The kids started back at their online school yesterday. Everything went very well and I think they even enjoyed it. They were both ready to go back. Elizabeth started labelling all her notebooks last week and transcribed her French dictionary into the new book. The school gives them a nice structure to the day as well as contact with teachers and other pupils. Most importantly, they learn stuff. For reasons I don’t fully understand, Daniel prefers the online environment as a way to learn.
Last week we were interviewed for the Good Schools Guide because they intend to include the school in a future edition. Before we signed up to the school ourselves I did check in this guide hoping to find a review and was disappointed that it wasn’t there so this is a good development. They interviewed me and also both children. I listened to the children’s answers and something Daniel said prompted me to ask him more questions later. He said it’s easier to go to the bathroom when you need to go at the online school compared to a conventional school. I thought this sounded strange – surely teachers will let you go to the bathroom at a conventional school? He said usually they do but if it’s just after lunch they might say he should have gone during lunch and needs to wait. At the online school you can just type in the chat directly to the teacher that you’re going to the bathroom. Or, depending on what’s happening, you could just go quickly and return without disturbing anyone.
Something I like about the online school is there’s no frantic rush each morning. Mornings are very relaxing because all the kids have to do is get dressed and have breakfast. Theoretically they don’t even need to get dressed as they could go to class in their pajamas but they’d prefer to get dressed first and do. It’s also nice not having to smell the traffic fumes on our walk to school each day. Lots of parents here drive their children to school. Daniel’s walk to school was also quite far and zero road space has been given to children wanting to cycle to school so that was not an option for him.
Both the kids are doing nine subjects and they each have some interesting ones which weren’t offered at their conventional schools. Elizabeth is getting to learn computer science and Latin while Daniel is doing psychology. They’ve also joined some after school clubs: film club, coding club, creative writing, and maths. The after school clubs are entirely voluntary and free. They’re good fun and the kids enjoyed the science club they were in last year so this year they’ve signed up for more.
The classes are very small, typically just 10-12 students. Students can ask questions using voice, the class chat, or they can chat privately to the teacher. It’s nice to have the option to ask a private question to the teacher since some students may feel shy about asking a question in front of the whole class. Students can also email any of their teachers outside of classes and Daniel uses this feature quite a bit. The classes are quite interactive and not like an hour-long lecture where you just sit and listen. There are listening components, interactive bits, group work and often individual tasks to complete.
The number of contact hours they have at school is lower than at a conventional school but the hours are used more efficiently. They don’t have to walk between classrooms, there are no behavioural problems tying up teacher time, and you can choose exactly the subjects you want to do. The only things missing are PE and music. We can manage without PE as we still do a daily workout with the kids. I’m sad there’s no music and think the school could adapt this for an online environment if they wanted to but for now it’s not an option. Both kids are learning an instrument privately.
The other challenge is social interaction. The online school does have a common room and students can be put into groups in class where they do group work. But it’s not the same as putting hundreds together in a playground over lunch. That said, Daniel spent most of his lunch times at his former school in the library since the playground was a pretty hostile place. We just need to find some extra-curricular activities for the children to do. Elizabeth already does highland dance but I’m thinking of signing them both up to a drama school since these tend to be quite social, fun things to do. We’ve also got friends with children who we all like meeting up with on weekends.