Originally published to The Spokesman Review - January 22, 2022
Many parents realized over the last two years just how differently kids learn. As parents who have adopted six children, we knew well before the pandemic that education isn’t one size fits all. We’ve been grateful for the power of school choice to try different learning options and find the ones that best meet our children’s needs over the years, and we’ve found online learning to be a surprisingly powerful and customizable choice. More Washington families could benefit from knowing about this and all school choices.
Every parent knows that their children have distinct talents, character traits, desires, and learning styles. As foster parents, we’ve seen that lesson magnified within our household. Each of our children has unique strengths and vulnerabilities that make up part of their personal story. Remarkably, there’s been one choice that has allowed all six of our children to grow and develop, each in their own unique way. That’s been an online learning program through the Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA).
First off, it’s worth pointing out in conversations about online learning today that established online schools are not the same as emergency remote learning. While district-run remote learning during COVID-19 was often ad-hoc, with teachers lacking the resources needed to serve students effectively, online learning has been happening in an intentional way for three decades in America. The established online schools, such as WAVA, where our children have gone for over five years, are truly serving as a model as online learning develops internationally.
Personally, our six children have all succeeded in the well-oiled online workflow at WAVA and we have seen it evolve over time to be more user friendly and effective. In many ways, our children have grown in measures that did not seem possible in often-stressful and unpredictable brick-and-mortar schools, and that was even before the chaos of COVID-19. And contrary to the assumed stereotype, our children have all met good friends through their virtual academy, and have built flourishing social lives through their school connections.
In particular, virtual learning has been an incredibly helpful school choice for our children with special learning needs. The students who required Individualized Education Programs in traditional schools now no longer need them for their online learning. That experience has opened our eyes to the ways in which school choice options naturally provide a more customized, focused learning environment that allows all students, including those with special needs, a chance to succeed.
To learn more about Washington Virtual Academies, visit https://wava.k12.com.