How Do Virtual Schools Work?

Virtual schooling is multi-faceted and learning is not limited to just the Internet or computer. Never before have such powerful options existed to take advantage of full time public virtual schools or supplemental, enrichment and fun classes on a course by course basis. From high quality lessons to virtual mentoring and peer group interactions, clubs and opportunities, students taking advantage of virtual schooling receive a well-rounded education.

Although virtual schools are becoming a more popular way to educate children, there are still many misunderstandings about how they work. Virtual school is not just a dressed-up phrase to describe spending all day on the Internet and calling it school. Rather it is a revolutionary educational approach that has the potential to address each individual student where they are, regardless of geography, family income status or life challenges. Virtual school is about creating a customized educational plan, utilizing the best of the academic world—online and offline—to maximize a student’s learning.

Virtual schools are the antithesis of the one-size-fits-all educational style. The virtual schooling philosophy is that each student is an individual with a dominant learning style, a unique learning pace as well as goals and aspirations that are unique to the individual student. Because of this, virtual school takes the student outside of the text book learning and into the world of academia and real-life experience.

While one family may utilize a full-time virtual school, another family may choose to incorporate supplemental and enrichment courses in conjunction with a private or traditional public school education. The choice is entirely up to the parent. Either way, the ultimate goal is to meet the unique educational needs of the student, providing him or her access to great thinkers and excellent academic tools.

There are seven primary approaches or methods within virtual schooling:

 • Personalized learning charter school

• Public virtual charter school

 • Local school or district program

 • Going independent

 • Supplemental programs

 • Private online high schools

 • The best of both worlds: hybrid or blended education

The idea is that parents can find the right combination of methods for the student’s needs, and family’s budget. Even a small dose of virtual learning can add a great measure of value to an otherwise traditional educational experience. For example, a child may take virtual middle school classes that allow him to interact with children from another country, or another student may take virtual high school classes that allow her to learn from an award-winning Ivy League professor.

Even public schools are beginning to offer virtual school experiences for free. The revolutionary learning method is proving that it can be an extremely valuable addition to the traditional classroom.

One beneficial aspect of virtual schools is that they offer the potential for virtual mentors—educational role models who can help to shape your child’s learning program. Instead of filling their minds with the latest escapades of whoever is the current popular cultural icon, children can learn from some of the greatest thinkers, authors, and scientists in history through virtual learning. By listening to a lecture series or watching a DVD seminar, students will begin to see the world differently than their peers whose brains have a steady diet of media junk food.

A virtual school may also incorporate hands-on experiences, such as a virtual math lab, projects, experiments, journal writing or a trip to meet a peer group from an online class to discuss a novel. The idea that virtual schools do not provide enough social interaction is a myth. Because of the individualized academic approach, students are more efficient with their study time and therefore have more time to spend engaged in the community and interacting with not only their same age peers, but those from all age groups. Depending upon the age group, students engage in learning centers, “blended model” classes, supplemental courses offered by the Parks and Rec Dept, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups, community service projects, volunteerism and even virtual school clubs and activities. The potential for meaningful interactions with peers and leaders is great, which allows the virtual school student to experience a well-rounded education.

Who Pays for Virtual Schools?

Public virtual schools are tuition-free and operate using public funds based on attendance and school enrollment. There are also private virtual schools available, but the tuition and fees are paid by each family. Fees can include course materials, supplemental kits and equipment, and any other costs required to complete the virtual classes, including providing a computer and needed tech supplies. The cost depends entirely on the type and amount of virtual schooling and varies from state to state and even city to city.

Many parents have found that going with a private virtual school is well worth the cost, provides a structured home education designed by expert educators and is often less expensive than enrolling in a traditional site based private school. However, for families on a limited budget, a hybrid of online learning and traditional classroom time may prove to be the best plan for educational enrichment. Fortunately, full-time virtual schools are exploding in popularity offering students a public school, diploma-granting education for free. Unfortunately, not every state currently offers this public education choice. It is truly an exciting time to be a child and even more exciting to be a parent seeking educational options!