Just Enrolled in Cyber School? Here’s What to Expect Next

Thousands of new families have enrolled in one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools over the summer as school districts continue to wrestle with re-opening in the fall. If you’re one of those families, you might be wondering what the upcoming school year will look like. Education expert and former cyber school mom Colleen Hroncich walks through the process of getting her family started with cyber school.

“It’s like Christmas morning!”

My kids were ages 6 through 11 when we enrolled in PA Virtual Cyber School. About two weeks before school started, we received a big shipment of school supplies: laptops, printers, art and music supplies, science kits, textbooks, and more. One of my kids exclaimed, “It’s like Christmas morning!” It was very exciting to sort through all the supplies and set up cubbies for each of them. (My reminder that the supplies were funded through taxes—not from Santa Claus—didn’t dampen the excitement.)

Our schoolroom

Our game plan was to use our basement as the “schoolroom” and keep the mess there. While many families successfully use a similar approach, the plan didn’t last long in our house. We always migrated upstairs and drifted into a much more scattered environment. But we still had a great year, and my kids learned a lot. So rest assured—whether you’re super organized or a bit messy, you can make cyber school work for your family.

Co-ops, micro-schools, pandemic pods

One of the best decisions we made was to join a local co-op with four families who also had PA Virtual students. We met one day a week and broke the day up into subjects. A parent from each family covered a different subject (science, art, music, and history because those were the subjects that we felt were most important to do with others). The remaining parent watched younger kids and pitched in as needed. In addition to helping share the load for labs and projects, the co-op was a great social break for the kids and parents each week.

Recently, “pandemic pods” have become popular, but they’re really just another name for co-ops. If you’re trying to figure out how to manage your job and/or younger children while helping your kids with cyber school, you might want to look for other families in your area who are enrolled in the same school. Before COVID, churches and libraries were often willing to host co-ops. Check in your area to see if any such facilities are providing space for co-ops. Alternately, each family in the “pod” can take turns hosting. Consider background checks before making arrangements with other families and parents.

Have fun!

While there will be days when you wonder why you signed up for this, try not to let those feelings overwhelm you. We all feel that way sometimes, but remember what you’re getting in exchange. A huge benefit of learning from home is that there’s no rushing to get kids on the bus or squeezing in hours of homework after school. I found our kids fought less when they weren’t constantly exhausted from late nights and early mornings of traditional school. Many cyber schools have a strong support staff to help you adjust to the new routine—reach out to them as needed. And above all, don’t forget to enjoy this time with your children.