What leads parents to choose homeschooling or online school? For some, it might be a student who learns in a different way or struggles in a classroom setting. For others, it’s the need for a safer environment or a more personalized learning experience. Some choose to keep their kids home right from the start of their child’s education; others come to home-based education after trying more traditional options.
For the Hostetler family, the journey to online schooling began 14 years ago, before their children were even born. Tennille, a mom of two, shared that she was a senior in college when she made the decision to give her future children a different kind of school experience. While still in college, Tennille taught biology (her major) to an extraordinary group of homeschooled students. She observed their eagerness to learn, their maturity, and their kindness towards one another, and decided she wanted the same for her own children someday.
Years later, despite a background in teaching and a Master’s degree in Education, Tennille found that homeschooling on her own was not working for her family. The expense and time-commitment involved in choosing and purchasing curriculum and lesson-planning for multiple grade levels was taking its toll. That’s when she found Oregon Virtual Academy, a K12 partner school.
In our interview, Tennille shares her thoughts on online schooling, and offers some advice for other parents on making the switch from homeschooling to an online public school.
You said in your story that a group of exceptional homeschoolers inspired you to become an educator and to homeschool your own children. What positives have you seen in your own kids as a result of schooling at home?
My children are only 5 and 8 so they still need a lot of practice, but I see them speaking respectfully each other and to other people, they are learning to problem solve and talk things out to overcome arguments or disagreement, please and thank yous abound, general manners still need work but they are making progress, and they are also learning to be responsible and independent with their household chores and other personal responsibilities. We also get to spend considerable time learning about our faith and doing lessons from the Bible, so my children are becoming knowledgeable about spiritual things as well.
The thing I like the most is that my sons are best of friends. I see many other siblings who don’t get along or who are constantly competing. My sons love playing with each other and when one does something good, the other will often give a sincere “good job” or “congratulations.”
You also said that the support from professional educators was another factor in your decision to enroll in an online school. How helpful is the added support of teachers and administrators?
It is good to know that I have access to other educators who are able to give suggestions or advice. For example, my son was struggling with recalling his addition facts and nothing we were doing seemed to help him. His teacher was able to provide some good suggestions of things to try. Most of the help I have needed from teachers and administrators has been about the specific requirements of the school or about the online system.
I’m sure that must be helpful, to know that teachers are available as much or as little as you need them to be. What would you say has been the greatest benefit of online schooling for your family?
Having access to a great curriculum for “free” has really helped with our household budget. It has also freed up time for me because I no longer have to shop for curriculum and I don’t have to do any lesson planning.
On average, how much time would you say you spend on planning/prep/teaching vs. when you homeschooled on your own?
The K12 curriculum is already planned for me so all I have to do is spend about an hour each day logging attendance, checking off completed lessons, reading over the next day’s lesson plans, and gathering any materials that we will need. The time I spend teaching is about the same as when I homeschooled on our own.
When I homeschooled on my own I was putting together many of our lesson plans from scratch. I would spend days planning out a semester. Then I would spend a couple of hours each weekend planning the week’s lessons, then an hour or more each day planning for the next day.
Do you find that your kids are more engaged in online lessons vs. traditional?
The math and vocabulary/phonics lessons are very engaging, along with the history stories. Science will also have fun online activities that are easy for my kids to follow. They really like video games, so they would much rather be doing these than a paper and pencil activity. Everything else is led by me so they are just as engaging as our traditional lessons.
What advice would you give to other homeschoolers considering making the switch from homeschooling independently to online school?
It’s important to know that it will take several weeks, even months, getting to the OLS, the curriculum, and all the requirements that go along with your specific virtual school. My advice would be to take it slow, take time to get organized, and don’t put pressure on your child during the transition. Just gradually increase your lesson load as you get more familiar with how everything works.
The K12curriculum is excellent. It really works if you use it how it is intended to be used. So get to know the lesson plans and follow them, don’t reinvent the wheel. The only exception is that if the lessons are taking way too long for your child to complete, then choose the parts that are most valuable for them and skip over anything that seems like busy work. Don’t be afraid to ask the teachers for help.
Image courtesy of the Hostetler family