So you are thinking about enrolling your kid into virtual school. Aren’t we all right now?
My oldest daughter has been in a flexible Virtual School program for the past year. I will be really real with you, this experience has had its own major growing pains, but it has also had some incredible rewards. Is virtual school for everyone? Certainly not…but neither is Montessori, or classical forms of education.
We are in this parenting adventure together. I’m not here to convince you to sign your child up for virtual school, but rather address the 5 major concerns I have come across. In this post I will answer them honestly from my experience and leave the decision to you.
My Child Will Lose Social Skills With Virtual School
It doesn’t matter if you are using Connections Academy or K12.com most if not all virtual schools offer clubs, extra-curriculars, field trips, and multiple other opportunities for students to meet with other students.
There are also other programs that will enable your child to build their own community, like Facebook co-op groups, church communities, or organization like your local YMCA with ample opportunities for socialization. For my daughter, she was enrolled in Girl Scouts, Ballet, and the Church Choir.
Your best resources for these will be as simple as a Google search. In Orlando alone their are multiple opportunities to find a program that will allow your child to connect with other’s with common interests. Just look at this list for Orlando Fl.
I Don’t Want My Child On The Computer All Day
Me Either. I think this was my number one concern when deciding to finally commit to giving virtual school a go. I was surprised at the amount of activity, learning, and work that happened away from the screen.
Yes, there is no way around it, classrooms, resources, and teaching happens through the computer. This is the reality, but it’s not all day. It’s self-paced, and is built for an individual so classes do not take as much time as a classic school day. This means less time stuck at a desk and more time for extra-curriculars, playing outside, resting, and time with family.
My daughter could complete four classes in the time of an hour and a half, leaving the rest of the day to her.
If I Had to Teach My Child We Would Kill Each Other
As a parent in a virtual school program you are not the teacher. Instead, you are considered a coach. The teachers I have encountered so far are excellent, and specifically trained for virtual instruction. They reach out often, are open to one-on-one instruction, and (God Bless Them) are always on call.
The expectation of the parent or guardian is to ensure the student is active and studying with integrity. Sure we can help with homework, but when we simply don’t know the teacher is only a chat box, video call, text message, or phone call away. The method of communication is what is easiest for you or your student.
I’m not going to lie to you, even as coach, at the beginning, I could be found some days crying in a corner somewhere by noon. It took a month or two for me to realize two things. First was I was not the teacher. I needed to let go and ask for help. Second was finding my daughter’s rhythm. Once I figured out that her optimal focus and learning happened form 7:30 am to 9:30 am she went from being half a semester behind to half a semester ahead in only a months time.
My Child is Not Self-Motivated Enough
When learning is fun, captivating, and their own to achieve your child may surprise you. Don’t go off of the exhausted kid staring into space over a blank sheet of homework at 8 pm. (How would you feel when your workday extended from 8am to 8 pm every single day?) This is not a sign of a lack of self-motivation in your child. This is a sign of exhaustion and burn-out. It means the present system is not working.
With many virtual school programs the student is able to choose what they want to study and when. Even if your kid is only into one subject, let them focus on that subject, there is nothing wrong with that. Allowing that, refreshes the joy of learning in their young brilliant mind.
From my experience, as long as we did one assignment a week in other classes, my daughter could work on whatever she wanted. She was done with Math by January and Science by February. Social Studies was done by March, and then her entire school year was done April 2nd. (Yes, you understood that right, my own daughter hates Reading/Writing.)
Virtual School Will Neglect Their Special Needs
On this I can’t speak for all virtual schools. Call the schools before enrolling. Read reviews left by other parents. There are virtual schools who claim to be built specifically for kids with ADHD and Autism, like Time4Learning. We did use Time 4 Learning for our youngest with great success.
I am not a Special Education expert, I am only another parent of a child that struggles with special needs. I can say an entire year in public school I was told there was nothing wrong with my child except for that she was failing. One month in virtual school and her virtual teacher recognized not only that my daughter had ADHD, but that she was actually severely dyslexic.
Her teacher went beyond this to not only tailor the lessons more specifically for my daughter, she also set a weekly scheduled call for reading practice one-on-one. I can’t speak for all teachers, I can’t even say as we will be so lucky next year, but I can say that the individualized pacing and learning of virtual school allows for many personalized learning scenarios.