Virtual School for K-6: Full-Time or Supplemental?

It’s safe to say that most people, when given the choice, would love to be able to study and attend classes online more than they would having to drive to school. What about parents of the lower grade levels? As a parent myself, I can see the attraction of not having to get up every morning and driving my child to school or waiting at the bus stop. But should virtual school be used merely as a supplemental tool or should sincere consideration be given to enrolling a younger student full time?

Supplementing a child’s education with a virtual school program can be very beneficial. However, a full-time approach may not be the best answer. Photo courtesy of health.hamiltontn.org

At a glance, comparing the two options side by side shows that both have about the same value in pros in cons. But when I think about it, and I list what I think, I’ve determined in my own opinion that supplementing and not full-time is the better choice for younger school-age students. No matter whether the program is full-time or just supplemental, parents need to choose the right one for their child’s needs. Read through this guide for parents looking for the right choice:  http://www.inacol.org/research/promisingpractices/docs/NACOL_PP-ParentsGuide-lr.pdf

Some Pros of Virtual School Supplementing Programs:

  • Students can review previous lessons and concepts gone over in the traditional classroom setting; they can do this at their own pace, their own time and with support from family.
  • Parents can see the curriculum that their student is covering in the classroom, and they can help with exercises and assignments and give support and be more closely involved with their child’s learning development.
  • Students can utilize review options to practice and further develop a specific skill set that they normally wouldn’t be able to focus on in great detail because of time constraints in the classroom.
  • Students can gain confidence and avoid embarrassment when reviewing or completing an online mini-quiz or answering questions.
  • Parents can be confident that an interactive online learning environment will keep the student focused on short lessons, activities, and supporting material for their continuing development

Some Cons:

  • Supplemental programs can be expensive as well as a full time program, especially if used through a state funded virtual school
  • Parents need to be aware time management, just like private tutoring, when including supplemental programs into their child’s schedule
  • Some supplemental programs don’t cover the curriculum being learned in the classroom. (For a list of state virtual schools and curriculum standards visit this site.)

Some Pros of Full-Time Virtual School Programs:

  • Students can be very successful with their learning and academic development through a full-time education online. This is in part due to the lack of distractions in the classroom, and the rush to fit all the day’s lessons into strictly set time frames.
  • Students can go back and review as they feel necessary; in a traditional setting, because of time constraints, thorough review and reflection is limited.
  • Parents can monitor their child’s learning, and actively give support when needed.
  • Transportation no longer becomes an issue.
  • The cost of school supplies, new clothes, etc. amount to approximately equal to that of the coast of one year’s program in a virtual school.

Some Cons:

  • Socialization becomes an issue; younger students need that face-to-face relationship with their teacher, and they need socialization with their peers to learn how to develop friendships, communication, and interaction with those around them.
  • Parents and students will become more dependent on the internet and digital media that become a necessary part of their education.
  • The cost of virtual school programs is not put back into the public school system, and therefore, prohibits development and modification of materials and curriculum standards in the traditional classroom. http://www.fundeducationnow.org/resource-room/digital-learning/
  • Did I mention socialization? Read through these thoughts on the importance of socialization in traditional school: http://cdenglish.blogspot.com/2010/09/role-of-school-in-process-of.html

All in all, an online education is not a bad thing. In fact, if we can utilize it in a way that fits the students’ needs, it can be a very successful alternative. But the fact remains that the lower grade levels need that social interaction with peers and teachers. This is an important part of younger children’s growth and development and teaches them how to interact with other human beings. But one thing is for certain, virtual schools (full-time, part-time, or just supplemental) are going to keep becoming more popular for the grades below high school level as well as adult education and college level. (http://www.distancelearning.com/distance-learning-at-the-k-12-level/)

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