If you have chosen an online homeschool for your child, you have chosen one of the newest, most innovative ways to educate your child. Online homeschooling offers many benefits – the ability to do school at home, the flexibility to work on your own schedule and at your own pace, control over your child’s education. In addition, if you have chosen a good program, your child has professional teachers, the school handles the administrative tasks and keeps you informed of your child’s progress, and you are in a properly accredited program – one that will be recognized by colleges and universities around the country when your child graduates.
Of course, if you are the parent of an online homeschool child, you still need to take an active role in your child’s teaching. With an online homeschool program, it is true that you no longer have the day-to-day burdens of teaching and grading. However, you still play a crucial role in your child’s development. Raising your child will always be your responsibility – a responsibility that you cannot pass others or expect them to do on your behalf. So how do you define your role and balance it with the online school along with the other resources you have brought into your childs life?
A good model is to think of all the resources as a team, with you at the center as the head coach and director. Those resources include the online school, other activities and clubs your child participates in such as sports, arts, dance or music, your local church and youth group, your childs friends, and the community you live in. Each resource plays a role in your child’s development, and contributes value in different areas. You guide, direct and orchestrate the overall process, looking for areas where there are unmet needs, and making changes and adjustments to address new needs which are uncovered as you go along.
The primary job of an online school – as with any school – is to ensure that your child’s academic needs are met. That he or she learns algebra, chemistry and how to write a good essay. That he or she has enough of the right credits to graduate in four years. That provides good learning opportunities and does everything to help your child succeed academically, that he or she has a good transcript that will help him or her get into the right college. To identify your child’s talents, to give direction in areas of strength, and assistance in areas of weakness. To encourage and motivate your child.
Encouragement and motivation are areas where your responsibilities and those of the online school begin to overlap. Every school – online or not – has the responsibility to ensure it is providing an environment that is encouraging and motivating to students – that it is not intentionally or unintentionally doing things to discourage or demotivate its students. On the other hand, schools also have a responsibility at times to challenge students to do better, to hold them to a high standard, and to encourage them to be responsible for their work.
There are certain things that an online school can not do. For example, we can detect if your child is struggling, not spending enough time, or not logging in. We can alert your student and you to the problem with e-mails, letters and phone-calls. We can offer help and assistance. However we cannot make your child log-in or do their work. We can offer encouragement, but ultimately your child is the one who decides if they will work. We can identify good and bad decisions, and let you know what the consequences will be, but we cannot make those decisions for you and your child. Ultimately, each person bears the consequences of the decisions he or she makes – the principle of sowing and reaping.
This is why your role as a parent is so crucial. At 13 or 14, your child cannot see the consequences of the decisions he or she makes now, but you can. By putting a proper framework in place, you try to help guide your child into the right decisions, and into developing good habits. And this is why it is so important that you take an active role in your child’s development – even if they are in an online school – in fact especially if they are in an online school. If you were homeschooling in the past, an online school frees up your time and energy immensely by taking the burdens of teaching and administration away from you. This frees up your time so that you can do the things that only you as a parent can do – the things that are most important.
As your child’s parent, you understand them the best of anyone. You know how they “tick”, what motivates and de-motivates them. What things they gravitate to, and what things they avoid. Until they marry, no one will understand your child as well as you do.
So, stay active in your child’s online school education. You may have to work, or have other responsibilities and obligations pulling you away. But find time to stay engaged and involved in your child’s life. Don’t be an absentee parent. Don’t try to delegate your responsibilities to others. More on how to stay involved in future articles.