Is Online Highschool Right for Your Teen? 

02.10.24 03:58 PM Comment(s) By Lisa

Our Journey to a Virtual Charter School

Our journey to a virtual school was a long one. It's definitely not for everyone. It takes a personality that can stay focused and be responsible. It also needs to be said that WHATEVER you decide to do as a parent, It's YOUR decision. Do what your gut tells you is best for your kid. Every situation is different. 

Our Maggie has grumbled about school for as long as I can remember. She ALWAYS complained of having to sit still for hours and felt she wasn't learning anything. Kids go through so many changes as they grow both physically and emotionally, and parents need to know that most of these changes are normal. For us, it started out with "I have a belly ache"... it was EVERYDAY! She was best friends with the school nurse (in grade school, middle school, and freshmen year of high school). We had her cleared medically and then began with developmental assessments conducted by our local school district. Twice! Once in 5th grade and then again in 7th grade. Both rounds of testing concluded that Magg's was right on target with her age group and grade level. 

Maggs has always had a close-knit group of friends, but there have also been social anxieties that are compounded by growing up in a society plagued by instant gratification and an abundance of technology. Kids can see what their peers are doing and the successes they are attaining every minute of the day. For teenage girls it's like a massive case of "Keeping up with the Joneses". One of the most difficult things to teach a kid is how to truly be happy for someone else's success. It can also be a struggle for some adults too, but as an adult, it's YOUR problem to deal with. When it's a kid/teen, it's our job as parents to help guide them into the right mindset and explain why it's important to support our friends and families. It shows self-confidence, grace, and loyalty which are all ingredients in a healthy recipe for growth and maturity. 

From the time Magg's was in grade-school she would say, "I wish I could home school". I would roll my eyes and say, "I wish I could work from home too". This was obviously during the pre-Covid era when I was a clinically practicing Physician Assistant with a busy vascular surgery practice. Fast forward a decade and I had transitioned into the home-based position with UnitedHealthcare reviewing medical necessity cases for their members in 2018. Once I was settled into working from home, Covid hit! All kids were home-schooling. Maggie's grades were never better. She was happy and relaxed. Then we moved past the covid quarantines and into social distancing with masks. In her mind, she went from "trapped at a desk all day, to trapped at a desk all day, now uncomfortable with a mask on her face, and unable to high-five or hug a friend".  Her anxiety sky-rocketed (as I am sure many other kids did). When she finally ended up in high school I thought, "This is going to be different! She has a great group of friends, the perfect lunch table, and for the most part, she really likes her teachers"!!!  WRONG..... Social anxiety amplified and it was a daily conversation about how she couldn't focus, her stomach hurt, she hated school, and she just wanted to leave. So, I started doing research.....

I started first with talking to her dad. We knew if we agreed to this, there would have to be ground rules. At 15, she was now old enough to be home alone, but we questioned whether she would be mature and focused enough to get assignments done on time and log into classes when instructed to do so. We then talked to a therapist and also her pediatrician. All agreed this may benefit Magg's given her success during the Covid quarantine. If she were younger, we all agree that homeschooling for Maggie may have not been the right thing to do. She would have missed important social milestones and interactions. But now that she is old enough, has an established friend-group that actively plans outings, attends local high school sporting events, and goes to the mall, etc., I'm no longer worried she's going to end up awkward, chronically internet surfing, and pulling away from society, which were truly my concerns as a parent (especially a parent that is an extrovert, talks to anyone, and hugs EVERYONE). 

After researching many virtual options for high schools, we found one that made sense for us. It's the top Pennsylvania Charter school that also has a physical location near-by. There is an advanced placement program and a performing arts section that she could enroll in should she choose to. These programs require some attendance at physical locations nearby. A fellow physician friend of mine had enrolled her daughter there as well, so we had a fantastic endorsement from someone who we highly respect. Obviously, there are pros and cons to any decision. Every family needs to weigh them for their own particular case. 

We made the jump and we never looked back. Every Wednesday Magg's participates live via Zoom for each class. The rest of the days she is instructed to log into each teacher's "virtual classroom" and complete any assignments that are due by midnight that day. Many of the kids enrolled are competitive athletes and performers that need flexibility with school, and this allows them to do that. 

For the first time ever, after her first full semester, Magg's made the Honor Roll! All As in Biology, Geometry, American Government, Creative Writing, and College Prep (which guides essay writing). She's SO happy, she continues to make plans with friends, she is pursuing her love of competitive ballroom dancing, and she has started her own Etsy and Ebay shops called "Bling by Maggie", selling hand-crafted chocolate covered pretzels, which has amassed over $800 in sales since opening up in December 2023. With all of the "wants" these teenage girls have, I told her to "get a job" and she replied, "I want to be my own boss". Well then, it seems like we have yet another female with a motivated entrepreneurial spirit in our family! 

Her dad and I couldn't be more proud of her, finding her way, and making it a success!  It continues to prove that every kid does not always succeed in the same cookie-cutter, traditional, way of schooling. Learning in the comfort and safety of her home where she doesn't have stress, isn't feeling judged, and is just able to focus, has made all the difference in her world. While I agree that you have to sometimes let kids fall, and you can't protect them from everything, I also believe in listening to them and letting them guide their own path within reason. I'm so glad I listened to my gut in this case because she is becoming her own success story, and I am her biggest fan! 


Maggie will be 16 in less than a month now. That will come with its own set of challenges as we navigate the teen driving era, followed by the search for colleges, and all the rest of life's milestones! I'm looking forward to every minute of it!


-Lisa Xoxo


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