It was a total fluke.
I’m not even sure what I was searching around for on the Internet when I saw a tiny ad pop up that said something along the lines of, “Virtual School in Louisiana?”
I thought, “Yea, right, there’s no virtual school in Louisiana.”
Google knew, as Google so often does, that I had been investigating virtual school options and sent me a little heads up that something new was on the scene.
And that is how I learned that I was wrong. Launching this month, Louisiana does have state supported and accredited virtual schools.
A little background, a virtual school is an institution that teaches courses entirely or primarily through online methods. Friends in several other states have been giving virtual schools a try for a couple of years. Through them, I’ve learned that virtual schools, like any other school, have their advantages and complications. Virtual schools are demanding and rigorous but allow the flexibility of travel and more control of the daily schedule.
Even virtual schools have to meet extreme standards as defined by each state’s department of education. Not everything the student learns is online, especially for the younger grades where students typically spend less than 20 percent of their learning time online.
The students have real teachers who regularly monitor their progress. The students take online assessments and have to send work into their teachers for forma evaluations. However, each student also has a learning coach at home to help keep things organized and provide help as needed. The learning coach knows exactly what the expectations of that day or week’s lesson is. At the end of the year, for state-accredited and supported virtual schools, students must comply with the state’s standardized testing requirements.
At first I was skeptical. Really skeptical. I kept asking more and more questions. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. For my family and daughters, the virtual school option seemed like an answered prayer. Even still, our decision to enroll required much research, conversation and consideration.
A state supported and accredited virtual school in Louisiana is a sure sign that things are changing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009, Louisiana spent an average of $6,519 to educate each student in public schools. Though I’m uncertain what the state is spending on its virtual school options, the general cost of a virtual school education is less—and is, for some students and families, simply a better, more effective, option.
Even still, for some people the whole thing is difficult to embrace. Specifically for my parents, in fact. They are both retired educators. They’re completely bumfuzzled over my family’s non-traditional schooling choice. Before I worked with families making non-traditional educational choices, I too was concerned about the same issue my parents have expressed: socialization. I’m not concerned about that at all any more. For our family and many others I know, a non-traditional school choice allows the time and energy to be involved in activities the children most enjoy.
I don’t know what all this school year will entail. I’m sure we’ll have challenges, and I’m certain the year will be unlike any other we’ve experienced. I have friends who are interested in virtual schools but don’t want to sign up until the see how the whole program works. They’ve told us that we are their guinea pigs.
When our boxes and boxes of supplies were delivered last year, my daughters and I got that same giddy school supply feeling of years past. Just like teachers around the state, my husband and I will spend much time in the next week getting our family’s classroom set up and ready—in what we used to call our den.
Yes, times they are a’ changing, but in some ways, they stay the same.
It’s early August. It’s burning up outside. And in our home, we’re ready to bring on a new school year.
It was a total fluke.