Across the country, schools are working hard to ensure students can resume classes this fall. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal, and many students are experiencing remote learning for the first time.
It is a new experience for teachers, as well, and most are still getting acclimated to the benefits and challenges of teaching lessons virtually. This has given some parents reason to pause and reconsider whether community schools are the best choice for their children.
Of course, virtual learning isn’t the only concern you face as you manage through the pandemic. You might be in an area where local schools have decided to reopen for in-person classes. Though there are safety plans in place, not everyone is comfortable or confident that exposure to COVID-19 can be prevented within educational facilities.
Your goal is to ensure your children’s safety, but no doubt you are balancing that with their educational needs. It is a difficult position to be in, and you are not alone in trying to find the best solution for your family.
With these issues in mind, you might be looking into alternative solutions to traditional schools—but how do you know when it is time to consider a change? These are four common reasons parents choose to enroll their children in an established online school with years of experience in the field of virtual learning:
Obstacles to Remote and Virtual Learning
Digital learning can be highly effective. However, meeting students’ needs is only possible with thoughtful preparation. Online learning requires a different approach than classroom learning, so simply taking the in-school curriculum to Zoom or another meeting platform tends to leave some children behind.
You probably noticed this if your kids were involved in virtual learning towards the end of the last school year. Many lessons don’t translate properly from the classroom to a digital environment, and it is difficult for your child to receive individual support if more help is needed. If you were trying to complete your own work-from-home tasks while assisting your student, you might have found the entire experience somewhat overwhelming.
Remote learning is most successful when lessons are specifically designed for a virtual environment, and teachers have the experience and expertise necessary to make the best possible use of available digital tools. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible for community schools that are under pressure to overcome obstacles presented by COVID-19. When children are failing to thrive in the digital learning environment created by local schools, parents may wish to consider an alternative type of schooling.
Is Your Child’s Current Situation Still Working?
These are a few questions to help you decide whether it is time to make a change:
Are technical issues a frequent disruption to your child’s learning?
Not all teachers and schools have the resources necessary to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted connection. And some school learning platforms are more efficient and easy to use than others. If you don’t have the time to help troubleshoot, this could be an important consideration.
Are lessons presented in a variety of engaging formats?
High-quality virtual learning programs make use of all sorts of presentation methods to keep students engaged. There might be traditional lectures, but you should also see video, interactive activities, opportunities to collaborate with peers, and other varieties of teaching and learning. If your child is not engaged with the lesson he or she is likely not learning, which may require intervention on your part.
Is your child able to connect and engage with the teacher and classmates?
You can tell when things aren’t going well if your child spends his or her time staring off into space. Highly effective remote learning programs keep children engaged in the lesson but also allow them to interact in the virtual classroom. The teacher should still be involving your child in the lesson, asking questions and encouraging students to contribute to the discussion.
If you aren’t happy with the answers to these questions, it might be time to explore alternatives.
Reasons to Change Schools
One of the biggest difficulties children are facing in a COVID-19 world is isolation from their friends and established social circles. No doubt you have noticed how much your kids miss playing with buddies their own age.
One of the main reasons families, teachers, and child development specialists hoped that full in-person learning would be possible this fall was to allow students to reconnect with their peers. Sadly, this hasn’t been possible in most communities.
In some cases, kids are developing new methods of maintaining friendships, and the virtual or hybrid model is successfully supporting their need for social connections. However, this isn’t always the case— particularly if your child is on the younger side.
There are a number of scenarios in which students are struggling socially in the educational environment selected by their local school. For example, some children are separated from their friends due to adjusted learning schedules. Schools are experimenting with alternating days in the classroom, staggered class times, and similar, leaving students in classes with peers that they don’t know or don’t get along with. And the need to social distance leaves students eating and sitting alone despite attending school in person.
Consider these questions when deciding whether to look at other elementary or high school virtual learning programs:
Has your child shared feelings of anxiety or sadness about the group he or she has been assigned to for in-person learning?
Some kids are comfortable with just about anyone, so changing social groups and meeting new friends based on adjustments to learning schedules is no big deal. Other children prefer to focus on a few close friendships, and they are uncomfortable spending time in groups without their special pals. If they are thrust into such a situation, they can’t fully focus on learning.
Are you comfortable with the new peer group?
Teens and tweens are heavily influenced by their peers, and you have likely put a lot of careful thought into encouraging healthy friendships. If the new group isn’t quite what you had in mind, it might be time to consider changing schools.
It’s no secret that COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease, and children can contract the virus and pass it along to others. While some who are positive for COVID-19 show no symptoms, others become extremely ill. It appears that healthy people of all ages can experience severe symptoms, but the patients at highest risk are those with compromised immune systems.
Gathering children in classrooms feels particularly risky to some parents, especially when personal protective equipment is in short supply. This is especially concerning to families who have immuno-compromised members at home. In these situations, in-person learning may not be the right choice. Instead, parents have elected to homeschool or enroll their students in remote schools that specialize in home learning.
If in-person classes are held, is there an effective safety plan in place?
Check to be sure that your child’s school is observing CDC recommendations to minimize the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak—but just having a plan in place isn’t enough. If you talk with your child and discover that masks aren’t being worn as required or students aren’t staying in stable groups, you may decide that your community school isn’t the best option at this time.
Issues with Inconsistency
Finally, many families are concerned about the amount of change their children have been forced to adapt to in the seven months since COVID-19 arrived in the United States. Suddenly, with almost no warning or preparation, schools closed and large areas of the country were under strict stay-at-home orders.
While it is true that children are resilient, the stress of these changes has certainly had an impact. For example, you might have noticed more moodiness, more tears, and a greater need to stick by your side if your children are having a hard time adapting.
Some parents have determined that their biggest priority is offering their students a consistent experience this school year. Unfortunately, that can’t be guaranteed with the interim plans most traditional schools are using. They are operating in uncharted territory, and it is likely that changes will be needed as issues are identified and outside factors continue to evolve.
If you are feeling as though your child needs more stability this year, an established K12 program could be right for your family. Many parents whose primary concern is minimizing the need for more adjustments this school year are considering experienced online schools. Such programs offer your children an opportunity to get settled in their learning environment with the knowledge that they won’t have more disruptions to their routine this school year.
Virtual Learning Alternatives
This year has been one of the most challenging in living memory. Many would agree that parents are in the most difficult position of all, as they are trying to balance their work and other responsibilities with the needs of their children. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. Making the best decision for your families when there is no precedent for the current situation adds an entirely new set of complications.
Choosing the right educational program for your children during the COVID-19 crisis is at the top of the list when it comes to tough decisions. You are anxious to protect the health of your children, while simultaneously ensuring they are able to succeed in important areas like educational and social development.
Some parents who want to keep their kids home rather than having them attend in-person schools are turning to “learning pods,” also called, “pandemic pods.” These pods are organized by the parents, who bring their kids together to learn in small groups outside of the classroom. Some parents use the pods for homeschooling in which they share the teaching duties with the other parents, while some parents pay a tutor or outside teacher to teach the small group of students during the day. Other pod learning groups might all attend the same online school and use the pods as an opportunity to promote in-person socialization.
Tuition-Free Online Public Schools
In some cases, the best option to give students a high-quality, consistent school experience is an established K12-powered school that is exclusively virtual. These programs were designed to incorporate evidence-based best practices in online and home learning, and they rely on proven curriculum taught by professional educators specifically trained in remote teaching.
If you have concerns about the virtual program offered by your student’s current school or you aren’t quite ready for your children to return in-person, it might be time to explore the alternative options available from K12.