Cyber school is a relatively new concept. Instead of heading to a classroom and sitting in front of the whiteboard, kids stay home. They access lessons online and talk with teachers and peers through video, email and text.
I’ve heard a lot of concerns about this style of education. Can kids learn when they’re sitting in front of a screen? How will they socialize?
For my family, cyber school was a lifesaver. My younger sister, Abby, has ADHD and struggled with school most of her life. Her teachers complained she never sat still, blurted out answers and always seemed to be daydreaming.
Experts break ADHD down into two categories — inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. Abby’s considered inattentive. She often loses her homework and forgets about due dates. She gets distracted during tests and makes careless mistakes.
My sister is smart, but she can’t focus in a traditional classroom setting. When cyber school came into the picture, she had a chance to thrive.
The Benefits of Cyber School
What’s cool about cyber school is that it’s all free, just like public school. Plus, the curriculum follows the same state-mandated standards. Once Abby was enrolled, they sent her a laptop, printer, and all the typical textbooks. She’s now one of more than 628,000 cyber students in California, where she lives with her Mom.
Abby likes to go to virtual classes, which are live videos. She can turn on her microphone to respond to the teacher. She can also type questions in the chatbox. If she gets distracted — which happens often — she can refer back to the recording.
The class might be virtual, but Abby can still interact with her peers and make friends. The teachers often team people up for projects. Then, they collaborate online, sharing documents in the cloud, and working together on a finished project.
Last month, Abby and her classmate, Shauna, developed a slideshow about the respiratory system for health class. The biggest benefit was that Abby could work at her own pace. She didn’t have to compare schedules with Shauna to work together.
I’m not saying cyber school made Abby a perfect student. She’s not a fan of math class — though I can’t say I blame her. It was my worst subject in school, too. Luckily, I don’t have to tutor her. The school provides one-on-one sessions for any kids that need help. Mondays after school, she sits down — virtually — with Mr. Stromberg and reviews the assignments for the week.
A Personalized Approach to Learning
One reason I think my sister thrives in cyber school is because of Ms. Webb, her learning coach. Ms. Webb helps Abby create her schedule each semester, a mix of both online and traditional schoolwork. She also tracks her progress and reaches out when she needs help.
Abby can’t get away with spending two hours on schoolwork each day. Not only will the whole family know, but so will Ms. Webb. Yet Abby’s flourished with the newfound sense of responsibility. She doesn’t have to study during a set time, but she knows she has to carve out at least eight hours a day.
When there are no strict boundaries — like a classroom or seven-to-three schedule — kids with ADHD can thrive. Abby’s proof of that. Our family has been nothing but proud of her since the switch. In fact, according to one survey, 90% of families with children in cyber school are satisfied with the experience.
Most people think cyber students sit in front of a screen all day, but that’s not true. The education, much like in a traditional classroom, is a blend of mediums. Kids can attend virtual classes, collaborate in the cloud and take self-guided assessments. Yet they also work from textbooks and write out answers with pencils.
Abby is taking her first French class this year, and she’s got her nose in her workbook all the time. She has to write out different tenses for verbs and match up pictures with the English definitions.
Students can also join school-run conservatory events. During an environmental science workshop, Abby got to wade through a local stream and collect microscopic organisms. Later, the students looked at their findings under microscopes.
She also joined a dance show, where she meets up with students each week to rehearse. This program is how she met a lot of her friends. Their concert performance — “A Tribute to Queen” — is only a few months away. I can’t wait!
The Future of Online Learning
Cyber school is still a hot topic in a lot of places, but it shouldn’t be. Kids like my sister can significantly benefit from a non-traditional learning path. Not everyone is cut out to sit in a chair and stare straight all day.
With online schooling, Abby has the flexibility she needs to excel. Plus, she’s not the only one seeing the perks. Before, her mom and my dad were stressed. They tried to get Abby to study more and boost her grades. Yet nothing worked. Cyber school — a hyper-personalized approach to learning — was the answer the whole time.