Anyone who knows anything about a business transaction knows that eliminating the middle man can save a lot of time and money in the process, as long as the fine print is understood. So here’s a way of establishing whether or not the parents and students of today are getting the biggest bang for their “educational buck.”
Everyone, with or without experience, has an opinion of whether or not the old-fashioned “brick and mortar” schools, which we first saw on Little House on the Prairie, are when put up against new technologically advanced online schools. Now someone with experience in both shares her opinion.
She arrives to pick up her son from school, patiently waiting in her car behind other parents at the curb, and watches the children exit the school. They trickle from the building, obvious relief wash their faces as they see the safety of the bordering fence and you can almost hear their little voices screaming, “Freedom!” as the majority of them sprint. When they reach the fence, they stop and wait. Their free agency is back, despite having no use for it at the present.
With the crossing guard on one side of the fence, and two boys seemingly awaiting their parents just inside the school grounds, a football takes flight hitting one of the boys in the back. The smaller of the two picks up the ball and throws it at the boy who tossed it initially, yelling at him for hitting his friend. As the initial thrower nears the two under the tree, it’s obvious by the size difference he is a couple of years older. Throwing the football again, from a few feet away, he hits the defiant boy in the chest, knocking his air from his lungs, before sweeping him with his foot and knocking him to the ground. The other boy steps back as the bully begins repeatedly delivering kicks to the boy on the ground.
The mother is honking and yelling, as noone seems to notice–except the other children who watch. The crossing guard finally sees from the other side of the fence, and the other parents remain in their cars. She jumps from her vehicle and runs to the boy’s aid realizing, as he pushes himself up from the ground and the perpetrator rushes past her, that it’s her son lying doubled-up in front of her, bleeding as he clutches his stomach in a fetal position. He’s only in third grade and has obviously done nothing to deserve this. Looking up, she notices the other parents watching her.
Obviously upset, she reports to the office to speak to the principal who furrows his brow, asking what the cause of the commotion was. Her son is rumpled and shaken, a bruise beginning to appear on his cheek, as she explains what she saw to the principal. After getting a physical description and the bully’s name from her son, the principal seems to recollect exactly whom this boy is, as if it isn’t the first time. He promises he will handle it.
The following day the beat-up child returns home from school, supposedly ill. The bully has met up with him in the hall that morning promising to deliver more punishment if the boy snitches on him. The warning was too late. When the mother calls the school to find out why the boy was still there, the principal informs her he hadn’t yet sent the boy home for the day. This was the last of several occurrences at this upper-middle class school. Now she prefers to teach her son at home. In addition to this, the Columbine situation seems more real to her and she wonders just how deep the pockets of the perpetrator’s parents are when it comes to supporting their school. But something just isn’t right in this country’s educational program when a child is unable to attend school for an education without fearing for his life.
There are many pros and cons to teaching from home opposed to public school. Here are some examples with the Traditional Public School (P) listed first and Virtual School (V) listed second:
P-Traditional brick and mortar school setting, unless a fieldtrip arises.
V- Anywhere there is computer access.
P- The same predictable schedule allows comfort of knowing what to expect each day.
If time off is necessary for dental or doctor appointments, the student may ask for take-home work, although visual media, actual dictation, events, etc. are lost.
V- The schedule is flexible so that if one lesson takes more time than the next, there is more learning before moving on. When a child understands a concept, rather than becoming bored or distracted, they can test through it and move onto the next subject.
When a medical appointment is necessary, the day’s events can typically wait until the student returns.
P- When a child misses a day, the day is lost without a way to regain the lesson. If the child is contagious, there can be no school without spreading the illness to others.
V- When a child is contagious, but still able-bodied to work, there is no risk of passing the illness to others. When unable to think clearly, the time rolls over on the student’s schedule, permitting make-up a following day.
P- Planned fieldtrips allow the children to become excited to learn and discover. If, for some reason, the parent prefers the child not to participate, he/she must remain behind with another class until his/her class returns. This may, or may not, open discussion among peers.
V- When fieldtrips are available, the parents can opt to have the student participate or pass. In addition, if an activity arises the parent feels warrants learning, the parent posts the time to the appropriate subject, creating a fieldtrip.
P- Parents can work their schedules without being concerned about their children’s activities, unless they get a phone call for an emergency from the school.
V- The parents always know accomplishments first. The structure relies heavily on the parents’ giving instruction and following through with their child’s progress. They are considered “learning coaches,” following all the way.
P- Your child has vacation time when it appears on the schedule. Your family vacation must coincide, or your student will be at risk for getting behind. This will make work pile up, more difficult, or tests needing to complete when your student returns.
V- Families may plan for vacation and whether the child works during vacation time, or not, remotely. When the parents and child choose not to participate in schooling during vacation, they may complete the lesson upon return.
P- Traditional school allows children to relax their minds and enjoy time off, unless they choose additional learning. The costs and transportation vary depending on availability of parents or other caregivers. (Omitting year-round school, to which this is an ongoing task.) There are neighborhood clubs, etc. students can participate in at an additional cost.
V- Just as traditional schools, summers may be free from schoolwork, although upon discretion continuing to make-up missed assignments or gain even more education is an option. There are also summer classes online ranging from book clubs, magic shows, dinosaurs, languages, and more (free of charge).
P- The children occasionally gain recognition with awards for good behavior from their teachers throughout the year. An award of excellence is an award by the school for accomplishments and/or attendance.
V- Encouragement of the children comes from their own accomplishments, generally via the mail system. Visual recordings of the children completing various tasks are also available online.
P- Before or after school, activities are available which the students can participate in for a fee. On occasion, a choice needs to make for the schedules may collide or there may not be enough room in the class and a drawing ensues for rights to that activity.
