So, you’re thinking about enrolling your student in the Tennessee Virtual Academy, huh? It’s a great program, with a lot of benefits for a lot of different people. However, there are some families for whom it will be a better fit than others. Like any homeschooling program, some of learning to settle in to the Virtual Academy requires trial and error, patience, and a willingness to give it some time. Students won’t settle in overnight—but they will learn to adapt to their new environment quickly. Some signs that your child or children might be a good fit for the Virtual Academy:
They are self motivated.
. It’s easy, as a parent, to take a step back and say oh, okay, my kid can do that without my supervision…and then just let them. It’s harder to have to be on top of them every minute of every day—and part of being a virtual schooling parent (referred to by the Virtual Academy as a “Learning Coach”) is knowing how to balance the moments when they need your help and supervision with the moments when they don’t. If you have more than one child enrolled in the Tennessee Virtual Academy, have small children at home, or have a work-from-home position that requires some of your attention during the day, this is an even more difficult balance to maintain—but even a parent whose only responsibilities are to a single child and the house has moments when their attention needs to be on something besides the school day. A child who is generally self-motivated and somewhat self-sufficient will, therefore, perform much better than a child who relies entirely on his or her parents to keep the day moving smoothly.
You are relieved by the idea of having a teacher check in regularly.
If the idea of having a teacher looking over your shoulder constantly makes you shudder, then the Virtual Academy might not be the best possible solution for your child. The program is designed so that your child still has a teacher of whom they can ask questions. That teacher is also responsible for ensuring that progress is accurate and regular. Your child’s teacher will be checking in with you by phone at least once a month, and there are regular conferences (typically also monthly) scheduled to take place in a virtual classroom. This ensures both that your child is continuing to make progress, and that neither you nor they are falling behind in any way. It also gives you the opportunity to communicate regularly with your child’s teacher to convey successes, failures, and any problems at home that might contribute to learning difficulties for a period of time. Virtual Academy teachers do not want their students to be faceless names on a list. They want the chance to get to know them as much as possible—and they do form relationships with both parents and students over the course of the year.
You are organized.
Not just physically, though it is necessary to keep up with your child’s schoolwork and turn in assignments on time. Time management skills are also a vital necessity. Assignments must be updated in the Online Learning System on a regular basis. Student progress must continue. And if you fail to turn attendance for more than ten consecutive days, your child can lose their position in the Virtual Academy without warning. There are many things that must be kept up with throughout the school year, and it’s not always easy! Organization skills and the ability to stay on top of what’s going on are vital.
You have the time to devote to being a Learning Coach.
The Virtual Academy is designed as a public homeschooling curriculum. That means that it has some of the advantages of both a public school and a homeschooling program—but it also has some of the negative attributes of both educational options. While you do have a teacher to check in with, it’s not the teacher who is organizing your child’s day every day, nor is it the teacher who is responsible for putting completed assignments into the online system, grading regular assignments and tests, or giving assignments each day. While teachers are always available to answer questions, they aren’t glued to their computers twenty-four hours a day, either. There will, therefore, be times when you are the one who has to help your child figure out the intricacies of long division, or explain the merits of “Paul Revere’s Ride,” or discuss the morality present in the novel that they’re currently reading. K12 suggests that a good Learning Coach will need to devote twenty hours a week to the process—more for multiple children. While this is negotiable—older children need less supervision, and experienced Learning Coaches learn how to streamline the process, while younger children may require more attention, and new Learning Coaches will need to devote more time to the “school” process—it is still a huge time commitment.
You are willing to learn.
This is the key component, and the one that will either make or break your success as a Learning Coach. The Virtual Academy is growing exponentially each year, and it is still developing new policies and procedures. The method that worked last year might not be the one that they’re going to use next year, and that’s something that a good Learning Coach must accept. In addition, you must be able to work with your student, learn the material that they’re learning, and generally participate in the learning process yourself. However, if you’re willing to learn, and your child is willing to learn, then the Virtual Academy should be a success for both of you.