June 14, 2004
When Mary Wall’s son said he wanted to be educated at home because it was hard to balance school with his training for ice skating, she was at a loss about what to do.
"I started looking into home-schooling and became very overwhelmed," said Wall, a Tempe resident. "There is very little guidance for home-schooling."
Then she discovered Chancellor Arizona Connections Academy, an online public school program. The curriculum is approved by the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools and is free to parents because it is a public school.
It began in fall 2003 and is gearing up for its second school year, said Gloria Howard, a sixth-grade teacher for the school.
"I think this is the wave of the future, and I am in pioneer territory," said Howard, who works for Chancellor Charter School at West Gilbert, 14919 S. Gilbert Road.
The program, which goes from kindergarten through eighth grade, is offered in Arizona and five other states.
The Arizona program had 100 students this school year. That number is expected to rise in the coming school year, which starts Aug. 16.
Howard said students typically drawn to the online charter school include children who were ahead or were behind and couldn’t catch up in a traditional classroom.
She said students can work at their own pace but the average time is five hours of work per day.
"Some it takes longer, others are quicker," but they can expect four to seven hours a day, she said.
"We give them curriculum for the year, so if they want to take time off they can work Saturdays or Sundays if they want to get ahead or catch up," Howard said.
Wall said she has been pleased with the program.
"Geoffry likes working at his own pace," she said. "He is a very bright kid, and in the traditional classroom he would have to wait for the teacher to move on to the next thing."
Geoffry said he likes that he is free to plan his day and to take breaks when he wants.
"I can decide whether I want to do math or social studies first," he said. "Also, if I get hungry, I can just go downstairs and get something to eat. I don’t have to wait until lunchtime."
Geoffry practices skating about two to three hours per day and does an additional three to four hours of conditioning per week.
When at a traditional school, he could do only one to 1 1 /2 hours of training per day. He is also able to attend more competitions.