August 26, 2022
With so many options for in- person or virtual learning these days, many wonder if this may be a good option. I always loved the idea of home schooling, but my children do not learn well from me, and for some reason I have no patience with my own kids, even though I am fine with my students.
I get asked a lot about what virtual school is like and if it’s a good option for their family. I’ve been both a virtual school student in college, a virtual teacher for 3 years and the parent of a virtual student. I’ve been blessed with a variety of perspectives, so want to share some lessons we learned, if you are trying to make this decision for yourself or a child or family member.
TIME MANAGEMENT Many virtual programs have set times to meet, or at least working goals to meet, every week. That means that a schedule of what work to do when and around other family and extra-curricular activities will need to be in place. Students of all ages thrive under structure, but it can vary student to student. So this may be set times each day, or just set goals in a certain order each day to accomplish.
SELF-REGULATING Since they will often have both meet time and work time, it will be important they can sign in and work when they should be. Back to that structure, it can vary student to student, so figure out what is best. Many function best with the harder work first thing (see my blog on Eating the Frog for more), then easier work, and some need easier work for the “early win” to motivate them through the challenges. You may also notice they are a night owl or an early bird, or have practices to attend for special trainings to work around, so planning for this will be important.
INITIATIVE It is important that they are able to self-start and take initiative to get things done. If they only work when told or monitored, it may be more challenging than needed. Also, many classes need to be finished by a certain time to continue the progression of learning and not delay promotions or extend to the next term, so staying on top of their work is important. It’s not unusual to need a goal or reward, though. For our son, since his classes are only 4 days a week, he is encouraged to get work done and good grades to earn a 3 day weekend and earn free time for electronics on his extra day–this is his currency and it works. But he also doesn’t stress things that take more time since he knows he still has an extra day to work if needed.
ADVOCATING FOR THEMSELVES Since they are working from home and not in a classroom, there may be times they need to ask for help and not wait for someone to come to them. While many teachers have measures in place to reach out, learning to advocate for themselves and ask for help after trying to resolve it themselves is a fantastic life skill to have. This can be asking a parent or sibling for help or reaching out to the teacher or attending tutoring or live lesson options.
NON-TRADITIONAL IS OKAY Unless you are in a full-time program that says what and when for classes, it can be okay to scaffold class start dates and completions and still finish the whole year without doing them all at once. Some families start 2 classes every 2-4 weeks, or complete 1 a month on an accelerated plan. Many work through the summer but the whole year is a lighter load. You know what is best for you and your child, but don’t be afraid to follow a non-traditional pattern. I would suggest easing into this if they have been brick and mortar student and this is a trial, though. If it doesn’t work out and they need to return, you don’t want to cause a delay in their promotions.
TRIAL AND ERROR If you’re not sure, but this is something both parent/guardian and student want, go ahead and try. You can always return to brick and mortar schools. If you want to get a taste of it first, most allow signing up for 1 or 2 classes to work around your day.
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