Homeschool? Virtual School? Blended Learning? What are the Best Education Options for the 2020-21 School Year?
Are you feeling lost in the confusion over your school options for the 2020-21 school year? Many parents are being faced with making decisions about their child’s education that are confusing and overwhelming. School Districts are faced with developing a plan that will allow children to “go to school” safely.
The reality is that there are still many unknown factors of the COVID-19 virus.
OK. You made it through the 2019-20 school year. Phew! Are you concerned about how much actual learning took place? Has your child fallen behind grade level? How will your child catch up?
Will one of the School District options work for my child?
Many traditional schools have not yet determined how school will be conducted in 2020-21. Traditional schools are considering options such as:
- Utilizing a full-time virtual program
Traditional schools acted quickly to COVID-19 by shutting down schools in March and April. Many schools found a quick fix in an online program that offered computer-generated and computer-graded lessons with very little teacher interaction. While this may have been a good temporary solution in 2019-20, it may not be the best option for your child in 2020-21.
- Utilizing a blended block schedule option
Students physically attend school every other day of the week and attend virtually every other day of the week. This opens the door to many new challenges. Will your child only have access to their teacher every other day? Will the virtual days have teachers trained in online learning?
- Utilizing a half-day schedule option
Students will be assigned to the morning schedule or the afternoon schedule. Will your child be successful with a half-day in class and a half-day at home?
If these options still leave you concerned and confused, you are not alone. This long-term disruption in your child’s education is concerning. If you feel like you made it through last year, but need a better solution for this year, you are not alone.
Will my child be better served in Private or Public Virtual School?
There are hundreds of accredited public (charter) schools and private schools such as Whitmore School, that specialize in virtual learning. Full-time online learning, at a school that specializes in virtual learning may be the best option for your child. Read more below on tips for choosing the right virtual school.
Should I Pod-Up?
Do you live in a neighborhood with school-age children? Whether you choose one of the School District options or a private or public virtual school option, “podding-up” may be a good solution.
Parents across the country are scrambling to form homeshooling pods. The idea is to share the supervision of a small group of children to facilitate online learning from home. This means that more parents will be able to go back to work. Even if just 4 days a week, it is a win-win situation for many families.
An Internet or Facebook search will help you find a local homeschool pod.
Below are 8 tips for choosing the right virtual school:
Research independent reviews
Let’s face it. A virtual school may have a beautiful website, but what do the students, parents and graduates say about their experience at the school? Use an independent research site for honest and verified reviews of the school to get a realistic perspective of the school. Click here to open Consumer Affairs Best Online High Schools reviews.
Is the school accredited?
Unfortunately, there are online programs that are not accredited. You may pay tuition and end up with a valueless “diploma”. Look for a school that is regionally accredited. Here is a list of few regional accreditors:
CITA – Commission on International and Trans-regional Accreditation
NCA – North Central Association – Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
SACS – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
NWAC – Northwest Accreditation Commission – Cognia (formerly AdvancED)
NEASC – New England Association of Schools and Colleges
MSA – Middle States Association
NCPSA- National Council of Private School Accreditation
IB – International Baccalaureate
Does the school offer an individualized one-to-one approach?
Accredited schools offer a rigorous curriculum. As a result, your child will graduate well prepared for a career or college. That is the goal – right? Be sure to ask if the lessons are computer generated and computer-graded, or if there is meaningful feedback from the teacher. Multiple choice lessons may sound easy, but independent studies have shown that students retain knowledge better when they engage one-to-one with teachers. With Whitmore School’s self-paced mastery learning approach, students and teachers develop a strong relationship. As a result, students are solidly engaged in their learning.
How large is the school? Is the school small enough to offer your child the personalized attention you are looking for? Mega-schools may offer hundreds of courses and have glitzy websites, but that may not be as important as finding the school that will support your child’s learning style.
Are the teachers qualified?
Teachers are the key element in your child’s online learning. A qualified teacher should hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and be knowledgeable in and passionate about the subject matter.
It is important that your child can develop a rapport with their online teachers. Ask if a teacher will interact with your child in every lesson. Do the teachers provide constructive feedback and encourage students to delve deeper into their learning?
How long has the school been open?
Online learning is relatively new, and is in big demand. Students and parents love the flexibility online schools afford. A quick search on the Internet will reveal hundreds of online schools. New schools are opening and closing all the time.
Choose a school that is tried and true. Accreditation and longevity are a good indication that your child will graduate and be qualified for college admission or be well prepared to enter the work-force or military service.
What about college acceptance?
A reputable online school will provide you with a list of college acceptances. Even if your child does not plan to go on to college, this is a good indicator of the quality of education.
Learn more about Whitmore School College Acceptances.
Are there additional fees?
If you are considering a private online school, does the tuition cover all costs? Are all course materials available online, or are there additional fees for books and lab materials? Are there additional fees for ordering official transcripts to be sent to colleges?
If your child has unusual circumstances, be sure to ask if the school can accommodate these concerns. Is your teen a dancer? Singer? Artist? Does your family travel? Does your child work?
Most private online high schools offer a flexible school schedule. You make your own schedule that fits your life. However, many public online charter schools require participation in scheduled “Live Lessons”. Students who travel or live in a different time-zone may find it difficult, or impossible, to meet this requirement. Be sure to ask.
Taking the time to research the best online school for your child can be time-consuming, but enrolling your child in the online school that best fits his or her needs is always worth the effort.
Whitmore School, accredited by Cognia, (formerly AdvancED), offers four Diploma Programs for students wishing to enroll full-time to earn their high school diploma. Additionally, students looking to get back on track to graduate on time can enroll in individual courses. Students enroll and begin any time, work at their own pace, and may take up to 12 months to complete their courses.
Written by: Ellen Ray, Principal, and parent of Alina, 2009 Whitmore School graduate
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