Alex Zaputil sailing upwind during a sailboat racing competition. Submitted photo from Vanessa Zaputil

Alex Zaputil sailing upwind during a sailboat racing competition. Submitted photo from Vanessa Zaputil

Online schooling for one tidal wave of a kid

Alex Zaputil is a student in Tukwila who has decided to take online schooling to pursue his dreams in sailboat racing.

Ever since he was born, Alex Zaputil, a local Tukwila student, has had no ordinary life.

He said he has been sailboating with his parents since he was only a few months old.

Once he turned 4, he was sailing on his own, Alex said.

With his love for sailboat racing taking over, and his parents still racing as well, his parents wanted to find an alternate way for Alex to be able to go to school full time, even with a busy sailboating schedule.

That’s when his mom, Vanessa Zaputil, found Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA).

WAVA is a K-12 online public school in Washington that offers personalized learning programs that can make the most out of a student’s potential, according to WAVA’s website.

“We started in kindergarten, so at that point it was more about us, the parents. But from when he was like grade three on it’s every year, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And that’s his choice,” Vanessa said.

When she started looking for an online school, she said she wanted to find a school that not only gave Alex and the family flexibility, she wanted to find a school with a good curriculum as well.

When Vanessa started looking, she said there weren’t too many options back then (2010-2011), but WAVA was a very premiere one in her opinion.

“I’m very particular about curriculum. My parents are both teachers, my grandfather was a headmaster so education is so important I wanted to make sure that the curriculum was engaging and it is,” Vanessa said. “This curriculum is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding because it’s done in a way that the kids get it. The kids love history because the do it in a way that’s not remembering dates and times, it’s about kids and experiences.”

While WAVA is an online school, Vanessa said the elementary aged children learn less online, but the older the child gets, the more online the schooling gets.

For instance, the children can still go on field trips with the teachers because a lot of them live in the area.

Vanessa said she and her family have become close with one of Alex’s teachers who lives in Des Moines. She taught him in kindergarten, and is his current teachers as well.

Even though Alex is older and most of his school work is online, Vanessa said he still gets textbooks delivered to their house and he gets worksheets as well. So it’s not all typing, there’s a lot of physical work as well.

Since Vanessa and her husband work from home, she said she is pretty involved with Alex’s teaching.

“Some kids his age are fine sitting in front and just doing all the slides and reading them all and he’s not quite, I’m not quite confident he’s getting it all when he does that. So there’s pieces he’ll do that way and then other, most of the stuff, I’ll make sure we’re doing it together,” she said.

Vanessa said the flexibility is one of the best parts of WAVA since Alex has such a busy lifestyle that he loves.

And despite Alex’s protest sometimes, Vanessa encourages him to get his school work done early, even on holidays like Veterans Day, because of his busy sailboating schedule.

In fact, they did some school work on Veterans Day this year.

“We did (school work)because, he raced all weekend plus he races next weekend all weekend so to free up some time, we can work at our own pace,” Vanessa said.

When asked why he keeps on sailing and why he wants to stay in online school, even through high school, he said, “Because I like it so much.”

He said he loves every aspect of it, including traveling.

For sailboat racing, Alex said he travels all over the United States and Canada.

Alex said even though he travels so much for his passion of sailing, he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on much. He said he has made friends with all 20 of his sailboat teammates on the Seattle Yacht Club Junior Race Team, and he enjoys online chatting with his classmates.

During these sailing competitions, anywhere from 20-100 kids will race, Vanessa said.

She said Alex really likes the competitive aspect of sailing.

In fact, he likes it so much Alex said he wants to go to the Olympics for sailboat racing.

When asked what training for the Olympics looks like, Alex said, “You pretty much just sail and sail, and sail.”

His mom’s response was, “Yeah, we’ll see,” with a laugh.

She said they have not looked too far into what it takes to participate in the Olympics, but education always comes first.

“I think it’s great that he has an ambition to go to the Olympics, but for me it’s something he does that he enjoys, it’s good physical fitness,” Vanessa said.

Alex said he got into sailing because his mom and dad sailed as well. The ironic part about it is, Vanessa said she doesn’t like to watch him sail.

“She thinks it’s painful,” Alex said with a grin.

“It’s just hard when you (did) it, because it’s a very tactical sport. It’s just a moving — imagine a football field moving underneath you — just every thing is moving. Every choice is their own. They’re not allowed to get coached during the racing. So every choice is their own start to finish,” Vanessa said.

She said she does like to see Alex enjoying it though. She said she just wants to make sure he is having fun with it and wants to continue to go forward with sailing and WAVA.

They’re taking everything year by year, Vanessa explained.

Looking to the future, Alex said he wants to continue online classes even when he starts thinking about going to college. He wants to continue sailing during and after college as well.

“Sail for fun, sail for life,” Alex said, repeating a saying from Sail Canada.


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