By HEATHER POHLABEL
Daily Globe Staff Reporter
SHELBY - Donna Shepherd's first experience with online schooling was in 2008 when she decided to home school her oldest daughter, Izabel, who was in 1st grade at the time. She now uses online school to educate four of her six children from home.Donna and her husband Don have three daughters and are raising their two nieces and nephew. What started out as a way to homeschool her oldest daughter in 2008 for Shepherd became somewhat of a necessity as her family grew. "I decided to home school Izabel because a lot of the other mothers at the church I was going to at the time also home schooled their kids," she reflected. "Then, Izabel wanted to go back to public school after that year because she wanted to ride the bus so badly, which was fine with me. "Many years and kids later, I struggled with having to balance work, our business, kids, school schedules and our second daughter, Jazmin's, asthma," Shepherd continued. Shepherd explained her hectic schedule trying to get five of the six children to the places they were supposed to be on time. "I had two of the kids attending preschool; we had to leave the house by 11:30 a.m. to make sure they were on time; then there were two children at Dowds, and those kids needed to be ready by 8:15 a.m. One child was in Middle School and had to be at the bus stop by 6:45 a.m. It was just crazy how many trips I had to make to make sure the kids were going to make it to school on time," Shepherd explained. The Shepherd's second daughter, Jazmin had very bad asthma, and was having a hard time making it through the day at school. "I would send her to school, but then I would get a call half way through the day to come pick Jazmin up from school because she wasn't feeling well, or I would pull her out of school so she could go to her doctors' appointments," Shepherd recalled. "Her attendance was bad; I was worried she wouldn't pass the 2nd grade. I pulled her out of school and enrolled her in Ohio Virtual Academy (OHVA). She was able to go to her doctors' appointments and do her school work at her own pace, and actually grasp what she was being taught." Shepherd explained that as Jazmin was being homeschooled through online learning, the other children took an interest in it as well. "The other kids saw how Jazmin would work on her computer and offline in her workbooks and wanted to try OHVA as well." This how Shepherd is online schooling a kindergartner, 3rd grader, 4th grader, and 7th grader at home this year. Shepherd noted OHVA provided all of the workbooks and most of the supplies such as paint and brushes for art, graduated cylinders and safety glasses for science, and loaded computers with an all in one printer for the students. The older students also received Kindles for reading. The students are required to log into their classes for five hours a day at least three days per week. Shepherd's home has become a classroom, and typical day goes something like this: "At night, I write on the white board for the kids to look at in the morning. Since I have four kids, I have each one playing a part to help out/just to keep them busy while I get other things ready for school that morning. One child is assigned "Chef", and they prepare breakfast and lunch. "Pencil Taker" sharpens all the pencils, "Flagger" holds up the American flag in the mornings and leads us into the Pledge of Allegiance and "You're a Grand Old Flag", and the "Instructor" will lead the class to do 3-5 mini morning exercises/stretches. "At 9am, Izabel logs in and enters her live online class connect for math. She gets to interact with other students in her grade as well as her online teacher. Jaz, Angel and Xoie will get to work on Study Island for 1 hour, then at 10am, Jaz and Angel log in and enter their class connect for math and GUM (grammar, usage and mechanics). This gives me time to work with Xoie off line and teach her writing and phonics. At 11am, Xoie logs in and enters her online Circle Time to meet with her online teacher and classmates. While she is doing that, I'm helping the other kids with their daily courses; some are online, some aren't. We usually get done by 1 or 2 p.m." Shepherd noted the classes and log in times can be flexible, which is an added bonus to their online learning experience. "We have our days where school is pretty challenging..for me as well as their "learning coach", but their online teachers communicate well and help the kids and myself out a lot," she admitted. "Other days, we're flying through each subject per grade ridiculously smooth," Shepherd continued. "I think this switch is well worth it and it works great for our massive family. My kids have been growing up way too fast. I enjoy being able to guide and assist them in their education. I feel our family bond has definitely become stronger," Shepherd said about the experience. Online schooling is becoming a more popular option for families. Virtual academies teach to the same standards as city schools. There are several different options for online learning, including the more popular choices, Ohio Virtual Academy, Connections Academy, and ECOT. There are currently 64 online learners in the Shelby City School district.