Children have to go to school. No one questions that simple fact—but where to send them, when to send them, and what kind of school is appropriate for each kind of child is an age-old question that becomes more complex with every passing year. Children can be sent to public school, private school, or a church-based school—or they can be kept at home. Now, in addition to traditional homeschooling, students have the ability to attend a public school from the comfort of their own homes (For more information on virtual schooling, please see this article; to see how it differs from traditional homeschooling, see this one).
Who chooses to virtual school? Any parent can, particularly with the Tennessee Virtual Academy, which is a free public school. However, the question arises: why would this be a good fit for a given child?
There are many reasons to consider virtual schooling. Many parents who are considering homeschooling may be relieved by the idea that scheduling and curriculum planning have been taken off of their shoulders. They may also like the idea of having teachers and other individuals who are accountable for their students’ work, and who are available to help with the more difficult subjects. As their students get older, many parents find themselves unable to remember more than basic algebra, or their ability to write a paper might have disappeared when they received their last degree.
But what about other reasons? What about parents who never considered traditional homeschooling for their kids? Parents who intended for their children to attend public school all the way through, but suddenly find themselves in the position of needing something a little different?
Virtual schooling is for kids with disabilities—including ADD and ADHD, ODD, Auditory Processing Disorder, or Asperger’s—who, for whatever reason, have trouble functioning in a traditional classroom setting. It’s for the kids whose parents have the school number in their contacts list, and who cringe every time it pops up on the caller ID. It’s for the kids who simply can not focus, can not stay on task, can not sit still in their desks for the length of time they are expected to every day. It’s for the kids who fight with their parents over their homework every night, because they’ve been doing school all day and sitting at a desk for another minute is just too much.
Virtual schooling is for the kids with learning disabilities who are struggling simply to catch up and falling further behind every day because the teacher has no one-on-one time to spend with them. It’s for the kids who “just don’t get it,” not because they aren’t trying, but because they aren’t getting the attention they need.
On the other side of the coin, virtual schooling is for kids who are able to fly through their lessons, who spend most of their school days “bored” because their teachers have no ability to challenge them. It’s for kids who need to be able to cut their days short, not because they are getting in trouble, but because they are out of work to do.
Virtual schooling is for kids who are bullied, and having trouble making friends, who are caught in a bad situation with no way to get out as long as they remain where they are. It’s for kids who need a break for a little while, or who just don’t “fit in” with their classmates and are absolutely miserable because of it. At a virtual school, child interaction is almost always supervised by an adult, and getting away from a “bully” is as simple as clicking the X at the top of the screen.
Virtual schooling is for ordinary kids who, for whatever reason, just aren’t doing well with a regular, brick and mortar school setting, and who need something different for a little while.
Any child can attend a virtual school. The system is relatively new; most of the teachers and even administrators are still learning the ropes themselves—but it is another option. For some, it might be a deeply relieving option.