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  • Debbie Petitto

Three Reasons You Should Consider an Individualized Education this Fall

Updated: 7 days ago

When the Coronavirus caused schools around the country to shut down in March 2020, many parents immediately found themselves responsible for the task of educating their children. Even those who would never have considered home schooling were forced to step in, while teachers scrambled to convert entire curriculums online. If you’re a parent, I don’t have to tell you how big of a challenge this was for you – and likely also for your child.

Over the past few months, parents have realized just how much time and effort goes into adequately educating their children. Many have also realized that virtual school simply isn’t adequate at all for their child.

As the start of the new school-year approaches, parents and students are left with a few options: stay home and attend virtual/online school; go back to the classroom, likely on an adjusted or part time basis; or form homeschool “pods” where families band together to hire tutors. Each of these options has obvious benefits and drawbacks, yet some students will be left without a good option in any of them.

Based on my 46 years of teaching experience, here are three reasons you may want to look into an additional back-to-school option that you might not even be aware of: individualized education. The concept isn’t new but it’s still relatively unknown. While you may not have heard of it until now, here are the top reasons it might be right for your child instead of staying home entirely, going back to a large school, or doing joint home-schooling with another family.

Not every student will thrive online

Even though your child or teenager probably acts as though spending all day on the internet would be heaven, virtual classroom learning is difficult and ineffective for many students. From having to sit still in front of a computer for long periods of time, to lack of direct supervision and accountability, there are many reasons a virtual classroom may not be right for your child.

Particularly, when it comes to students with different learning styles and needs, sitting in an online class can be detrimental to the end goal of actually learning. Not every student has the ability to self-direct and stay on task the way that’s needed in an online environment. And if you thought one teacher had a hard job accommodating students with different learning styles in an actual classroom, the online setting only amplifies this issue.

If your child struggles to pay attention to the virtual class and complete work independently, you may find yourself re-teaching material each night (at best) and your child falling severely behind grade level (at worst).

Large schools are still too risky until COVID-19 is contained

As of this writing, July 27, 2020, daily infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 are exponentially greater than they were when schools were shut down in the spring. No one really knows what will happen when schools reopen, but parents and teachers should be prepared for yet another spike in cases, particularly since children appear to be asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus.

For many parents, the risk is just too great. Public schools in the Birmingham area can easily have upwards of 1,000 students and private schools still have several hundred. Meanwhile, medical experts recommend limiting gatherings of people to 25 or less to reduce the chances of creating a “super spreader” event. With these facts in mind, it’s clear gathering hundreds or thousands of students daily is not a “safe” option.

Whether you choose to home school alone, “pod” together with other families, or look into an alternative approach, putting your child in contact with as few other people as possible while still maintaining the quality of education he or she needs, is every parent’s goal.

A compromise between safety, cost, and a sense of normalcy

For parents and students alike, the new world of staying at home and quarantining has taken a mental, physical, and financial toll. Even for children who do well enough with the academic aspects of online learning, parents worry about the social and developmental impacts of school taking place at home, alone, and online.

Banding together with friends or neighbors into homeschooling “pods” is quickly becoming popular precisely because parents are looking for a compromise between the safety of quarantining and the educational and social needs of their children. Not to mention, with many of these same parents working from home for the foreseeable future, they simply can’t keep up their job duties and function as teachers.

Unfortunately, the financial burden of the “pod” system is out of reach for many families. Parents are paying upwards of $100,000 per year for one teacher who potentially only works 4 hours per day, according to one Insider.com article. Some parents are even offering healthcare benefits to entice private tutors! When you compare that cost to a non-traditional private school situation, such as The Arlington School, the difference is astounding.

Even if money were no issue, the benefits of an established non-traditional school include:

  • History of success: We, as an example, have been doing this for 20 years and our teaching philosophy hasn’t changed due to COVID-19.

  • Personalized instruction: Each student receives a curriculum that meets their specific needs, not the needs of classmates.

  • A greater variety of subject matter/class options: Students have access to art, foreign languages, and computer science, just to name a few.

  • Diversity: At an established school, students will learn to interact with others that aren’t from the same household or neighborhood.

So, if you’re looking at your options for school this fall and wondering if there is a better way to keep your child safe and on track with his or her learning, you may want to consider a small, non-traditional school in your area.

For those living in or near Birmingham, Alabama, we would be happy to help you assess your options. If you're outside of our service area, lists of "alternative schools" can be found by each state or locality through a simple google search.

About the author

Debbie Petitto is the founder and Principal of The Arlington School, located in Birmingham, Alabama. She created The Arlington School in 1999 as a 501c(3) to serve the needs of students who were not being adequately served by the public and private educational system.

The Arlington School is “dedicated to the success of the individual student” and provides a high-quality and highly-customized junior high and high school experience for its small student body in grades 7-12.

With the Coronavirus pandemic at top of mind, The Arlington School is committed to creating a safe and sanitary environment for its approximately 10-15 students and several teachers. Thanks to its small size, the school has the ability to enforce face masks, social distancing, and frequent sanitization of surfaces while continuing to provide the exceptional education it has offered for the past 20 years.

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The Arlington School

1312 22nd St. South

Birmingham, AL 35205

(205) 939-3665

Arlington@arlingtonschool.net

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