A Day in the Life of a Parent
Moving your child to home-based public education at PA Virtual will be the hardest job you will
While all of our families are different, they all share the same desire and commitment to improving educational opportunities for their children. Time management and structure are key components for a successful student! Below are some descriptions of what PA Virtual means to our parents, in their own words. Some of the many positive aspects of PA Virtual, from a parent’s perspective, include:
- Receiving a schedule of classes daily and weekly
- Learning along with students
- The ability to track student progress
- Learning coaches can help teach each child in a way best-suited for his or her
Crystal, Dauphin County
PA Virtual Parent since 2014
Students enrolled: Sylas, Second Grade, Shane, Fourth Grade, & Cassandra, Sixth Grade
I have three children enrolled in PA Virtual: Cassandra is my oldest in sixth grade, and my two boys, Shane and Sylas, are in fourth and second. My home is as peaceful and organized as a home with three school-aged kids can be!
We have been a part of PA Virtual for two years, moving here as a military family from Texas to be closer to my parents and my husband’s family. We have instilled in our children a sense of independence, and attending cyber school reinforces those values. Even though they are only in second and fourth grades, Sylas and Shane are held accountable for their daily responsibilities.
We start our day like any other family – although without a bus ride. We still “go to school” each day: we wake up around 7:30 a.m. each morning for breakfast, and the first synchronous classes start at 8:30 a.m. Synchronous classes mean each child has to log in through Blackboard where they can listen to lectures, watch videos, answer questions, and interact with other students. Since all of my kids are in sync classes, someone is always in class. At 10:30 a.m., all three are in class at the same time – which leaves me with a little breathing/me time!
In a cyber school, it is important to set up an area where your students can do their work uninterrupted. In our home, we decided this would be in each of their bedrooms. My daughter has a lofted college-style bed with a desk underneath, allowing her total isolation from her two little brothers. My boys share a room, and we have a large table in the center that we use as a desk where we keep everything they need to stay organized in class.
My second grader, Sylas, sometimes has a bit of trouble focusing with his brother around. He loves learning and sharing what he learns with his older brother and sister, which can be a distraction. Most of his school supplies have been moved out of their shared bedroom and into another room in the house where I can monitor him more closely and work with him when he needs my help.
At 11:30 a.m., we take a break for lunch. I like knowing that each day my kids are getting a healthy meal and actually eating it – instead of a cafeteria lunch, or trading goodies in a lunch room. After lunch we head back to school at 1pm until everything on their daily lists is checked off or all of their classes are complete for the day. After the day is done, they are free to do their own thing – video games, chores, helping me in the garden, etc.
As a Learning Coach, you can imagine managing three grade levels can get crazy! It certainly does, but we make sure to have clear expectations and rules for each child. Taking sync classes helps define those expectations, and takes some of the pressure of “doing it all” off of the parents. As parents, we make sure to lay out exactly what the teacher is asking for, and it’s up to my students to make sure they complete their work.
One of the benefits of online learning is that school is really anywhere you want it to be. By designating their “school” space in each of their bedrooms, they are each able to have the privacy they need without interfering with one another, or having to relocate if their grandparents come over to visit during the day.
We’re just your average family – who just happens to attend cyber school. After school, you can find us at the Dauphin County Library, where we take part in the Lego and reading clubs, and come summertime, we are headed to the local community pool!
Sarah, Allegheny County
PA Virtual Pioneer Parent Since 2001
Student enrolled: Malachi, Sixth Grade
My youngest child Malachi is my sixth and final child to attend PA Virtual. At this point in our lives, cyber school comes naturally to my family. For most of my children, it is all they have ever known – we first enrolled my oldest two children (who are now 20 and 21) in PA Virtual when they were in kindergarten and first grade.
Malachi doesn’t mind being an early bird – he usually gets himself up and moving by 6:30/7:00 a.m. Because I have had so many children so close in age go through PA Virtual, it was always my goal to get them fairly independent by the time they hit middle school.
We start our day with math – PA Virtual allowed us to move quickly through the math curriculum, so he is actually a grade level above where he should be in this subject. Other subjects we work through in the morning are science and history. We also make time for independent family Bible Study each day.
Some students like to take lots of small breaks throughout the day. Instead, we tend to frontload our day and wait until lunch to take one big break, but the beauty of cyber school is that we have more flexibility in making our schedules. When my older children were in cyber school, we started doing this so that they could work while the younger ones were napping.
After lunch, we usually do literature together; this is probably the subject where I help the most. I have never been the kind of parent who feeds my child the information as they work through the material or explore concepts, but of course, I will help him if he gets stuck. As a parent and former teacher, it is important to me that my children have time where they can study independently and learn to grasp the concepts on their own.
The afternoon is also when we might do a science lab to demonstrate the concepts he learned in the morning or use additional online resources to expand on subjects. We take advantage of the flexibility of the PA Virtual schedule to make family trips to the Carnegie Science Center and the Heinz History Museum.
Outside of school, we are heavily involved in a mission called Urban Impact in Pittsburgh. Through this, my children have been able to participate in any activity imaginable, from athletics to music. We have been active volunteers with the program for many years, and my children have always been a part of the activities and programs they offer.
Cyber school is more than education for my family; it is a way of life. PA Virtual has been a blessing for my family, tracking their progress and helping them receive a fantastic education every step of the way.
PA Virtual Parent Since 2014
Student enrolled in 9th Grade
As a family, this is our third year at PA Virtual. My son is a special needs student who has been able to flourish because of cyber education.
Two years ago our son was an eighth grader in the middle school, so last year’s switch to high school was a whole new ball game! The main difference between middle and high school is the use of block scheduling and the importance of final exams. More of his work is now through the Blackboard platform. A typical day for a parent with a child who is special needs and in their first year of high school can be challenging in its own right – from making sure he is out of bed, teeth brushed and dressed, to making sure he eats breakfast, all before classes start.
When we log in for his live classes, things usually go fairly smooth, but sometimes we run into technical issues – like losing our internet connection. Because of his needs, if something changes with his schedule or a topic being discussed isn’t of interest to him, it can get very challenging to keep him on task, focused, and make it through a full day, but his teachers have been great and they do an excellent job of keeping things interesting. Most days, he has to work extra hard because it takes longer for him to do things than his peers, but he keeps at it. We work at our own pace, which he would not be able to do in a traditional school setting. I am so proud of him, with all his obstacles; he has overcome so much and always keeps on going with a bit of encouragement.
My son’s favorite subject is science because he gets to do hands on activities that keep him engaged and learning at the same time. He will tell you that he now loves school, which was something I didn’t always hear before – even if he does have to take lots of notes!
PA Virtual was the right choice and fit for him and we are thankful for the opportunities we have through this school.