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Studying at your own pace

Carolyn Pope

A parent’s responsibilities are never ending and one of the top concerns with all parents, of course, is their child’s education. Just eavesdrop on a group of mothers and you’ll experience this firsthand. Which school? It’s a subject wrought with emotion, hope, and a dose of guilt. It all boils down to finding which process each mother or father believes provides the best education and experience for their child.The variety in the valley is rapidly expanding, from public to private, secular to religious. Many parents are opting for home schooling and there is support in the county for those who chose this self-directed method.There’s a new option thrown into the mix this year that combines home schooling, high technology and social interaction.The Branson School opened this school year in the Vail Cascade Building in the space Colorado Mountain College used to call home. Stepping out from the elevator, you’ll see kids of all ages plopped down comfortably, engrossed in their laptops. Local founders Kelly and Kathy Shelton saw a need when their daughter, Carson, started an online program and blossomed. Missing was the socialization provided by other students and group elective classes. They designed this school to cater to the individual student’s needs and allow each student to learn at their own pace and own learning methods.”In a setting like this we can cater to our individual students’ needs – whatever they are – much better than other public or private school systems,” said administrator Kelly Shelton. “Lots of kids are slipping through the cracks.”As a different option, the Branson School offers independent learning. Davis Engle, a 9th grader and competitive snowboarder, agrees.”I can have time to travel and snowboard, and still get my schoolwork done,” he said. Student Riley Robbins said he has the chance to work at his own pace, instead of “going really slow or really fast.”Parent Kay Sheldon has her seventh grader, Jeri, attending the new school.”This program allows her to advance academically through the curriculum at her own pace,” Sheldon said. “She comes home excited with what she has accomplished. ‘We got through two chapters of science in two days,’ she’ll tell me. She’s rockin’ through this curriculum.”Jeri is gifted, which can provide challenges for parent and child alike. Sheldon said she’s impressed that her daughter can go into whatever level she is capable of and chooses, without being placed in a class with much older classmates with whom she would have little in common. Sheldon still has two children at a local public elementary school. “It’s a great option if you have children who are globally gifted or gifted in only one or two subjects, or are challenged or need to be challenged,” she added. “The curriculum allows them to move at the pace their brain allows.”The private school costs around $4,000 per year, which includes a laptop for each student to use. Students receive an individually designed, online curriculum for core subjects, with teacher-directed Spanish, art, physical education, writing, reading and computer skills. Accredited college courses are also available and the student work is supervised on-site by a State of Colorado certified teacher.Spaces are still available at the school for this academic year, and your child may transfer in up until the cutoff date of Sept. 30.==========================================To Learn MoreFor more information about the Branson School, Kelly Shelton at 390-3280 or 476-1677 or visit their Web site at http://www.bransonschoolonline.com. Spending a day in the classroom with a student is available. ==========================================Vail, Colorado


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