A Parent’s Perspective: 5 Surprises about Switching to Cyber School
Last fall, Valerie Hofer enrolled her son “J” as a sixth grader in Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA). In today’s guest post, she describes the five most surprising lessons she’s learned so far about cyber schooling.
As a first-time CCA parent, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from my sixth-grader’s new school. I knew that our bricks-and-mortar school wasn’t working—either for him as a student or for us as a family. But that didn’t mean that switching to online schooling was right for us. I just knew we had to do something.
As the saying goes, I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. But what I learned in the first quarter is that I don’t need to worry about the worst, since I could not have imagined things working out better—for all of us. Here are five “lessons” that have surprised me the most about cyber schooling.
My son has more opportunity to socialize than I ever could have imagined.
When I first mentioned placing “J” in a cyber school (that’s how virtual school is generally referred to here in Pennsylvania), our friends and family were most concerned about the “lack of socialization.” (Of course, attending a bricks-and-mortar school doesn’t address every socialization concern, but that’s a topic in and of itself.)
In the first three months of school, “J” has had well over half a dozen opportunities to meet with his classmates. He’s gone on educational trips and bowling meets, and he’s explored our local area with teachers and fellow students. He took a class teaching students how to mummify a person, and he cheered on as fellow students made their first bowling strike. He’s even heard stories about how teachers were directly affected by 9/11. Through his online class meetings and WebMail, he has connected with fellow students across the state and in our area.
My son’s online teachers already know him better than the teachers in his bricks-and-mortar school ever did.
My biggest concern about cyber school was how the teachers would get to know my son. Well, that has turned out to be a non-issue. Between WebMail, phone calls, and LiveLesson® sessions, every teacher I have spoken with knows exactly who I am when I call. They all have a personal comment about or insight into “J”’s learning that I can use to help him.
To be honest, some of “J”’s teachers sound like they know him far better than his bricks-and-mortar teachers ever did. Maybe it’s because they do make the effort to communicate one-on-one with each student—or maybe they are just that talented. Either way, it’s been a little over three months, and already his teachers have quelled my biggest fear.
My son is more excited about school than ever.
Negative experiences in his bricks-and-mortar school left “J” very wary of any school experience. It was hard to get him to school in the morning. Discussing anything related to school was like pulling teeth.
In the first week at CCA, it was still difficult to get him up to attend LiveLesson® classes. But by the second week, he was logged on and in class with no prompting from either of his parents. Having his own schedule clearly laid out for him every day helped. The extra effort teachers make to include as many students as possible in each lesson really keeps him on his toes. In fact, the classroom interaction between teacher and students translates very well over the Internet. I think it helps because the only voices “J” usually hears are the teachers’—and that allows him to concentrate on what they are saying.
He is happier with a flexible schedule.
We have a busy home life and a student who learns better in the morning, so CCA’s flexible scheduling option is a blessing. “J” does have LiveLesson® sessions in the afternoon, but he can get the bulk of his work done in the morning and even use weekends to catch up on schoolwork and review any lessons he may be struggling with.
By allowing school to work for “J” and our family, CCA makes it a much more pleasant experience for everyone. We volunteer a lot, and so our son’s flexible schedule means less juggling when it comes to our family’s other commitments. It also allows us to take advantage of the field trips without having to worry that our son is missing anything.
He spends more time learning than he did in a bricks-and-mortar school.
Cyber school has changed “J”’s concept of a schoolroom. Now he understands that every opportunity can be a learning experience. Allowing him to try a nontraditional school has opened his mind to the idea that a person can learn almost anywhere and from anyone. He makes connections between what he’s learning from the teachers and books and applies these lessons to life in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I think that may be the biggest lesson he can learn in a school year.
Trying CCA was our attempt to give our son a different, better opportunity to learn. Like any good parent, I thought we had researched all the pros and cons and made the educated decision. But it’s these hidden cyber school benefits that let me rest easily with the decision we made to leave the bricks-and-mortar school and enroll in a cyber school.
What is the thing that most surprised you about online schooling? Share your thoughts in the comments below.