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A Virtual Dilemma


Today is the backwards edition of Works For Me Wednesday.  The WFMW participants can pose a dilemma, or question, and then hope and pray for guidance.

Or in my case, pray that a girl scout will show up on my doorstep and give me a box of Thin mInts.

But, guidance would probably be a wiser choice.

I pose a question to all my homeschooling com padres.

Do you have any experience with “virtual homeschooling” in your area, and would you recommend it?

I’ve been putting together and planning our curriculum for the last few years.  I piecemeal a number of different curriculums for all of our subjects.

And this has worked fine.  Until this year.  I have a 3rd grader and a first grader, and in another year, I’ll be adding a Kindergartner to the mix.

The thought of that just caused me to age 10 years right here in my desk chair.

The planning is killing me.  I need something put together for me.  I know there are some wonderful curriculum (like Sonlight and Bob Jones) that offer DVDs and pre-planned lessons.  But they are rather cost prohibitive.

I had never really considered virtual homeschooling until I had a commenter post a thread about it over at the Mom’s Homeroom site, on the message boards.  And then more and more moms jumped into the conversation extolling the wonders of virtual homeschooling, and frankly, I’m thinking seriously about it.  (And to read the thread, go here.)

For now (pending more educational budget cuts, which really, don’t get me started on that one for fear I’ll owe my cuss jar some serious change) our state (Florida) does offer virtual homeschooling at no charge to homeschoolers.  That includes text books, web site use, and on-line help.

There is so much more that I need to learn about it, but I wanted to go to the homeschool moms and get the real information.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you have an opinion, please spill your guts.

I’ll be virtually and completely appreciative.


26 Responses to A Virtual Dilemma

  • Well, I just can’t help you out. I know I looked into it a couple of years ago, but it was very costly at that point, so we stayed the route (me planning for 4 boys).

    I will tell you, planning on 3 levels is difficult, but doable. . .

    Here’s a thought, though. How are you about someone else being in control?

    I mean, it’s one thing to choose a particular course for your child to enroll in; it’s a very different thing to enroll into a complete “program”. (For example, I tend to be “classical” in thought / schooling. . .don’t know many virtual schools that give me that option.)

    Maybe, it would be better to develop a list of questions / concerns about “your” (generic “you” here) ideas of schooling so that you can decide definitively whether virtual schooling could work for you.

  • I don’t know much about virtual homeschooling, but when we start with our son, he is 4 now, we are going to be using the curriculum, “My Fathers World” It came highly reccomended and it is designed to teach to several different ages together.

    Best of all it is pretty reasonably priced. My husband and I loved Sonlight, but it was just way to expensive.

  • First I would like to say that you are a riot. I love coming here everyday to see what you all are up to. With that being said I fully believe God will lead you to the right path for your family. As for virtual schools it concerns me that you would not have a whole lot of choice with what they are learning. Have you checked out Classical Conversations? It is something we have considered for our two. You can google it and see if there is a chapter near you.

  • We started our home school journey with a virtual academy in Minnesota, and it worked great for us! After a couple of years, we broke away from it for various reasons, but it gave me the structure, accountability, and resources to have the confidence to teach my children at home. I am sure it would depend on which State you’re in, what curriculum they use, and even the specific overseeing teacher that is assigned to your family, but we found that we had great freedom to teach the lessons as we saw fit, and even exclude the few lessons that were objectionable without any adverse consequences. For some, the down side to virtual academies is that you are actually enrolled in the public school system, and therefore under the State’s control, so you need to weigh this in your decision process. For us, it was one step away from the State system, until I could wrap my brain around doing it on my own. Our virtual academy provided what I felt was a high quality curriculum (as well as the computer to access it!) a very helpful and caring teacher that was available to us but never invasive (she was never in our home, we met at the library once a month), and they organized events and activities with the other students for socialization and enrichment. It worked for us!
    If you do it on your own instead, I would suggest fully utilizing a local home school support group- just being around other families that are doing it is a tremendous help.

  • Throughout the years I have done many different types of homeschooling (including virtual) as the needs of my 4 kids have changed. We found that the virtual schooling was a good curriculum, I could not have done a good job with all 4. We actually went to our local superintendant and asked if he would be interested in putting a program together for home instruction and he was. With him we can choose our own curriculum (except Christian), we have $1500 per child to spend per year, and we keep all material at the end of the year. Since we tend to do classical education he provides all the literature books we ask for, all my math, grammar, handwriting, etc. I provide some of the teachers manuals since they are Christian along with anything that I insist I want that cannot by law be purchased with state funding. The school makes a profit on my family, and I get resources (books, band, sports) I wouldn’t have been able to provide. A win/win for us and others. Since starting this the program has grown to nearly 80 kids in 4 years.
    My advice is to find what works for your family and don’t be afraid to change and tweak as needed. Virtual may be the way to go, but it may be just switching curriculum too. And depending on the laws in Florida, you may be able to work with your school to provide your needs if you so desire. Just a thought.

