This time of alternate living and learning environments has impacted most of us in ways we didn’t expect, with long-term effects remaining to be seen. For exceptional students including those who are gifted, twice-exceptional, with disabilities, and other students, this uncertain time may be especially difficult. Schedules have changed, learning materials may have changed, teaching delivery has changed, and family life has changed. We can look at this time with fear and anxiety, or we can try to see the positive things we can take from it.
For many parents of gifted students, at some point in the past, you may have had a thought or two about what it would really be like to enroll your students in a virtual school or to homeschool so that they could learn at their pace and have their needs met. Considering the ramifications of this is often a scary thought and one that many parents wish they could try, but do not because of a variety of reasons. Now that all learning is happening at home, many parents are involved in their child’s learning, even if it is simply to ensure that the student gets the work done that is assigned by teachers -- hard copy packets of papers and tasks, or online lessons and live video classes.
Parental involvement at home in the current situation is not much different from what is required when a student is enrolled in a virtual school. Students are assigned a teacher or teachers and work independently and with classmates to learn. Sometimes there is a live video class, and other times there are readings, labs, and other tasks that must be done away from the computer. Virtual schooling does not equate to seven hours of learning in front of the computer. There is much learning that occurs away from the computer screen, for those parents concerned about that issue. Some virtual schools provide services and classes for gifted learners, so ask the school about those services.
Another myth about virtual schools and homeschooling is that students miss out on socialization. That is untrue for most virtual and homeschool situations. While there may be very restrictive homeschool groups that desire to keep students isolated, in my experience they are very rare. Most virtual and homeschool learning occurs with time for group learning with others, often face-to-face via live video or in-person. Field trips, clubs, video classes and discussions are only a few ways that students who learn outside of the school building keep up with their friends. In addition, there are the typical after-school activities such as scouts, sports, and church activities. Also, for those gifted (and other) students who need down time, virtual and homeschooling provides that time for solitude and alone time to think deeply, ponder, and process what they are learning, time they typically do not get in school before all the after-school activities. With activities being curtailed at this current time, gifted students may find the time to more deeply explore their areas of interest, and/or may discover new topics.
Parents often do not think they are capable or qualified to teach their own students. Many parents lack confidence that they are able to teach their students everything that is covered in the regular classroom. Other parental concerns may be that they do not want to be in the dual role of parent and teacher. Many gifted students have had negative school experiences and parents do not want to be in the role of teacher during the transition from regular school to the virtual or homeschool environment. These are valid concerns. One way to address these concerns is to enroll your student in a virtual school rather than doing homeschooling. In a virtual school your student will have teachers and classmates, similar to regular school, so the parent can be in the role of guide on the side, rather than the teacher assigning work to the student. This has worked for many parents, and has given them confidence that they can help their students learn. It has secured the parent/child relationship by having the teacher as the one who assigns and grades schoolwork. For other parents, homeschooling provides the opportunity to teach their students and is a successful option for their family.
Take this time of alternate living and learning environments to explore schooling options that may have been in the back of your mind for a while, and try it out since there is little choice with the current school closures. You may find that you are much more qualified than you thought and that your students learn more and in different ways than you ever imagined.
To enroll in a virtual school many parents must use Wisconsin’s Open Enrollment. The deadline for open enrollment applications is 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2020. The application and details are available on the DPI website:
List of Wisconsin Virtual Schools (scroll down to the list):
If you live in a district that has a virtual school, talk to the person in charge of the virtual school to inquire about the process for enrolling.
WI DPI Home-Based Private Education Program (Homeschooling). There is a form on the website below that must be completed annually by parents who homeschool their students.
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