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The City Journals

Herriman Children Attend Virtual School

Jul 13, 2016 09:24AM ● By Tori La Rue

During a typical school day for Megan Tucker, 7, she scrolls through her online agenda to find out which assignments she needs to complete. – Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

In January, the Tucker family switched from traditional public school to an online charter school, allowing them to have custom-built school-day schedules.

During the schoolyear, Megan Tucker, 7, would sometimes et up at 5 a.m. and finish her day of first-grade coursework by 10 a.m., while her brothers did their schoolwork just before going to bed.

“I can’t think of one negative,” Melissa Tucker, said about enrolling her children in Utah Virtual Academy. “I think they’re learning more going at their own pace here than in the brick and mortar school.”

For some time, Melissa’s children were begging her to home school them. Her oldest had entered middle school and was being exposed to profanity and bullying more than ever before, and another one of her children was tired of waiting for her class to learn material that she’d already caught on to, Melissa said. By the middle of the 2015–16 school year, Melissa was ready to make a change.

“I was worried, though. I didn’t have the skills to teach them by myself,” she said.

When Melissa found, an online education website, she said she realized that online public school was an option. She chose a Utah-based school fit with her children’s needs and signed up on the waiting list. Within a couple of days, her children were admitted into the school and she was transferring their records from traditional Herriman public schools to an online school.

The Tucker family’s chosen online school has several different kinds of learning opportunities. During some classroom sessions, teachers use webcams to broadcast their lessons in real-time to the students. Students may watch the lessons then, or they can watch the recordings at a more convenient time. Other learning concepts are taught through reading material and interactive games and assignments.

Students of the virtual academy must get 80 percent or higher on each assignment before it’s considered mastered, but they may redo assignments as many times as they want or need to. The online system is continually tracking where the student is at in each subject compared to grade level, but if they are behind or ahead of grade-level, the system can be readjusted to help the student work up to proficiency or excel in what he or she is good at.

“It’s so great because it means that just because she’s in first grade, it doesn’t mean that she has to have all first-grade work,” Melissa said, referring to Megan. “If she’s ahead in reading and behind in science, this lets her be a second-grader in reading, but catch up in science.”

Each of the Tucker children is ahead in at least one subject, which gives them confidence, according to Melissa.

“Instead of feeling like they are dumb because there is one subject they don’t get, they can think, ‘I may be struggling on this one thing, but I could basically skip a grade in this other subject,’” Melissa said.  

Usually each of the Tucker children has five assignments to complete each day, which takes them between three to four hours.

In addition to this core-curriculum based learning, the Tuckers complete a couple hours of additional learning—similar to electives classes at traditional schools. During this instructional time, Melissa teaches them skills such as cooking, sewing and music, or they’ll head over to the J. L. Sorenson Recreation Center for some PE.

The four Tucker children have embraced and loved the new lifestyle their school brought to their home, Melissa said.

“I love this school because I get to see my mom more and Graham Cracker,” 7-year-old Megan said as she held her guinea pig, named Graham Cracker, in her hands. Melissa and her husband bought each of their children a pet to take care of as part of their extra-curricular school learning.

“They’re learning how to take care of things and develop skills that I feel like they never would have known had we not tried this new school out,” Melissa said.

As the 2016–17 school year approaches, Melissa said she encourages local families to look into Utah Virtual Academy and other online schools by visiting

“This school’s not for everyone, but it definitely works for us,” she said.