  • Hi DeeDee.

    It really depends on WHY you are a homeschooling mama. Do you homeschool to stay in control of your child’s environment? To avoid certain things in public schools? To make sure they are learning what you want them to learn? To provide them with a specific type of education? To have a more flexible schedule/life in general? To be able to school when and how you want and not at the whim of the state?

    There are so many different reason why people homeschool, that’s why the idea of virtual schools works so well for some and not at all with others. If you homeschool more because you just want to have your children at home in a controlled environment, then it would probably work for you.

    If like to choose what they will be learning and be in control of what is and isn’t taught to them, then virtual probably won’t work for you.

    My cousin coordinates a huge virtual academy here in AZ and she defines it as schooling at home, NOT homeschooling. It seems like splitting hairs, but it isn’t. You are doing the school’s curriculum on their schedule in your home. So, if your priority is to be there with your kids and have them at home, then it works. If you want to be more selective about what they are learning that just isn’t an option.

    In my experience with many friends and family using both styles of schooling, the virtual style is simpler for the parent, but far FAR more time consuming overall. Good luck with the decision. I completely understand the appeal of NOT paying a fortune for everything and having it provided and ready to go. 🙂

  • Sonlight is a great choice with multiple kids because the Cores are reusable (since it’s literature-based). Yes, it can be pricey on the front end to buy all those great books, but if you use the Cores several times they have more than paid for themselves (and you’ll also have a fantastic personal library [smile]).

    I strongly recommend you at least chat with a Sonlight Curriculum Advisor while you’re considering your options. Share your concerns and needs, and see what they have to say.

    What’s more, if Sonlight doesn’t work for you, there is the Love to Learn Guarantee that has you completely covered.

    My two cents. May you find the perfect solution for you and your family! I’m rooting for you [smile].


  • I thought about virtual schooling for about 5 mintues…I was not willing to give up that much control over what my children are learning.

    I have been using My Father’s World for 4 years. I love it! I love opening the teacher’s manual and having a grid for the week, plus notes and recommended book list, that tells me what to do each day. I love that they are biblically based!

    My girls are in 2nd and 3rd grades. We are now past the “learning to read” part (will always be in the practice to read better part, but whatever) and teaching got a lot easier.

    We use the recommended Singapore math, each girl is at a different place in the books. The lessons are short and to the point without a lot of useless repitition. I’ve been very happy with it. There are just enough problems that they “get it”. 😀

    Spelling, my 3rd grader was very weak in this area so I just started her over again with the 2nd grader and it’s going very well!

    Aside from reading practice and math, everything is done together. We get done in the 3 to 4 hour range…it depends on how many artistic assignements there are and how much fun we are having! 😀

    Go see the My Father’s World booth at the convention. Such nice people! Their website is good too. They have PDF examples of the teachers manuals. Very informative.

    Prayer will lead you to the answer that is right for your family and learning styles!

  • We started out using a virtual school in our state. All materials were provided, including a computer and printer. We used it for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.

    It was right for us for the first two years. Circumstances pretty much dictated that. However, by the time she hit 6th grade, I was done. It seemed we were going back to “teaching to the test.” (We were required to participate in our state achievement testing since we were enrolled in a state school. The portfolios we had to submit became practice tests she had completed instead of samples of the work she had done. I was very discouraged.

    This year we used the Weaver curriculum, and we absolutely loved it! It allows such flexibility. That being said, next year we’re enrolling our oldest in Christian Liberty Academy for 8th grade. My middle child will be starting kindergarten, and her younger brother will be doing preschool. Honestly, I don’t feel competent to teach that many at the same time, especially having such a range between them. High school is only one year away, and that brings challenges of its own. The thought of doing 9th, 1st, and K is just too much for me!

  • We are now doing the virtual academy in Idaho. There are pro’s and cons to this. We are required (because it is a public school “option”) to be responsible for a set number of hours (attendance) per week of direct instructional time. That is PER child. Each of my children is required to have 4.5 hours a day of direct instructional time. (that is what gets them funds to continue running their school) I school a 3rd grader and a 1st grader. Many of those hours can overlap with both children doing different things. However, in the lower grades, there are many things that the children need assistance with offline.

