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When I was a kid, I sometimes heard mention of this alternative to traditional brick and mortar schooling. It was called “homeschooling.” Back in those days the general consensus was that homeschooling was not very common and typically reserved for kids who were too sick to attend a physical classroom or perhaps their religion dictated a different school setting. There were other reasons, of course, but to an average kid (me) who attended the local public school, my exposure to homeschooling was very limited. The internet was non-existent, so the concept of a virtual school experience had yet to evolve.
When I was a teacher, the world of schooling from home was still fairly elusive. Every so often local families who schooled from home would visit our school to use the gym. Sometimes I would hear of a local field trip for various groups of students from nontraditional schools – be it homeschool or some other model.
My graduate studies were in Applied Technology. We learned about video editing and Photoshopping and basic website infrastructure. (The irony that this ended up being the career I seemed to have settled on instead of traditional elementary school teaching, is not lost on me.) By the time I attended grad school, the internet had arrived in all of its glory and the concept of “online learning” was starting to gain popularity. In fact, several of my courses were taught in a half brick and mortar/ half virtual format. This was my first experience with learning via online studies and I immediately realized the potential for kids and adults.
I am now 12 years past earning that Master’s Degree. I hung up my teaching hat 8.5 years ago when my first child was born. I traded my rigid daily 8:25 am – 3:50 pm teaching schedule for an at-home office that came with a whole new set of demands but also much flexibility. The workload is heavy but my vested interest in the subject keeps it enjoyable. I can choose my office hours (for the most part) but usually have to write, create and edit with a preschooler driving fire trucks over my feet. I also have the freedom to work remotely from pretty much any location in the world, as long as I have internet access. And friends, my work flexibility in those first years of working from home were what first led me to think about the possibility of virtual schooling for my own kids.
Connections Academy is a virtual, tuition-free public school that serves students in grades K-12. Here are some facts that I thought were interesting about online learning with Connections Academy:
- The Connections Academy program is a nationally recognized high-quality, highly-accountable online learning program.
- They provide a public education delivered directly to their students through online learning technology.
- Online learning expands the definition of the classroom to include just about anywhere you go. All you need is an Internet connection! (Sounds like my job!)
- Like homeschooling, the student attends school at home, but virtual school is about so much more than the basic learning experience. With Connections Academy, teachers provide instruction and one-on-one help to students. The program builds socialization skills, communities and friendships through online LiveLesson® sessions, in- person gatherings and activities to keep students engaged and eager to participate.
- Connections Academy offers a variety extracurricular activities and family field trips. There’s even a prom!
- Connections Academy also encourages families to learn #OutsideSchoolWalls regardless of their current schooling choices – recognizing that learning can happen anywhere at any time.
Those are the details that really got me thinking about whether or not I would seriously consider enrolling my kiddos in a virtual school. I have to tell you, this is a topic that Bob and I have discussed on more than one occasion. And our answer always lands on YES, we would consider it.
What are some situations when WE might consider virtual schooling for one or both of OUR kids?
- We love camping and have discussed the possibilities of becoming full (or even close to full) timers on the road. Virtual schooling would allow the kids to keep up with their studies no matter where our travels took us.
- Our oldest has a passion for acting and from time to time needs to miss school for auditions or to film any jobs she lands. If she were to land a role that took away from her attendance at a brick-and-mortar school, I would turn to virtual school.
- If for any reason we had an issue, be it social, academic, health, whatever, with our local school, online academia would be considered.
Honestly, those are just a few scenarios off the top of my head. There are probably more. And this is coming from a former educator who believes that traditional brick and mortar schools are an excellent place to learn! Those beliefs don’t prevent me from seeing the potential situations when a virtual school could be beneficial to my family.
I also like knowing how far online learning has come, and that it offers so much more than the basic academics these days. Schools like Connections Academy not only provide a high quality education, but they understand and recognize the need for social and emotional development as well. They recognize the need AND provide those opportunities and experiences for their students. That’s amazing!
Do you have any experience with online learning and/or virtual schooling? I would love to hear about it!