you would have in school."

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