    This is our fourth year of doing this. We started child number one in kindergarten using virtual school and have continued. We have seen a change in the “political” aspects of school. We really enjoyed our cooperating teacher the first three years. This last year they changed our teacher, there are more “hoops” to jump through, and there have been some changes that, frankly, make me want to stab myself with a sharp object.

    However, our virtual academy uses K12 curriculum. There are a few things that I have encountered in their curriculum that I find objectionable. BUT, the curriculum is set up in a way that I can either talk to my child about the or skip those things all together. The curriculum is fabulous. A LOT, LOT, LOT, of reading and writing. The lesson plans are done for you and if there’s a lesson that reviews something you child already grasps, then you just take the assessment that goes with the lesson and move on. The assessment is set up to review the objectives of the lesson, so it makes it easy to know if your child “got” it. And there is lots and lots of review and coverage of each topic, so if they don’t get the objectives or the details the first time, there will be review.

    My children are taking history and science. (As well as literature, phonics (first grader), language skills and math.) That started history and science in first grade and they continue reviewing and building on those courses as they advance through the grade levels. We have been very pleased with the curriculum.

    I can say that our educational and lifestyle needs have changed and we will be making some educational changes next year. However, if you want a school choice that would help you in the first years of schooling three children…this might be a great solution for that.

  • Want to share Sonlight? I know a girl who is loosely using Sonlight (with 7 yr old and 4 yr olds) She also dabbles in Abeka phonics K program with the 4 yr olds. The hard part is adding math and science. But this girl could share Sonlight with you …in say October (:

  • I have not used virtual homeschool, but I have friends that do. I have chosen not to based on the fact that you have to keep very accurate records, and you are kind of tied to a schedule. Those two things just don’t work for me. But if those are not a problem, it is very tempting when you hear the word “free”.

    Having kids similar in age to yours, I went with My Father’s World this year. I have loved it. It is a five- year cycle that all children can participate in together. You do add math and English for each age group, but everything else can be done as a group. We did third grade and kindergarten together this year, and it has worked out nicely. I would check there website, I think it’s more cost effective than BJ or Sonlight, but I’m not 100 percent sure. Good luck with your decision!

  • Deedee, you really do have some of the best commenters. I’ve learned a ton just reading through their comments.

    Our objection to virtual school came down to the lack of control and therefore flexibility, the lack of individualization of learning (my boys are all over the place in abilities), the enrollment factor in public school which actually prompted a warning from HSLDA that they cannot represent families whose children are in virtual school for this reason.

    For us it was too big of a risk in walking right back in, albeit a slightly altered doorway, to a place we contentedly and decisively left–for reasons of great import to us.

    I hope you will find the answer you need.

    • Elle,
      You’re not whistling Dixie I’ve got the best commenters in the world!!!!! I always know just where to go when I need advice! 🙂


  • I think http://www.heartofdakota.com is very easy to use and affordable. It’s not nearly as much reading as Sonlight but put together very well. I would personally hesistate to use a virtual school. But, you have to do what works for you.

  • Wow! So glad I stopped in here tonight! I just looked into Ga virtual school this afternoon and was wondering the pros and cons. What a bunch of GREAT advice!

  • We used Connections Academy.com quite successfully for three years. I think as long as the kids are independent learners, or can work well with you, it’s a great thing!

  • I looked into it but decided not to. I have a friend who does, though, but she waited until 6th grade, I think.

    I did all four of my kids (not always super well, though) with a mix of Abeka, Usborne books, the library, etc. They are all in public school now and are ALL honor students, so I say even if you are overwhelmed and are piecing things together like I was and did, no worries. 🙂

  • For me, virtual schooling takes the best parts away. The messy science projects, the cuddled up reading for 2 hours on a snowy day, the art, the lapbooks, all gone, replaced with a keyboard and screen for 5 hours a day. I don’t like the idea of our schedule being dictated either. I love the freedom of dumping it all to go play at the park, the pool, the skating rink.

    I am “officially” schooling 3, and have a preschooler, who needs a bit of “school” time too. I’ve had good luck in combining into different pairings for science and history/social studies. Both of my big kids became a lot more independent in their learning right about 3rd/4th grade too.

  • I don’t have personal experience w/ this (we’ve used Sonlight for the last 8 years), but I have several friends who’ve tried Georgia’s virtual school in the past year or two. (I think this is basically the K12 curriculum offered free through the ps system.) Most dropped out within the first few months. My good friend who I’ve talked the most with about it just hated it. She described it as endless testing, reading brief pieces of material to be followed by a test immediately on that material. She is a pastor’s wife; they’ve been planting a new church, and she really needed something to make homeschooling easier – this was not it.

