As an Air Force spouse for the last 17 years and the mother of three, I have experienced almost every educational option available for military families: homeschooling, traditional public schools, DoD schools and full-time, online public school.
Out of all of these, I’m asked most about online public school. “What’s it like?” “How do I know it’s the right choice for my kids?”
Online school is public school at home. Unlike homeschooling, students enrolled in online schools have a state-credentialed teacher who assigns work, teaches classes, creates individual learning plans, and works with families to keep students on task. Classes are taught online, so students can work from anywhere that they have Internet access. These schools meet state standards and testing, and students receive a regular high school diploma.
School may be out for the summer, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. If you’ve been wondering about online school, here are pros and cons to help you explore.
Top Reasons to Choose Full-time Online Public SchoolPersonalized Education. One of the most valuable aspects of online school is the ability to provide an education that syncs with each student’s learning style. If it took all morning for my kids to grasp math, they could take the time. If they needed to re-watch a science class, the online school platform makes that possible.
Know What They’re Really Learning. Working with my kids in online public school was the perfect way for me to be more engaged in their education. Instead of seeing only glimpses through homework and reports, I was more involved day to day. At the same time, I didn’t have to come up with curriculum myself.
Take School With You. Because there are “sister” online public schools using the same model and program across the country, students from military families can often transfer to the online school in another state and pick up lessons where they left off. K12, Inc. provides its award-winning curriculum to full-time online and blended public schools in over 30 states. That consistency provides familiarity during a PCS.
Top Reasons NOT to Choose Full-time Online Public SchoolNo Set Routine. On one hand, not having to be in a certain location at a certain time is a bonus. But that freedom and lack of a routine schedule can be the downfall for some. Self-motivation and dedication are key.
Parents Need to Step it Up. Because of the flexible nature of online school, parents need to be more involved with their child’s daily schooling and routine. Teachers set assignments and evaluate work, but a parent needs to be available to keep kids on track. I relished this part, but it doesn’t work for every family.
Model Not Yet Adopted in Every State. My kids were thriving in online school, but we moved to a state where public online school options weren’t available. For this reason I advocate for online schools through organizations like Public School Options-Military Families Chapter.
While the 33 states with online schools make the chances of consistency with a move higher, not every state has adopted the educational model, so research your options.
Different Kind of Social Life. If you’re in online school, you have to be more proactive about meeting people. That said, the K12 public schools offer regular in-person outings, such as museum trips. K12 has also opened learning centers on military bases across the country to provide additional academic and social support to students and families.
Traditional Public School is Working. If your child thrives in a regular brick and mortar school, that alone may outweigh other reasons to switch. But if you think online schools might be a fit for you, l earn more about online school and available options in your state at www.K12.com.
An Air Force spouse for 17 years, Marisela Auld is the Development Manager for Military Programs at K12, Inc. She works closely with the military community to develop and launch programs that support military children enrolled in K12 partnered online schools. In the last year, her family has added living in Okinawa, Japan to their list of adventures.