Navigating Choosing Online Schooling

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

Online schooling in 2023 should look different to what it did in the height of the pandemic in 2020. It is difficult to separate one’s experience from the past to what it could be for the future but for online schooling to be considered a viable option for your family this is essential.

In full disclosure I have had some experience from both a parent perspective and teacher perspective in this space. In both cases I believe it is essential to know what one wants from the experience and what can one commit. For example as a parent I wanted my daughter (age 10 at the time) to have a love for learning and know its relevancy, opportunities to engage with other students in synchronous sessions and access to curated material to help her continue her academics and other interests. I knew that I did not want the silent, ‘plug and chug’ approach where she is a given course sequence and in isolation works through the learning tasks of watching videos, reading text and taking quizzes to check on learning without any teacher or peer engagement.

As a teacher I wanted opportunities to ‘plant some seeds’ and have live, synchronous sessions with students using the socratic method to prod their thinking and curiosity. Ideally we would be working on a group project connected to solving a community issue or challenge. In the project we would bring in the relevant content needed spanning the different subjects such as English, science, math and history. (Currently I am designing my next project on Hope and just recently read about a challenge via National Geographic for learners age 13-18 to come up with ‘slingshot’ solutions to environmental issues.). I have courses on Outschool because the system lets me ‘play’ with this notion. So far my three courses have been enjoyed by learners and made a difference in their future. One started not thinking about university and after the five-week course had applied and nearly was accepted to his top pick. Also I am teaching via CTL Academy as well looking at ways to make the practice engaging, meaningful and joyful. We are having a play with a SEL curriculum called Legacy Mastery Academy and my own project launch on Hope.

Choosing an online program for your own circumstance is an amazing privilege especially knowing that there are many options. It is important to identify priorities before finding a program. Also important is understanding how the online experience/school fits into the future for the learner as well. This connection may mean that one might prioritize programs that are already accredited especially if the child is in high school making it a bit simpler to apply to university; then again homeschool learners have successfully applied and been accepted to university so this may not be a big issue.

For my 10.5 year old daughter she started with an online unschooling program called Kubrio. For the year we were traveling this program provided her the continuity with a learning coach and group of peers that she met with four times/week. The program offered her different courses to join and because Grandma was paying (I know we are very lucky to have this support) she had private 1:1 tutoring in English and maths weekly. For this full subscription Grandma paid $750/month and our daughter had ongoing connection. During this time she met another student interested in environmental issues and they formed a club, World Warriors and entered the Global Social Leaders contest trying to solve a plastic bottle recycling problem. The overall experience of Kubrio with these other aspects were sufficient for an academic year but she was yearning for more ‘traditional’ academics with feedback and assessment of her learning.

She changed learning programs the following year at age 11.8 to another program that combines online with in-person learning opportunities. This program is called Brave Generation Academy. She was accepted to their year 8, lower secondary program which is in preparation of the UK GCSEs beginning in year 10. (It is a bit funny looking at her school continuum- she moved from UK year 4, to a US international school 4th grade, then the Kubrio year and now year 8- clearly not a linear pathway.) Brave Generation is managed centrally via an online platform on Moodle. The courses are organized into ‘themed’ projects where she does learning tasks in English, math, science, and global perspectives i.e. social science. Each subject has a strand in the projects and they loosely connect to a UN Sustainable goal. Each subject requires the learner to do some tasks and then take an assessment. To move to the next level they have to demonstrate 85% mastery (though now it is 60% mastery.) If they don’t achieve they have to take the assessment again. Besides the online platform, she attends a hub that is in person daily. In the hub she connects with other learners that all vary in age, level and purpose. In the hub are learning coaches who meet with the learners to help them set goals, answer questions and connect them to community and local interests. She likes this hub experience and tolerates the online learning platform. For this schooling we pay a monthly tuition that is moderate. The program is year round.

When researching other options I started to compile this list. Note that I use this for a reference only and would encourage anyone doing their own research to look up the schools/programs that interest them. In no way is this list complete or exhaustive. The online learning space is constantly expanding with more providers. Ultimately it is important to pick one that is best for your child and your family.

If you have questions, concerns or doubts feel free to reach out to me as either a parent or teacher. This space is sometimes difficult to navigate and though our children are resilient I do think there is something about continuity with a somewhat clear picture that helps provide stability. It is important to recognize that every family’s needs and challenges are different and that there is no one solution towards an educational journey. Hence following what friends do or what one observes in your local neighborhood may or may not work for you and your child which is why being aware and critical of your own decisions is essential.

2023 presents many new opportunities. I wish you the best and feel free to reach out with questions and comments.

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

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