    My only friend who was O.K. with it and stuck with it for the entire year had never homeschooled before and was really just looking for a way to keep her daughter out of the public school for 8th grade. Her daughter is back in public school this year.

  • I just finished writing our state homeschool organization’s position statement on virtual schooling. I’ll send it to you if you’re interested.

    I have 5 children ranging in age from nearly 18 to 7 months, and I’m teaching grades pre-K through 11. I appreciate the enormity of the undertaking and know firsthand how daunting the task can seem. I encourage families I counsel to first create a family vision statement and define their philosophy of education, then select educational methods and materials that fit that philosophy and advance their vision.

    For our family, with our particular philosophy and goal set, virtual homeschooling through government schools isn’t an option as the worldview runs counter to our own and the subjects to be studied and the method for determining mastery of those subjects rests with someone other than the parents.

  • I can honestly say this is the first I’ve heard of virtual school.

    I can also honestly say that the thought of homeschooling three kids is the stuff my panic attacks are made of. Circus…

    I read all of the comments and what seemed MORE frightening to me was having to live up to someone else’s requirements. Ugh. I’m just not big on required hours and dictated assignments. I like the freedom to let my child skip through things he already knows, and take more time on things he doesn’t.

    But that’s my totally uneducated opinion.

    I’m there for ya.

  • Hi Deedee,

    I meant to comment yesterday but the day got away from me. 🙂 Here is my personal experience and you can take what you want from it. We used the k12 curriculum for the last two years. What attracted me to it at first was the curriculum was good and did not cost me anything…even the art stuff…who doesnt want the free paint? lol I keep most of it except the literature type books go back however they give you a postage paid sticker for that. This is my 3rd year homeschooling. The first year I pieced everything together and felt like a fish out of water simply because I spent the whole first year second guessing myself. Last year I started with k12 fulltime. This year I only used it for math and language arts, after two months I dropped it to just math for my son only. I partially did virtual schooling to keep myself accountable and to give me a better sense of organization and I liked having a teacher to communicate with. I also liked that our teacher set up all sorts of cool field trips. What I did not like was always feeling pressured to “get our attendance in” and also they say you can work at your own pace but you have percentages of assignments you have to meet each month and if we are still stuck on one concept and are not ready to move on then I felt pressured to just mark the assignment as done even though it was not. Then I felt guilty about fibbing. 🙂 Our teacher never makes us feel bad about not getting everything done on time though…she just explained that the records go to the state. Another thing I don’t like. bottom line for me is that I loved it the first two years but we are going to go back and do our own thing next year. Partially because our children are taking classes through our homeschool co-op. I love it because I do math and language arts at home, however the kids can choose other stuff tehy want to do there. For instance my daughter who hated regular public school and wanted nothing to do with learning…now is asking me to take spanish next year and she is only in 4th grade. I get to talk with other moms becasue we have to be onsite (through our school district) and I still have control. I can pull them at anytime if I think a class is not working. Plus the classes are taught by a couple certified teachers who also homeschool their own kids! For us it works. It really is a matter of what works for you. Remember you have control, if you choose to virtual school and decide you don’t like it…pull them out! With my son he had a hard time keeping up with their language arts work so I dropped that class, and kept him in for math and then went to classical for language arts. The great thing was they did not give me a hard time or pressure to keep him in their curriculum. So it has it’s good and bad things. 🙂 good luck!

  • Home Schooling Legal Defense Association opposes virtual charter schools. Here’s the link on why:


    Hope this helps.

  • Here I am a day late and a dollar short but if you get a chance, look for a video called “Exposing A Trojan Horse.”

    I believe that virtual homeschooling isn’t homeschooling at all. Like Mary in AZ said (Hi Mary, Mary Quite Contrary!!), it is public schooling at home. I have several friends that did the virtual school thing and not a single one of them LOVED it. They saw some good points but mostly realized they were on someone else’s time clock. Their child had to “meet” with the teacher via the computer every day at a certain time. One family’s son was required to meet with his teacher at 5:30 PM…I don’t know about you but that is my family’s dinner time. Now things could be different in your state, but that is how things are here in sunny AZ:)

  • Oh for what its worth, next year I will be teaching a 6th/7th grader, two 2nd/3rd grader and a kindergartener…oh and I will still have the baby under foot. Is it easy?! NOPE:) But I have faith that you can do it!