Could Online School Be Right for Your Child?

Children spend most of their early lives learning. In fact, most kids spend anywhere from 800 to 1,000 hours on formal education each year. With that much time devoted to schooling, it’s no surprise that parents want their children to spend it studying a strong curriculum in the best possible environment. However, a setting that works for one student may not for another. To find a better academic fit, an increasing number of families are taking advantage of educational options available online.

For years, adults have been earning undergraduate and graduate degrees through online education programs, but now more junior high, high school and even elementary students are taking some or all of their classes online as well. According to the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), 310,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students were enrolled in online schools full-time in 2013-2014. This number represents a major increase from a decade ago, when just 40,000 to 50,000 students were enrolled in K-12 online education.

Why virtual schools?

Parents choose to educate a child at home using a virtual school for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • A faster pace required for a student who needs challenged.
  • A slower pace required for a child who needs extra time or support.
  • The necessity of working around a unique schedule, for example an elite athlete or a student who travels frequently.
  • Not thriving in a traditional educational setting and seeking an alternative type of learning environment.
  • A desire to have a safer environment free from bullying.

This last reason, safety and bullying issues, are the latest trending concerns for many parents. “We’re tracking a big attendance spike due to safety concerns,” says Ginger Kehler, Director of Communications for Virtual Community School of Ohio.

How does Online School work?

With virtual school, children spend approximately 7 to 8 hours per day on their lessons, however with many programs only 25 percent of that time is actually spent on the computer. Although computers are a big part of online education, much of the actual work is completed in the same way as it is in a traditional school. Kids still read books, fill out worksheets, write papers, complete science experiments and take quizzes and tests. Many schools ship textbooks and other materials to students. It’s also important to note that often programs are tuition-free. Parents, frequently referred to as learning coaches, are required to work closely with their child, making sure he or she is completing their work. As students become older, more of this responsibility rests on them.

Online school can also be tailored to fit individual academic needs. If a student is a whiz in math but struggles in reading, he can progress in one area and receive extra help in the other through additional assignments until he understands the concept. Students move through the curriculum at their own pace and can complete advanced work in subjects at their grade level or higher.

At a high school level, many virtual programs, like the one at Ohio Virtual Academy, offer the option of dual enrollment. This means students can begin taking college courses while still in high school. This was particularly appealing to Margeaux DeRaedt, a student at Ohio Virtual Academy. “When I grow up, I want to be a computer programmer,” she says. “With dual enrollment, I can take college classes to get my career started. So that’s pretty exciting to be able to start right now and start learning more and hopefully that will give me a jumpstart on my career.”

Flexibility is another factor many families appreciate about online learning. At Ohio’s TRECA Digital Academy, students are given flexible scheduling options to fit their needs. This is a great alternative for elite athletes who have daily training or students who may need to work outside the home to help support their families.

The online education model works well for many students, but parents should be prepared to do their research before signing up. What is the quality of the curriculum? What is the student-to-teacher ratio? How will students interact with one another? Do any opportunities exist for students to get together socially? Also, it’s important to remember that parental involvement is just as critical to a child’s success at a virtual school as it would be in a traditional school.

Interested in finding out more? Here are few online schools to check out:

Ohio Virtual Academy 

Virtual Community School of Ohio 

TRECA Digital Academy

Ohio Connections Academy


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