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Is Online School Right for My Teen?

3 Considerations for Parents

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Mixed race teenage boy using laptop and li...
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Many teens have been incredibly successful with learning online. But, others have fallen behind in credits and motivation, causing tension at home and stress in family relationships. If you’re grappling with the difficult decision of whether or not to enroll your child in a distance learning program, these three considerations may help.

1. Feasibility. Before enrolling your teen in an online school, ask yourself: “Will this be a workable situation for our family?” Realize that distance learning means your child will be at home during the day. Having a stay-at-home parent can be a great asset, especially if your teen needs supervision. Many parents enroll their teenagers in an independent study program due to poor behavior, only to find that the behavior is much worse when the teen has full reign in an unsupervised home.

Even if behavior is not an issue, consider your child’s other needs. Generally, distance learning programs are not able to provide the full range of programs that traditional schools offer. If your child needs extra tutoring in Algebra, for example, will you be able to hire someone to help or provide the assistance yourself?

Also, don’t underestimate the need for your own involvement in a distance learning program. Parents are often responsible for monitoring their child’s work and participating in regular meetings with teaching supervisors. If you’re already bogged down with responsibilities, helping your teen find success through distance learning may be overwhelming.

2. Motivation. In order to be successful with a distance learning program, teens need to be independently motivated to do their work. Consider whether or not your teen will be able to stick to his studies without a teacher looking over his shoulder. If a teen is doing poorly in school because he is not motivated to turn in work, chances are that the work won’t get done at home either.

Before enrolling your teen, determine if it is reasonable for you to expect him to stay focused on school for several hours a day, without someone to guide him. Some teens are not developmentally ready for such responsibility.

If you feel that your teen is up to the challenge, be sure to discuss the option of using a distance learning program with your child. Often teens are more motivated to do the work if the change in schooling is their idea. However, if you have decided that online schooling is best, discuss the reasons with your teen and listen to what he has to say. Work together to set the rules and terms of the arrangement. Teens that feel forced into leaving traditional school or feel that online learning is a punishment often become unmotivated to do their assignments.

3. Socialization. Socializing with friends is a huge part of high school and an important part of your teen’s development. Before deciding to enroll your child in an online school, take a look at the ways socialization is important to your child, and begin to think of ways that you can meet this need outside of traditional school.

If your child relies on sports for a social outlet, look for sporting programs in the community that your teen can be a part of. Allow time for your teen to meet with old friends and make new acquaintances. Clubs, teen programs, and volunteerism can be great ways for your child to socialize. You may also want to consider joining a network of distance learning students and parents.

If you are choosing distance learning as a way for your teen to get away from a negative peer group, be prepared to offer replacement activities. Put your teen in situations where he can meet new friends and discover new interests.
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