Monday, December 10, 2012

Virtual Schooling

I am finally working around to writing about virtual schooling. Our youngest child participated in this type of schooling during high school. Our oldest three utilized a correspondence course in which they were sent textbooks, studied, and mailed in their tests. This helped fill the holes as they also went to community college for dual enrollment classes. By the time our 4th child hit middle school age, Florida Virtual School was well underway. They were very successful and actually became a working model that the national Department of Education used as a model for the whole country. But, alas, others wanted in on the act and the profits and now there is a smorgasborg of virtual education programs being utilized in the state of FL. I personally feel our legislators made a huge mistake with their legislation but the situation is what it is now. What was a quality program is now reduced in quality as time has gone on depending upon which program your home educated child winds up in.

One reason I feel virtual schooling works so well with homeschooled children is that they are already used to more independence in their schooling. Many are very like minded in wishing to cut through the wasting of time and achieve the learning, thus freeing time up to explore other areas of interest.

I loved that the student and teacher had to interact over the phone quite a bit. It wasn't just sitting at home on the computer taking the tests. There was an introduction call and then pop quizzes and then just great conversation with the teachers. After the competition arose through the lobbyists and legislators, I do feel the staffing ratios must have changed since the amount of  telephone interaction had greatly decreased by the last year our son participated.

As the playing field widened for virtual schools in FL, there was also a big push for elementary school students. FLVS started at middle school which I felt was appropriate. However, I always advised, especially new homeschoolers, to even utilize that very part time. I was and still am totally in disagreement for early elementary school aged children to be involved in this type of schooling. The early years are all about concrete learning and especially for homeschoolers, reading, so to speak, your child and adjusting for those very active children. I became aware of one little child utilizing one of the other programs that had popped up through the public school system, that was tied to a scheduled time of day for his classes which then kept him from being able to attend  homeschool group activities and field trips.

With FLVS, the student has a pacing chart and can access the courses at the times that work best for the student. The only scheduled items would be the telephone visits. It is so important that homeschooled children be flexible for the learning opportunities that arise through the support groups and homeschooling community that I have mentioned in previous blogs. No computer program should be allowed to interfere with that.

I was interested in a blog one of my young friends wrote who shared her viewpoint of virtual schooling. Now she is a public schooled student and the FLVS was originally developed to aid public educated students in obtaining classes that they needed for credits or make up courses.  In recent years, it was mandated for public schoolers in FL to take a certain number of virtual classes since they are graduating from high school into a technology future.  You can read Stephanie Stone's blog at this link:

You will notice Stephanie touches on some of my concerns that I have mentioned here and in previous blogs. Every student needs interaction with others and access to the teachers.However homeschooled students that have been homeschooled for years are more apt to be self paced and independent than many public schooled students. The teachers at FLVS were very responsive. Students could instant message them or place a telephone call to them. I know many of them kept their beepers on them also so that the students could get in touch with them during the working day at any time. I actually believe with the staffing ratios at the level they were at the time our son was utilizing it, the students had more actual one on one time than they would ever have had in public school.

You can read my blog "The S Word" to understand why I feel homeschoolers do not need to be lone rangers. Stephanie is very right in her concerns regarding public presentations, etc. Again, homeschooling parents have been very busy addressing these concerns for years and that is why a homeschool group, co- op, group projects, field trips, etc. are vital to the homeschooling child. What goes on in public school that is beneficial to students has been replicated in the homeschooling community. It does take energy and commitment on the part of the homeschooling parent to bring these benefits to their children.

I believe a mix of all of the above does every student good!

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