20 January 2016

The Pros and Cons of Cyber Schooling

As you may know, my oldest child is in second grade and since she started school (Kindergarten), our daughter has "attended" a cyber school at home. This being the third year of cyber schooling, I thought I would gather a list of pros and cons and share them with you. Keep in mind, this is from my personal experience and can only be based off of early elementary school. I can't say the same experience and pros and cons would be the same for intermediate school and high school.

A little background as to why we chose to cyber school:
The original reasoning behind our decision to cyber school, was because our daughter has a severe peanut allergy. While more and more schools are becoming more cautious and aware of food allergies, we still felt uncomfortable not being near our daughter for 7-8 hours of the day where she is still in a cafeteria with peanut butter and there is a higher risk of her having an anaphylactic reaction (even if she would be a separate food allergy table away from peanuts). Her allergy is rather severe and we have noticed on a few occasions that she reacts to peanut dust when it's in the air even (airborne).  Not to mention contact from another child who ate peanut butter at lunch and tried kissing our daughter, or even touched her without washing their hands, she would react (hives, eczema, breathing issues etc.). As time went on, we also feel it best to have our children in a Christian environment as much as possible. My husband and I both attended public school, but boy have times changed. Kids these days our constantly cursing, and talking about "grown up" things that I didn't even learn about until I was much much older. We agree that we want our children to learn and to have their education taught to them in our home.

So since my husband and I were on the same page of keeping our kids home for school, I started looking into options when my oldest was 4 years old. I was intimated to do full blown homeschool. There are so many curriculum options, and I was unfamiliar with how to record how many hours of school work was being done each week to prove to the state she was meeting the requirements. I quickly came across cyber schooling, and thought the whole concept was perfect for our family. After researching several different schools in our state, I decided on a public charter cyber school.

Pros on public cyber schooling:
  • Laptop, printer (with ink), school curriculum (including text books, science and math tools, and reading books) are included at no cost.  I'm not sure if this is the case for all public cyber schools, but this is how our school does it.
  • Internet reimbursement- Our school also sends us an internet reimbursement check twice a year, to pay for our internet which is obviously needed to cyber school.
  • K12 curriculum- this also could vary depending on the school.
  • Certified teachers- Your child will have their own teacher and you will be their "learning coach" (this is what our school calls it). My daughter is taught Math, Language Arts (this year for 2nd grade it's Literature and Comprehension, Writing Skills and Spelling), Science and History in an online class.  Note- not all cyber schools have teachers.
    • Online classes- webcams are used so your child can see their teacher and other students, they also get to talk to each other and use a white board on the screen, and chat area. Lessons/classes are recorded so parents can view them or your child can if they couldn't make it to class. 
  • Flexible schedule- As my daughter's learning coach, I teach her her other subjects that are not taught by her teacher-- art, music, handwriting, vocabulary and I am responsible to teach her 1-2 lessons of history and science each week. I also work with her on her "hands on" work sheets. Not all work is done on the laptop, there are work sheets and projects too. 
  • All required hours of schooling for our state our easily recorded. I enter the amount of time we spent on each lesson on the online school, and it's all recorded-- so easy!
  • Tech support- our school has their own tech support team that I can call if we are having any issues. I may have called them 3 times in the past 2 1/2 years. 
  • School Outings- Our school loves having the students meet each other and get together. Every Friday they have a school outing (field trip) that are optional and are all around the state (we live in PA). 
  • My daughter has classmates who are friends, that she talks to and sees (on the webcam) each school day.
  • Our school still has a homecoming dance, prom and graduation ceremony for high school students.
  • Able to keep your child in a safe environment away from influences of drugs, sex (yes, I knew of students in high school who would have sex in the stairwells during classes), physical fights, and bullying (although cyber bullying is always out there).

Cons on public cyber schooling:
  • The biggest con in my opinion is you are at the mercy of your internet provider. If you are having a bad connection because of weather, then you can't log on to access live classes and even online work that is done through the online school (K12 for us). 
  • My daughter doesn't get to physically be in a classroom with her classmates/friends. While she has met her teacher in person at a Welcome Back School Picnic, she has never met any of her friends in person. The only way to do so is if they go to an outing or if I plan it out with their parents. I am not aware of any classmates living in our county (however there is not a listing, I would have to ask the teacher and invading privacy is not something I would want to overstep). I'm sure older students who have Facebook and cell phones can much easier be in contact with classmates outside of live classes.
  • Possibility for more distractions at home-- if you as the parent are not keeping an eye on your child and making sure their work is getting done, they can easily get distracted with web-surfing, watching tv, playing video games, playing with toys, etc. 
  • Not all cyber schools offer teachers-- some cyber schools you as the parent are teaching completely on your own, so your child would miss out on the teacher-student interaction. 

Cyber school is not for every child, just like homeschooling and going to a public or private school is not for every child. You need to decide what is best for your family and child and go with it. I sometimes get frowned upon for having my daughter in cyber school. I don't think it's very well known about, and just like homeschooling, some people think we are keeping our daughter out of society and are limiting her social skills and such, which is NOT the case. I'm happy with the decision to cyber school, at least for now. Who knows, I may look into a Christian curriculum and decide to homeschool all on my own one day, especially since I have the support to do so from family and friends, but for now we're going to keep doing what we're doing. 

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