I was homeschooled until about the age of 12/13, at which point I was enrolled in an online school.
It functioned more or less like a physical high school: You had teachers, office hours and class periods (held through Elluminate), and, of course, the schoolwork.
What made this experience unique was that students could work at their own pace (within limits; there were due dates, obviously) and do the work from home.
|CA students attending a class through Blackboard Collaborate,
one of the leading online classrooms.
If you were educated in a traditional public or private school, this setup might seem strange. It was, in a way.
The environment allowed for more conservatively- and religiously-inclined students, and indeed, many of the teachers were of this sort, as well. There were a number of popular clubs, from Bible Club to Youth Views the News, a student-produced podcast. I was a member of YVN and also of Student Government, serving as Vice President my sophomore (and final) year.
Student Government planned all the dances that took place during the year. In the fall there would be homecoming and a winter dance, and in the spring there would be a spring dance and prom. All of this was part of an effort to allow students to socialize with their peers.
For a nontraditional school, they tried to be as traditional as possible. Class periods, like I mentioned before, were held through Elluminate, this (in my opinion) godawful collaboration software that gave students and teachers headaches every week.
During these class periods, the teachers would talk about whatever was on the schedule for that week. Extra credit would often be given out to those who attended since they were not mandatory (and believe me, a small minority of the students would attend). Club meetings were also held in Elluminate, with the teacher-sponsor present.
It was a positive experience for me, but also a negative one, in some ways. While homeschooling and online schooling could allow students to excel at a greater rate than they would at public school, unless the parents pay special attention to socializing the child, it could be difficult for the child to excel socially.
I know that this was the case for me. I was pretty anal-retentive in my early teens, and I found it hard to get along with others.
Even such, I ended up making a handful of friends that I still consider friends today, so while it may not have all been in vain, the ride could have been a lot smoother had I pushed myself more to be social.
I left high school at the end of my sophomore year and became a full time college student in June 2010. This January, I started attending the University of Arizona. It’s a new environment, and sometimes it’s frightening. I find myself leaning on the defaults I’d lean on when I was 14/15: “I-hate-everybody-don’t-talk-to-me-don’t-look-at-me-please-leave-me-alone”. Exhale.
So, what’s the point?
If you’re a freshman or a first-year student of any kind, you owe it to yourself to explore your options socially. Living on your own is uncomfortable and scary to begin with, but you have to find something that allows you to connect with your peers.
|Learning the trombone online. Do you think attending
all your classes in front of a screen leads to social awkwardness?
It can be a club, one of the classes you’re taking, the people on your wing (if you live in a dorm), anything. What matters is that you don’t go through your first semester alone. As someone who has problems with (social) anxiety, I understand how scary it can be, but believe me, even if you make a connection with just one person, it’s worth it.
If you have a child you’re considering homeschooling or putting in a “virtual” school, or if you were educated online or in the home, it’s important to remember that we all need a social life, in one way or another.
Working exclusively online could allow people (especially young people) to settle into a routine of staring in front of a screen all day. If you don’t go out with friends sometimes, or even go out on your own just for the sake of getting out, there’s a lot to life that you’re missing out on.
Life is more than what’s on the screen.