BUILDING THE FUTURE: Virtual education offers homeschooling options for parents, students

Jul 14, 2017

Virtual education can be a great path for parents and students who are interested in homeschooling, according to Missouri Online Summer Institute Director Dr. Michael Brown.

“We have a lot of kids who are home schooled in Missouri,” he said. “Some of them are getting great educations because they have the resources to do it, some of them not so much. We think we have a program, through our partnership with K12, that we can offer that would meet their needs.”

Parents choose to homeschool their children for a wide variety of reasons. Their children may have physical limitations or illnesses which require them to stay home, they may have faced bullying or poor educational options in their home district schools, or parents may choose to homeschool based on religious beliefs.

Virtual education can provide a great certified education path for each of theses cases.

Brown said virtual education might be even more advantageous for children with unique skills, liked elite athletes or actors, which require them to travel frequently during the school year.

“There are a lot of kids out there like that that we don’t know about,” said Brown. “Their travel means they cannot operate in a normal school system, but virtual will allow them to do a lot of things. I see this as the future of education for some people.”

Mark Lowell, a California parent who has seen his 13-year-old daughter Isabelle thrive in a virtual public charter school, which offers online classes through K12, since the fifth grade, agrees.

“It has let us flourish,” he said. “She is getting a great education and it is going to allow her to work on her game and give us the time we need to pursue her athletic career.”

Isabelle is an avid athlete, excelling in competitive volleyball and golf.

“She’s old enough now to advance to the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), the larger realm of the golf world, where kids start to get recognized when they play larger tournaments.  The problem is they’re played all over the country,” said Lowell. “This is why online schooling makes so much sense for Isabelle. It gives us the ability to be connected to the school anywhere we go as long as there’s an internet connection.”

Isabelle started her virtual education journey in fifth-grade after transferring to a high performing school and finding that she did not like it.

Lowell said his daughter had a hard time fitting in at the new school and that their frequent travels for golf and volleyball tournaments had already started to be a problem with attendance at the brick-and-mortar school.

“I came home one day and she said she had found two numbers for online home schools and asked me to call them,” said Lowell. “Within three days we were enrolled  at iQ Academy Los Angeles (iQLA). The next week we had the laptop, we started getting boxes with art stuff and microscopes and all the books and musical instruments she would be using in class. It was phenomenal.”

 

Virtual school still provides interaction with teachers and classmates

iQLA provides a virtual school to California residents. Through the program, the students virtually attend a homeroom-like class every morning where students can interact with each other and their teacher.

“It is kind of like a brick and mortar school, except she is not sitting in a classroom, she is sitting in her own room on her computer and there are 23 other kids sitting in their rooms,” said Lowell. “You can talk through a headset or type questions, there is a button you can click to raise your hand.”

After the morning class,  Isabelle is free to work on her school work on a time frame that fits with her own schedule with sports practices and time on the driving range. There is no set schedule, but she must submit her class work before midnight on the day it is due.

“She has options,” said Lowell. “She has the will and the insight and determination to do it. She takes on everything on her own.

“We are told in today’s society that we are all the same and that is not the case,” he added, noting that switching to a virtual school has given his family the freedom and options they could not find in a public school which took a more cookie-cutter approach to education.

 

Virtual education saves time, provides quick data

The virtual environment also saves a lot of time that is wasted in traditional schools, according to Lowell, who said he has seen his four other children, who attended traditional schools, waste time getting to the school, transitioning between classes, waiting for classes to start, and turning in homework.

“Isabelle does not have any homework,” he said, explaining that the virtual class allows students and teachers to just focus on learning the material. Lowell said that that environment also allowed him to see what his daughter is studying and how she is doing on test and quizzes in real time. “You can also look up all of the assignments for the whole semester so I know not just what she is doing today or tomorrow but I know what she will be doing through Christmas. It helps us plan for the future. It is all there in black and white and I don’t have to wait for some teacher to create the lesson plan.”

“K12 has really opened both my eyes and my daughter’s eyes about what school can be,” Lowell added. “It will do nothing but benefit us in the future. All you need is an internet connection and that is it.”