When a child falls behind in school, the parent looks for help from teachers, family, friends, anyone that can potentially help them help their child. But what happens when both of your kids attend a virtual school ? What if all the help appears to be completely on the parent’s shoulders? What can be done? I recently experienced this issue with not one of my children, but both of them. Both of my kids are in middle school and both are extremely bright ; however, that did not save them from failing multiple classes. It turns out that the teachers were more than willing to tell me about one child falling behind, thus giving me a chance to turn him around. They did not, though, warn me about the second. A mistake on my part in thinking that “no news is good news” and not following through to confirm that my second child was staying abreast of her work.
What we have managed to do, is catch up. It took a definite resolve on my side and cooperation on the part of my children to accomplish. My children understand that failing is not an option and that I consider it as much my fault as I do theirs. It was this understanding that made it possible for us to be able to do what we did. To give you a perspective of our problem, my son started out the school year not doing any work. Falling three weeks behind in classes and then having to keep up with anything new assigned, is a daunting task to fix. We worked many weekends to be able to get him to a point that was possible for him to pass.
My daughter, on the other hand, didn’t have warning that she was behind until a week before mid-terms. It was at our parent-teacher conference that I was made aware of the extent of her problems. She and I had more work to cover in a brief time than should have been legally possible. She and I worked close to 12 hour days for a week to get her to a point where I considered her “safe” to take her mid-term exams and pass.
This is one of the (dis)advantages to going to a virtual school. True, you get the flexibility of hours and can make sure your child’s environment is safe. As the parent, though, you are ultimately the one responsible for making sure your child learns the material. The teachers are more for “help” than for curriculum. They are the ones that ultimately judge whether you have been effective in helping your child learn when they issue their grades.
Each virtual school operates somewhat differently. So that you can understand my problems, I will try to describe the two schools I am most familiar with. Georgia Cyber Academy operates this way, there are assignments (writing/projects) that have deadlines, tests to make sure you’re on track, and other assignments that are graded. Which means you have to have completed a predetermined amount of work by a certain time. You can easily work ahead but you can easily fall behind. The basis for the curriculum was created by a company named K12. There are interactive online classes where teachers either teach a new concept or support part of the curriculum. For most students those classes aren’t required, but are highly recommended. Conferences with the parents and students are also held over the computer.
On the other hand, Gwinnett Online Campus is similar, but with some distinct differences. It is more of a “here’s the work, due by a date, for a grade”. There are no online classes, although though students do go in for labs twice a week (these can be watched from home, if the student cannot make it in). The labs may( or may not) reinforce what they’re learning. In addition parent and teacher conferences are face to face. Effectively, the curriculum seems to be created by the teachers and self-taught by the kids with occasional support from teachers. It is, however, a brand new school with teachers that have never taught in a virtual environment before.
I don’t want to harshly judge or state that virtual schools are bad. They’re not. A parent has to realize, that virtual schools are not something you can simply set your child in front of and expect them to succeed. It’s work, sometimes more than even the seasoned virtual school parent realizes. When you get behind, the results can be a catastrophe. However, with a lot of work and a bit of organizing and planning, it’s possible to make a recovery.
Parents, have you ever thought about sending your child to a virtual school? Why or why not?