Our family includes 4 kids, 2 of school age. Our kids had been in public schools, but when we moved – we weren’t impressed with the public options available to us. We decided to go the charter school route that promised opportunity and a creative environment that wasn’t normal within public school. Needless to say, the last school year was a wreck. We are very go-with-the-flow and change-course-when-needed kind-of-people, but the charter school presented many situations that left us scratching our heads and questioning our schooling decision. So a few months, I set out to see what our other schooling options were and was introduced to virtual schooling.
What is Virtual Schooling?
Virtual schooling or cyber-school is a school where the student learns away from a standard classroom. Think about telecommuting – this is telecommuting for school. The options we are looking at are considered “public charter schools” which means they are accredited by the state. The state reviews and approves all curriculum and meets the requirements that any other public school in our state abides by.
Before you start waving your hands in the air and saying “NO, this is home schooling” – there is a difference! Virtual schooling is done through a company that is acting as the school. The company provides curriculum, the web interface and teachers to work with students. With home schooling, the curriculum is left up to the parent, tutor or co-op. Typically the curriculum is not accredited and approved by the state. With home schooling (at least in the state of Texas), you are not required to take standardized tests such as the STAAR test, with virtual schooling, you are required to take it.
Some virtual schools offer 100% curriculum online. Others offer a partial amount of curriculum online and the other part is done through workbooks. Either way, the teacher and lesson plan is done online. From the research that I’ve done – regardless of which virtual school you go with – a parent must plan to have an active role in their child’s education. Meaning, don’t plan on setting up the computer, sitting your kid in front of it and planning for them to complete their school work. The parent works with the teacher to ensure that your child is on track, learning and thriving.
I recently learned that Florida actually has a virtual school run through the state. Think about the way the workforce is currently. Many companies are switching to a virtual/home-office model. Could this be the next wave of education for our kids? Possibly. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of virtual schooling.
Pros and Cons of Virtual Schooling
Like any schooling option, there will be pros and cons. Here is the list we’ve compiled as we went thru the decision process if this was something that was a right fit for our family.
Flexibility: With virtual schooling, there is a similarity to home school in that you can set your own schedule for your student. The school year starts around the same time as public school starts – but as far as hours, you set the schedule. There are exceptions to this rule, such as teachers often hold live classes, tutoring and group work, but aside from that – if you want your child to be able to sleep until 8:30 and then do their work, that’s not a problem.
Time: Another perk is the amount of time it takes to finish school work. Our kids were going to school from 7:45 – 3:30 pm every day. Add in 30 minutes to get to the school, then 15 minutes in the carpool or drop off lane, before homework – the charter school consumed nearly 8 hours a day. Add in an average of 2 hours of homework a night, our kids were putting in a longer work day than us most days. With virtual schooling, we were told to expect around 4 hours of work a day. Our kids could work ahead on curriculum and if they excel in a certain subject – they can move ahead in classes.
Cost: Something that came as a shock to me is that there is ZERO cost for our kids to attend. The money to pay for the school is actually coming from the state (so essentially we are already paying for it.) We must provide a computer, and the occasional school supplies like you would with any typical school setting. All books, curriculum and general supplies that you would find in a classroom and need for an assignment are shipped to your home.
Social Interaction: From attending a meeting with other parents looking into virtual schooling, it seems that social interaction is a major concern for most parents, understandably. While some schools do offer offline, in-person activities such as field trips and social clubs, is this enough? The answer really depends on your child.
Home All the Time: Call me a selfish parent, but the truth is I love some alone time and with the kids in virtual school, they will be here all-the-time.
Playing Referee: Something I don’t want to have to do constantly is play referee. “Stop fighting.” “Do your school work.” “Call your teacher.” I fear all of those words and many more.
Screen Time: While we are okay with screen time probably more than the typical parent, I don’t want my kids to live in front of the screen all-day-long.
We have decided to give virtual schooling a-go. To combat our fears of social interaction, we have joined a local co-op that meets once a week for the kids to meet other kids. With the additional time we will have, the kids will both be able to participate in sports as well. Yes, they will be home all the time and yes, there will be times I have to play referee but the more we thought about this – there is no better time than now to try this. We could use the flexibility, I totally see why many large families home school. In regards to screen time, we found a school where the class work is mostly offline for now (since our kids are still in grade school – screen time increases with age). This will require more work from my husband and I, but at the end of the day when you take into consideration how much time it takes to get the kids out the door, to school, home from school and to do homework – we already were spending a huge chunk of time on those things.
The registration process is tedious, just as you would entering any other school. We are awaiting our curriculum and the kids are set to start in late August.
We are crossing our fingers that this is the right schooling option for our kids. The kids are on-board to give it their all and so are we. The beauty of this decision is that God forbid it not work out, the process back into public school will be seamless. Here is hoping for the best.
image source: morguefile.com
Do You Have Experience with Virtual Schools?