Our 16-year-old son, Samuel, was identified as gifted during kindergarten. He has remained in the public school system, and we have been pleased overall with the quality of his education. However, even the best schools are unable to meet the academic interests of every gifted and talented student. Like many gifted children, Samuel has eclectic tastes and craves intellectual challenges that set him apart from his peers. By taking classes via the Internet, Samuel enriched his curriculum while receiving high school credit for his coursework.
At 14 Samuel decided it would be “cool” to take Latin. He said he would enjoy the challenge, and he recognized that Latin provided a foundation for learning other languages. Since our school district did not offer Latin, we researched online courses and chose Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Independent Study program; their high school offerings cost $100 per course, with books averaging an additional $100. He worked from a Latin textbook and submitted his exercises online. When he had to take exams, however, Samuel went to a nearby university for proctoring.
Successful distance learners must know how to budget their time and be disciplined enough to observe self-imposed deadlines.
Following his success in Latin, Samuel enrolled in a health course through BYU. Although this course is offered, and required, at his high school, Samuel felt that he could complete it more quickly through correspondence, and doing so would free up that course period for an elective. In the health course, all materials, including articles and quizzes, were online, so he did not have to purchase a textbook. Again, the final exam had to be proctored.
Samuel took other courses via the Internet when my husband received a Fulbright Scholarship and took the family to Europe for five months. Since we left midway through the school year, my son opted to finish his high school geometry course online. Because all lessons were submitted via the Internet, this course was ideal for a student living outside the United States. Furthermore, while completing his second Latin course, Samuel was able to visit Rome while studying Latin civilization and culture.
In all of his online classes, the coursework was challenging but within Samuel’s capabilities. However, as he attests, taking classes via the Internet requires self-discipline and determination. For most distance-learning classes, the coursework must be completed in 9–12 months. Otherwise, you lose your tuition and any credit for work done to that point. Extensions, if available, mean additional fees. At BYU students are not given an F; it is as if they had never enrolled in the course—except that they have spent the money. Thus successful distance learners must know how to budget their time and be disciplined enough to observe self-imposed deadlines.
Prior to enrolling Samuel in any of these courses, I secured approval from his high school to apply the credits toward his graduation. His high school limits the number of transfer credits to five semester-long courses; it also requires proof of course completion, which BYU supplied in transcript form. These courses then became part of our son’s official high school transcript.
I have another son, aged 12, who has expressed an interest in studying Japanese. Here we go again!
Nancy Wilson is the mother of two sons and lives in San Marcos, Texas. She has been a school volunteer for 11 years and a vocal advocate of gifted and talented programs in her school district.