Among the difficult decisions parents make, choosing the right school—or learning method—is often near the top of the list. Here are some questions to help you determine if virtual school will be a good fit for your family.
Why are you seeking an alternative educational method?
Clearly defining your family’s overall educational goals will help you better understand if a particular virtual school will work for you and your children. Are you looking for a more challenging curriculum? Greater control of your child’s education? Increased scheduling flexibility? Acceptance into a four-year college?
Will the virtual school meet your children’s individual needs?
Every child has his or her own unique learning style. Does your elementary-age child perform better with hands-on lessons? Is your son an auditory learner who needs extra time to complete reading assignments? Perhaps your daughter requires an accelerated pace for some subjects, but not for others. When evaluating a virtual school, consider what options are available to personalize your child’s learning experience to help your child thrive.
Does the virtual school offer a high-quality curriculum?
Virtual public schools are required to meet state and national education standards. Beyond these benchmarks, most parents also want a curriculum to challenge and prepare their children for success in life. Be sure to look for an online learning program that is accredited regionally and by AdvancED, the world’s largest education community and premier accreditation organization. In addition, look for a school with a curriculum that:
- Builds a solid foundation in core courses like reading, writing, and mathematics
- Develops 21st-century critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
- Uses high-quality materials from leading educational publishers
- Engages students with interactive learning tools and other creative resources
- Offers opportunities for gifted and talented, honors, and AP classes if your child needs additional challenge
Will the school provide opportunities to succeed and grow offline? Research* proves that kids need a well-rounded learning experience with opportunities to experience success and a sense of accomplishment, so look for a school that integrates hands-on projects like painting, playing music, building things, and conducting experiments into academic lessons. A virtual school should also offer a variety of ways for classmates to connect socially, as well as a robust program of extracurricular activities, community activities, and field trips.
Are you prepared for direct involvement in your child’s education?
Before deciding on any virtual school, parents should give serious thought to the level of involvement required. Take into account how much time you are able to spend monitoring and coaching your child’s online education. You may want to talk to other parents about their experiences with online learning, and be sure to ask whether the school provides training and support for families.
ASCD Whole Child Initiative, Making the Case for Educating the Whole Child, 2011, www.ascd.org
National Federation of State High School Associations, The Case for High School Activities, http://www.nfhs.org