A Day in the Life of a Virtual School Student

| May 17, 2011 | 13 Comments
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Flickr: allnightavenue

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students Christianne and Carylanne Joubert are pretty advanced for their age. Christianne, at 13, is already a published novelist; Carylanne, 14, is about to start 11th grade. The Jouberts would probably succeed at any school they attended, but they attribute a large part of their progress to online learning. (And for Carlyanne, who has diabetes, the convenience of doing school work at home is a big advantage.)

The Jouberts, whose father is in the military, requiring the family to travel a great deal, were homeschooled by their mother until recently.

“Online classes are easy to understand. You can move onto the next thing much faster,” Christianne says. “I have a friend in regular public school who says that they like FLVS courses better because they don’t have to wait around for the other students to get it — or get frustrated when they don’t get it themselves. But it’s not easier because it’s of a lower quality. The better quality makes it easier.”

I chatted with both girls and got a good glimpse into their academic life is like — flexible, varied, and personalized. It’s not the best fit for every kid, of course, but for these students, it works.

Q: Is going to school at FLVS different from being homeschooled?

A: Carylanne: The assignments are different. The courses I took when my mom was teaching me were mostly reading the lessons, getting the information, doing worksheets and exams and that kind of stuff. At FLVS, I write essays, I do PowerPoint presentations and brochures. In my Latin course, I had to pretend I lived in 100 B.C. and write up an invitation and a menu. There are different assignments for those who are more creative. The lessons also show the information in different ways; sometimes there’s a visual representation, like a diagram or a video, to help remember it.

Q: What is your typical day like at virtual school?

A: Carylanne: Most days, I’ll get up and do my chores around the house and then once I get onto the computer I can just start my lessons, read through the lesson and do the assignment. For me, it’s easy. I read through the information and then I can move on to the next assignment. I don’t have to wait. I can go ahead and do more, so I get done with the course faster. I get to learn more instead of being bored.

Christianne: I can start at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. and have an entire week’s worth of work done. Since I can move faster through school, I have time to explore my passion for writing.

Q: Do you interact much with your teachers?

A: Carylanne: I can call my teacher, or text her, or go into a special chatroom. I talk with my teachers at least twice a month because I do oral exams and monthly calls. I don’t usually have to call them because I haven’t needed much help, but they are always there when I need them. They’ve always responded to me within 24 hours.

“Since I can move faster through school, I have time to explore my passion for writing.”

Christianne: I email my teachers every day. They’re very personable. I just finished my English course and my teacher said, ‘If you need anything, you can call me,’ even though I’m not her student anymore. If you have an issue, if you’re not quite getting something, you can email or text your teacher; there are also help buttons on every page if you need extra help on assignments. I get a call from one of my teachers at least once a week asking if I’m doing okay, if I need help. I think you get a better way to talk to teachers [in virtual school]. You get that one-on-one.

Q: What’s the best part about virtual school for you?

A: Carylanne: First, of course, I get to travel at whatever pace I want to. If I’m having a bad week, or a bad day with my diabetes, it doesn’t matter. I have Monday through Sunday to do my work. The flexibility makes it a lot easier. I just signed up for my first eleventh-grade courses. When I started with the virtual school, it was the summer I turned twelve. I had had a computer for gaming purposes, but I had never really been going on the Internet. [Through FLVS], I learned all different kinds of programs like PowerPoint and Microsoft Publisher and Glogster, a software that helps you create special posters. It gave me a way to learn how to use the different tools so that someday I can use all these things in the workplace.

Q: Do you interact much with other students?

A: Carylanne: There are at least one or two collaboration assignments per course. I found my chemistry course was the easiest one because I was able to find a partner who was willing to work. We use a special chatroom through FLVS. Once, I had a partner who was supposed to meet me in the chatroom at a certain time and they didn’t show up, so it was a little bit harder to work with them. Something we’re asked a lot is about the lack of socialization being homeschooled or going to virtual school. But I’ve found that many public school kids seem like they’re more shy and have a harder time talking to adults! And with more time on our hands, it’s easier to do other activities like volunteering or Girl Scouts or other clubs.

