In the summer of 2015, we gained custody of my 13-year-old stepdaughter. At the time we needed to enroll her in school, we had to make fast decisions, and due to Nevada’s low national ranking (50th), we decided to try out a virtual school, Connections Academy. I was anxious about trying this type of program, but we wanted to make sure she had the best opportunity available to her. We knew there would be a lack of socialization, so we sought out extracurricular programs that she would be interested in. She continued her involvement with the Civil Air Patrol in North Las Vegas, joined the Girl Scouts, and takes Karate twice a week. She also became a member of the Youth Center at Nellis Air Force Base, where she typically tries to go on Friday evenings to hang out with other kids in her age group.
The thing that made me appreciative for online school is that there are teachers that grade her work and do all of the teaching. I am there to assist her when she asks for help. The lessons are set up ahead of time and she moves through them at her own pace, but the teachers will notify her and I if she does begin to fall behind. I can look at her grade book every day and see where she might be struggling and address those opportunities with additional explanations or assistance so that she can grasp the concept and move forward more confident. She attends live lessons four days a week for science, math, language arts and social studies. She can email or call her teachers if she ever has additional questions or doesn’t understand something.
We struggled for the first couple of months with learning the system and acclimating to this new style of school. At first, her grades suffered, but we sat down and discussed expectations, capabilities, needs and methods of learning, note taking and what study techniques worked best for her. This style of schooling is more difficult than being in a traditional school because it requires self-motivation, technical skill, and parental involvement, especially during the transitional period. When she understood how to be successful and found the confidence and pride in herself, her grades climbed, and she finished last semester as a straight A student.
The fear of lack of socialization has dwindled in me. The beauty of the online virtual school is that though the interaction is not face to face, the students do interact in a virtual classroom setting when they attend live lessons. My daughter has begun formulating relationships through video chatting with friends she has made and texting/instant messaging. She has created some friendships through Girl Scouts, karate and the Youth Center as well. Definitely look into your community recreation centers for all kinds of affordable youth programs and ways to socialize your children if you do consider or ultimately put them in online school.
An additional luxury to online school is that your child can do school anywhere that there is a wi-fi connection, so it opens up the ability to travel off-season, make it to appointments without loss of learning, and establish flexibility for her schedule. We are also comforted by the thought that should we receive military orders to another base, the transition for her to another school will not be as stressful.
When we first started, I was skeptical about the success of going to an online school, but now that we have both adjusted and both understand our roles and the expectations for each other, the amount of time I have to spend working as a Learning Coach has lessened significantly, and she has taken a more independent and productive role in her own education. The peace of mind, knowing and being able to see the effort that my daughter puts forth into school on a daily basis, and being able to step in and reassess her education when we see she is struggling is an amazing asset of having her in an online school. My opinion regarding online schools has greatly changed, and I felt I should share this in the event that one of you might be considering it.