My Children Were New to Online Learning Last Year, And Here’s Why We’re Staying
By Marcela Costa Pereira Reis, a mom of three from Boca Raton, Fla., whose children are attending Florida Virtual School
Last year, many families discovered online learning for the first time, including me and my three children, Vinicius, Manuela, and Rafaela. I originally began researching Florida Virtual School (FLVS) because my husband and I were looking for a flexible online program that allowed our children to do their schoolwork from anywhere and at any time so that we could take a one-year sabbatical and travel the world. For years this had been our dream because we believe that seeing and interacting with other cultures not only teaches children about the world, but also themselves.
But then when the pandemic hit, our travel plans came to an abrupt halt. Even though we were disappointed, and quite frankly worried about the state of the world, we were thankful that we already had plans to dive into online learning so that our children could continue to learn and stay healthy in a safe environment.
During a year of unknowns, there were a lot of ups and downs. But the biggest “up” was that my family was together, we were safe, and our children discovered a new way of learning that they enjoyed.
Over the past year, my children quickly adapted to the online learning environment, with all three of them constantly telling me how much they enjoyed their schoolwork and their teachers. What started as a travel dream, quickly turned into our worry about our children’s health and safety, and then turned into our preferred learning method.
As we were considering our options for this school year, we decided to stay online because we discovered that the teacher support, engaging courses, and flexibility worked really well for our family.
Endless Support from Online Teachers
Being new to online learning, I was a little worried because this was my first time overseeing all three of my children’s education. I wasn’t sure I could handle it on my own, but what I quickly learned was that the FLVS teachers provided an incredible amount of support — for my children and myself.
If my children had questions about their courses or schoolwork, they would reach out to their teachers and never had to wait more than 24 hours for a response. Plus, their teachers didn’t just respond with the answers to their questions, they also provided advice and asked additional questions to understand my children’s true needs.
Last year, my son Vinicius (Vini), was stuck on a writing assignment because he didn’t have the inspiration he needed to begin. Vini can be a perfectionist and wants to get everything right the first time. Seeing that Vini had not yet submitted his essay, his teacher reached out to see how she could help. After I told her that Vini can sometimes be a perfectionist and overthink his assignments, his teacher helped him relax and encouraged him to put his ideas on paper. She also gave him a great tip, which was to try recording himself telling the story so he could listen and then write it down from there. Her patience with him was incredible, and I will never forget how she took the time to understand and guide him.
And that’s just one example! All my children loved their teachers. Thanks to the one-on-one support that the teachers provided, they were able to create incredible bonds that furthered their education. Plus, I also formed a great relationship with the teachers because they were constantly communicating with me about how my children were doing, which I had never experienced in a traditional in-person setting.
Comprehensive, Interactive, and Fun Digital Courses
One day I heard my son laughing when he should have been completing his schoolwork. Thinking he may have been distracted by something, I went to investigate. But what I found was that he was laughing and thoroughly enjoying one of his lessons. I was blown away! Seeing him enthralled by his courses made me so happy.
All three of my children learn through a variety of integrated content in the FLVS courses including video, audio, quizzes, games, and more. Because they are interacting and enjoying the lessons, their comprehension deepens, and they find new passions.
Plus, teachers do live lessons and even host creative sessions to further students’ passion for topics they’re learning in school. Vini’s math teacher wanted to get her students more excited about the course, so she created something called “fun Fridays,” which was an informal video chat meetup where students would join and play math games together. It ended up being Vini’s favorite activity at FLVS — so much so that if I had an appointment that Friday, he told me I would need to cancel so that he could attend.
Designing Your Own Path
My children all work differently. One of my children is a visual learner, one likes reading the lessons, and one likes to take his time to fully understand course material. Because they all learn differently, they would all complete their schoolwork at different times.
I was initially nervous about keeping all my children on pace — making sure they were completing assignments and not falling behind. But because of the flexibility of FLVS, it didn’t matter what pace they were working at, as long as they were finishing their work.
If one of my children was having challenges with a course like math, they could take a break and do another course, and then come back to math with a fresh mind. They didn’t have to sit through a 45-minute-long class like they did in their traditional in-person school if they were having difficulties focusing, which I found to be more productive and helpful to their learning process.
I also discovered that this flexibility taught my children responsibility and how to work independently. I felt like they were already working like professionals in the workforce, and now I have even more confidence that in the future — whether they head off to college or immediately into a job — that they will have the skills necessary to succeed.
Also, even though we couldn’t travel the world with our children last year, we were able to travel to Brazil this summer to be with our family — all while my children took FLVS courses. It has been incredible because they have spent time with their grandparents, all while staying on track with their schooling.
For any parents considering online learning for their children this school year, my advice would be don’t be afraid to do it! If you have questions, your teachers are just a phone call or text away, and they genuinely care about every student. Plus, there’s nothing better than seeing your children learn new skills like responsibility, self-motivation, and creativity, all while being excited about learning. We’re looking forward to the year ahead!