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As most youngsters are having to adjust to school work that is entirely online, Corrales fifthgrader Maya Gomez is right at home with it —literally. She’s in her second year with New Mexico Connections Academy, and is maintaining a grade level of 99 percent, she reported in a Corrales Comment phone interview October 29.

She and her parents, Danelle and Roberto Gomez, chose the remote learning model as a better alternative to classes at a typical brick-and-mortar school because she can better cope with diabetes problems. In a regular school, she recalled, she missed too much class time when she had to go to the school nurse’s station to manage her erratic blood sugar levels. “With home schooling, I can stop what I’m doing and check my blood sugar, and then start again where I left off.”

The program she’s in now, a tuition-free virtual public school, allows more flexibility, but still structured, learning environment. “The first year worked out very well,” she reported. She also credits her academic success to wearing a new Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring device.

Her school day starts soon after breakfast and continues with breaks until about 4 p.m. Her favorite subjects are social studies and science, especially space walks. “I want to be a scientist and I’d love to do a space walk.” She’d like to go to Cal Tech after high school. The Gomez family has lived in Corrales going on four years. Roberto Gomez is a pharmacist.

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With the Connections Academy, he said, the curriculum is more structured and involves more face time with teachers compared to online programs his daughter had used earlier. “Homework” is accomplished differently as well. “When she’s finished with her lesson, she’s also finished with her homework,” he explained. “Built into the lesson is the paperwork portion of it.

“But there’s enough flexibility that if you wanted a little more tradition way, like doing homework after dinner, you could do it that way too.”

Another difference is in testing. There’s not a clear distinction between instruction and testing since testing is built in instruction. She finds that all subjects are equally well presented for optimal response. Her school program has integrated physical activities with options. Before the coronavirus pandemic reduced choices, she played softball all year around. “Now, we just do the softball practice here at home,” her father said, “and we log in and submit that information.

“Because New Mexico Connections Academy is technically a public school, they still have to follow New Mexico state standards which include PE for kids,” he added. As might be expected, “socialization” with kids her age is difficult under home school conditions. But she said she gets to interact with other students by participating in Explora program experiments.

She also enjoys interacting with other kids through the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. “Before, she could do things like that, but with COVID, it’s even more difficult,” Gomez said. New Mexico Connections Academy teaches students in grades four through 12 in communities all around the state.

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