Many students and families begin online school for specific reasons and with specific goals in mind. They want to escape from traditional school systems in order to have more time, freedom, personalization, and flexibility to pursue dreams and create great educational results. Sadly weeks, months, or perhaps even years later, those same students and parents find that their <“school at home” model is emulating the very system from which they were originally seeking to escape. Yes the student is now allowed to hit the snooze button a few more times in the morning and begin schoolwork in their pajamas, but their learning model, educational experience and daily routine haven’t changed much.
Without creativity, commitment and a healthy dose of courage, online school can end up looking just like traditional site-specific school, and produce the same uninspiring, mediocre results. Personalized learning is only made personal when students first discover their learning style, passions and goals and then craft an educational experience utilizing the breadth of tools and resources available to them.
Taking full advantage of personalized online education and finding a perfect blend of courses, curriculum and activities is challenging and often exhausting for both parents and students. But with patience, experimentation, communication and creativity, every student can develop an eclectic personalized learning model.
Eclectic schooling means students and parents allow themselves to have the whole buffet of what is available. There is no need to settle on one curriculum or one approach and stick with it religiously. Eclectic schooling is a way to align education to each child’s learning styles, needs, interests, and goals.
Hack-schooling is a beautiful example of what this eclectic learning philosophy can produce. Hack-schooling takes advantage of opportunities in the community and makes learning experiential. For example, a student who loves skiing takes classes offered through the mountain range’s ski patrol and learns the science of weather, snow, avalanches and topography. Instead of learning these scientific concepts from a book at home or in a classroom, the learning is experiential and the material is made practical and real in the student’s life.
Community-based learning gets online school students out of the house, away from the computer and putting their education into action. Many cities have a Parks and Recreation programs that offer community classes ranging from arts to technology. Sometimes local school districts offer classes that are open to the community, as well as vocational and elective programs open to homeschoolers. Community colleges are also a great option for some online high school students. The trick when using community-based learning is to maintain balance; you don’t want to be running yourself ragged going from one group to another, but it can provide a nice change of pace to have one or two classes this way.
As parents and students together build an eclectic personalized learning program, it’s important to remember to remain open to new ideas and be flexible when changing approaches or trying new things. Continue to work as a team while setting clear expectations for academic progress and creating any necessary boundaries to remain balanced. As you fine-tune your approaches, eclectic schooling can be a rewarding experience for everyone.