Free Online vs. Public School for Our Kids

Before enrolling our child in online school he went to a public brick and mortar school.  That simply means he rode a bus to and from a physical structure and attended class in front of a teacher every second of the school day.  When we would put our son on the bus in the mornings, we would say a little prayer to bring our boy home safe and let him not have a horrible day.  Now, I know that not every day can be super fun and adventurous, and not everything in life should be made into a fun activity.  I simply want him to have enough positive experiences that his school day isn’t one of dread or anxiety.  That was not the case.

The children that I saw get off of the bus were exhausted, frustrated, over worked, and burned out.  When I would ask what he learned at school today I would be approached by a deer in the headlights look followed by an “I don’t remember.”  After a longer stare from me and an eyebrow raise that was the surefire signal to him that he wasn’t getting off that easy he would come back with something he learned from his friends at either lunch or recess.  If not this, it would have something to do with a “special” class such as art, library, music, technology, etc.  Notice all these “special” classes are the hands on classes for the most part.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not really the teachers fault.  They try to add as much fun as they can, but are obligated to keep up with deadlines, adhere to the curriculum, and meet the state standards. All this stress and tension is being rained down on them from a higher authority.  In elementary school it’s not academics that are the main process.  It’s setting the foundation for learning.  If they are enjoying themselves, learning will follow and as an end result each student will walk away from the day knowing more than when they entered that brick and mortar establishment.

Teachers seem to not want to teach or even be there anymore.  Who can blame them?  It’s not what they signed up for!  They are basically robots being told how to teach, what to teach, and when to teach it.  If anyone understands that not every child learns the same, it’s the teachers and yet they are the ones being stuck on the front lines watching our kids fail in front of their eyes with their hands tied behind their backs.  The teachers have to sit by and watch many students struggle with things like “core math” when they have 5 other “tricks” up their sleeves which would help explain it better but they aren’t allowed to.

Our children are created to learn through play.  It’s a part of nature that comes natural to them from when they are babies.  Are we buying them books about neutrons with few if any pictures before they can read and expecting them to learn from it?  NO!  We buy them colorful books with loads of pictures and sometimes even funny noises, sounded out letters, or hands on activities to keep them active in that learning environment.  It’s often said that babies are like little sponges, learning from everything around them.  Who’s to say the kids don’t stay spongey?  We take all the fun out of things and expect them to be just as willing to learn.  If you were given $100 to bet on 1 coloring book that kids would like best, one full of cartoons and the other just full of words with a few things to color, where would you put your money?

There are many challenges the parents and children face each day they are sent away to learn in a brick and mortar environment.  Is the bus driver competent enough to get your child to and from school the same way they left that morning?  Are the other drivers on the road next to your child’s bus competent enough not to cause an accident or run the buses stop sign?  Are teachers actually teaching?  Is your child engaged enough to learn anything?  Is your child being bullied?  Is a random person going to walk into the school with something horrible in mind?  Are one of the students going to bring a firearm or weapon to school that’s going to be used?  Are your child’s health needs being taken care of at school or if something should arise would it be addressed quickly and appropriately? (seizures, meltdowns, tics, behavior, allergies, etc.)  I’m starting to see why anxiety is so prominent in today’s educational environment.

We really struggled with the option to put our son into an online schooling environment.  We thought it over for 4 years, constantly weighing the pros and cons.  We were told by the brick and mortar school staff that he would NOT do well because he is on the autism spectrum and NEEDS that social interaction.

We faced things like bullying, acting out in class, lunch issues, illness issues, grade vs learning issues, teacher issues, etc.

Here is a list of things we feared or wondered about and the “truth” when putting him into online school.

1) He was getting bullied and at points even became the bully as a way to act out what he was seeing in other kids.

Online schooling cut down on bullying because other classmates can’t judge him on what he’s wearing or a breakdown or odd behavior he has during class.

2) Is he just going to fall behind and not learn anything?

He is actually learning more.  I can see what he’s learning and even step in and help him with some things.  The day is very structured with a “TO DO” list but not so structured that we can’t reward “good test scores” with 5 minutes of music time or another enjoyable activity.

3) Does he even see the teachers?

He has live lessons every day with certain teachers where the kids meet up in a virtual classroom.  They can see and hear the teacher.  The teacher can see and hear them.  They can chat, raise hand, answer questions, write on the smart board, etc. through the use of a computer.  In these Live Lessons the teacher is teaching them and answering any questions they might have.

4)  What if he needs help with something he’s working on and we can’t help him with it?

He can send a school webmail to any teacher at any time.  Or, if it’s during school hours he has a direct phone number to that teacher.

5)  How does he do testing?

It’s done online and most of it is graded instantly.  He will sign a contract at the beginning that is an honor code.  Parents have to sign one also.  It states he will not use anything that isn’t allowed during tests.  And parents won’t help on tests or quizzes.

6)  What about groups and clubs?

Connections Academy still offers many groups and clubs for students who are on track with their academics.  Actually they offer way more groups and clubs than the brick and mortar school did.

7)  What about field trips?

Connections Academy still offers many field trips throughout the year.  The kids can use this time to also socialize and put a face to the voices they’ve been hearing in their live lessons.

8) What about school supplies?

Connections Academy will send most of the supplies right to your front door.  Our son received text books, pre-paid envelopes, a headset with microphone, a science kit, an art kit, 2 reading books, and 2 yoga DVD’s.  They would also let you apply for a borrowed computer if you don’t have one.  And pay a portion of your internet bill every 3-4 months.

9)  What if he has a doctor’s appointment?

He can start his classes at any time, pause them, and pick them up later after his appointment, and catch any live lessons he missed on the class forums (they are all recorded for later viewing or studying).

10)  What about gym class?

He is required to do 30 minutes of P.E every school day.  This can be the yoga DVD they send or walking, hiking, sports, park play, etc.

We came out of this with ONLY ONE REGRET.  It was that we waited 4 years weighing the pros and cons and didn’t enroll him earlier!

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