Why would you decide to enroll your child in virtaul school?
December 3, 2010 11:19 AM   Subscribe

More and more states are offering public school students the opportunity to complete their K-12 education entirely online using content/curriculum providers like K12, Inc. What are some things that might lead you to enroll your children in a "virtual school," and what concerns would you have about this form of schooling as you consider it? I'd be interested in hearing from people who have first-hand experience with these types of schools, and well as people who
posted by TurkishGolds to Education (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
... dont. (sorry)
posted by TurkishGolds at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2010

90% of going to school from the ages of 5-18, to me, is interacting, in person, with other children. Not just on field trips, but every single day.

So, no, I would not enroll my children in this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

The social implications are pretty straightforward - no interaction with other kids (and adults) on a regular basis can be a potential problem.

From an academic standpoint, I think that the online schools are good for some students, but definitely not all. We've had a few students withdraw from our school to go to Utah's online high school; they were all struggling across the board and the parents felt that something had to change. One student was very successful with it because her parents were involved and kept on her about getting things done for it, a different student was even worse off and ended up dropping out because she had no parental support.

IMO, the key to academic success at any of these online schools is parent support - the school will provide the means but if the motivation is not there, nothing will get done.
posted by _DB_ at 11:29 AM on December 3, 2010

There is no right or wrong answer. A kid that is victimized by bullying may very well do quite well with the virtual school thing. A kid that thrives on a lot of social interaction may hate it and rebel.

Some states are using virtual schooling as a way to claim homeschoolers as part of the system, and thus get credit for their attendance and the resulting federal funds that come with each enrolled student. They give the K12 program away from free (it costs a couple a grand a year out of pocket) and in exchange the kid is "in" the system. Whether or not this is a good thing is the sort of subject that results in endless debates on homeschooler forums across the Internet.

When you get down to it, school is just one way to get an education. It doesn't work for everybody. Virtual schooling is another option. More options are generally a good thing.
posted by COD at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

My brother does it because he was at a private school and when that school went to the crapper for reasons I'm not going to get into here he would have been in a bad spot if he'd switched to the public school. It's also just his senior year of high school, so one year and he's done.

I'd do it if I moved during the school year and my kids would have to start a new school if the timing was terrible for some reason.
posted by theichibun at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2010

It's really just a variant of home-schooling. Some parents choose home schooling, whether cyber or paper, because they think the schools are trying to indoctrinate their children with beliefs the parents don't share.

A lot of that is religious, of course, and fundamentalist Christians were pioneers in the home-schooling movement.

However, there are a growing number of parents more recently who object to what they see as a pervasive socialist/progressive undertone in the educational system, who have switched to home schooling because of it.

Of course, a large group of parents who home-school do so because they think the kids will learn more, because they think the schools are terrible. These are the ones who think the schools are spending too much time on diversity and sensitivity and not enough time on the 3 R's.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:52 AM on December 3, 2010

//A lot of that is religious, of course, and fundamentalist Christians were pioneers in the home-schooling movement.//

Not really. The pioneers of the modern homeschool movement were hippies in the 70s living in communes and not wanting their kids to be confined by walls, etc. We call it unschooling today. The religious right did the heavy lifting in the 80s of getting home education legal in all 50 states, and in the process sort of took over the movement from a political and PR standpoint.
posted by COD at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's something we're looking into for my kids. My son has ADHD and my daughter is hearing impaired and possibly Bi-Polar along with a lot of other difficulties. My son is in the advanced class at his school but is still having behavior problems. My daughter is having so many problems that she is a major distraction to the other kids in her class.

It doesn't seem like a reasonable solution for my son, medication for his ADHD and a little understanding from his teacher goes a long way. Both he's getting. He does well socially and academically at the public school.

