When my daughter Fallon was born fourteen years ago, one of my first vows was to provide her with the best possible education and support her interests, for a happy, fulfilling life.
It’s been a rocky road until now.
We started her young, just after two years old, and my wife and I would sneak onto the school grounds to peak through the door and watch her, smock-clad, finger-painting.
The private school we had her in was roughly $1,000 per month. The first two years were great. The third year was disappointing and frustrating. With one unruly kid in a class, the teacher was handicapped into spending the whole day trying to calm and coax the unruly element.
The school was motivated enough by money that the discipline taken on the unruly kid (with wealthy parents) was severely limited. It was a disgusting disservice to everyone involved.
It was disappointing enough that we moved her to a much smaller private school, on the theory she would be given more personal attention.
We trusted the smaller school’s proprietor too much. While all seemed happy and good, we started to wonder how much actual education our daughter was getting aside from moral precepts. A friend of ours who taught older grades at another school interviewed our daughter and was alarmed at how little of the basics she had been given.
We became homeschoolers. The administrative demands of choosing and setting out on a curriculum and the necessity to change hats from mom and dad to teacher were just too much for two working adults, albeit self-employed. But for some, many families do arrive at and stay with homeschooling, just for the record.
By about the fifth grade we found a rare opportunity with a local charter school that put an emphasis on the arts. The rare opportunity had a name: Mrs. Rae. The founder and principal, Mrs. Rae took a personal interest in our daughter, bright as she was, with untapped potential and neglected abilities as far as we were concerned. Our daughter had a great two years there before we relocated for work.
But the charter school was a fortunate mix: Close to home, small class size, and a loving authority truly interested in our daughter’s education. Hard to find and hard to duplicate, unfortunately.
After moving we decided on an A-rated public school which seemed competent and friendly enough for Fallon’s sixth grade, and it almost was. Wary from lost opportunities and lost time in the past, my wife and I were perhaps mega-sensitive to Fallon’s progress academically, and we wanted her to have social opportunities as well.
After a month or so we were concerned. There was the time prior to the school-day getting her ready and safely delivered to school; there was her time in several classrooms where the good-intentioned and able teachers were just stretched too far by the limits of hours and numbers of children to address each child individually.
In this system, it seemed no child was not left behind.
Teachers were doomed to quickly give an overview of subjects before sending children home to really learn the principles missed in school. Fallon’s real teachers were once again mom and dad, unsuited for the task not out of lack of love but by lack of time and expertise.
Fallon was having to learn it all on her own anyway. Her eight hours in the day of preparation and schooling led to another six hours of homework each night, and it all added up to an unbearable burden.
What she did learn sat briefly in the short-term memory portion of her brain before vanishing, never reaching the long-term memory banks out of rapid necessity and the pressure of her teachers, who in turn were just transferring the pressure of administrators, who in turn…
We held on for the social and physical benefits of a brick and mortar school. I started having lunch with Fallon on campus, as we were allowed to do as parents. One late assignment and a child was made to sit alone, solitary, away from other children. One late appearance in class and their one shot at recess on Fridays was revoked. One other misstep and they were omitted from physical education.
The rapid movement in and out of class; the militaristic glare of the administrator, impatient of unruliness who paced the lunchroom aisle, limiting interaction and laughter; the erosion of music, physical education, and disappearance of recess; they all added to roughly zero as far as social and physical opportunity.
We found virtual school.
Florida is very proudly one of the first states to fully offer virtual school as a state-supported education option through high school. Those who take proper advantage of it are also then able to dual enroll and complete college credits before graduating high school.
With the increasing cost of education this is invaluable, but it is also delivered in a way most interesting and personal to each child, as they choose their classes and where, when, and how to study.
My daughter’s 17-year old tutor has 93 college credits – more than enough for an associate’s degree – before even leaving home, and she did it with virtual school.
We are not her teachers. Fallon enrolls in online classes and follows a state-approved curriculum. She speaks by email, live chat, and telephone with her teachers on a regular basis. The teachers can handle many more students than they otherwise could, all from the comfort of their homes, and the time given my daughter is actual, one-on-one time.
Fallon knows her teachers as people and as friends.
Her teachers are motivated to treat us and her well and to see that she progresses smoothly. They have enviable telecommute jobs with decent pay and great benefits, presumably doing what they love!
Online classes have made it possible for a lot of people to be able to pursue higher studies at lower costs and more convenience as compared with traditional colleges.
Fallon will from time to time, spurred in by some television scene or mention in conversation, give us a full lecture on some subject she has mastered, to our happy amazement. Kids learn on a completely individual basis in virtual school, and her grades are now all A’s and B’s. We are extremely proud, and we are equally optimistic about her future. She talks about her goals with interest.
The academic aspect of Fallon’s life now has a firm foundation. Her social life we have created out of regular meet-ups with other home and virtual-school students, and all of these parents and children already have a great deal in common: we will do anything for our kids’ safety and education.
Rather than a fourteen-hour day spent questionably, Fallon completes her daily work in the sequence and pace she chooses in just several hours each day. There is ample time for friends and there is ample time for furthering her extracurricular interests as well.
Given what I suspect to be an incredible savings of time and fortune coupled with what must be impressive results, I do not yet understand why virtual school through middle school and even high school is not pushed more by the states or even national government.
Is education in North America like Big Tobacco or Big Oil? Is there too much of an old guard protecting an anachronistic system? Too many paychecks at stake? If we don’t find a way to convert quick enough the United States may indeed be doomed to poor education, bad health, and dependence on foreign oil.
What a shame when answers to all three are right in front of us! If corporate America won’t do it and big government insists on getting in the way, the only true vehicle of reform – for us to WAKE UP as it has been in the past – will come through individual awareness that leads to overbearing grass-roots demand.
The organizations to solve our education crisis are already in place. They just need to grow.
We all care – we’re just not always sure what to do about it. Share this article and look into virtual school. For my family, I am eternally grateful we did.