An increasing number of students are being taught online, both inside and outside of their regular schools. While many people think that online schooling is only for older students, even elementary school students can benefit from it.
Introduces the key elements of online elementary schools. Answers common questions about cost, schedules, curricula, and other important areas. Helps parents assess whether online elementary school is right for their children.
Online Elementary School Introduction
Many different types of online elementary schools are available. Many states offer online public schools for free to residents, and some large school districts offer the same for residents within the district. Students can also attend online charter or private elementary schools.
Some families choose to enroll their children in online elementary schools in order to give them a better education, while others do so because their child is struggling in school and needs extra help. Students can either go to school full time online, or they can take online courses to supplement the courses they’re taking at a traditional brick-and-mortar school.
There are several benefits that come with attending an online elementary school. One benefit is that students receive personalized learning programs. Another benefit is that online schools offer self-paced learning. This allows students to progress quickly through subjects they have mastered and spend more time with difficult subjects or topics that engage their interest.
Many families choose online elementary schools because they offer a lot of flexibility while still following state or federal education standards.
Why Consider an Online Education?
It’s critical for parents to be able to understand and explain the reasons why an online program is right for their child. There are a lot of good reasons to pick an online school, and several learning options to suit the needs of your family. Online learning, either completely online or a mix of online and offline instruction, can be helpful for students who have specific needs for different types of coursework.
Common Types of Online Learning
A blended program lets students spend time in both a traditional classroom and an online one. This is a good choice for parents who want to introduce their children to online learning gradually.
Sites such as tutor.com and Smart Tutor offer supplemental curricula for children who want to try out online learning. These tutoring services provide help for elementary students who are struggling in math, reading, and science classes.
Students with unique circumstances find that an online education provides a flexible alternative to brick-and-mortar schools.
There are some circumstances where it is necessary for a child to be enrolled in an online elementary school. For example, if a family is constantly traveling for their job in the entertainment industry, the military, or international business, it is not possible for them to send their child to a traditional brick-and-mortar school.
Ill or Disabled Students
Chronic illnesses can prevent motivated learners from attending a traditional school, even if they are healthy enough to complete course assignments and to socialize. Long-term school absences due to chronic illness can be a detriment to a child’s social and educational development. Online school can provide a student with an education regardless of where the student’s care is administered.
Students in Rural Areas
According to the 2013 report by the Montana office of Public Instruction, Rural elementary schools often have difficulty in recruiting high quality teachers and funding for school facilities. The challenges faced by these remote parts of the country with low population can be alleviated by blended or full time online learning. The families in these rural areas may also find that online education reduces the time, stress and money that is required to commute to the nearest school. As the internet access continues to improve in these locations, more students are turning to digital lessons.
Gifted students often have to work at the same pace as their classmates in traditional schools, which can make them bored with the curriculum. Supplementary courses that give them access to more demanding materials and activities can help them excel. Studies monitoring gifted student engagement in online programs support this, and also show that online study can especially benefit self-motivated learners.
Before internet access was integrated into homeschooling, parents only received training materials, textbooks, and worksheets in the mail. It was entirely up to parents to administer these lessons and to keep their child on track. However, students enrolled in online homeschool programs will now benefit from features like video lectures, interactive media, and remote instructors. Blended programs take some of the pressure off of parents who no longer need to oversee their child’s homeschool development full-time. There are many popular homeschool methods, such as the Classical Education and Montessori styles. These methods have already been converted to digital formats that take advantage of the technologies available.
Evaluating Online Schools
Before your child starts school online, do your research on the teacher’s credentials, technology requirements, and accreditation. Also, look into how much tuition costs and how much time you will need to commit. This way, you can set your child up for success. You can choose between part-time courses which can supplement a child’s existing academic activities or full-time online elementary schools. The latter option gives parents more control over their child’s curriculum, schedule, and development.
Public vs. Private Online Schools
Like traditional educational programs, online schools can be public or private. The main differences between the two are price, prestige, culture, academic benchmarks, and resources.