My daughter is another story. She has emotional meltdowns on a daily basis over simple misunderstandings. Her teacher is incredibly patient, but there are 30 kids in the class that need attention and a few that need just as much as my daughter. We're seeing lots of specialists to try and find solutions to what's going on, but specialist take a lot of time and a lot of money. In the meantime my daughter is disrupting every classroom up and down the hallway when she stands outside her class and screams. My daughter also has some physical challenges that are both related to her Celiac Disease and that are unknown that have caused her to miss a lot of school. This puts her farther behind, makes her grades lower, and causes her more stress at school which leads to more meltdowns.

We've considered the online school because 1) She wouldn't miss school just because she was sick. 2) she'd get the individual attention she needs because I'd be there to help her out. 3) if she does have meltdowns it's in the privacy of our home and she's not interrupting half the school. 4) it gives us time to figure out the physical and emotional issues and find a solution without constant frustrations or lowered grades.

Reasons we haven't enrolled her yet: 1)She is socially immature and really, really needs the daily interaction with her peers. The online school does have group activities and field trips, but there in my opinion the daily dose is much more important. 2) I am having a lot of physical and emotional struggles myself and I don't think I'm capable of taking care of her education the way she needs. Her teacher is really amazing and I just don't think I could come any where near where she needs me to be. 3) If we enrolled her we would probably enroll my son as well and I don't think that would be the best thing for him. It's something my husband and I are still discussing.

We go back and forth a lot, so for the time being we've kept the kids at the public school. It's something we're discussing with the doctors when we get in to see them, so it could change depending on their opinions as well.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

My mom and stepdad chose to homeschool me because I was no longer going to have access to the special programs I had in elementary school, and they had no interest in enrolling an 11-year-old in high school (the plan my new district gave them.) For my sister, it was a likely ADHD diagnosis they disagreed with. For the next youngest sister, it was "well, we're doing it with the other two..."

We have family friends who chose ECOT and other online programs because of their kids' behavior problems, because they kept failing classes, because stuff happened at school they didn't find out about right away, and because they wanted a more flexible schedule.

The nice thing about online programs is that it's a program. Every year my mom spent months looking at different curriculum choices - three different grades, eight to ten subjects, etc. We had to find people to help out on subjects she wasn't sure she could help with. I liked it, and she has an education background, but it can be overwhelming.

With online schools, my big concerns are about the depth of the curriculum, the level of interactivity, how much contact there is with the teachers, etc. The social contact thing? Honestly, I was the kind of kid who was tormented by other kids. I was thrilled to be homeschooled.
posted by SMPA at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2010

I'm a middle school sped teacher and parent of three kids and I'm currently working with a committee to create a magnet school where a component is online classes.

Pros: As kids get older (think high school), their issues can be so distracting from their ability to function in a gen ed setting that online courses can be a reasonable way to satisfy state requirements, have some sort of daily schedule and continue to learn stuff. They won't just stay home feeling miserable. At least they've got academics covered and they can breathe a little easier.

I work with a fair amount of kids who have to go into therapeutic settings (or just leave school for a while), and for those kids, an academically challenging virtual school would be just what they need.

If a family needs to move mid-year (or even take a vacation during non-peak time), virtual school handily solves the missing school problem.

As online schools/classes spread and get better, more group collaborations will be possible because they'll be working with other students in a project-based-learning model.

Not so greats: Until more project-based-learning communities come into play, we're looking at a very isolated student. But even in the best online classroom community, it's still going to be one student staring at one computer which isn't going to help their social development.

But ultimately, if today I had an okay academic kid with typical baggage who went to a decent school, I think it would be a mistake to go virtual. Maybe in the future, but the schools just aren't "here" yet.
posted by dzaz at 12:38 PM on December 3, 2010

One positive factor: many (not all) of these distance learning public school programs pay the tuition for sports, music, chess, science, and other types of classes for your child. Given that music/sports/etc. budgets are greatly reduced in many brick and mortar public schools, you can see the appeal. In essence, the charter schools pay for you to send your kids to the highest quality extracurricular programs, which might not be affordable otherwise.
posted by Wavelet at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2010

Where I am, the largest market for virtual school is teenagers working significant hours outside the home to help support their families (especially in this economy) or who may already have children of their own. They're not kids being kept home by their parents or being "homeschooled"; they're often teens who thrive in a work environment but struggle in a school environment, or who have complicated needs that can't be met on traditional schooling schedule and aren't suited to the non-traditional high school program we already have. I live in a high-poverty district.

