Virtual School and Working Parents: Ways to Make It Work
One of the questions parents often ask me is, “Can children attend a virtual school if both parents work outside the home?”
The answer is, It depends on the grade level of your student. The Learning Coach plays a key role in the elementary years, and for kids in elementary school it’s recommended that someone is available for guidance full time. As the student becomes a more autonomous online learner, he or she will need less supervision in middle school—and online high school students are usually able to succeed independently.
However, stay-at-home parents are not the only ones who are capable of serving as Learning Coaches for children attending online schools. There can be more than one designated Learning Coach. Another responsible adult can help facilitate daily lessons and assignments, or you can share Learning Coach responsibilities with your partner who supports your student while you are away from home. Some working parents are on different work schedules and each can spend time with the students—one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.
Even if you cannot arrange for such assistance, depending on your child’s age you can develop an arrangement with some creativity and flexibility on everyone’s part. Below are a few suggestions for how you can potentially make this arrangement work:
- Plan your child’s learning schedule around your work schedule. Make sure the activities that require the most support and input from you are done during the times you’re home. Designate your working hours for independent reading and subjects your child has an easier time digesting.
- Utilize to-do lists. Without clearly defined to-do lists, your child has a higher likelihood of becoming distracted or straying from his or her studies. Leave clear instructions for the times you are out of the house, and make sure assignments are completed as required.
- Make use of planning tools. Online school planning tools can help you integrate your family calendar with your student’s lesson scheduler. Get your child used to managing the planner early. This way he or she never misses a chance to work with the teachers, whether it is by attending all scheduled online classroom sessions or going to teachers’ office hours.
- Be flexible. There may be times when your child is not able to complete something without your support. Set aside another time to work on that assignment, and encourage your child to continue working on the things that come more easily to him or her when you are not readily available.For full-time working parents, evenings and weekends are usually the best times to dedicate to being a hands-on Learning Coach. For part-time workers, it may be mornings, afternoons, or evenings that work best.
- Take advantage of teachers and peers. In many virtual schools, certified teachers work one-on-one with you and your child to develop an individualized learning plan and provide extra assistance on your schedule. Take advantage of this resource and encourage your child to get in contact with his or her teacher for extra help.School discussion boards, real-time classroom conversations, and email communications are all ways your child can interact with other students. If you aren’t there to help, encourage your child to go through these methods when trying to solve a problem or complete a tricky assignment.
Virtual schools make it possible for working parents to take an active part in their children’s education because online learning provides flexibility. It isn’t easy to do (especially with younger students), but with dedication and flexibility, I’ve seen it work for some families. Children can learn on their own schedule, which in some cases may also work around their parents’ schedule, utilizing all seven days of the week for educational purposes. Remember that usually assignments can be submitted at any hour of the day or night!
Are you a working parent whose child is currently attending a virtual school? What strategies have worked best for you? What advice do you have for working parents who are thinking about taking this step?