How Do I Know if Online Schooling is Right for My Child?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has really turned the teaching world on its head. Schools became hotbeds for new cases and many students found themselves getting sick over and over again.

For me, teaching online was not a huge leap. In fact, it wasn’t a leap at all. I have been teaching in a distance education school for a few years, so almost all of my classes are online anyways.

The thing that I’ve learnt about online schooling is that it doesn’t work for everyone. Online education can be very difficult for the students and can actually be detrimental for their mental health if they are not properly supported.

A young student is staring at her laptop screen with her head in her hands. She is struggling with online learning.

On the other hand, I’ve seen students absolutely thrive through online schooling. Some students find that doing their lessons online removed the barriers that they were facing and could reach their full potential.

So, how do you know if online schooling is right for you?

What is online education?

The first thing is to understand what online schooling really is.

Online schooling is also often called distance education. Many schools will insist on calling themselves distance education schools because there is a lot more to what they do than just online teaching.

Being at a distance education school does sometimes require coming into school for activities or workshops, and the teachers will also often post materials to their students or travel to visit them in their homes. There is more to being at a distance education school than just the online environment.

Why do people choose online schooling?

I have taught a lot of students and all of them choose distance education for different reasons.

I have taught students with severe anxiety or who were bullied at their previous school. I have also taught academically gifted students who want to take a particular subject that their usual face-to-face school can’t offer.

I’ve taught students who have been out of school for years and students who are professional athletes. If there’s one thing you can be sure of in an online class, it’s that you’re going to have a very diverse range of students.

Is online schooling an option for my child?

Every state in Australia has at least one distance education school. Wherever you are in Australia, there will be children who need a distance education option and you may be able to enrol.

Different schools in different states have different criteria for their students. In some states you are able to apply to enrol just as you would for any selected school. In other states, you may need a documented reason why you need to access distance education such as living in a remote area or a medical reason.

Many distance education schools also require you to meet certain expectations. For example, if you have a child in Primary or lower Secondary school, they are going to need to be supervised while they access their lessons from home. You may also need to provide your own devices and have a stable enough internet connection to log in to online lessons.

How can I make sure that my child is ready for online schooling?

You need to make sure that you have the tech, the supervision, and the space for your child to do their schooling. It is important for students working from home to have a dedicated space to do their schooling.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need an office or a certain set-up in their bedrooms; I’ve seen plenty of students who do all of their work from the dining room table with great success. What they need to NOT do is do their schooling from bed, or regularly access lessons while they’re in the car driving to appointments. I’ve even had students access their lesson on a mobile phone while they are horse riding. These are not good options and many schools will not tolerate this.

Beyond the physical resources and space, you need to make sure that your child is mentally and emotionally ready for an online school. This can be a big transition and there are a few things that you can do to make sure that your child gets the most out of the experience:

  • Maintain friendships outside of school.
  • Do social activities or do hobbies/sports with other people their age.
  • Create and maintain a strict schedule. They are not going to have a teacher looming over them to make sure they get everything done.
  • Get out of bed at the same time every day and get dressed. Staying in PJs all day is fine for the weekends, but your mental health can start to suffer if it becomes every day.

See more: 10 Ways to Support Your Child Through Homeschooling

How do I know if online schooling is working for my child?

You will need to be constantly reassessing whether online learning is working for your child. If online learning is not working, it is important to remember that it is no fault of the child. Some people find it incredibly difficult to keep their home and school life separate if they are doing both in the same space and even at the same time.

Online learning is also incredibly difficult for those who either don’t enjoy school, don’t see the value in it, or struggle to maintain motivation. If this is your child, they may really struggle with online learning as it requires you to be more of an independent learner.

There is no shame in admitting that distance education is not working for you or your child. Some people thrive in the online environment and some really struggle. What is important is that you notice some of the signs of your child struggling with online school:

  • Struggling to get out of bed or staying up later/more consistently than usual.
  • Telling you that they attended their lessons when their teacher says that they haven’t.
  • They don’t leave the house unless they have to and withdraw from their friends.
  • Spending a large amount of time at their workspace unable to get started on a task.
  • Feeling unable or embarrassed about emailing or calling their teacher to ask for help.

What do I do if online schooling is not working?

Always be prepared to go back to a face-to-face school at some point in the future. I know that at my school the aim has always been to prepare our students to transition back to a mainstream school because it is better preparation for most workplaces.

Make sure to keep in touch with your child’s school and teachers as they will be able to give specific tips for helping your child transition and be successful at their school. They will also be able to tell you if they think that your child is struggling with online learning.

It is important that you don’t spin online learning as the fix to all of your problems until you know that it is working. I’ve seen many students come into my classes who struggle with the online environment and they lose hope because they believe that this is their last chance at being successful.

Elise is an enthusiastic and passionate Australian teacher who is on a mission to inspire and support fellow educators. With over a decade of experience in the classroom, Elise leverages her expertise and creativity to provide valuable insights and resources through her blog. Whether you're looking for innovative lesson ideas, effective teaching strategies, or just a dose of inspiration, Elise has got you covered.

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