When Willow Tufano left a public school for the gifted three years ago and enrolled in Florida Virtual School, she discovered a doorway to opportunity.
No longer confined to a typical school day, the eighth-grader spent mornings and afternoons combing Craigslist and garage sales for electronics and other items, then sold them for a profit. At night, she studied English and algebra, keeping up her grades and socking away enough cash to buy a house with her mom, a real estate broker.
At 14, Willow became a landlord. Then she saved enough for another house. Two years later, the Palm Island, Fla., teen has sold both houses and is finishing her sophomore year online with Florida Virtual School, earning mostly A’s and B’s, while fielding offers from Hollywood for a reality TV show.
None of those feats likely would have happened, say Willow and her mother, if she couldn’t pick the best learning option for her.
“I’m doing my school work at 2 in the morning instead of 9 a.m.,’’ Willow said. “I really like that flexibility.’’
The story of Willow’s ingenuity has circulated far and wide, from NPR to the Huffington Post to the Ellen DeGeneres Show. What remains largely untold is how education’s fast-changing landscape and, more specifically, the expansion of online learning, helped propel her success.
When Willow needs an afternoon free to show a house or sell something – or meet with an entertainment attorney, like she did recently – she can take it.
“She came home at 6 p.m. and did school work until 1 in the morning,’’ recalled Willow’s mom, Shannon Moore. “That’s what works for us.’’ Continue Reading →