I used to live near an elite training facility for figure skating, where the high-school-aged girls would train at least half the day. Some would attend high school the other half-day; today they have virtual school options as well. I imagine similar commitments are another use of virtual school, though probably a fairly niche market.

As an aside, I'm a big advocate for public schools, but I have several (non-conservative-Christian) friends who home school, and their kids typically aren't lacking for socialization. They have a variety of things they're involved with from extracurriculars to homeschool groups to religious organizations to local volunteering to plain old scouting.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:22 PM on December 3, 2010

While I didn't complete my high school work online, I took several online classes during my senior year (2001–02) to free up time for additional AP and fine arts classes (I was in a visual arts magnet program). That part was great.

It was Economics (bad idea) and Personal Fitness (hilarious) that I did online, meaning that my parents forged and faxed the paperwork claiming that I'd spent x number of hours jogging in place with bags of lentils tied to my forehead (or whatever I was supposed to be doing), and that, at the age of almost-26, I could not be more useless when it comes to personal finances. (Mercifully, those extra fine arts classes segued into both a bachelor's and a master's degree in fine arts, so it's not like I have any finances to manage.)

So, right. Plus side: one makes time for more important things. Minus side: one runs the risk of getting dangerously sub-par "instruction" in areas that might actually have proven useful. YMMV.
posted by wreckingball at 2:11 PM on December 3, 2010

A friend does this with her son. He has problems with anxiety, and was being picked on by the other kids. His days were miserable. It seems to work better for him.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:07 PM on December 3, 2010

My son was enrolled with K12 for 3 years, after unschooling the prior 2 years (from birth, really, lol). Kids in my state can enroll in a charter school that uses K12 computers / curriculum as an alternative to bricks-and-mortar public school. I LOVED the curriculum -- if we hadn't decided to send him to bricks-and-mortar school, I would have happily paid for as many of the classes as I could afford, it's gorgeous and thorough. Plus, he transitioned to regular school with no problems, was at or above grade level in all subjects.

The main reason we left was due to the charter school aspect -- due to pressure from No Child Left Behind, they began sending out new rules for documentation every month -- to the point where it was no longer the flexible education we'd wanted. We were the type to consider visiting the Constitution Center an educational experience, and they were no longer willing to accept that as an educational field trip. Likewise, there was no counting school hours during weekends or holidays or even after typical school hours. I'd gone with the charter school for the free excellent curriculum, but it became a situation where he had to be chained to the computer much the way he'd be chained to a classroom. I wanted him out in the world, with the curriculum as back-up -- not tied to the computer and only going out and about when the clock said so.

People bring up the socialization thing as a default. Educating your child at home does mean more work on your part with regards to putting them in situations where they can make friends -- but there are lots of options, start by googling for homeschooling groups in your area. My city has a different group meeting up for most days of the week, and situations where parents take turns teaching classes to others' kids (an architect dad taught a 'Structures' class, etc), as well as group trips to local things of interest. The local art school had art classes, the local Y had swimming classes, the tennis school, the stables, dance classes, music classes, the library -- there are plenty of opportunities. And the number of opportunities grows even larger if you're religious. I'm pretty anti-social & homebody-esque myself and my son still had a pool of over 100 kids to be friends with. Your kid will let you know if they want/need more opportunities to see them. A bonus is that in having more all-ages situations, they are able to gravitate to each other based on interests and maturity -- not just on the date on their birth certificate.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions . . .
posted by MeiraV at 6:14 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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