Some call it virtual schooling, others say it’s e-learning, and some use the words cyber-school. Whichever term you use, it’s the new frontier of education. Many of today’s students are pursuing athletics, drama and art careers, even starting their own businesses, and they won’t be slowed by a schedule made by a school system. Sophomores in high school have already begun their college adventure, sometimes graduating from high school with an associate’s degree. The pace is fast and furious, and with high speed internet as their engine, this train has no intention of slowing down anytime soon.
If you read the news, you may have noticed that Google’s technology director left to join Khan Academy. No, it’s not a preschool. Khan Academy is a virtual hub for answers to any question your kids might have about homework. With lesson titles likeDiscriminant for Types of Solutions for a Quadratic and Laplace Transform of the Dirac Delta Function, it’s nice to know your son in high school has someone to go to for help when finishing his homework at 11:00 pm when you’re fast asleep (even if you did know what he was talking about.) If Google’s top tech guy has left to join Sal (Founder) and Shantanu (President), do you think he knows something’s going on in the industry?
Virtual Schooling is spreading like wildfire. There is now an online program available in every state in the country. By simply entering “virtual school in (your county)” in a search engine, you should be able to find schools in your district. You may be wondering why it would have to be local if it’s virtual. That’s a valid question. Basically, if your local school district has a program in place, it is probably free for you, funded by your tax dollars! There are also great programs that are low cost, and some that are pretty pricey. Only you know what’s best for you child. Whether your children are publicly schooled, privately schooled, or homeschooled, there are options for you to school online. Investigate your choices, and try a class or two. If you have homeschooled kids, maybe taking a class you aren’t comfortable teaching, like a language, would be a good place to start.Many states are starting to require publicly schooled students to take at least one class online in order to graduate. Once your children are in high school, many states have dual enrollment programs where classes can be taken online, and count for high school and college! My daughter completed a political science course earlier this year and really enjoyed it. Being able to choose your courses, work at your own pace, and not have to deal with all the drama of a brick and mortar school has parents and students pretty excited about this great new education option.
As in anything that looks great at first glance, there are potential drawbacks to schooling online. This is not a good solution for a family where both parents work. A parent needs to be available if their child has questions, and also needs to help kids stay on task. It’s easy to get distracted when you are going from lessons, to research, back to lessons. I suggest taking a break now and then, just to refocus. Online school is also an easy place to cheat. No one wants to think their child would do such a thing, but if your child did a search for answers, he or she would probably find them. With no one to look over their shoulder, kids may think it’s an easy A. Beware! These virtual schools have systems in place that will catch them. It’s best to sit down with your child before it happens and explain the consequences. Usually, a first offense will garner a warning, but a second time could bring expulsion.
As you decipher all there is to learn about virtual schooling, make sure you understand how you are registered. If you homeschool, be sure you are registered that way. Yes, you will be “schooling at home,” but if you want control over schedules and class choices, you probably want to remain a registered homeschooler. If you want a program that is just for homeschoolers, check out Virtual Homeschool Group. I recently spent some time on this site and watched a virtual cow dissection. Why? How else would I be able to tell you it’s a great program? It is! VHSG runs on donations and volunteers, so if they don’t have a class for your student, offer to teach one. They even have training! Note: This program does use some Christian curriculum.
Now that our family has discovered online school, there’s no going back for us. Do your own due diligence, and see if it will work for you. Anytime our children look forward to classes, it’s a win for everyone. If you have questions, please ask away!
Kelly Stilwell, contributor to Mommy Magazine, Baltimore’s Child, and FamilyCorner.com is a freelance writer and virtual schooling mom in Florida. A former stockbroker, Kelly now spends her days on her laptop, right alongside her kids, writing about how virtual schooling is changing the face of education. Visit her at Virtual School Resources.