Making the Choice: Is Virtual School Right for My Child?
For many students and families, a virtual school like Connections Academy provides an ideal learning environment. It combines the best of traditional schooling and homeschooling while personalizing the experience to the individual student’s needs. Working with students since 2002, Connections Academy has learned a lot about who thrives in an online school and why.
We realize that every family has its own unique circumstances. So, as you explore online education options, we’d like to share a few important success factors that should help you determine if virtual school is a good fit for your family.
Matching Students with the Right Resources
At Connections Academy, we know that online schooling can work well for students with a wide range of abilities, interests, and backgrounds, including:
- Academically advanced students who want to learn at their own faster pace and gain access to programs that may not be readily available in their local schools (e.g., foreign languages and AP courses or STEM, Gifted and Talented, or music and arts programs)
- Struggling students who need more one-on-one attention from an experienced teacher and encouragement from an involved parent or Learning Coach
- Students with health conditions who require a more flexible learning environment and schedule
- Students who need a safer, more supportive environment free of bullies or social intimidation
- Previously homeschooled students who are ready to transition from parent-directed learning to teacher-directed learning while still receiving parent and family support
- Traditional public or private school students who already take responsibility for their schoolwork or are willing to develop the self-discipline and independent study skills required to succeed in an online school
But it’s important to note a few key factors to ensuring student success:
For struggling students to succeed in a virtual school, families and students alike have to make a strong commitment to completing remediation activities, attending classes regularly, and working closely with teachers.
For struggling high school students who are far behind in graduation credits, parents will need to consult closely with the prospective school’s counseling staff to ensure the student will have the support to succeed—both in school and at home.
For all students, starting virtual school at the beginning of the school year or second semester provides a significant advantage. Students enrolling on time consistently outperform students who start later.
Making a Family Commitment
So, assuming that your child is a good fit for a virtual school, what about your family?
Fortunately, with the advent of tuition-free public online schools, you don’t need “deep pockets” to ensure your student has access to the best education. But you do need to invest the time and make the commitment for it to work for you and your family.
To succeed in an online school, your family will need to designate a caring adult, or Learning Coach, with the time and interest to:
- Keep the student motivated throughout the day
- Organize and structure the school day
- Monitor student comprehension and progress.
- Work closely with teachers to ensure the student stays on track
You’ll also want to consider how your time commitment changes as your student progresses through a virtual school. Typically, we see that a Learning Coach for an elementary school student will need to commit about five hours per day, while middle school requires about two to three hours per day. As students become much more independent in high school, the Learning Coach only commits about thirty minutes a day. So, a virtual school may not be right for your family today, but it might be in a year or two from now.
Reaping the Rewards of an Online Education
When parents and students commit their time and energy to virtual schooling, the entire family reaps the rewards.
- Greater control over their student’s learning environment and schedule
- The ability to incorporate family priorities and values in their children’s education
- Daily involvement in their children’s education
- One-on-one attention and the ability to work at their own pace
- More flexibility in choosing when and where they learn—whether to accommodate health issues, special talents and interest in sports or the performing arts, family travel, or other scheduling needs
- Personalized learning plans to help them grow and meet their goals—whether preparing for college or the workforce
Finally, beyond these tangible rewards, our Connections Academy families tell us that making the mutual family commitment to virtual schooling tends to bring them closer together.
Taking the Next Steps
If you’re still deciding if you and your child are ready for a new school experience, here are some suggestions for exploring the possibilities in more depth:
- Check out the International Association for K–12 Online Learning report “A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program.”
- Discuss your student’s individual needs directly with an online school enrollment advisor.
- Sample the curriculum and research programs when comparing virtual schools.
- Explore similarities and differences between virtual schools and blended learning options.
- Talk directly to parents with students enrolled in your target virtual school.
- Talk to your child about switching to virtual school to ensure a positive start and smooth transition.
- Download a document checklist of the paperwork you’ll need to get your child enrolled in online school.
Do you have more questions about whether a virtual school is a right for your family? Share them below—and we’ll help you find the answers!