Virtual School Explained

This year, we are trying something new in the way of schooling – VIRTUAL SCHOOL. This is totally new to us, and anytime we have mentioned it to anyone we have received all kinds of questions – so I thought this would be a great place to chat about what we know about virtual school, the enrollment process and what we should expect.

Our school-aged kids are 9 and 11-years old. E is our 9 year old boy who is going into 4th grade. Z is our 11 year old girl who is going into 6th grade. Both of our kids had attended public schools up until 2013. In 2013, we tried our hand at a charter school. While the school has a lot of good – there also were several issues that just kept getting worse through-out the year.  The last few months, my son was coming home crying every day. Tack on the hour commute for me each way, 8-hour school day – we chose to withdraw them and homeschool for the remainder of the school year.

virtual school explained

While I have a flexible schedule with my job, I just don’t trust myself with homeschooling. Does that sound silly? Sorry if it does. I have absolutely NOTHING against homeschooling (or public, private, etc. schooling). But for me, I need more guidance, so when I learned about virtual school, I was excited at the possibilities.

Let’s talk virtual school.

What is Virtual School?

Virtual school is accredited public education that is done via online and home. Sounds like home school, right? Well here is the difference. With virtual school, you have a teacher. The curriculum is provided to you. Work is done online and offline, but documented online. The parents’ role, is more of an educational learning coach – not having to teach the actual lessons – just facilitate the work and attendance.

How Virtual School Differs from Home Schooling:

The school is basically run THRU the state, not necessarily by the state. External third party companies run the school, but have to adhere to all state policies. So things like attendance and state testing are a requirement. The school runs a traditional school year as well.

You have to enroll, just like you would a public school. This means a TON of paper work. My daughter who is entering 6th grade had to do a placement test as well. It was online, no big deal.

How Much Does it Cost?

Here is where things get a little fuzzy. The virtual school our kids are attending is basically an online charter school. There is NO cost to us. We are in the state of Texas. Each state has different rules in regards to virtual education. I have learned that the state of Florida is actually very big on online education / virtual schooling.

What I am finding, the big schools like K12 and Connections Academy do offer private online schooling. While this will cost you – if cyber education isn’t a thing in your state – your child can attend private school online – but for a fee. So costs would be involved at that point.

Listing of Virtual Schools:

Here is a list of virtual schools. Check each website out to see if it is available in your state. We learned that in Texas, while yes – there are virtual schools available to attend, you cannot start until 3rd grade.

Pro’s and Con’s

Like ANY school option – there are pro’s and there are con’s. Let’s look at both. We went into this decision VERY open minded, just like we did with the charter school. We aren’t perfect people and don’t expect a perfect school – but as close to would be great.  Here are the pro’s and con’s as I see it and what we are doing to address the things we are unsure of.

Pro’s:

Accredited – Being accredited, means that our kids – should we ever want or need to – can transfer easily back to public school. When I was a teenager, I was homeschooled. When I went back to public school – I was held back a grade. As someone who was SUPPOSE to be a Junior – and already old for her grade, this didn’t set to well with me. This is probably one of the main causes of my fears I have with full-blown homeschooling.

Flexible schedule – We travel a lot and having 2 school-aged kids and then 2 toddlers, we like the freedom of being able to get up and go whenever. While the kids will have live courses during our travels – they can do it on the road if need be.

Learning style – With me working along side the teacher and my kids, I’ll be able to help them find the best way to learn. This is something we have had a problem with in both charter and public schools in having teachers open minded to this.

Accelerated learning – If the kids are ahead of schedule, they can actually move forward a grade in their classwork in various subjects. My over-achieving daughter LOVES this idea. Can you say Doogie Houser? Let’s get this 6th grader graduated!

Con’s

Untraditional learning – This could be seen as a con. Personally, I love it – but have heard from several people “I could never do that!” And you know what? That’s fine. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for everyone – right?

Socialization – This is something my husband and I take very seriously. We want our kids to be social creatures. They are KIDS. They need to run and play and to hang out with their friends. Last year, they were in school from 7:30-3:30. Add in the carpool lane and 20 minute ride home – we didn’t get home until 4:15. THEN add on the minimum of 90 minutes of homework. The kids had ZERO time to play with the neighborhood kids. Between sports, church and a local co-op for home school kids, we feel like we can get this socialization thing covered.

Screen time – Do I really want my kid on a screen all day everyday? The work my kids will be doing, does not require extended amounts of screen time. As you go up higher in grade, the more the computer becomes central to learning. Though, I do have to say – at the charter school – my daughter had her own Chromebook and was on it ALL THE TIME  (for school and social.) I do think this is how education is headed.

School schedule – I REALLY wish the virtual school program was year round. That’s one aspect I love about home schooling.

Routine – This I will have to say is the biggest thing I know that my kids need that we don’t provide. Kids do need routine, in my opinion, but as someone who hates routine – yeah I suck at that aspect of parenting.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be sharing more as soon as we dive into the school year in late August. We are optimistic for the next school year and will give it our all to do the best we can do. The virtual school we chose, was Connections Academy.

From our research, everyone has an opinion on if this is a great school or a total dud. We are trying to just make our decision without reading into anyone else’s comments.

Being a parent can be so tough. We just want what’s best for our kids. I’ll do anything to make these kids be successful, self sufficient human beings. Here is to hoping that virtual school will help them become just that.

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