Believe it or not, there are now 2.5 million kids in the U.S. who receive some of their education online, while an estimated 250,000 students are getting their entire education virtually. Many parents consider virtual school because their children learn faster or slower than their peers; have special health, scheduling, or other needs; or simply do not thrive in a traditional classroom. The increased personalization and flexibility that online schools offer may enable these students to succeed academically, schooling at home at their own pace and at a level that suits their educational needs.
Families considering virtual schooling for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade should keep in mind that this educational method may not work for every student, or for every family. Careful consideration of the following “ABC’s” of successful online schooling can help you determine if it’s a good fit for your family:
- “A” is for Available Parent: Most full-time virtual schools require a parent or trusted adult in the home throughout the day to monitor student progress. This equals a major commitment of time and attention.
- “A” is also for Attitude: Parents need to be positive and engaged in the learning process. Students need the right mind-set, too. Being self-motivated, open to learning in a nontraditional setting, and comfortable with technology all contribute to success.
- “B” is for Beyond the Traditional Classroom: While online schools give students the freedom to learn almost anywhere, it is important to have a dedicated learning space at home in a relatively distraction-free zone, with room for books and school supplies.
- “B” is also for Beyond the Traditional School Day: With a more flexible schedule, some students find they can participate in extracurricular activities during the traditional school day. Others discover they have time for athletic practices, performing arts rehearsals, community service activities, or part-time jobs.
- “C” is for a Challenging Curriculum: Students attending virtual schools should expect a challenging, comprehensive online curriculum that includes core subjects—reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies—and may offer exciting elective and advanced courses.
- “C” is also for Computer-Friendly: Today’s tech-savvy students usually love using computers as tools for learning. Although training and technical support are provided, parents should also be comfortable with computers, since online systems are typically used to manage lessons and communicate with teachers.
If virtual school seems like a good fit for your family, do your homework and pick a high-quality school. Parents should look for a school with:
- a track record of delivering student achievement and growth
- high levels of parent and student satisfaction
- accreditation from a recognized accrediting body
- full-time certified teachers who direct student learning
- state-of-the-art and user-friendly technology resources
- quality learning materials, both online and offline
- activities like student clubs and field trips
If you’ve already selected virtual schooling for your family, what helped you make the right choice for your child? How do you approach conversations with other parents about online school from home? Please share your ideas in the comments below.