Online 7th grade programs have evolved significantly in recent years and can provide benefits to students when compared to a traditional classroom setting. Today's middle school students have grown up in tandem with the Internet, so they are already acclimated to a Web-based environment. If you have been thinking about online education for your junior high school student, consider what it could bring your family.
Advantages of online education
Differentiation and flexibility are the foundation of online 7th grade programs. Regular assessments help determine when students master a particular unit and are ready to move on. In a traditional class, the teacher must move ahead at a set pace, but distance learners can spend as long as they need on challenging topics.
What makes the online option even more appealing is the potential of avoiding stresses related to frequent classroom changes, ever-expanding class sizes, bullying and more. Middle school in general -- and 7th grade in particular -- can be a challenging time for both parents and children. Surging hormones, and a big uptick in social awareness and pressures, make it hard for students this age to focus on academics. At the same time, this is a critical year for advancing the academic skills necessary for high school acceptance and success.
What's the online 7th grade curriculum?
The typical curriculum for 7th grade lends itself well to an online audience. In Language Arts, students build on their writing skills, critical thinking and appreciation of literature. The focus of 7th grade science is usually biology and may include cell theory, life processes, earth science and astronomy. Math covers aspects of algebra, including ratios, proportions and percentages. New topics sometimes include scientific notation, concepts with negative numbers and more advanced geometry. In Social Studies, U.S. history is typically the norm.
Distance learning in these core subjects can combine the interactivity of the Web with online assignments and checks for comprehension. Courses are generally delivered via an online management system that can be tailored to 7th graders. To further enrich the learning experience, lessons may include videotaped classroom scenes and demonstrations, 3D graphics, live interviews with experts and discussion groups.
Physical education, foreign language, visual arts and other electives are usually available at online schools in addition to the core subjects.
How much time do students spend online?
Students are expected to put in as much time -- about 6 hours a day -- as they would at a traditional school. How much of that time is spent working at the computer depends in part on the structure of your child's coursework. Some online schools may rely to some degree on printed worksheets or traditional textbooks. The other variable is student interest. Minimum time requirements must be met, but there is no maximum amount of time that a student may work.
The biggest difference with online education is that your family can generally pick the days and times that work is completed -- school doesn't have to be Monday through Friday. School can start at noon, with an afternoon break, and continue into the evening. For most virtual schools, the online curriculum is available to students seven days a week, 24 hours per day, and 365 days a year.
What does online schooling means for parents?
Parent involvement in any student's education has been shown to reap big rewards. Online education is no exception -- the more parents give, the more their 7th graders get. That said, the type of parental involvement may differ, depending on the family's circumstances. Whether your online 7th grader needs an at-home parent is up to you. Many students are used to independent work and do well on their own. Those who need more help may benefit from the presence of a sitter, or from teaming up with some other cyber-schooled families. Another option may be to complete most of the schoolwork in the evenings, when family members are available.
Communication between online educators and parents is key for success. Online schools tend to be quite good at keeping parents updated on their students' current study topics and progress via email or phone, if necessary.
How do the skills children learned online compare?
Many online students are required to take state-mandated assessments along with their traditional classroom colleagues. Although not required, there's a growing trend for online 7th graders to take the College Board's PSAT/NMSQT. The scores from this test are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program in the 10th grade, but some consider it good practice to start taking this test as early as the 7th grade. Online students must find a local high school where the test is administered, usually in October.