Online Education Doesn’t Make Your Kids Weirdos

Janell Smiley
Janell Smiley is a resident of Santa Rosa, a member of California Parents for Public Virtual Education, and author of “…As Long As You Don’t Turn Them Into Weirdos.”

Public school did not work for my kids. After a great start in kindergarten, both of our children began to hate being at school, and having to go to school every day was turning them into disgruntled, angry, sad children who were beginning to show signs that their love of learning was being squashed. That was the most concerning part – they disliked the classroom environment and being forced to work at a pace that left them bored and disinterested was causing them to become disconnected from education.

It took me a long time to come to the decision, being filled with doubt and fear, but I finally removed my two children from the traditional classroom setting at the beginning of their third, and fifth-grade year. At first we used the “home study” program done through the public school system. It worked for us, but was just okay – not great, but the same old boring stuff. We used it for the rest of that school year, then found an online program. A public virtual charter school, done at home.

This worked perfectly for our family! Both our boys thrived! The curriculum was different, engaging, interesting and wonderful! In high school they were able to take as many AP and Honors level classes as they saw fit. Our program offered several elective courses not typically available in regular school– able to work at a pace that kept them interested and engaged. Because we didn’t have the same time constraints as most public school students, both kids were able to work during regular school hours and volunteer – meaningful, giving back to the community working with pre-school aged children at our local Y.W.C.A.. They were able to do all of this, as well as swim competitively with a local year-round swim team.

The high level of rigor, the volunteering and working, being nominated by teachers and inducted into the National Honor Society, graduating with honors (yes, they had real graduation ceremonies complete with all the regalia pomp, and circumstance) from our at home “Smiley Academy” – all of these factors served to win both boys many offers of athletic and academic scholarships. Both of our boys have transitioned smoothly into college life, thriving socially and academically. Education can be done at home, and done well leaving the traditional public school environment. Doing an online virtual school at home was one of the best decisions I ever made as a parent!

So it’s my great hope that our new governor and incoming state lawmakers educate themselves on the benefits of public virtual schools and the positive contributions they make to our children’s education.  Giving parents more choices simply ensures that all students, regardless of where they attend school, have the opportunity to succeed.

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