K-12 School Enrollment
Public, state-run online schools that are low- or no-cost can be appealing to parents because the education their children receive is held to the same academic standards as traditional schools.
In order to attend a specific public virtual school, residency must typically be established in the state where the school is located. State residency usually entitles students to free education. Your state’s Department of Education (ED) website is a good starting point in your search for online public schools, but here are a few of the most popular schools:
If an online school is affiliated with your state, you will probably not have to pay a tuition fee to enroll your elementary student. However, if you choose a private online school, prices can range from a few hundred to nearly $5,000 a year. Some private programs offer ways to reduce the cost of attending an online elementary school, such as lower tuition, payment plans, and sibling discounts. Potential additional costs for parents include registration fees, technology upkeep, official transcripts, and school supplies. Depending on the school, parents can usually enroll in payment plans to help finance their child’s private school education.
In addition to tuition fees, when researching any school, be sure to confirm any additional hidden fees, including:
- Application fees
- Textbooks and supplies
- Extracurricular sports and activities
- Public Schools
- Technology fees or requirements
There is no centralized registry of all nationally recognized accreditation organizations for primary and secondary schools, as there is for colleges and universities. This means that accrediting bodies and their standards vary by state for elementary schools. They are also different for public and private schools and whether they are offered online or not. Online elementary schools are often accredited on the national level by AdvancED, or by one of the six regional accreditation agencies in the United States. For example, AdvancED conducts its reviews with these five standards:
- Purpose and Direction
- Governance and Leadership
- Teaching and Assessing for Learning
- Resources and Support Systems
- Using Results for Continuous Improvement
The schools will usually pursue regional accreditation if they have multiple locations in different states. The accreditation must be periodically renewed with these regulatory bodies.
To find an accredited school, parents can visit the organization’s Accredited Institutions registry and type in the name of the academic institution or search with location parameters like their city, state, and zip code. This database also lets parents search for accredited schools based on the public/private status, district, and charter status, which can help them identify possible distance learning programs for their child.
Public online elementary schools need to make sure they are teaching the right things in subjects like math, social studies, science and language arts if they want to keep getting money from the district and state, and keep their accreditation.
In addition to core standards, parents should also examine accreditation and academic policies. Whether you’re researching private, public, or charter schools online, review the following:
- Curricula plans for each grade level
- Grading rubrics
- Regional and national accreditation
- Testing benchmarks
- Required study materials
5 Things Your Online Elementary School Should Have
There is no way to replace being accredited. Being accredited by a state, regional, or national board gives a school a sense of being legitimate and a benchmark for how good the school is that parents can trust.
2. Well-qualified teachers
Although certification is not required for charter and private schools, most online public schools do hire state-certified teachers. Asking about teacher qualifications is important in those instances. holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree in elementary education or a degree in the subject along with a background in education are good qualifications for a teacher. Experience and participation in professional development are also good indicators of a qualified teacher.
Public online elementary schools need to provide on-going support for their learning coaches and students. Initially, learning coaches can benefit from an orientation or tutorial at the beginning of the school year. Subsequently, they may want regular opportunities to connect with teachers and other parents. Furthermore, students need to be able to have timely access to their teachers. Additionally, many online public schools provide laptops, printers, and Wi-Fi access, so it is important that these schools offer technical support as well.
4. Comprehensive curriculum
There are standards for each grade level that online public elementary schools have to follow. Private and charter schools might not have to follow these standards. A way to see if a school will be appropriate for your student is to compare the curriculum to Common Core standards.
Elementary students need to build relationships with their teachers and classmates. Teachers should try to connect with each student individually and be open to voice or video calls. Schools can provide chances to connect through virtual classroom discussions, chats and discussion boards. A lot of schools offer field trips, clubs, extracurricular activities and other ways for students to connect with their virtual classmates.
The Balance of Technology and Personalized Learning
The key to success for online elementary schools is finding the right balance between technology and personalized learning.
