Quick Note: Apologies to my frequent readers, life has been a busy ride with many stops along the way in the past month that has rendered me paralyzed from writing more on this site–however, I hope to remedy that dry spell in the coming weeks–read on!
On Monday, October 18, 2010, our local newspaper The Palm Beach Post ran a front page article by Kevin D. Thompson entitled “In A Class By Themselves” that could be easily missed by most of us harried parents (especially those in stewardship of children 4 years and younger). Even if you don’t have time to read my blog, please look at the link of this article if you are still mulling over what your options are for the education of your child. You should be able to pull the link here: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-students-benefit-from-virtual-classroom-977282.html?cxtype=rss_news or you may also search on their website: www.palmbeachpost.com
I don’t know where I’ve been in the past several years but after reading this article I found out that it’s been a growing phenomenon to have students from pre-kindergarten age through 12th grade attending some type of school online. The article cites research data from groups like Ambient Insight and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning who “reports that the number of students taking classes online is growing 30 percent annually.”
Evidently in our own Palm Beach County here in South Florida, we have almost 300 students currently enrolled in the 2010-11 school year and I’m truly excited to hear that there are actually three virtual schools available to our students in this county. The major difference between a student in virtual school or being home-schooled is that with virtual schooling the student takes classes online and their parents supervise and encourage while there are state-certified teachers who communicate with the student “regularly through e-mail, voice mail, phone conversations, virtual meeting sites and instant messages to complete the course work.”
It is so refreshing to find out that there is another option for parents who are seeking an alternative to sending their kids to the public or private schools in their areas. We have a couple of generations now following the infamous “generation X” that have graduated from high school with some apathetic senses of being and as we’re raising our own children we fear sending them into educational systems that only remind us of those endless hours of boredom, frustration, harassment and so forth.
There are two major factors that I feel appeal to parents regarding the virtual education choice: one is definitely cost as most programs are free and open to every student (at least in Florida’s case), the second is the fact that the actual mantle of teaching falls on the state-certified instructors who teach at these virtual schools. The cost factor explains itself, the teacher factor is helpful for those parents who although they look forward to being involved on a daily basis in their child’s education–they may not feel comfortable enough to be the solely responsible adult teaching as in the case with some homeschooling programs.
This article does cite the standard cons of online learning (and perhaps, tongue-in-cheek about home-schooling as well) that include the thought that maybe these students lose out on interaction with other kids their age and don’t get the socialization that they would in a four-walled classroom. I personally dismiss that idea immediately as there are so many opportunities for our children these days than when we ourselves were kids in the 70s and 80s (no offense please to the older generations). It’s just that with all the mommy-and-me programs, sports, religious organizations, internet society and other extracurriculars, I think that kids these days are actually overstimulated to the point of apathy or burnouts.
The other side of this discussion is mentioned in this article and it refers to the teachers who are behind the virtual education and the fact that they are able to be more communicative with their students as they’re involved in writing and responding to them instead of just standing in front of a classroom. I think this is a great career move for teachers out there who have becoming discouraged in their work because they spend so much time focused on disciplining their students instead of actually educating them on the curriculum at hand.
In the end it always comes down to the parents’ decision on what type of education program is best for their children. It’s just nice to know that you now have more choices that each carry pros/cons. In my mind, as I ponder my toddler’s future academic career, I am looking at public/private schooling, home-schooling and now Florida’s virtual schools. Best of luck as you assist your beloved children, just remember you are always their first and most important teacher in life!