COLOUR OF OCTOBER BLOG- What is Online Homeschooling Like? I talk about the switch from mainstream to online homeschooling when I become chronically ill.
It did feel a bit like admitting defeat – deciding to start distance education, that is. We thought I would be better within days… then weeks… then when it started to get into the months, and I had missed the entire last term of grade 9, we had to make a decision. I was in no position to be able to go back to school- I couldn’t sit up for long periods of time and I couldn’t stand, let alone walk. I even needed help transferring from one chair to another. I’d never missed this much school before and it was getting to the point where I really couldn’t miss much more otherwise I would be too far behind. So in the summer holidays of 2013, we made the decision to enrol in distance education. It was really hard, because by enrolling, it was an admission that this illness wasn’t going away for now. But it had been the plan to, at some point, return to my mainstream school when “I got better.”
After the first year of distance ed, we realised that waiting until “I got better” before going back to school wasn’t exactly realistic. And so we did talk about going back part time. But truth be told, there was already so much on my plate- the thought of going back to school with all the pain and mobility issues as well as feeling incredibly self-conscious about being in a wheelchair was too overwhelming. And there would of course be lots of questions that would come with the chair. “So what’s actually wrong with you?” And I didn’t really have an answer to that.
These were my reasons but it’s important everyone knows that if for whatever reason, you are limited in your access to education, whether that’s due to physical disability, mental health, bullying etc., there is hope. And there are other avenues to continue your education with. Mainstream school doesn’t fit everyone and that’s totally okay- just know there are other options out there.
The students who attend distance ed are so diverse! Some students started distance ed because they live out on a property and the nearest school is many kilometres away. Others are heavily involved in sports or other extra-curricular activities and need the flexibility distance ed allows. I’ve even been in classes with people who log in literally on the other side of the globe at 4am (because of the time difference) who are travelling and need a school they can take with them wherever they go!
So over 3 years on, I’m a week away from attending the the second half of year 12 (I split year 12 over 2 years) with distance ed. And my life is completely different.
“Okay you’ve done a lot of talking but you haven’t actually told us what distance education actually is?” I hear you mutter.
Well- here’s the low-down:
Distance education is a form of homeschooling, but not the typical homeschooling you would think of.
My parents don’t teach me. There are real teachers, real lessons, real classmates, real class discussions, a timetable, a lunch break, real camps, real student captains.
It’s basically exactly same as a “regular” school but instead of catching the bus, you hop online!
You log into all your lessons online which is kind of like a massive Skype call. The teacher that you are assigned at the start of the year talks to you through their microphone and writes on a digital “whiteboard”.
There are usually about 10 people in a class and we can all hear the teacher and each other, digitally raise our hand and answer questions. There is also a little chat box where you can type in answers and interact in class discussions. Sometimes the teacher will even put on their webcam and say hi at the start of the lesson. I personally like that you get to put a face to the name.
It’s extremely interactive just like a regular classroom and you get to know your classmates and teachers and they get to know you.
So while this is never how I ever (EVER) expected to complete the majority of my high schooling, I am so grateful for the opportunities distance ed has given me.
Good luck this year, whether you are studying, working or recovering! And let me know if there is anything else you are wondering about homeschooling or anything else for that matter!