Why Do Parents of Gifted Students Turn to Virtual Education?

Virtual education or distance learning is becoming more and more common. Regularly, now, you can see advertisements for distance learning establishments on the television and receive information through the mail or online.  The establishments or more accurately, institutions, include services and classes for both K-12 education, college courses, and even degrees.  There are many reasons why parents and their students turn to virtual education. For many, it is a last resort.  However, the purpose of this blog post is to explore why gifted students and their parents turn to a virtual education platform.

You might be familiar with the story. Great grades, involvement with extra-curricular activities, a job, some socializing – and, maybe even a boyfriend or girlfriend. High school seems to be going great! And then, you realize, or maybe your child tells you – they want out……Out of what, you ask? They inform you that they want to complete high school differently! What!? You express shock and disbelief. You thought they were doing so well!  This is the scenario we experienced when my oldest, then a sophomore in high school – ranked first in his class of over 200 students, came to us seven years ago.

It was clear. He thought that finishing high school via a virtual classroom setting or distance learning, as it is now commonly called, was the answer for him. As it turned out, he was right but what led to this decision? What attracts gifted students to distance learning? Our student was perceptive in determining his own needs and even desires for what his education should look like. And, it was not reflective of a traditional classroom.

These are some of the reasons gifted students might turn towards virtual education:

  • better use of time. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “down” time in schools today.  Gifted students have a need to move through the material at a quicker pace. Our student determined at the time he was in school, only about 3 hours a day were spent learning. The other five hours of the school day was “fluff” or mis-spent on things he just did not need (this includes assembly time and things like character education).
  • more challenging curriculum. Very often, gifted students have been accelerated and are topping out of course options. Even with the chance to take courses via dual enrollment at local colleges, very often virtual schools offer more in terms of course flexibility, more foreign languages, and more AP classes.  At the time of our decision to let our son finish high school virtually, AP classes were restricted at our high school.  He was denied the chance to take three AP courses as a sophomore and I believe that planted the seed of disenchantment with our traditional system. It also showed a lack of understanding of him as a student who very simply, “needed more.”
  • faculty are more used to working with students who do not “fit” in the traditional “box”. As a parent, this is huge!  Although individuality and individual academic needs are said to be valued in traditional systems, problems exist in conveying that value to the students who are sometimes denied what they need (see above).  This applies to learning styles as well.  There is more flexibility with a virtual system to allow the students to learn the way that is best for them.
  • more time to pursue outside interests. Since the gifted student might be able to progress through curriculum at a faster pace, more time is left for “serious” hobbies! These could include music, sports, art, or any number of other things. A great deal of the newly found, extra time that became available once the virtual education was underway for our student was spent on extending his musical abilities.  Gifted students may be extremely passionate about a talent they possess and the flexibility in scheduling allows them to follow or enrich that passion.

All in all, I believe there were about nine reasons my son came up with for wanting to finish high school via a virtual platform. Is it for everyone? No. Is it for all gifted students? Definitely, not! One has to consider the pros and cons for each individual situation and student.  It might not work for all students. But, it worked for us and increasingly is working for other students who need options.

But, when I look back on this now, I think the stage was set with an early history of virtual course enrollment. Aleks Online was used to take geometry the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Additionally, health was taken online via the K12 platform the summer before 9th grade.  After a struggle to “get what he felt he needed” during the first two years of high school – which did include AP Calculus AB, Calc II at a university,  AP – US History, and a trip to the National competition for National History Day in Washington D.C.,  the decision was made to exit the traditional classroom and complete high school, virtually.  As parents did we worry about this? Absolutely! Did we investigate what it would do to his options for college? Absolutely. (And, the answer to that is that it did not make any difference at all – as long as the virtual program is accredited). Did it turn out alright? Absolutely! Was it the right decision? I would say, yes, without any doubts!

There are many reasons students (and parents) become disenchanted with our educational systems today.  And, possibly, even more reasons for the gifted student to be disenchanted. For all these reasons, and others not mentioned that might exist – like social issues – virtual education is a viable option for the gifted student today.











9 Thoughts

  1. Love this so much. Can you recommend any specific programs you really liked?

    I agree about all of your points. We had the same issues- way ahead of the standard curriculum, learns at a way fast rate, not enough learning time at school. Now we homeschool and have used several online platforms. I’m open to see what else is out there. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will be having more posts on this due to accumulating a wealth of information and experience. We used in state resources for the virtual school which was actually another public school system (across the state) that offered an online school in addition to tradition school settings (it was a very large district). K12 can be reached via their website. http://www.k12.com – we only took the health class through them but for both this site and the virtual HS site students can be enrolled full or part time. Aleks at http://www.aleks.com was used for the online geometry course but mentored and set up through our school district. It worked well for our student for a variety of reasons. I also know that some universities use (or did use) Aleks for their math placement exams for entering freshmen. We have been involved with NUMATS through Northwestern University in Illinois for early ACT testing and CTY or the Center for Talented Youth via Johns Hopkins in Baltimore MD for extra math classes (enrichment). I can highly recommend them and their site. I am acquiring a graduate degree which is entirely online from a state university here in the mid-west. Are you in the US? I don’t really think that matters much anymore. In both my grad program and the CTY program there were students from all over the world! I hope this helps. The bottom line for me was research, research, research! Just ask a lot of questions and make sure the program is accredited and reputable. Sounds like you already know what you are doing. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to this, having started diastase learning uni this academic year. I also went down this path for many reasons and it has benefitted me greatly. I’m playing with the idea of switching to physical uni this year for many reasons too, but I definitely don’t regret the decision I made, and think it’s great that the option is out there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear you are happy with your decision to try distance learning. My son who graduated from the virtual high school (as valedictorian, btw), went to a physical university here in the US. It was a large, well respected research-based university. He thrived there and completed his undergrad degree, again at the top of his class. I am finishing a second Master’s degree via distance learning (the entire degree is online). My previous college degrees (2) were from physical institutions. There is a lot to be said for being on a college campus when you are young! Good luck to you! And, thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

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