First grade is a transitional time for many students. These young learners are taking their initial steps toward 18 years of academic and intellectual growth. For the first time, some will experience what it's like to be in school all day--especially when coming from half day kindergarten programs--and others will discover what it's like to be in a classroom full of (often 18-plus) other energetic and curious children, all of whom have different needs.
However, there are alternatives for parents who want to personally ensure their child's learning is on target. One such alternative is to enroll their student in an online first grade program that offers individualized education.
How the online 1st grade experience can be different
An important advantage of online learning for first graders is liberal scheduling flexibility. Within certain guidelines, students in these formative years could set up a class and study schedule that reflects their particular learning styles and commitments. For example, mom or dad could guide these students through interactive programs online and then take them out for a private music lesson, outdoor adventure or for a visit to the regional children's museum to enhance their experience.
Many children at this age still need to move, and research shows that brain-breaks can be advantageous when it comes to learning. This type of activity can be integrated--and spontaneously so--into the online education program of a first grader.
In a piece called "Online Learning: The Pros and Cons of K-12 Computer Classes" published on the Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com, 2011), the author indicates that an online education holds certain advantages because it can provide a greater variety of course options for students. While first graders nationwide are gaining many of the same fundamentals wherever they are--how to read, how to add simple sums, etc.--online first grade programs can give students the option to work ahead or more in-depth in the areas that interest them the most. If a child shows a love for natural science, for example, he or she might be able to access additional related learning material in an online format more easily than in a traditional school.
A look at what online first grade programs can offer
Like other grades levels, programs for first grade students follow specific learning objectives when it comes to curricula. First graders are typically age 6 or 7 and are building their knowledge in a variety of subjects in order to broaden the scope of their understanding of the world and how things work in it.
A first grader can expect to learn about:
- Language arts: reading and writing basic sentences, the alphabet
- Mathematics: addition, subtraction, graphing, clock and calendar time, money
- Social studies: national history and patriotism, family relationships
Online lessons for first graders can vary significantly from the traditional learning environment. Online first grade students can access a wealth of Web-based resources in multimedia formats that can enhance their learning and retention. Students can spend about half of their day online: working through assignments, listening to teachers via video conference, and working under the close guidance of parents. The remainder of the day can be flexible, perhaps with students pursuing areas of interest in-depth or heading outside with a parent to have other experiences that can reinforce or expand their learning--or just to be with family once the learning day is over.
The role of the parent in online first grade
Parents with children in online first grade programs will likely need to actively support their children from the very beginning. Students may run into difficulties with using the computer - knowing what to do if the Internet connection goes down, for example - -and also in simply understanding instructions for an assignment. Students at this age may also need direction as many youngsters do not have the skills to be entirely self-directed and understand what assignment or area to advance to next.
Alternatively, parents can be comfortable with the idea that they are providing their children with flexible and individualized educations. Furthermore, parents are more likely to have hands on involvement in what and how their children learn. Additionally, parents can create an educational world where learning isn't structured around segmented time frames. If, for example, a child needs five extra minutes to understand a concept he or she can have it--there is no need to move on to meet the schedule of others.
Online first grade programs can give parents the opportunity to provide their children with an entirely new approach to learning. Parents of these students often realize that from a young age, these children are expanding their computer skills and building self-directed learning skills that could be useful in high school, the college years and even beyond.