Let me start by saying, I can only answer for my family specifically, but I can give some general information beyond our experience. It is different for many families depending upon the program that works best for your child, and what if any programs are available in your state.

In Minnesota, where we live (home of the first charter school btw) the MNVA (Minnesota Virtual Academy) is considered a public school. That means that all my daughters classes and materials are free to us as long as we live in MN. The K12 curriculum is available nationwide and even internationally, but in some states that do not have this program implemented as a public school option, you must pay for the courses.

There are also two other accredited online school programs in MN, and even a school that is two days a week online and three in person. I find that a fascinating model, but since we seemed to have lucked out in MNVA, we’re staying put.

As part of MNVA, we were loaned a computer, printer and scanner for her use in school. These will be mailed back to the school when she has finished the program, if there is an upgrade needed, or of course if we choose to un-enroll. Additionally, at the end of July about 5 huge boxes showed up at our front door with all my daughters school supplies.

Now, in third grade she’s not really “online” that much of the time. She works mostly out of her text books and work books. The online piece is really for additional resources, pictures and videos to illustrate concepts. I’m mostly the one on the computer, going over her assessments online, and tracking her attendance. Since the MNVA program is a public school program we have to make sure she’s working on school for a specifically mandated period of time to make sure we follow the board of education’s standards in our state.

I was worried that having to log in as the Learning Coach everyday and track attendance would be troublesome, but the program is really intuitive, and easy plus there is an iphone app, so when I’m on the go and I realize I forgot to track something, I can do so on the fly.

The most common question I seem to get besides, “What, you can put a third grader in to online school?” is “Doesn’t she miss her friends?” or another version ” What do you do to make sure she’s not becoming one of those awkward ‘home schooled’ kids?” Now, for those of you who home school, you probably deal with the misconceptions constantly. I don’t know exactly how to answer this, but I do listen to my child, and have taken steps to keep her around other kids. She’s indicated that she now loves school and hasn’t said anything about missing the social piece at all. I keep waiting for it, but so far it hasn’t come. We preemptively enrolled her in a music class weekly with kids around her age, she has a younger sibling who she adores, but mostly she seems to be learning how to talk to adults more and for now it seems in balance.

What are your questions about online school?

-CM

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