There is a growing trend in America of parents opting for their children to leave public or private learning institutions in favor of online school or homeschooling. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, an estimated 2.3 million U.S. school-aged children were homeschooled in one way or another in 2016. With more parents opting for non-traditional education options for their children, it is worthwhile to look at the benefits of doing so. One factor most parents point to in making this decision is their child’s mental health. Now the question is, what are the benefits to a child’s mental health in an online-schooling environment?
Learn at Their Own Pace
The greatest advantage of online schooling is the ability for your child to learn at the pace that best suits them. Online schooling isn’t geared toward anyone skillset, learny style, or learning disabilities. Whether your child is ahead of peers their own age or behind them, online schooling offers a pace that suits them individually. Online schooling also benefits other personal characteristics, such as children with a strong will, creative minds, and those who are extremely active.
As it regards their mental health, this benefit of online schooling can remove stress and frustration from the learning equation. For example, a child who is ahead of peers might never reach full potential if he/she feels stymied by the slower pace. Conversely, a child who is behind peers might feel frustrated by the inability to learn at the pace of other children and could act out. Online schooling provides each individual student with a suitable pace, thus reducing frustration, confusion, and stress from the learning environment.
Flexible Scheduling Enables Downtime
Many online schooling curricula allow students and parents to work with teachers to establish a schedule that is suitable for the individual student. It is not necessarily a requirement to be at a desk for a set number of hours each day or even every day of the week. The same child who feels overwhelmed by the pace of a traditional classroom setting might find that some of the stress originates from being trapped in one classroom for seven to eight hours per day.
Online schooling allows students to schedule courses and participate in coursework on a scheduled timeline that suits both their lifestyle and learning abilities. Not all students have the focus to study coursework for six, seven, or eight hours per day. Likewise, active students with extracurricular activities enjoy a better balance between studies and physical fitness activities. Not to mention, it is much easier to schedule family vacations to step away from stress, work, and weekly routines to build a stronger family relationship.
Control Over the Learning Environment
Parents of children in public schools, in particular, have little say over the curriculum presented to their children on a daily basis. In most cases, state education boards determine what students will be presented in elementary, secondary, and even collegiate institutions. Accredited online schools still meet accepted educational standards, but offer some variety of flexibility that may not be offered in local public learning institutions.
Additionally, it is easier to control the physical and emotional environment for children who are online schooled. One of the biggest mental health stressors for children in public and private schools is bullying. The exhaustion, anxiety, and stress that bullying causes have a tremendous negative impact not only on a student’s learning but on their mental state overall. Although parents are not directly involved in the online coursework that students complete in online schooling, they can certainly be present in the home during the school day. This ensures the student has a loving, supportive environment in which to work and can help erase anxiety and fear over bullying to ensure students have a positive connection to education.
Personalized Learning Experiences
Accredited online schooling programs understand how to deliver personalized learning experiences for students. Rather than relying simply on lectures, reading assignments, and homework, online schooling provides personalized learning experiences. The right program offers students with tiered learning options. Each student can choose whether to go through the basic instructions and curriculum and also build onto that educational base with deeper lesson plans. For example, additional video lessons and lectures with a specialized focus on a particular topic within a broader discipline. In the end, students are offered a richer variety than many public schools would be able to offer each individual.
There are many benefits to online schooling, but parents must understand the difference between mental health and mental illness. Issues such as bullying, stress, anxiety, and frustration with the pace of learning are examples of mental health that can be positively impacted by the switch to an online schooling environment. Conversely, while online schooling can help alleviate some of the learning issues of mental illnesses, it does not impact the greater symptoms of mental illnesses.