What Is It Like to Be the Parent of a Virtual High School Student?
At the high school level, virtual learning has proved to have benefits for families all over the world, with greater scheduling flexibility, increased access to respected academic programs, personalized learning, and fewer distractions for students.
Many families have now happily enrolled their children in respected, established online schools like Dwight Global Online School, a nationally ranked private school and the online program of the Dwight Schools Network.
With students learning from home, what role does a parent play? Are there increased responsibilities or benefits for parents of virtual learners? How can parents help? Read on to find out more.
Balance Independence and Supervision
Virtual learning often requires students to manage their own schedules and assignments, which promotes independence. Even so, parents are wise to continue to provide guidance, ensuring that their children stay on track academically and make responsible choices regarding screen time and distractions.
At Dwight Global, parents and students are continually provided with guidance on navigating virtual school to achieve academic success and positive relationships with classmates, faculty, and administrators.
Dr. Joy Dozier, former US Air Force Flight Surgeon, actress, and long-time homeschooling mother to four, has been an online school parent now for nearly a decade and is uniquely qualified to offer informed guidance and knowledge.
Dr. Dozier and husband, a retired Air Force officer, have three current students at Dwight Global, and one Dwight Global graduate who is now a college junior. The Dozier's oldest son was one of the first students to enroll at Dwight Global nearly ten years ago.
Dr. Dozier understands online schooling and the role parents can play to support their children learning virtually.
“I began researching outside, accredited classes for our homeschool once our oldest son entered the middle school years. I took my children’s education very seriously and realized that I wanted more academic support for them as they advanced in school,” said Dr. Dozier.
“Then I met Mrs. Jaya Bhavnani, Founder and now Executive Director of Dwight Global Online School, and I was impressed with the school’s vision of personalized learning. All four of my children have gone through Dwight Global’s middle and high school, and we have been pleased with the results,” she said.
Create a Suitable Learning Environment
One positive and immediate area where parents can assist their children is adapting their living spaces to accommodate virtual classrooms, investing in ergonomic furniture, noise-canceling headphones, and strong and reliable internet connections. These efforts will facilitate effective virtual learning and help students stay focused and motivated.
Support Social Interaction
Parents are also useful in supporting student efforts to encourage socialization through extracurricular activities, clubs, and local events when possible. Finding ways to help their children build and maintain friendships is an essential aspect of parenting in the virtual high school landscape. The Dozier children are involved in local sports programs through their public school district, and also in community service organizations in their town and extracurricular pursuits for their sparks of genius, like acting and modeling.
In Person Opportunities
Dwight Global is unique among virtual high schools in that it offers in-person residential opportunities for Dwight Global students at Dwight physical campuses worldwide. The school also has a strong community with rich and varied student life activities led by Dean of Student Life Dr. Anthea Lake.
“At Dwight Global we strive to build a community of students in our online environment, which incorporates respect and belonging, as well as provides a forum for students to express their needs, wants, and interests,” said Dr. Lake. “We have advisory sessions, a House system, and many extracurricular clubs and activities. Being a part of Dwight Global’s online student clubs and societies makes it easy to make new lifelong friendships, while having fun and feeling valued.”
Navigate Technical Challenges
Parents can also help by ensuring that their children have access to the necessary tech tools. Being tech-savvy or learning alongside their children to master new and exciting technology is another way parents can support their children in virtual learning.
Monitor Academic Progress
Keeping track of a high school student's academic progress is a regular part of any parent’s responsibility, and no less so as the parent of a virtual high schooler. Staying in regular communication with teachers, attending virtual parent-teacher conferences, and using online grade portals are essential tools for parents to monitor their child's progress and address any concerns.
Dwight Global’s active Parent Teacher Organization is a special place for parents to swap strategies, receive support, and socialize.
Encourage Time Management and Self-Discipline
Time management and self-discipline are critical skills for virtual high school students. Parents play a pivotal role in reinforcing their children’s decisions in prioritizing assignments, avoiding procrastination, and setting achievable goals. Learning strategies like creating schedules and offering gentle reminders can be invaluable in fostering these skills.
Just like parents of a student in a brick and mortar school, parents of virtual learners are wise to keep open lines of communication with their children, encourage breaks, physical activity, and relaxation, and be attentive to signs of stress or anxiety. Mental health and well-being is important at all ages for success in school and outside of it.
“Dwight Global does an excellent job with recognizing the pros and cons of online learning and communicating with parents and supporting them along the way,” said Dr. Dozier.
“School leadership and faculty maximize the social aspects wherever possible, and opportunities are built into each day for students to connect outside of class time,” she said. “Dwight Global spends time evaluating, monitoring, and improving how students learn and how the school can bolster students not just academically, but socially and as global citizens, as well.”