How Virtual School Educates the Whole Child
As school districts nationwide focus on improving test scores, many educators are concerned that other important priorities have been forgotten. This concern has inspired a movement toward a holistic, or “whole child,” approach that considers not only the curriculum, but also various physical and emotional needs that are essential for successful learning. For families of virtual school students, this approach may seem familiar! With the ability to personalize both learning and the environment, virtual schooling makes it possible to meet each student’s individual needs.
The elements needed for learning success were a hot topic at a recent online conference sponsored by education nonprofit ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) for its Whole Child Initiative. Conference presenters explained that to learn well, a child must be safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged. Here’s how online education addresses each of these five “must-haves.”
- SafetyThe element of safety encompasses everything that makes a child feel both physically and emotionally secure. Virtual school enables parents to educate children in their own home. By making this choice, parents gain control of their child’s learning environment. They also bypass issues found in some bricks-and-mortar schools, such as violence, aging infrastructure, or concerns about a child’s safety while on school transportation.
Student behavior is another issue that falls under this category. Often, parents wish to protect their children from negative influences, including bullying situations and students who abuse drugs and alcohol. Learning at home provides the safe environment parents desire, and with a high-quality virtual school, there may even be safe opportunities for kids to socialize online through clubs and activities, or in person at field trips and other school events.
- HealthBeing healthy and learning to maintain health is important for children and adults alike! With virtual school, families benefit from a more flexible schedule that lets kids eat when they’re hungry—instead of when a bell rings. Flexibility also means being able to arrange the learning schedule around illness and doctor’s appointments. When a virtual school student is up late for a nighttime soccer game or musical performance, he or she can sleep in the next morning!
Virtual school also incorporates health into the curriculum, with opportunities to learn how to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, plus the ability to customize physical education to a student’s personal exercise preferences.
- SupportWe all appreciate knowing that someone cares about us and will help out when needed. With virtual school, kids receive that kind of support from the person who knows them best—Mom or Dad! Acting as a Learning Coach, parents can be involved in their child’s education daily and see those precious “aha!” moments firsthand. A high-quality virtual school will also provide certified teachers who support both student and parents. They not only teach but also help personalize learning, provide frequent feedback, and offer one-on-one assistance. Students are also supported by caring administrators and school counselors.
- EngagementStudents learn best when they are not merely going through the motions of schoolwork, but rather when they are deeply engaged in the process. The personalization of virtual school, coupled with the many choices of learning activities, makes it possible to engage kids according to their preferred learning styles.
Computer-based lessons and online instructional tools may capture the interest of technology-oriented students. Multimedia options help visual and aural learners connect with the subject matter. The virtual classroom offers opportunities for project-based and collaborative learning, while the flexible schedule enables students to participate in community-based activities such as volunteering or internships. And, of course, children also read books, do worksheets, and participate in hands-on activities and other traditional school tasks.
- ChallengeChildren need to be challenged by their schoolwork—whether they’re struggling or advanced learners. With virtual school, teachers and parents can tailor lessons to provide the appropriate level of challenge for each student. In a strong online school curriculum, students will have opportunities to develop critical-thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills as they also build proficiency at using technology.
Given budget cutbacks in many school districts, virtual school may also provide a greater variety of courses. Gifted and Talented programs, Honors and Advanced Placement courses, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and electives including music and arts are just a few of the options offered in a reputable online program.
By examining the elements that are essential for educational success, it’s plain to see why virtual schooling is a good fit for many children. The students themselves are at the center of decision making, and parents and teachers alike can focus on what works for an individual child. With a holistic approach that allows for each of these factors as well as academics, virtual education can be an excellent way to prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
How has virtual school helped your family educate a safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged child? Share your thoughts in the comments!