"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. "
~ Helen Keller
For the last few days we have been getting to know the people who are influencing our daughter. Emily takes classes at an online school called Veritas Press Scholars Academy... a classical approach to education.
Two years ago when we moved from the Seminary campus to Dan's vicarage placement in Iowa, we knew we needed to make a change in how we were schooling Emily. While I consider myself reasonably intelligent (no snickering), I became aware that it would be a daunting task to academically challenge my more than reasonably intelligent daughter through high school. While in St. Louis at the Seminary, we were fortunate to meet Joanna Hensley, who is one of the online instructors for Veritas. She was their best marketing ploy in my opinion. If this woman was representative of the quality of teachers being hired by this up-and-coming-technologically-suped-up-online-classical-school... sign us up.
In August of 2008 we enrolled Em in three of the online classes, but because of the late date, she would only be able to participate fully in one of the three classes. The other two she would "audit". This meaning that she could watch the live class, but could not answer questions, "raise" her hand, or submit work to be graded. She would however get to benefit from class discussion and wisdom of the teachers. One of the classes she was auditing was an Omnibus Primary class. This "3 in 1" of Literature, Theology, and History involved mounds of reading and oodles of great discussions... just what Em was looking for. However, telling my daughter that she couldn't participate in heated theological debates in class was like telling a starving man he could only watch through a window as others feasted at a banquet! Regardless, she was hooked.
It's been fascinating for us to see just how a "virtual" school can give our daughter such a concrete experience like it has. She's had classmates in our kitchen working on science labs.. goggles and all, via skype. She has assembled power point presentations for classes with classmates thousands of miles away. And walking into her room at any given time, I can hear, "Hello Mrs. Pool," from any number of kids, their beaming faces coming in clear over the video cam. She's used her computer to reach across the world... literally. She has made friends from Belgium to Mexico City, from SriLanka to Alabama, San Francisco to Bermuda... all through a computer screen. And these "virtual" friendships are anything but virtual. They are quite real.
Back to the present:
This past weekend our family has enjoyed the End of the Year Gathering hosted by VPSA in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This event is an opportunity for the students, teachers and parents to meet "in real life". The kids get ridiculously excited at the prospect of meeting their best friends for the first time...to actually hug and confirm each other's existence beyond a monitor screen. It takes a minimal amount of time for newness to wear off, and although they have only just officially met, their relationships really continue from the last time they logged out of cyberspace.
Yesterday, we said our goodbyes and it was quite emotional to watch as the tears flowed. Each student headed home to climb back into their electronic boxes miles away from each other. I know Em will be sore for several days, and the ache of not having her friends within arm's reach will slowly dissapate into her normal rythym of life. But there is no escaping the impact they have had on her.
And we are thankful.
Thankful for like-minded parents. Thankful for teachers committed to excellence. Thankful for administrators who look at our children and see potential and promise. Homeschooling was never about doing it on our own or being renegades. It has always been about discerning what is God's best for our children. Thank you Veritas for being the best for my daughter. We are grateful beyond words.