- Face to face
The internet provides a level of customization that didn’t exist before. With technology, students can go at their own pace, spending more time on subjects they find difficult and quickly moving through the material they’ve already mastered. Course management systems give feedback and targeted skills practice. Online learning can be flexible and asynchronous, adapting to each student’s needs.
The Online Learning Experience
Most online elementary schools use a combination of online and offline approaches to teaching, with assignments typically completed and submitted online. Many schools also offer parents the opportunity to act as student coaches, helping to facilitate learning at home.
Many schools offer a flexible schedule in the early grades to work for the family and the learner.
Some online elementary schools host in-person events like field trips and local school functions so kids can socialize with their peers. If parents are concerned about their child’s social and physical development, enrolling them in extracurricular activities or a mixed-format school that has both online and in-person components might be a good option.
Discussion-based learning opportunities using text or video chat can help your child practice teamwork and collaboration. Many online schools offer real-world social activities and field trips to help children interact with their peers on a regular basis. You can also look for local opportunities for learning, such as clubs, sports teams, and museums.
Applying to Schools
If you want to enroll your child in an online elementary school, there are some materials you will need to gather first. This includes a list of prospective schools, as well as common enrollment materials.
- Obtain your child’s proof of age, such as a birth certificate or passport. This will help the online school determine what grade your child will be enrolled in. For example, children five years of age before the start of the school year are usually enrolled in kindergarten.
- Provide your proof of residence. Proof of residence can include rental or utility payment statements. Most public schools only offer tuition-free education to residents of the state in which the school is based.
- Immunization and health forms. Your child’s enrollment may be contingent on having up-to-date medical records and immunizations. If you need to file for exemptions based on religious reasons, check with the school to see if you need to file additional paperwork with the Department of Education.
- Submit your child’s academic history. If you are enrolling your child in a new school, the new school might require a previous year’s report cards or transcripts.
- Complete the online application forms and attach all required documents.
- Watch for a confirmation email once you submit an application. If you don’t receive one, contact the school.
It is important to check a private school’s website for scholarship and funding opportunities if your child is interested in attending that school. In many cases, scholarship applications will have additional requirements such as examples of previous schoolwork, student essays, or interviews. Therefore, it is essential to mark scholarship deadlines on your calendar so that your child and family don’t miss out on potential funding.
Enrolling and Starting Classes
-Before enrolling your child in an online elementary school, consider the following: -What type of elementary school curriculum do you want your child to learn? -How much interaction with other students and instructors do you want your child to have? -How much time do you want your child to spend on schoolwork each day? -How will you keep your child motivated and engaged in their studies? -After enrolling your child in an online elementary school, consider the following: -How will you help your child adjust to their new online learning environment? -How will you chat with instructors and other parents? -How will you help your child stay on track with their studies? -How will you monitor your child’s progress?
Before Classes Start
- Full-time student enrollment: Online schools often design full lesson plans based on your child’s grade level. Make sure the school has your child registered in the correct grade level.
- Blended class enrollment: Often this format requires you to register on a course-by-course basis, since your child may be supplementing their education with a single course or taking several part-time classes. Sign up for these courses as soon as possible, before they fill up.
- Examine the school’s required supplies and technology lists. If the school does not provide these items, you will need to purchase them before classes begin.
- Work with your child to test out new technology. Practice logging in and navigating the school’s web portal.
After Classes Start
- Sit with your child as they get started and help them with navigation or technical issues during their school day. Elementary students are generally less familiar with the web-interfaces online classes rely upon and the technological skills they learn now will be valuable later on.
- Assist your child with turning in assignments. Regardless of whether you plan to keep your elementary student in online programs through middle school, it’s important that you help them to establish time management skills and self-directed learning habits early!
- Log in to the school’s grading portal and monitor your child’s performance. Precise digital logs of graded assignments can improve student accountability and help parents identify areas needing improvement. Some homework is automatically graded online, logging scores quickly for review.
- Schedule parent conferences with instructors. Have discussions regarding your child’s academic development