Surfing family find happiness through online learning

Iona Larg’s children Ben, Robyn and Lilly are passionate about surfing. Ben competes around the world and they don’t know where they might be from one week to the next. We are able to support them with flexible online learning, which has allowed Ben to study alongside his sport and escape vicious bullying in mainstream school. Our lesson recordings and one-to-one support also offered Lilly, who has dyslexia, the support she needed to reach her potential. This is their InterHigh journey.

The Larg family live on the Isle of Tiree – a beautiful and small remote Scottish Island. They share a love of the beach, the sea and the waves which led Iona and her husband to start up a surf school. Despite also having other jobs, Blackhouse Watersports quickly became their passion and main focus for work. By most, this lifestyle would be regarded as exciting and adventurous. Unfortunately for the children, it was something that set them apart from their peers and subsequently led to bullying.

 

Iona explains how embracing an alternative and more flexible way of learning with InterHigh, helped her and her family to regain confidence, self-belief and resilience.

“Tiree is a beautiful place with a small community, which is sometimes reflected in the ideologies of the place. But as a consequence, our two older children – Ben and Robyn – but particularly Ben, never really ‘fitted in’. This meant they were bullied quite a lot at school.”

“Looking back, you naturally feel pressured by what’s acceptable in terms of the education for your children and what the social norm is. So much so, that we tried to keep them in school as much as possible. But this only caused more stress, and more unhappiness. We found the only way to combat this was to take the children on surf breaks and holidays to make sure they were able to enjoy themselves, and feel good about themselves.”

 

Time for a change

“I knew that the current setup wasn’t working. While we needed to live on Tiree, as it was a great place for the business, the school situation simply wasn’t suitable. We home-schooled the children for a while, but being self-employed, running two businesses and regularly travelling meant it was difficult and we knew it couldn’t be a long-term solution.”

“The whole time I watched as Ben’s confidence slowly chipped away. That’s why the surfing became so hugely important to us as a family. It was the one thing that not only meant we could spend time together, but the children could enjoy something they excelled in. As soon as they were anywhere else in the world, the surfing lifestyle was celebrated, but being on our island, it was something that alienated them.”

“We found ourselves at an all-time low, especially Ben. The bullying at school had a huge impact on his confidence, and I felt the pressure as a mum to do something about it. These issues had been occurring throughout the years from primary through to secondary and as a mother, you’re torn believing that they’re meant to go to school but wondering just how you can make it work.”

A different way of learning

“I started looking for alternative solutions online and came across InterHigh through an internet search. I knew I wanted something that provided structure and high-quality teaching, while also being able to support children with dyslexia. I loved the fact that InterHigh fitted the traditional school curriculum – something you’d expect at the best of schools – so I knew exactly what my children would be covering, and the concept looked really appealing.”

“I’d always wanted the kids to have an education that we could take with us travelling. I thought that was wishful thinking, but when I saw InterHigh and that there were kids from all over the world using it, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe it and in August 2018, Ben joined the school. He hasn’t looked back since.”

“The flexible and online nature of InterHigh meant that Ben was able to cover the course content suitable for his age group from home, but most importantly, he was still able surf. As Ben surfs on an international level for Scotland, he attends competitions all over the world, so InterHigh allowed us to continue nurturing his sport, while ensuring his education continued wherever we found ourselves.”

“InterHigh recognises that many families joining will require more flexibility due to other commitments and lifestyle choices, which means that children can incorporate spaces within their timetables. This means that if the surf is really good, then Ben’s training sessions can be accommodated within the day, without him missing any classes. Equally, if we need to request time out of class, we still have the reassurance that he will still be able to access the recordings of every lesson. Surfing and travelling requires a high level of flexibility – something which a mainstream school simply cannot accommodate, unlike InterHigh.”

 

Support for all learners

“My daughter Robyn also suffered at school, and so in January 2019, we also signed her up. Within two months, she was totally in love with it, and felt like it was a positive environment where everyone wanted to learn. She told me, “Mum, it makes me feel clever for the first time”.

“Robyn is dyslexic, so although we know she’s very bright, sometimes lessons move too quickly for her. InterHigh offers her more time and the ability to revisit content and lesson activity. There is a lot of work, but she enjoys it and can work at a pace which suits her.”

“My children have gone from being disengaged in lessons, to being excited by a whole new way of learning. They are in a happier environment surrounded by like-minded children. For the first time in a long time, they have become part of a community in which they feel they really belong.”

“As a mother, you want the best for your children, and being able to see what they’re working on; the areas they need support with; and how they’re progressing throughout the year, is really reassuring. The teachers are very responsive, even if it’s late at night, they come straight back to you. When I received the children’s reports at the end of last year, I was amazed at how the teachers understood them. They really managed to capture their personalities, as well as academic progress. Ben and Robyn are two very different people and their reports reflected that.”

“I don’t know if Ben recognises the difference in himself over the past two years, but I do, I’ve seen a huge change. He is happier, his confidence has returned and he’s covered a lot more in school than ever before.”

Reflecting on what we’ve learnt

“To those parents who may find themselves in a similar situation, I would say that it’s okay if your child is struggling – there is light at the end of the tunnel. InterHigh is full of children that are in different situations, where the mainstream system isn’t working for them; whether that be because of sport, acting or perhaps their personalities simply don’t fit in with the “normal” mould of school life.”

“Children can be cruel, and yet we put our sons or daughters back into school day after day because we feel the pressure to do it. I did it to mine despite knowing how unhappy they were, knowing they were surrounded by people that didn’t support them. We wouldn’t do that to ourselves as adults; if we’re suffering in a situation, we take ourselves out of it. So, we must recognise the other options out there, like InterHigh. It’s so much better knowing your children are happier, more confident and most importantly, that they are safe.

“It’s okay to try something different and you may even find you’re pleasantly surprised at how well your children adapt to a new way of learning. Hopefully after COVID-19, more families have learnt to appreciate family time.”

“InterHigh offers you a great way to spend more time together, feel connected as a family, and able to do the things you like doing together, without compromising your child’s education.”

To find out how InterHigh can support your child and watch our latest open event recording, take a look here: https://bit.ly/39R5s1X

 

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