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Back to school season is in full swing. Everyone is doing the big run around to restock their closets and acquire the long lists of new school supplies they’ll need for the next year. It’s an exciting time. It’s also the time of year I receive the most questions about homeschooling.
One of the top questions I hear over and over is in regards to cyber schooling. “Is cyber schooling right for MY family?” So, here’s the long and the short of it.
Cyber schooling can be great. There is a time and a place for it but it isn’t for everyone and while it wasn’t for us, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you.
So, what IS cyber school? Cyber schooling is public schooling at home. So, if you’re pulling out of the school system because something (or a lot of somethings) about it didn’t jive with you, you’re probably not going to like cyber schooling. It’s the same, massive load of grossly unnecessary busywork, you just do it from home.
Some of the pluses: Books, computers, printers, and the majority of other supplies, along with a stipend to cover your internet service are “free”. They will absolutely pillage your local public school for it, but there’s no direct cost to you. If you’re in a high regulation state like Pennsylvania or New York, all of the paperwork and state testing requirements are also taken care of through them. If you’re just coming out of the public schooling environment, cyber schooling can be a great way to test the waters without all of the weight of your kids’ education on your shoulders.
The negatives: It’s public schooling at home. You will still be required to fit your life and your kids’ schooling within their parameters. Some really like that, but most don’t. It is also very difficult to replicate a typical school environment at home and can be a huge source of frustration.
Let’s discuss the different types of cyber schooling:
Book-based: Here, the curriculum is done almost entirely through text and workbooks with some online material to back it up.
Computer based: This curriculum is done mostly online with workbooks and the stray textbook. Little Lincoln through PA Cyber had a very good, computer based program for the pre-k to 3rd-grade bunch. We didn’t like it as much for middle school but the elementary courses were excellent if you’re looking for a good computer-based program.
Virtual classes: These are great if you’ve got an independent learner, your homeschooling happens predominantly at home, you have a strong and reliable internet connection, and are using computers other than the ones the schools ship out (which are basically garbage and are en route for repair just as often as they are fully functioning at home). Virtual classes are the most school-like of the three and can also be the least work for mom or dad of the bunch too. Your child will be enrolled in classes that start at a given time (around 9:00-ish) and will continue on for most of the day. It’s very similar to a typical school day.
There are a number of accredited cyber charter schools out there to choose from. For all intents and purposes, they are basically the same. Some of the rules vary trivially between them but they are all pretty much the same thing by a different name, although, I do know families that have loved one school and not the other.
The most common are:
Many public schools are now offering a cyber school curriculum through their district and some even offer a hybrid option that’s a mix of school work you’d do at home and coursework you’d send the kids to the school to complete.
If you’re at all considering cyber schooling, it doesn’t hurt to give one of the charter schools a call and see what they’re all about. If you like what they’re offering, enrolling is simple and involves a phone call, a bit of paperwork (very similar to the paperwork it would involve to enroll in any public school), and a meet up with the school at one of their brick and mortar locations. There, you can discuss with them what your education plan looks like and they’ll help you decide which of the different options (book-based, computer-based, virtual classes) will work best for your family.
After you’ve enrolled, your curriculum will be sent to you sometime in mid-August. Once you’ve received your supplies for the year, you’re good to go. Take some time to get to know the books and equipment, and enjoy!
That’s it! Easy cheesy. If you’re pondering a homeschooling education for your child, the cyber schools are a good first step. If you decide you love it, go with it. If not, it’s easy enough to give them a “thanks, but no thanks” and try something else.
Have you used cyber schooling to homeschool your children? What charter school did you go through and how did you like it? Leave us a comment below and let us know.