A high school student, with a passion for teaching, accelerates his education through online learning


A high school student, with a passion for teaching, accelerates his education through online learning

Bradford Phelps, California

Photograph by David Cline

When he was a young boy, Bradford Phelps was bored in school and he hated sitting down. But he loved to climb trees. So he and his mother came up with a novel approach to studying. Using a pulley system, he climbed into a tree in his backyard, tied himself to the tree, and read.

Bradford was homeschooled through the 8th grade; his five older siblings were homeschooled through high school. He describes his homeschooling as being a little atypical. “Our school would involve household chores, even learning how to balance checkbooks,” Bradford explained. “My mom incorporated everyday life into our schooling, which helped us to not only be fluent in our academic work, but in learning real-world skills that we can use now.”

By the time he was in junior high, Bradford loved school. He figured out how to manage his time by balancing studying with being active. He enjoyed learning from his older siblings who were studying at home. Inspired by his math teacher in particular, he found his own schoolwork exciting.

I love learning, love being able to talk about all the things I am learning.

Bradford had been homeschooled through Hart-Ransom Academic Charter School in Modesto, California, a public homeschool program for students in TK–8. He had such a positive experience there that when he completed junior high, he enrolled in Hart-Ransom’s independent-study high school.

Hart-Ransom uses Connections Learning®, a set of online courses and services now part of the Pearson Connexus suite of offerings, for its digital learning program. Now in 11th grade, Bradford likes the online curriculum’s rigor. “It definitely challenges me academically,” he said. He also likes the curriculum’s flexibility. “Thanks to the online learning, I can pace myself exactly how I need to be paced.”

Bradford appreciates the personal attention he’s received from his online learning teachers, like his Spanish teacher whom he talked to on the phone, and his math teacher, who met with him virtually in the LiveLesson® room. “I really like how involved the teachers are with the students,” Bradford commented. “If you have any problems with the classes, you can just call a teacher and they’re always available for you.”

Bradford has taken advantage of Connections Learning’s flexibility and self-paced learning to accelerate his education. Inspired by his siblings who took courses at Modesto Junior College (MJC) while in high school, Bradford has already earned 21.5 units at MJC.

Earning dual credit for some MJC courses, Bradford has been able to simultaneously complete his high school requirements while working toward an associate’s degree, which he hopes to complete by the time he graduates from high school. This semester, for example, he is taking Intermediate Algebra and English 101 at MJC. He’ll earn college credit for these courses while satisfying his 11th-grade math and English requirements for the year.

I think how I look at the world has changed a lot by going to college courses.

Bradford and his sister

Bradford has also had a chance to pursue his individual interests as well as explore subjects not usually offered in high school—a result of Hart-Ransom’s flexibility and the broad range of courses available to him through Connections Learning and MJC. Last spring, he took a sociology course at MJC. This fall, Bradford, an aspiring teacher, is taking Introduction to Early Childhood Education, a Connections Learning elective.

In setting his sights on becoming an educator, Bradford has been influenced by his online learning teachers. “I’ve seen how much good teachers influence my education, especially the Connections Learning teachers at Hart-Ransom,” he explained. “And so I’d like to be that kind of influence for other students and help the students who aren’t generally motivated in high school to become motivated and do well.”

Bradford has already gained a lot of teaching experience. He has tutored junior high and high school students in math and English, which has taught him that “how every student learns is vastly different.” So Bradford has learned to look at concepts in several different ways to help students understand them. Tutoring has “really challenged me in my own way of thinking about school,” he commented.

A second-degree black belt, Bradford also teaches tae kwon do three or four days a week at the martial arts school where he studies. His students include both young children and adults.

“I really just love teaching people,” Bradford said. “I’ve really loved seeing other students grow.”

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