Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 27, 2013

Family Discovers Online School

BY TONY HUFFMAN Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — When a heart condition made it difficult for Tyler Wohltman to attend classes at Effingham Junior High, his parents Terry and Theresa starting looking for alternatives ways to educate their child.

They heard about an online program from a friend, called Penn Foster High School, which allows high schoolers to graduate without ever stepping foot in school.

“I want people to know there are other alternatives to Unit 40,” said Theresa.

The Wohltmans struggled with having Tyler at school every day due to problems associated with an irregular heartbeat. On the outside, Tyler looks like a normal 15-year-old, said Theresa. His heart, however, doesn’t allow him to get excited or upset without causing his heart to speed up to an unhealthy rate.

“In his heart, he wanted to go to regular school,” said his father Terry.

After issues with relying on the teachers to regulate his health and truancy officers getting involved with the amount of days he was missing in junior high, they turned to Penn Foster for his high school education.

“Tyler didn’t fit in their box at school,” said Terry. “They have programs for kids with behavior problems but not for kids with health problems.”

Taking classes online, Tyler has thrived. He looks to graduate by his 16th birthday in April.

“I can complete the work at my own pace whenever and wherever I want,” said Tyler. “I can do it at a much faster pace without interruption.”

The secluded style of education suits Tyler’s health issues, said Theresa. The irregular heartbeat was discovered at three years old, and after years of struggling with doctors, his parents finally found a specialist that could help. At 9, Tyler had a heart surgery called an ablation, which helped regulate his heartbeat. Still to this day, however, he cannot drink caffeine or be involved with activities that raise his heart beat.

“We saw six different heart specialists before we found one that would get involved with helping Tyler,” said Theresa.

Although Theresa and Terry hope for a miracle, his long-term prognosis isn’t good. He has been told he may not make it past the age of 22, said his mother.

“We thought they had it fixed when he was 9,” said Theresa. “But he started having chest pains again.”

With Tyler wanting to work as a gunsmith upon his early graduation, his parents hope for their son can make the most of his life.

“Penn Foster has been great for our son,” said Theresa. “I’ve heard of other people in similar situations. We want to help other people know what is out there.”

According to the Wohltmans, the program cost about $1,200 for four years in school. If there are questions with online lessons, counselors are on call to talk over the phone with the students. There is not a specific structure for when the work must be done. Tyler works for a couple hours a day, said Terry.

For those that would like additional information about Penn Foster High School, they can contact www.pennfoster.edu. One can also call 1-888-427-7800. According to their website, Penn Foster graduates 25,000 students yearly.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 138 tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com.