You've no doubt heard all kinds of stories about Cyber High Schools - that it isn't school, your child won't learn, there's no social interaction, etc. Cyber High Schools are growing in popularity but because all states are handling this virtual education differently, there isn't a clear description of how cyber high school is handled and delivered. The commonalities in all the programs are that in most cases, the school district will give you a computer and pay for your internet connection for that school year and your curriculum is paid for by your home district. So, your child is going to school at home and online. Here's where the questions come in because most can't understand how a child can learn without a physical teacher at the blackboard. Here is a list of the most asked questions that may help you decide whether online school will work for your student.
1) If my child is really struggling in public school, can I move my son/daughter in the middle of the school year? Yes, in most cases, cyber charter schools have rolling enrollment. Some did that to attract enrollment in their first years and are now full with a waiting list. But don't give up. Some may be able to take you anyway, as these schools understand that students and parents coming to them in the middle of the year are most likely in a bad situation at their home school district.
2) Will this cost me anything? If your state has online charter schools listed on their Department of Education website, then most likely you can move your student to a cyber charter school at no cost to you. They send you a computer and will reimburse you for your internet connection. I actually wanted to use our own computer, and it's against their bylaws to do that (has to do with controlling how your child learns). AGAIN, all states are different and grappling with this issue in different ways, so the only way to know is to call the cyber or online charter school or distance learning contact at your state's Department of Education. Private, nationwide online schools are expensive so research carefully before take the plunge. Your home school district will have to pay the tuition for your child to move to a state cyber charter school (depending on your state's cyber charter laws). This makes school districts very unhappy as you can imagine. Be prepared for difficulty with school officials. I've had both situations. One district was downright nasty and still sends us letters saying "you chose to educate your child privately" and they aren't responsible,(evidently the legal-eze their lawyers told them to write). Another district was large enough that it wasn't even an issue. The best advice is don't warn them ahead of time and certainly don't ask their advice. It takes students out of their building, cuts their population and messes with federal money. Not your problem ... do what's right for your child.
3) How and when during the day does my child go to cyber school or do homeschooling? The answer is simple and almost too good to be true. On your schedule. Yes, your child shouldn't be home 8 hours a day playing video games and watching TV and then school at night. That may work for a few but it's not the peak learning time or environment. But remember, students really only need to be in school 5 hours a day. That's what they do in brick and mortar schools. It's all the passing to classes, lunch, bus time, etc. that creates a long day. In most states it's 5 hours a day for elementary and 5.5 for high schoolers. So if you can do the 5 hours from 8 to 1 and then work an afternoon shift, OR break up school into 3 hours in the morning and 2 later on, that works too. Take the bricks and mortar off your thinking and realize cyber school and homeschooling give you the opportunity to take your kids on a road trip AND school with the laptop, cram a lot of school into a few days and then go on a road trip...it's finally your choice.
4) Will my child lose or gain credits? ASK THIS QUESTION OF THE CYBER SCHOOL BEFORE YOU MOVE YOUR STUDENT. School districts vary greatly, even in the same community, so have the curriculum director at the cyber school check into this to make sure you aren't losing valuable credits. My child took drivers education in cyber school, and it wasn't counted at the next school she attended. Just be prepared for differences in what each school requires.
5) Can my child attend after school activities and participate in sports in our school district? In most cases, yes! Many school districts are very cooperative with homeschoolers and if you chose the cyber charter school route you could probably work out a deal. School districts like homeschoolers better than cyber schoolers at this point because homeschoolers aren't costing them anything. But make the homeschooling coordinator at your school district your friend and more than likely your son/daughter can play sports or participate in music or theatre.
6) Can I put my child in cyber school for just a year or two? Yes, it's just like enrolling and moving a child from any school. My child spent 8th grade in cyber school and then wanted to go back to regular school. That year she regained the confidence middle school had beaten out of her, she did well in her subjects and she didn't feel like a school failure anymore. It definitely served her well her freshman year. Please don't hesitate to email me if you want to talk about this because when I was doing it there were few to talk to. My family thought I was crazy ... school on the computer at home??? Which leads to the most important question ...
7) How will my child learn in cyber school? Cyber schools vary too, just like school districts. The good, stable cyber schools are really reaching for the stars with their technology. They have cyber classrooms, with software that allows your child to even virtually "raise their hand" to ask a question or respond to the teacher. Teachers and students talk on the phone, email back and forth and are in touch actually more than a classroom teacher at a brick and mortar school. Some classes need textbooks that will be mailed to you, other classes are completely online. Your child will make powerpoints, type papers and take tests just like regular school. The difference is your child will be able to work at their own pace, which makes all the difference.
8) Is there social support for my child if I homeschool? Yes, yes! However, you will have to find the homeschooling groups in your community and take advantage of all they offer, and that's a lot. They are highly organized, so much so that they've created "schools" where their homeschoolers can go a few days a week to learn the subjects parents aren't comfortable teaching ... science, languages, art, etc. Just in case you've missed the news for several years, homeschoolers have won the National Spelling Bee many years in a row. One on one education serves many kids very well and homeschooling has been bad mouthed for so many years, that their superb education gets lost in the rhetoric.