Originally published by The Virginian Pilot
Like many parents across the country, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced me to reconsider non-traditional learning options that could help keep my family safe and healthy. After a quick Internet search, I stumbled upon online school. And I haven’t looked back since. For the past two years, my son Phoenix has grown in so many ways and he’s had the opportunity to hone a passion in photography. At the young age of 13, he’s even launched his own business. Without a doubt, online school has been the main driver of my son’s success.
Here are four things to think about if you’re considering switching to online public school:
Teaching our kids to be self-reliant is probably one of the best tools we can give them. I’m grateful that online school has helped Phoenix become more independent and strengthened his time management and critical thinking skills. He’s so excited for the day to begin, that he usually wakes up on his own and starts to plan his day.
My son’s communication skills have also improved. For example, he communicates directly with his teachers via email if he needs clarity or help with an assignment. I’m so proud of him as he gains the skills he needs to succeed in the real world.
One huge plus of online school is that every student receives personalized support and independent activities including textbooks and workbooks, free-of-charge. Phoenix even received a specialized microscope and kits for his science classes.
And I can’t say enough about the amazing teachers. The motivation, inspiration and one-on-one support they give Phoenix is amazing. He’s received postcards from teachers congratulating him on how well he’s doing in class. The teachers and school leaders regularly take the time to acknowledge each individual student, and they work hard to build them up. All of this makes him want to continue to excel. I absolutely love that.
Chances to meet students from across the commonwealth
In our family, we believe that school is more than just memorizing dates and statistics. That’s why we encourage Phoenix to engage in the world around him. Online school has been a major part of putting this principle into practice.
Our school, Virginia Virtual Academy, regularly plans safe, socially distanced activities for students who share classes or grade-level. Usually these in-person events are an extension of classroom learning but sometimes they’re organized just for fun. We’re planning on forming our own monthly activity — like going to the movies — with a few students Phoenix met during a recent meet-up.
I should mention that Phoenix was a bit shy during in-person activities at first. But in a short time, he’s built up the confidence to engage with others on his own. Now, he loves interacting with new people from different backgrounds.
The problem-solving, critical thinking, and creative skills that Phoenix has honed in online school have been the foundation of his entrepreneurial dreams. In recent months, he’s discovered the confidence to launch his own photography and digital art business. And the communication skills he’s learned with his teachers, classmates and new friends extend to how he communicates with his clients and runs his business. It’s been nothing short of amazing to watch Phoenix grow and learn.
While the pandemic has been disheartening in so many ways, one silver lining is that the online classroom has shown us so many possibilities when it comes to learning. I’m truly grateful for the doors it’s opened for my family and hope it does the same for others.
Joycelene Tetteh of Chesapeake is a parent and learning coach of a student who attends Virginia Virtual Academy. She wrote this for National School Choice Week 2022 (Jan. 23-29).
To learn more about Virginia Virtual Academy, visit www.vava.com