Is virtual school right for my child?

One of the families at my church is currently home-schooling their child. Since I "virtual-schooled" my younger son for several years, my interest peaked when I heard a senior citizen at the church lamenting that home-schooled children seem weird to her. She argued that children need to socialize with other children. She also argued that most parents aren't trained to be teachers.

Of course, the senior citizen isn't aware of the technological tools and resources that now exist for the home-schooling parent and student.

I discovered virtual school was not right for my older son, but it was perfect for my younger one.

Looking back, I can see what made virtual school right for the one, but not the other.

Can he follow directions?

I never dreamed of home-schooling my children because I'm not a teacher. But when my older son had to re-take a math class, I found out about Florida Virtual School. I didn't have to teach anything. Certified and trained teachers conduct the virtual classes.

My older son had a difficult time following the directions because he wanted to do everything his own way. If he already knew material, he wanted to skip the introductory lessons and tests. My younger son, though, had no trouble following along.

Will he make friends off-line?

My son was able to make friends with people he met in his virtual school classes. Some of the students have included child actors living in Hollywood. He also continued to socialize with his old friends. He also met people at church, at the local YMCA and by hanging out with his older brother. He also volunteered at the library and for the local hospital.

Does it fit into his goals?

Virtual school classes worked well for my younger son because it fit into his goals. He wanted to attend community college classes as soon as he finished the necessary middle and high school courses on-line. By the time my son was 15 and a half, he qualified to start the free dual-enrollment program which allowed him to get high school and college credit at the same time. The virtual school classes counted as credit so he would also qualify for scholarships.

Is it the right time to start?

While I think we made the right decision by starting my son with virtual school when he was in 7th-grade, I'm not sure it would have been right for him when he was in elementary school. Many states offer virtual school programs for kindergarten through high school. Sometimes taking virtual school classes is a way to avoid having a child at a dangerous public school if you are in a bad school district. Other times, it's a way to accelerate an education when classes are too easy, which was my son's situation. We tested out the situation by having my son take two classes at the physical high school while also being enrolled in virtual school. Eventually he switched to just virtual school until he began attending the community college in person.

Virtual school is not for everybody, but we felt as though our son received a stellar education. He was able to focus on the academic material instead of being distracted by teenagers with their hormones, insecurities and stress. Some kids are better off skipping that teenage angst. After all, they grow up "virtually" the same way.

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