Christianne: I’m in the newspaper club at FLVS. I’m able to have my voice heard and get across what I think is important. We have online meetings every Tuesday through Eluminate Live. We log on and we’re in a virtual classroom. We can put things up on a whiteboard like slide shows, presentations, and PowerPoints, and then we have these breakout sessions where we can all work together on things. We send all the articles to each other using Google Docs. It’s just like every other school newspaper, we’re just online.

Q: Would you recommend virtual school to other students?

A: Carylanne: I’ve always been homeschooled, so I don’t know how public school is, but I like to work at my own pace, just sit in my bedroom and do my homework with no distractions. I’ve also read statistics that students do better when they are in virtual school — the grade percentages are higher. Sure, the classrooms are bigger online, but that’s helpful when you have to do a collaborative assignment because students could be anywhere in the course. If it does save money [for schools to have online course options], that’s good, so you could put more money into the education system. Teachers are still employed, just in a different way.

Christianne: Whenever I meet another kid my age, I always recommend it as another way to do school. Especially for kids who don’t have an easy time with homework or with school. I know one kid in my class from England who said it was easier for him than his public school. Plus, I have more time to write; I was able to write a novel because I had enough time. We went through a self publishing company called Xlibris. It’s very exciting. I’m working on my second book now. It’s already a planned series of four. And after that, I plan on writing another one based on Celtic mythology. I love writing… it’s a way to express myself.

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  • damidwif

    i am really interested in this and have been for years. have no idea why more school districts don’t have this. i meet a lot of opposition to this from family and friends who say,” well, your kids won’t get socialized.” Tell me, if my kids are getting BULLIED at school, if their peers don’t give a flying FREAK about education or behavior, and if their overall experience SUCKS, what good is getting socialized IN school, when your kid is afraid, or likely to turn into a juvenile delinquent in order to survive?????????????

    • Pjoubert

      Your family and friends are Way off. Kids who are home-schooled or virtual schooled as just as socialized if not More. My kids can relate and talk to people of all ages. They make friends easily in clubs and camp and they also do great with adults and young kids. The workplace is not full of people all your own age group. A well adjusted child and then adult needs to know how to socialize with all groups. I agree with the bullying part. School needs to be about education Not worrying about being bullied etc. My children have been able to excel in school because school work and socialization are two separate things. Its the education that is going to get them the furthest in life. Remember social skills can be learned in many places and personally a bunch of kids their own age is not the best example to learn socialization and proper behavior. Did you know that FLVS is available to students from anywhere inthe country? There is a tuition if you don’t live in Florida but it is far less than some other less personal programs. Go with what your heart and gut tell you is what is right for your child. Don’t worry about family and friends. Clearly they don’t know enough about virtual schooling to form such an opinion. 

  • http://twitter.com/kcwriter Kelle Campbell

    I heard yesterday that Florida is considering firing teachers and increasing class sizes to make money. Articles like this make me wonder if they couldn’t save some jobs AND money by expanding their virtual school system. If kids are learning from home, I’d think that that would ease some financial burden on bricks-and-mortar schools and according to this article, larger online classes don’t pose a problem for one-on-one interaction.

    • damidwif

      well florida does have a crazy arse governor right now. anything’s possible. however, MANY school districts in the state have adopted the use of virtual schooling. this all stemmed from FLVS. in fact, if your county has a virtual option, you have to go through that instead of FLVS. its all about head count, too. i think it is a great option and should be expanded to other states where crowding and school choice/selection is an issue. plus, with all the crap that is going on in some public school, i wonder if everyone is safer at home.

      • Pjoubert

        Our county has a virtual school option and we DO NOT have to go through them. We are able to choose either Polk Virtual or FLVS. Polk follows a traditional school year schedule whereas FLVS is year round.  

