For families who are just beginning homeschooling or cyber schooling their children it can be a little intimidating to figure out how to get started. One of the pieces of advice we hear most often from experienced families is that it helps to set up a specific area where school “happens.” Keep in mind that an elaborate space is not necessary. The school area can be as simple as the kitchen table or a section of the living room.
If you’ve clicked on this article, you are probably researching the best educational options for your child. There may be a voice inside your head, urging you to look into your options. Inform yourself about a parent’s right to be involved in their child’s education, the multitude of opportunities available today, and let that intuition guide you.
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Of all the countless decisions you’ll make as a parent, perhaps none are so important as how you choose to educate your child. Yet, for all the weight and consequence placed on this choice, it sometimes feels like straightforward information on the topic is frustratingly hard to come by. Where are the facts and figures? Where are the convenient tables, line graphs, and pie charts showing us concrete numbers we can follow with absolute confidence? While it would be amazing if we could each simply plug a few stats into a program and map out the best possible course for our children, the truth is parents are faced with a dizzying array of options, among them, traditional schooling, charter schools, and other alternatives to public education. And perhaps it’s that word “alternatives” that acts as one of the biggest stumbling blocks. There is the overarching concept of alternative education, and then there is the very specific meaning of the term “alternative school.” Many times, charter schools and alternative schools are used as interchangeable terms, when in fact they are quite different. Understanding exactly what is meant by charter schools vs. alternative schools will be a crucial part in helping you make the right decision for your child. Let’s begin by unpacking each of these terms individually.
Cyber charter schools have been widely criticized for poor performance on standardized testing. These scores only tell part of the story. Cyber charter schools enroll many students who have under-performed (in terms of grade level expectations) at their previous schools. Cyber charter schools must catch these students up to help them meet grade level expectations. Because cyber charter schools are a school of choice, the cyber charter student population is more transient in nature than our traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts. Many families may enroll their child for a brief time and then withdraw to enroll their child in a different school. This can happen for a number of reasons.
A deeper look into the nationally recognized curriculum used by PA Virtual PA Virtual challenges students each day in a flexible online learning environment from the comfort of their own homes. How does a school connect students from across the state and ensure their academic needs are met? Our state-certified teachers guide students through their studies using the nationally recognized K12, Inc. curriculum that aligns with the PA Core Standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. PA Virtual teachers deliver these online courses to students in each grade at every level of learning. Teachers use their creativity to individualize lesson plans based on the needs of students in the virtual classroom. PA Virtual has used K12, Inc. as the source for curriculum since its inception in 2001. Nationally, the curriculum aligns with the Common Core, however the PA Core Standards are slightly different. Parents may find “PA Only” lessons or supplements provided by K12, Inc. or teachers during the course of the school year.
Kyra Smith-Cullen graduated from PA Virtual in 2011. During her time at PA Virtual, she was involved in various organizations including helping set up the school’s first yearbook as well as helping to organize the school’s first prom. After graduation, Kyra attended Lock Haven University where she received her BA in journalism. We recently caught up with Kyra and learned a little more about what she has been up to since PA Virtual and what advice she has for current students.