Read previous installments of Waving Goodbye to a Brick & Mortar School before reading the final article of this series following the decision, enrollment, highs and lows of leaving regular public school and attending a virtual online school from home.
It’s well over a year since Part Six of this series announced the success of our experiment with virtual school and I feel duty bound to revisit and give you an update. I know several readers refer parents, who are considering the same leap of faith, to this series of articles, so in the interest of journalistic honesty I feel compelled to fill you in.
Waving Hello to a Brick & Mortar School
Yes, as the above heading suggests after two years at Florida Virtual School Nally decided to go back to mainstream education. It was not a decision taken lightly; with so many factors being brought to bear but here are the main reasons for this monumental decision in order of importance:
Due to the nature of virtual school from home and reasons discussed below, Nally spent all of her time at home and expressed that she felt like it was now a prison rather than a sanctuary. Pretty strong words that came with some very strong emotions and understandable behavioral changes.
Lack of Socialization
This reason was parental as the extra curricular activity Nally chose was once every two weeks for half a day. This did not afford enough opportunity to get out and about and meet people. She did not find a job as promised nor did she show any motivation to change that and we noticed her becoming more and more internalized.
While I do believe that FLVS students are able to attend an ROTC program at a local school, transportation would have been an issue. Nally was desperate to join NJROTC and this was the deciding factor when all else had been discussed.
Speed of Work
Without the hustle and bustle of a school environment; bells going off, moving from classroom to classroom, Nally had no peers with whom to compare her speed of work. Left to her own devices managing her workload, she took longer and longer and dare I say it again, longer, to complete assignments. She was not procrastinating, she was working really hard, but over analyzing, and over doing it. This behavior seeped into everything; getting ready, household chores. In short our bright, quick daughter became a quiet plodder.
Teacher Student Ratio
When your virtual student has straight A’s they are virtually ignored! With hundreds of students in a course with one teacher, the time is given to those struggling. In her second year at FLVS (10th grade) I did not speak to one of her teachers nor have any contact with the school at all (except over technical issues at the start of the year) – Nothing – Not a Peep!
While Nally did keep fit and ran every day, the lack of a sports curriculum became an issue. Being part of a team is just as important as keeping fit. Furthermore, testing your mettle against peers is an important part of learning where you fit in the world. A student needs to, at one time or other, be the best, the worst and in the middle of a pack.
While the virtual school experiment was initially successful it was the long term effects that could not have been predicted, either prior to enrollment or even after the first year. By the end of the second year it was taking a severe toll on Nally’s well being. If truth be told, the toll it took on her happiness and development was, to all concerned, worse than the bullying she encountered in Middle School.
If a student’s family is nomadic or the student is an actor, sportsman or other type of ‘working’ child this kind of flexibility is invaluable, but it won’t work for everyone.
What those two years were for Nally was breathing room. The ability to step back from a situation, grow up a little and realize that a brick and mortar school was no longer a nemesis to be abhorred and feared.
It could be said that whilst virtual school did not work for us, it worked for us!
Additional Reading: Study on Virtual School Student Achievement