V- Additional activities are available for the students to participate in according to a preset schedule, although there is no limit to the number of students who may be involved. This omits any drawing of names to determine participants.
P- During recess and lunch, occasionally learning time, the students are encouraged to interact with one another.
V- The social skills are limited as there is limited communication between students via the net during class and learning. Regular visits to libraries and field trips are a requirement in order to provide this interaction for the child.
P- Some public schools have school fees that cover yearbooks, etc. for grades other than elementary. Students and parents are also responsible for purchasing lunches.
V- The parents must supply paper, ink, storage area for supplies, and some additional accessories for participation in optional lessons.
P- The children ride the bus, rely on friends, or walk regardless of weather, unless they miss their ride. In this instance, another plan of action must take place or the day is lost.
V- Transportation is only necessary for fieldtrips, or if a change of venue is a preference.
Programs and Shows
P- Holiday programs or plays are a great way for parent/teacher/child involvement, and fun for some of the children. Sometimes there are costume requirements, risking some children feeling left out or inadequate.
V- The students have no plays or programs that they participate in for school.
Praise and Progress Reports
P- There are progress reports in the form of a report card generally given out quarterly, in addition to parent/teacher conferences. Some of the reports don’t make it out of the backpacks, but chances are good the parents find out eventually how their child is doing. The children occasionally bring home awards in the form of gift certificates or coupons for meals at family restaurants.
V- The teacher calls at least once a week to communicate with parents pertaining to questions, comments, or concerns by the parents, teachers, or students. Awards arrive in the mail in the form of gift certificates or coupons for family restaurants every couple of months when progress is evident. The children receive more gifts such as books, backpacks, etc. for putting forth an extra effort.
Open lines w/School
P- When there is an occurrence to which the teacher or principal need information from parent, or vice versa, the parents’ schedules need to conform for resolve to allow for the meeting of the minds.
V- Phone calls from the teacher once or twice a week, in addition to parents having direct contact with teacher. The teacher will return the calls within 24 hours, or sooner, in most cases.
Open lines w/other Parents
P- The communication between parents is generally during plays, fairs, etc., unless neighbors.
V- There are boards and email available for parents to communicate about issues they may have, or particular programs they find advantageous for themselves which others may find beneficial.
P- Supplies are generally a provision of the school, although the children are urged to participate in fund-raisers a few times a year in hopes of providing monies for the school’s supplies.
V- The schools provide the computer, printer, headset, books, music, art, and science accessories at no charge to the parents. At the end of the year, the unused supplies (minus the computer and printer, if they’re to be used the following year) are returned and a check received by parents for the return.
Pace of Acceleration
P- The class may continue when the majority of the students understand the concept, despite one or two not understanding and waiting until an appropriate time for a pause. This means those students STOP learning until the teacher can come back to them, and the remainder of the lesson may be lost. When the teacher opts to stop the lesson to teach the others lacking understanding, boredom may set in for other participants.
V- In the beginning, the students take a test to see what their academic standing is and what level they belong. They take a test at each phase, insuring their ability to move onto the next level. When they feel confident, it is unnecessary to take a class if students can pass the test proving their ability at comprehending the materials.
Variations in Extracurricular Activities
P- Until mid-level school, assignments of a standard level are in effect, less extra-curricular classes before and after school. Where languages are part of the criteria the choices generally range from Spanish, French and German.
V- Students have a choice to participate in regular lessons of their choice, although the basics are requirements. Spanish 1 & 2, French 1 & 2, German 1 & 2, or Latin are available in elementary levels. In middle school, they may also encounter Chinese 1 & 2, or the second year of Latin. The senior levels include all of those languages plus Spanish 3, French 3, or both languages in AP format.
P- The typical classroom is 21 – 35 students. When asking a question, the vast majority of students can remain mute, if preferred, without giving input. Many students are embarrassed to guess and risk ridicule by their peers or even teachers, so they never truly understand the concept, hoping to coast through the test.
V- The student has no other to copy from, so an understanding of the materials is necessary to progress further. There is no one to permit embarrassment, other than the teaching parent or the teacher. (Considering the teacher not having knowledge of the parent being present or not, the fact of embarrassing content is not likely.)
End of Year Tests
P- The students must participate in tests to prove their academic excellence and the impact of learning by teachers.
V- The students must participate in tests to prove their academic excellence and the impact of learning by teachers.
Strike Risk and Non-Graduating Teachers
P- Since the public teachers are under contract as union members, they may go on strike. The students will not be without a teacher however because substitutes, or teacher students with at least a high school diploma will be teaching the class until the teacher resumes the class.
V- There are no teachers in charge of students without at least a bachelor’s degree and they will not strike, as they are not union members.
While there are two sides to the discussion, it seems the rather obvious argument holds more water; are the changing times impacting our education? The bad news is that parents cannot afford to work from home, and their jobs do not allow the time to dedicate to teaching appropriately. The good news is that work-at-home entry-level positions, such as customer service and technical support, are becoming more common so parents will be able to utilize this technique, if they so choose. Also, keep in mind that private schools are not participants in this article even though “brick and mortar” and online private schools are available for a price.
One thing to keep in mind is the school boat is leaving and change is inevitable. Those who choose to learn and stay ahead of the crowd will not flounder, hoping to stay afloat in the wake of the leaving boat, but stay ahead of technology. This may be one way someone with less money can find a niche in playing a quiet game of catch-up and conquer in today’s society!
Teachers gain their education from computers. They also utilize computers to teach their classes; in fact, some of these materials are accessible to the public. When this is true, doesn’t it make sense to eliminate the middle man and re-establish relationships with our children by increasing their integrity, fortitude, and personal growth, not to mention our own personal relationships and trust?