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The Benefits of Online School Might Surprise You. Here’s Why.

If current circumstances have you curious about online school, you’re in good company. Many have been asking if online school is worth it. But while the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year might have led to this newfound interest for some parents, others discovered long ago that remote learning was the right choice for their family. The reasons vary, but the benefits are numerous, and worth considering regardless of these pandemic times in which we live.

Houston resident Lacy Hilbrich has two daughters who are both thriving at online school Laurel Springs, but for very different reasons. In 10th grade, her older daughter, Anna Jane, enrolled in the K-12 private online school after a serious bout with anxiety, which was exacerbated by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and its effects on their community.

“We were one of those traditional education families. Five years ago, we never would have considered an online school. We believed in the public school system wholeheartedly— until it didn’t work for us,” says Hilbrich. While the family tried to work through some accommodations with their school district, they found it was not meeting their needs.

Flexibility is Key

As Anna Jane struggled through the first few weeks of her sophomore year, the Hilbrichs researched other options and decided upon Laurel Springs. The winning element for them? The flexibility it offered, compared with many other programs which required students to keep a traditional schedule and log in for certain hours. It was also important to them that Anna Jane be able to continue with a rigorous curriculum of AP classes. “It was key for us not to take anything off the table as it related to her college preparedness,” Hilbrich explains.

Throughout this transition, younger sister Ally remained in the local public school. However, two years later, Ally also chose to enroll at Laurel Springs—but for a different reason. A competitive swimmer, Ally had competed statewide at elite levels since the eighth grade, and needed more flexibility with her schooling in order to continue to train at this level.

Serious Athletes Can Compete

With online school, Ally can devote 18 hours a week to her swimming and is able to attend meets frequented by college recruiters. “The Laurel Springs counselors are very attuned to athletes and are very focused on how to maintain eligibility,” she says.

Sports is also the reason that Jen Coleman of Midlands, Michigan, chose Laurel Springs for her daughter Ellie, an avid dual-sport athlete who plays tennis and soccer. Currently a senior, Ellie initially enrolled as a fourth-grader when she knew she was serious about training and competing. Remote, asynchronous learning gives her the flexibility to attend tournaments, as well as train during the day when indoor courts are more available.

While the Colemans have long considered Laurel Springs the right choice, they feel even better positioned given the current turmoil and uncertainty that schools are facing. “We are glad not to have that excess stress,” Coleman says.

Time Management and Self Direction

While schedule flexibility was the key reason Coleman chose an online school, she’s seen numerous other benefits. For one, Ellie has learned excellent time management skills that will serve her well in college. Coleman is also delighted that they have been able to avoid a lot of the peer drama that tends to occur in a traditional school environment. And, she adds, “The curriculum is so good; the public school we briefly looked at so Ellie could play high school soccer didn’t hold a candle to what we have at Laurel Springs.”

Of course, she acknowledges, every kid needs something different from school, and every parent will find different benefits.

Hilbrich is grateful that it has been such a perfect fit for both her girls, who are very different from one another. “Anna Jane loves to read and write, where Ally is more attuned to science and math, and yet both are thriving. I wish I had known years before what online school could offer in terms of meeting all our needs.”

Cathie Ericson

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, and mom of three teen boys. Read more about Cathie at CathieEricsonWriter.com.

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