There are many reasons why people choose online schools, also called virtual schools.Some of those reasons include having a better handle on what your child is learning and where he needs additional help, gaining a better education, shortening long bus commutes, gaining time for sports or other activities, taking a child away from bad influences, or having more family time.
The reason we chose to homeschool our daughter was due to bullying. The local school administration all but refused to help us with the situation, so we made the choice to bring her home into a safer environment.
How to Recognize Bullying
We tried blocking those kids off Facebook, so they got her cell phone number from another child and began texting her. We blocked calls but from those we knew such as family and they began calling our house landline. They were completely relentless in their attacks of her. I tried phoning parents. They sympathized and promised to take away cell phones and dole out consequences only to give the phones back the next day. Boy, those girls sure learned a lesson (sarcasm).
I tried going to the school counselor and the principal. Each time, we were met with resistance because it is a small town school and some of the girls were from families that were born and raised in the town. In fact, even the girl that slapped my daughter so hard that she gave her a nose bleed didn’t serve one minute of detention. The principal talked to her and said the little girl claimed it was an accident. Really? How do you accidentally slap someone hard enough to make them bleed? My daughter even took witnesses to him that stated the girl had slapped her intentionally and without provocation. He then told her too much time had passed and he could no longer do anything about it.
Does any of this sound familiar? I hope by sharing our story, I might help another family recognize the signs. Your child might not tell you if she is being bullied. It is embarrassing. Keep a close eye on social networks and text messages. Hopefully your school administration will be more supportive than ours was, but if not, then virtual schools are an excellent choice.
Choosing the Right Virtual School Option
When it comes to schooling your child from home, you have many options. You can choose to create the curriculum, attend a local cottage school, take a few college classes, or go with a virtual school. While we’ve done all of the above in the past when the kids were younger, for high school we chose the virtual school option. Here are some of the schools we considered:
In many states, K12 operates as a charter school, which means that it may not cost your child to attend if you live in one of these states. Visit the K12 website to learn whether or not they have a school operating in your state and if you are eligible. In our state, they offer a virtual school for K-10 and a hybrid that goes through 12th. The hybrid requires a certain number of classroom hours each day and the location was a couple of hours from us, so would not work. I wasn’t sure if the virtual version will add the last two grades, so I didn’t want my daughter to have to switch schools halfway through high school. I chose to eliminate K12 based on this. If they do not offer a charter school in your state, you can pay for classes and have your child attend this online school.
Connections Academy offers similar things to K12. I believe they have a bit more involved community for parents and students, which I really liked. They plan field trips and events and they offered marine biology as one of their science courses. My daughter loves animals and biology, so this struck a chord with me. They also operate as a charter school in the state of Indiana, but are K-12. The only thing we have had to travel for was occasional standardized testing in the spring. Our ECA testing center was about 30 minutes from us.
They also offer a wide array of clubs, such as art club. Students participate in various activities. Each subject has a teacher that your child can contact with questions and there are live lessons, which are like a virtual classroom. The teacher teaches via a whiteboard and your student can ask and answer questions. Charter schools are not available in every state, but like K12, you can pay for the school as well. Check the Connections Academy website to learn more.
Perhaps you only want a few key courses or you are looking for a private, Christian-based curriculum solution. Potter’s School has less of a selection, but seems to be a good option. I know that many of the homeschool families in our local homeschool group have used Potter’s School combined with local cottage schools and other curriculum to create a complete curriculum solution.
Keystone is not free either, but offers a complete solution similar to K12 and Connections Academy. Keystone is accredited as well, which is a nice feature for those worried about college admissions. However, I do want to add that I know many homeschool families who had absolutely no problem getting their children into college and did not use an accredited program. The key is in keeping good records, getting excellent SAT or ACT scores and making sure your child has all the basics required in your state.
If your child does not test well, then you may want to consider the accredited route. Neither of my children have ever tested well on standardized tests that involve math, so I knew I didn’t want to go that route.
My oldest daughter retook an Algebra class through this school, because quite frankly the math teachers at her school were worthless. She was able to easily understand the concepts, take the time she needed to study and wound up with an A in the class. Plus, she was able to pass our state exam for Algebra. Keystone only offers classes for middle school and high school students.
What to Expect from a Virtual School
A virtual school environment is quite different from a traditional school environment. Your child will access books, lessons and classes all from the computer. Your child also will not have the daily interaction with peers that he would have in a traditional school.
The virtual school will assign one or more teachers and a homeroom teacher to oversee everything. Field trips will only be occasional and some schools offer other get togethers.
How to Transition to an Online School
Transitioning from traditional school to an online school can be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to ease the transition:
- Attend welcome sessions and get togethers.
- Read instructions carefully.
- Print out some of the work for your student to avoid eye strain.
- Encourage your child to slow down. He or she is likely used to working at a hectic pace in order to meet classroom times. However, with an online school, the student can work quickly on things she understands well and slow down and really learn topics she doesn’t know as well.
- Communicate with the teachers. If your child is struggling in an area, contact the teacher and ask for advice.
- Keep track of grades. Online schools allow you to log on every day and see an up-to-date report on how your student is doing. If her grade starts to drop, work with the child and teacher to figure out why and how to get the grade back up.
- Don’t get too far behind. While it is okay to be a day or two behind, getting too far behind on lessons can result in an end of semester struggle to catch up.
- Don’t add too much at first. It is tempting to join every club and take several electives. However, until your child is used to a virtual school environment, it is best to keep things light.
- Join outside activities. Your child will not be around other kids his age any longer. It is important to have an outside activity or two where he interacts with others. This can be accomplished through a church youth group, community sports team or hobby type classes. My daughter participated in competitive cheer and an art class, for example.
Pros and Cons of Online Schooling
|More time with your child||More time with your child|
|More input into what your child learns||More time commitment from you|
|Quality education||Less socialization (more work to create social
|Child has time for extra curricular activities||Cannot usually participate in school sports|
|Free in many states||Costly if not charter school|
|More subject choices||All online/eye strain|
Schooling at Home – Is it Right for You?
Whether or not virtual school is right for your family can only be answered by your family. Each child and each family situation is different. What do you think? Is this something you’d consider trying? Why?
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