OPINION

Why choose online school? A bully made us do it

TDN

As a “hackschooling” family, we are frequently asked about why we left the traditional brick and mortar school and opted for Michigan Connections Academy, a statewide online virtual public school. The short answer is ... a bully made us do it.

The word “bully” immediately conjures up images of hairy knuckled fourth-graders stalking the playground for unassuming victims at recess but, in this day and age of constant connectivity, well, it’s complicated. Bullying takes on many forms and doesn’t end when the school day or recess does. Kids can be physically and mentally abused by someone seen or unseen, in real life or virtually.

Our story is uncommon in that the children being bullied were strangers and it was our son, Noah, who decided to do something about it.

Unlike his peers at the time, Noah was larger than other kids and could, apparently, take a punch. He did it daily for the greater good of his classmates. As a second-grader, Noah was physically attacked, unbeknownst to his father and me, every morning by an older student. He took the punch so that his friends would not have to. The reality is, had I not actually observed it one morning by happenchance delivering a forgotten lunch, I doubt anyone would have ever known what my son endured each and every day. When asked about it, Noah said, “It doesn’t hurt me. It will hurt (name withheld).”

After talking with the administrators and teachers about environments that breed bullies and victims, those (environments) that are “reactive” as opposed to being “proactive,” we decided to enroll our three children in Michigan Connections Academy. Bullies are a variable we, as parents, caregivers, and guardians, can choose to control by removing ourselves from the equation when situation necessitates it.

In our case, the bully was going nowhere and our children’s physical and mental well-being was at stake.

Private school was not fiscally possible, while selling the house and moving to a better school district was not an option, and homeschooling was not something my husband or I were prepared to do. We decided to “hack” school and take advantage of the alternatives available, namely an online public school education.

A virtual public school is a viable solution for many families including those dealing with bullying issues. Our children are in their fifth year of virtual education and are experiencing education and learning on their terms, unfettered, and unhampered by others. The friendships our children have with their teachers and classmates are founded on mutual respect and cultivated in an environment that rewards academic success.

As a parent of a child who went from a hostile learning environment to one in which he has blossomed, bullying does not need to hold your family hostage — there are some incredible alternatives available.

Sarah Hodsdon, a mother, has children

attending Michigan Connections Academy