  • guest

    All of these comments seem to be from adults. Well here’s a high schoolers point of view. I took FLVS. Well, I’m taking it now. Throughout my whole high school career I’ve never struggled as much as I have taking a virtual class. I’m taking only two. They’re both AP classes, and my life has been miserable. Instead of celebrating my senior year with my friends, I’ve been stuck in my room on the computer every weekend. It’s easy to get behind in FLVS. You get distracted, you put off an assignment you don’t understand, you can’t seem to schedule a time with your teacher that works for you, or they don’t reply to your questions… It’s a living nightmare. I enjoy writing too, I wish someday to write novels. However, with all my time spent on the computer and writing, I find myself unable to continue my stories since I am SICK of typing. As for the bullying in schools, you can only shelter your children so much. what happens when they get out into the real world? They will know nothing about surviving on their own. Now put that in your juice box and suck it

    • Kristy

      hello I start college this year and I took virtual school classes and was home schooled my entire life too. I understand bullying. You get bullied in virtual school too only it is cyber bullying. It isn’t sheltering your children it is giving them the opportunity to be independent in school and not have to worry about other kids picking on them. School is then about learning, not worrying about hop popular you are. I thank my parents for home schooling me and I do not feel sheltered at all. I experienced more things because I had the opportunity to. In reality I am more ready to go to college and live in the real world as you so put it because unlike teens who worry about friends, who they are dating, or ho popular they are in high school, I was actually learning something and was top of my class. So put THAT in YOUR juice box and suck it.

      • Soren Bender

        I think you need to read over your comment… do you know how to spell “how”?

  • Bentley Watson

    Virtual school has been one of my worst academic experiences. I was in IB but moved, then in the Cambridge international examination program (A-levels). I go to community college in the summer. I mention this because my Virtual school teachers default to insulting my intelligence, and threats.Any time, Any place, Any path, Any place just means on their schedule. The curriculum is pointless busy work and classes are taken solely to show off to colleges and climb class ranks (see below). It would have been better to have spent my time reading or actually working. DON’T ENROLL.

    • Soren Bender

      I completely agree. FLVS sucks.

  • Brooke

    I am currently doing FLVS full time for high school. I absolutely love it. I was very worried about doing it as everyone says it was awful. I have had a wonderful experience so far. All of the teachers are just fantastic, and I really prefer the online format to brick and mortar school. I am taking very high classes. Nothing but AP and honors. The course-load doesn’t feel like to much, and I am ahead of where I should be. I’d recommend the full-time program to anybody who is good with computers, and is willing to stay self- motivated. Doing virtual classes on top of a normal school day seems more difficult to me, though. I feel like you waste so much time doing bs in school, and moving at the pace of the slowest kid in class, that by the time you get home and do homework it would be too late. I put in about 6 to 7 hours of time into my courses everyday. (That’s a little under a normal school day.) I feel like if you did a normal school day and then attempted to do even more it is just an entirely different experience.
    ANYWAYS, that’s just my two cents. I hope I have helped at least a little bit!

  • A frustrated student

    Okay so all of these uplifting comments to flvs are just so incredibly wrong. I have taken 2 courses in flvs and each of them have been horrible. The teachers (at least from my experience) do not care about you or the course. It took me 1 month to get into the classes. I have contacted my teacher before and have not gotten a response for a week. A WEEK. If you do not submit 4 assignments a week, your teacher will threaten to kick you out of the class. Now, if I was a homeschool student I would understand that, but I am a student who goes to school everyday, so I do flvs along with 6 other classes and sports after school. I am primarily a straight A student with occasional B’s. I struggle to get B’s through flvs. The curriculum is honestly just embarrassing to the schooling system in America. It makes absolutely no sense. DO NOT ever take a math course through flvs, because you will not understand a thing. Also, there a typos in every lesson. This is school for goodness sakes. It is not that hard to proofread

  • Soren Bender

    I am terribly unhappy with FLVS. It has ruined my learning experience. I had to start this Nazi-like program when my dad got a job from UF to teach in Italy for four months. Sounds great right? NO. Instead of being able to go out and enjoy and explore the town I am living in I have to sit in my kitchen and work all day. I started my classes but fell behind because we take a lot of trips where we don’t have wifi. Now I am threatened every day to get dropped out of my classes because I don’t have the ability to work. The teachers have no understanding. I literally can’t work and I notify them that I won’t be able to, yet they still say that I am not completing the correct number of assignments. I was so happy before I left for Italy. I was in the Cambridge program at Gainesville High School where they give you real work that challenges you and makes you actually think and answer abstractly. FLVS does not give you that. It gives you a generic set of assignments (busy work) that take forever and don’t teach you anything. PLEASE DO NOT EVER ENROLL IN FLVS. IT WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE.