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Online classes: A choice for your middle or high schooler?

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By Kay Johnson , Linda Broatch, M.A.

Is an online course a good option for my child with learning disabilities?

First, you'll want to know if online instruction will work for your child. Taking a course or courses from an online school offers some potential benefits to kids with learning disabilities. The child can avoid the anxiety or embarrassment that his learning difficulties may cause in a classroom setting. If a child is stigmatized or even bullied as a result of his learning problems, online courses can help reduce the distractions that result from these issues. Pacing of instruction in an online school can be highly individualized.

However, especially for children with language-based learning disabilities, an online school may not be a workable choice because content, assignments, and assessment may be largely text-based. Parents will want to ask some basic questions, including:

  • Do you have reading specialists on staff to work with my child?
  • Do you have academic counselors on staff who can work with our traditional school to determine whether an online course is appropriate for my child?
  • What accommodations do you offer students with learning disabilities?
  • Do you offer an audio option for delivering content?
  • How flexible is the pace of the learning?
  • Will the coursework help prepare my child for statewide or district-wide standardized testing in the relevant academic content area?
  • Will my child be able to use the assistive technology tools he uses at home (or school), for your courses?
  • Does the school teach study and/or time management skills?
  • How much time and effort is required of parents to support their child's online coursework?
  • Does the school offer a trial period so that students can see if an online class is going to work for them?

Kay Johnson, FLVS Communications Liaison, says: "At FLVS we have a team of reading specialists to work with students with reading struggles. If a student is two or three grade levels behind in reading, we can probably come up with strategies to help them. But if they're farther behind than that, it will likely be difficult for them to achieve in this environment. Also, while 'at-risk' students who have family or social-emotional issues can really benefit from face-to-face support, they can do quite well in the virtual school environment with that little extra face-to-face help."

Will my child's traditional school accept online school credits?

Even if an online school has an established relationship with your state's public schools, you should find out whether online school course credits will be accepted by your child's traditional school, and if they meet college admission requirements. There are several basic questions you can ask:

  • Is the school accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency?
  • Do the school's courses align with your state's academic content standards?
  • Does the school provide a list of lessons and a recommended timeline for each course?
  • How many courses are offered, overall and within specific content areas?
  • How often are courses updated?

"All of the courses at our school are accredited and mapped to state and national standards," says Kay Johnson, "but even in that case, to be safe, parents should still make sure before enrolling in online courses that the traditional school is going to accept the credit."

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.

Comments from readers

"i really want to take online courses but my mom refuses to let me. She won't take anything to homeschool me either. She said schools are for teaching. Doesn't she realize it says homeSCHOOL. I'd much rather be homeschooled or take online classes then go to an actual school. Do you know of anyways I can convince her? "
"I always had my doubts about online courses, but this changed ever since my daughter learned touch typing online ( "
"im a middle schooler how much does online classes cost for me im in 8th grade "
"My son has taken, in addition to school classes, via BYU, he gets HS credits, college credits and enjoys them very much. He just finished PSYchology 101 made a B and not easy classes. He will have his AS in 12 grade. Cost around 180.00 bell worth it. We love it, it allows him to skip HS classes and take more."
"As a child with a high IQ and ADD I move at a strange pace, very different from what most teachers have the patiance for. Not only that, but kids often bully me, tease me, and are very racist. Online schooling is perfect for me, and many others who are not comfortable with the way regular schools are. My parents are against it because they want me to socialize, but they do not understand that I need this. "
"I really wish my mother would let me do this, but I think I would miss my friends to much. Although, this is better than attending regular classes. I keep falling asleep , and that makes me fail. This is a better advantage."
"I have been having trooble in school with the kids, teachers and my principle saying i need ais i told my mom that me being 7th grade i could do this. thankyou for the extra information so maybe my mom would let me try. :) wish me luck!"
"I'm really interested with this online classes. I'm trying to find other ways to help my son with his learning disabilities he has ADHD. He is entering High School and he is struggling in all subjects and he is at a very low grade level. As a parent I'm trying to find out ways to help him get to that higher grade levels that he needs to be at. To be honest I just don't feel that the schools system here has the classrooms and teachers to teach and help our children with learning disabilities and are struggling because they are put in regular classes, but get pulled out for certain subjects that they need help with in a recource center. I am at my wits end and feel like I have no faith in the school system and I'm just ready to home school my son."
"if this helps my chikld youd be my hero"
"hi my daughter wants to take classes online next year can she do that?"
"im not in school so im trying to get back in school but i want to to take classes online instead and i hope i can do good cause im really not that smart at all but ima do my best to learn everything and get smart."
"thats seems really good to learn. How to speak and write and other stuff...about different types of writting level"