This month, we are talking technology for kids. One of the biggest changes this past year involves technology. Technology has changed how our kids school. This post isn’t suppose to yay or nay online schooling, just inform. This is our experience….
Last year we had our kids in a charter school, which was fabulous for my daughter. It was a 30-minute drive to get there, 30 minutes in line to drop off (and did I mention school started at 7:30 am?) Then there was 8 solid hours of them at school. 30-minute drive to pick-up and if I was LUCKY, 30 minutes in the carpool line (at the beginning of the school year, I waited – 2 hours, I KID you NOT.)
That was a whole lot of school, and while my daughter excelled – my son didn’t. Come March, after our son had his FIFTH teacher change, we decided to pull them both out and home school for the remainder of the school year, something I NEVER thought I would do. Come to find out, I actually liked having my kids home. They had plenty of socialization opportunities with all of the church, sports and all of the extra-curricular activities we do. We live on a street with a TON of kids. We tried it, and it worked.
When we were deciding about schooling for this school year, while we enjoyed home schooling – we wanted something accredited. I have a fear of them wanting to go back to public school one day and if that day comes, I want it to be a seamless process. I had this happen to me and it set me back huge in my education, so I take this stuff serious. One of the options we came across was online charter school. It gave us the flexibility (to some extent) of home school, but the accreditation of a public school. We decided to give it a go, and now 6 weeks in – we’re loving it.
Our kids are actually students in a school district. We live in the state of Texas and anyone who lives here and has children third grade and up can enroll in an online charter school. The enrollment process was just like that of any public school, lots of paper work, school records, medical records, etc. Tuition is free. The school is funded by the state’s education department. We were not given a computer, apparently some schools do this. We have to use our own computers, each child has their own. My daughter uses an HP Chromebook and my son, typically uses a Toshiba Satellite notebook (but there was an “incident” involving liquid so now he is using my Macbook Pro – for now kid, don’t get use to it! School books and online curriculum are of course, provided by the school.
Online Charter School vs Home Schooling
There are many differences in online home schooling and online charter school. We have to adhere to state mandates that any public school has. This includes vaccinations, number of days attended and state testing. With online charter school, each student has teachers and classes – just like regular school.
With home school, the curriculum was chosen by the parents. We had freedom in schedules and amount of time spent on work. There are no state testing (at least not in Texas.) We didn’t have to turn in attendance reports, or physical education reports.
I was worried about missing the flexibility of home schooling – but honestly the schedule is up to us. The kids just have to get their work done. We went on a 2 week vacation already this school year. It doesn’t matter what time of day the kids do school. We went to the beach, they worked in the car, at the condo, etc. It all worked out well.
There are live lessons where a teacher teaches a lesson around four times a week. My kids aren’t required to attend, and these are recorded for future viewing. They really do help with learning – think video conferencing with an interactive angle. That’s what these lessons are. It also gives the kids a chance to connect directly with their teacher with questions, as well as work with other students online.
The online charter school offers several field trip opportunities for the kids to connect with other kids in the area that attend the same virtual school. And I have to say, this is how we attended open house. No line. No fighting kids through crowded hall ways at the end of a work day. No listening to parents’ bicker with the teacher about school policies. We ate spaghetti, while the teacher went over everything.
Parents are required to play a big role in their child’s education with online schooling. The parent’s role becomes much less as a student get older. I can tell a big difference in the fourth graders need of help versus our sixth graders need of my help.
Teachers are available by phone every school day and by email. They regularly reach out to kids. My daughter recently failed a quiz in Science and the teacher spent almost an hour on the phone going over each question and making sure she understood why she missed what she missed.
I will say, we spent the first three weeks a bit confused. There is a huge learning curve to understand what needs to be done, how things are graded and how to stay on track to finish the courses on time. The school was great about answering questions and once you learn the processes – it all makes sense.
This is something I never thought my kids would do. I was one of those moms wanting my freedom and a break from the kids, but this honestly has worked out better than I ever imagined. The kids get a full 8+ hours of sleep a night. There are no harsh schedules. We can travel during the school year without having to hear it from the school that we are breaking rules! There is no commuting back and forth. I am still able to work from home, since there is no strict schedule that has to be adhered to.
I don’t know if we will do this forever. There may come a point where the kids want to go back, or if I ever decide to not work for myself. There’s a plethora of “what-if’s” that I don’t even think about. We’re more of live in the now people anyways. And for now, this works great for US.
Would Virtual School Work For Your Family?
Through technology my kids are able to learn from home at an accredited school. Virtual school works for OUR family, and we totally get this isn’t for everyone (and that’s okay!) I’m a big proponent of you do whatever works best for you and as long as you have happy, healthy kids – it’s no one else’s place to tell you what to do… So if it is, GREAT! If not, GREAT!
While this not be for everyone, I can see more schools moving toward the online model in the future – which would mean more students participating in distance learning through the computer. I keep hearing of public schools being over crowded and seeing portables (portable buildings) being put up to help accommodate all the students. It will be interesting to see what direction online schools go in the future.
Want to learn more about virtual schooling? Read Virtual School Explained.
Mom to 4 kids, Molly aka Digital Mom is the blogger-in-chief here at digitalmomblog.com. Talking technology and mom life, Molly shares the realities of parents digital kids.