Online Home schooling and the Holidays
This is the time of year when students and parents ask us about working over the holidays. Leading up to this, some students have gotten seriously behind in multiple classes, with perhaps 20 or more assignments overdue in some classes. This year we instituted a new Homeroom process to warn students and parents right away when there is a problem. This has greatly reduced incidents, and has greatly helped to mitigate the issue in most cases long before the Holidays arrive, but still there are a few cases of behind students.
What we find is that students and parents tend to over-focus on the Holidays as a solution to the problem of having over-due assignments. A typical semester-long high school course is designed to be done over an 18-week period, with a moderate amount of effort, 3 hours or so, every week. Although people commonly think that “I’ll catch up over Thanksgiving, or the Holidays”, really we are just talking about a few days, or maybe a week or two, that is also being used for traveling, shopping, special meals, family events, other activities and perhaps worship services. The time that is really available for doing schoolwork may only be a few hours or a couple of days.
To make an analogy, if we think of the normal pace as say, walking a mile in an hour, which for many people is quite reasonable, trying to compress a month or two of work into a few days is the same pace a as 4- or 6-minute mile. Most students simply do not have the ability to successfully work at that pace.
Another way to look at it is that the 4 days of Thanksgiving is really just 3% of an 18-week semester and even the two weeks at Christmas is just 11% of an 18-week semester. Parents and students who think that they will complete 25% or more of a course during that time are not being realistic. The other problem is over-focus on Holiday periods as the end-all solution to the problem. Parents and students don’t effectively use the 18 or 20 weeks already built into the school schedule, and instead hyper-focus on the really small amount of time that the Holidays represent.
Everyone needs some time away from work and school to relax and have fun, relate to family and friends and to reflect. Weekends and holidays exist for a reason. The best and healthiest approach to life acknowledges and incorporates periods of rest, with the understanding that these are necessary for the health of the individual, and also help us to improve our effectivity and performance when we do work.
Although Christian Educators allows Gradpoint students to work over the holidays, we don’t strongly advise it, and we don’t push it. If a student has some extra time on their hands and they want to use it for school, fine, but not at the expense of spending time with family or having time relax and enjoy life. On the other hand, with our Apex curriculum because it involves teacher involvement on a weekly basis, in order to allow our teachers a break to spend time with their families, we have to stop all access to the curriculum for a two week period at Christmas, and a 3 week period in July. Every year we receive requests from parents to grant “special” access for their child. Unfortunately, in Apex, without continuous teacher support, students can’t progress. Having even a few students working means that teachers get no break, and this is simply unfair to the teachers. For that reason, we do not allow access to anyone in Apex over that period. And even though we clearly stipulate that in our contracts and communications, every year we inevitably get requests from parents for exceptions.
The real answer for students who are running behind is to help them figure out how to use the time they do have more effectively – whether it be looking at overcoming motivational issues, working on skills like study habits, note-taking, test-taking and time-management. By learning how to use the time more effectively in the 18 weeks per semester that they do have, we can increase student performance to a much greater degree with much less effort than focusing on a few days or hours.