Sixth grade can be a transitional time for students as they progress from the elementary- to middle-school years. Whether your child is already participating in an online program or is considering a transfer from a traditional to an online school, online 6th grade programs can provide your family with a variety of choices. Many programs allow children to work at their own pace and use either entirely online or hybrid models that can help promote the social interactivity children might need at the 6th-grade educational level.
Whether any one format is "better" than another largely depends on individual students and their needs. However, online learning can be beneficial for nearly all students, particularly those in middle school. In the early grades, students' development -- both intellectual and physical -- tends to be uniform, with some exceptions both ahead of and behind the curve. But starting in 6th grade, students continue to pursue specialized interests, focusing their studies in particular areas.
A look at 6th grade curricula
While the typical 6th grade online curriculum varies from one school to the next, many follow standards similar to those outlined by the Core Knowledge Foundation in its Core Knowledge Sequence. Online curricula generally introduce the same core subjects as can be found in traditional schools, but in a virtual format. According to the Core Knowledge Foundation, a typical 6th grade learner could study topics in these subject areas:
- English: writing, grammar and usage; poetry; fiction and drama; sayings and phrases
- History: world geography, including deserts; lasting ideas from ancient civilizations; the French revolution; industrialism, capitalism and socialism; American immigration, industrialization, urbanization and reform
- Math: ratios, percents and proportions; measurements, geometry, probability and statistics; pre-algebra
- Music: elements of music; classical music from the Baroque to Romantic periods
- Science: plate tectonics, oceans; astronomy; energy, heat and energy transfer; the human body: lymphatic and immune systems
Students involved in online 6th grade learning might find more variety in their coursework. Elective offerings and advanced learning opportunities at online schools could be less restricted than in traditional environments that often suffer from lack of funding, materials or teachers.
Advantages and disadvantages of learning online
As children grow and develop, the interactions they have with the opposite sex can sometimes be distracting. All too often, more emphasis can be placed on the social elements of the classroom and its surroundings than on actual learning. An online learning environment can help reduce such distractions, allowing students to focus on their lessons and school activities.
However, many online programs allow for interactivity between students via video discussions, e-mail and instant messaging boards -- or even virtual online learning games. Yet, these types of interactive opportunities can diminish the disruptive behavior an out-of-line student can create in the traditional classroom or even minimize the potential for bullying.
A day in the life of an online 6th grade learner
An average school "day" for a 6th grade online student is about five hours long. Two to three of these hours might be spent on the computer, but this could vary depending on the student's course load, the type of computer he or she is using, the number of classes he or she takes and the level education. Children studying in an online environment can spend additional time doing print-outs or hands-on projects at home or completing other projects and engaging with teachers or other students online.
Students in these programs could find themselves in other types of programs that make their days even longer. Some schools, such as the Chicago Virtual School, offer regular interaction with classmates. Students can participate with other students in after-school and extracurricular activities as well as meet with peers on a regular basis. Additionally, online students attending district-sponsored schools typically have access to the after-school sports and leadership programs that are available to students attending a traditional school.
Parent involvement and school materials
In the younger grades, parents can spend upwards of two or three hours a day helping their children navigate the online curriculum. However, by 6th grade, this role will largely consist of guidance, review/test preparation, quality checking and other more administrative tasks. There can still be a role for the parent as an active teacher, but as students advance more toward high school, they can take on more of an ownership role in regard to their education. However, parents typically have access to progress reports and report cards and can follow up with teachers should they have questions.
Fees usually cover all materials a student needs, including science and arts kits, math manipulatives and other course-specific supplies. A computer is also obviously necessary, though some programs -- particularly those offered in conjunction with public school districts, such as the Chicago Virtual Charter School -- include the use of a computer for the length of the program (subject to insurance and deposit considerations).
As you consider a 6th grade online education for your child, be sure to ask focused questions and do side-by-side comparisons of top choices. The right kind of program could help your child to advance his or her knowledge and learn to work well independently while providing forward educational steps he or she may need to take.