Online school options have become increasingly popular for families who need a nontraditional schooling route, whether due to scheduling reasons, health reasons, or just a need for greater flexibility. Online school programs can also be used to support a homeschool curriculum.
When deciding if online school is a good fit for your child, consider what role you want to play in your child’s schooling. Online school is made for independent learners, but it generally requires the parent to be somewhat hands-on and, at the very least, to determine whether the student is progressing. Online school does not necessarily mean that a parent needs to sit with the child the whole time, but some students may need more prompting than others to stay on task and continue to work. Online school is best for students who are self-motivated, traditional learners (no learning disabilities or large subject weaknesses), and self advocates. Students also need to be able to stick to a structured schedule that they create or that is provided by the parent. If scheduling flexibility is the reason for choosing online school, they need to be both flexible and disciplined enough to work on school during any “down time.”
The first thing to know about online schools is that they generally separate into two categories: online homeschool and online private school. This should be the first determining factor when deciding on an online school. This especially matters if a student is in high school. In general, public and private schools are not required to accept any credits that were completed when a student was enrolled in homeschool. Just because you decide to do school at home with the help of an online school doesn’t mean you have to be homeschooling. The advantage of finding an accredited online school (meaning is it a private school as opposed to an online homeschool) is that you shouldn’t have to worry about whether the credits will transfer or not.
When researching online schools, you should look carefully into how the “classes” are structured and how available help is when your student needs it. Some online courses have one strict deadline for when everything is due, meaning a student could be enrolled for four months but attempt to complete all of the work in the two weeks before it is due. Other online schools offer more benchmarks, and some don’t have clear cut deadlines at all, as long as you’re consistently working in the program.
It is important to know whether the program has “teachers” who students can access and ask questions if necessary. This especially matters for upper middle school and high school students who may be more independent or may need help in areas that parents aren’t able to help with. Some online programs do offer this feature, but it can take up to a few days to get a response. Other programs do not offer any assistance other than how to navigate the program itself.
While online school can be a very appealing option for unique situations and families looking for a different educational option, it is very important to consider all of these aspects before getting started in order to determine whether your student is a good fit for this type of education.