Virginia parents are seeing their children thrive in Proximity Learning’s virtual school. Nicole Wilberg describes her family’s positive experience with online learning.
Nicole Wilberg’s son attends school all day 5 days per week. He sees his teacher and interacts with classmates in core subjects as well as PE, Art, and Music. The only difference from some other students in the area is that he does it all from home.
In 2020, schools shut down without contingency. During the 2020-21 school year, districts created their own virtual learning systems with the limited resources they had. By 2021-22, Prince William County Schools reopened its doors and partnered with Proximity Learning to provide a virtual option to families that wanted to continue learning from home. The Wilberg family felt uneasy about possible fluctuations in schooling due to quarantining and sudden school closures, so they enrolled in Proximity Learning’s virtual school through their home district.
What Is The Daily Experience Of Virtual School?
Mrs. Willberg shares that her son has benefited from virtual school because he gets to be home where he is comfortable but is still part of a class. “His teacher is very accessible. She answers any questions he has. He gets to work sometimes by himself and other times they go into breakout rooms where he works with other students. The teacher helps guide them in their discussions. It’s been really fun. He’s here but he’s also part of a class where they’re interacting. They often play games in class like on blooket and kahoot where they get to play a game together and have little competitions. It makes it really fun to learn that way.”
In addition to core courses, students also have online supplementals. Mrs. Wilberg was a little hesitant to see how virtual PE would work at home, but has been pleasantly surprised by her son’s ability to still learn the skills like how to dribble, pass, and shoot during the basketball unit. “Right now they’re doing volleyball, so we’re practicing volleyball. Either they bump it against the wall or if I’m around then I’ll toss it back to him so he doesn’t have to keep running after it. It’s fun to see them go through the different sections and learn the skills and techniques. Then we can practice and play it outside on our own. He’s got a basis for the skills that he’s learning.”
How Accessible Is The Virtual Teacher?
Both Mrs. Wilberg and her son have enjoyed getting to know the virtual teacher. “She’s very accessible. She has Zoom with them all day. She uses the chat to either send a message to the class or to send a message directly to her. If they don’t understand something or have a question, she can chat right back. If she needs to talk to a student a little longer, she will sometimes pull them into a breakout room to have a conversation one-on-one. She also uses ClassDojo as a reward-based system where they get points for certain good behaviors or for doing extra credit in class. When the whole class reaches a certain number of points, they get an award like doing a show-and-tell, getting a few extra minutes for their lunch break, or “Music Monday” where they all get to play a song they really like. ClassDojo is good for the rewards, and it's also a good way to communicate. Whenever I have a question for her, I send it through ClassDojo or email. It’s just another way for us to communicate.”
What Are The Benefits Of Virtual School?
The Wilbergs have noticed academic and personal growth fostered during virtual school. “One of the things virtual school really helps with is skills that are so useful later on like self-regulation, executive skills, knowing your schedule, keeping track of your assignments, figuring out what you need to do when. I know my son would have gotten there and he was already well on his way, but I think this accelerated his ability to develop those skills. I can help him a little bit and communicate with his teacher about something if he’s having trouble knowing where to log in or something, but we really haven’t had too much of that. It’s been mostly on him to figure out what he needs to do, where he needs to be, what link he needs to click to log in for each class. He’s really developed a strong set of executive skills and self-regulation that I think will help him later down the line when he has more homework and electives.”
“He can already manage his own schedule, assignments, and homework. It’s been nice to see his development in those areas. He took the ball and he ran with it. He’s learned what he needs to do, keeps track of his own workspace, and keeps it organized. It’s been nice to see the organization and time management. It’s been very helpful, and he’s done well which is one of the reasons why the system is working so well. I think different kids develop different skills at different times. For us, the timing has aligned with his development.”
What Do Parents Like About Proximity Learning Virtual School?
“I like how he’s home but he’s also part of a class engaging with the other kids. I hear him in the breakout rooms working with a group. That’s something that he’s actually excelled at this year. He’s really developed the skills and collaboration working with other kids, which isn’t something that I would expect from a virtual learning experience. He’s really gotten a lot of practice and has learned how to work with a group and make sure everybody’s input is heard. It’s almost like watching him in a meeting at the office over zoom! He’s learning how to take everyone’s opinion in with respect and give some feedback. It’s a great life skill for later. We like that he’s interacting, he’s having fun, but he’s still learning. He’s developed a lot of autonomy in order to manage his own day and schedule.”
“Of course, I like how consistent his days are. I worried about in-person quarantines and periodic lockdowns. There’s a lot going on right now with masking or not masking. We just don’t have to worry about any of that. We’re home doing our own thing. Every day he knows how to log on and where to be, then sees his teacher there. There’s a comfort that comes with that consistency. He knows where to be, what to do and we don’t have to worry about anything else.”
What Do Students Like About Proximity Learning Virtual School?
“My son loves the games - the blookets are his favorite. They get really into that. They have a lot of fun. He likes all of it. He likes independent work. He likes being able to just get a project and go off on his own. That helps him feel independent. It makes him feel a sense of self-confidence and accomplishment being able to take a task that he’s learned to do and work it out on his own. He also likes little things throughout the day like seeing his teacher’s dog.”
“He’s also in the gifted program through Proximity Learning as well. That’s gone really well. It’s the best year we’ve had in gifted. The topics are really engaging, current, and relevant. He enjoys that a lot too. He does that once a week for an hour and a half. They do a lot of really interesting things in that class. He enjoys that a lot, so he looks forward to Thursdays.”
What Makes Proximity Learning Virtual School Stand Out?
The Wilbergs love virtual schooling and plan to continue next year. They appreciate the live interaction the most. “That live instruction is really key. The teacher is key as well. It can be easy for kids who are home—where the teacher’s not right there in front of them in person—to fall into the background and avoid doing things. Nobody notices, and they slip through the cracks. But our Proximity Learning teacher isn’t going to let anyone fall through the cracks. She notices an assignment is missing. She will talk individually to that child and pull them into a breakout room to have a one-on-one about what’s going on. No one is slipping through there. She’s on top of everyone. In addition to keeping all the kids on track with their assignments, she makes every child feel like somebody cares about them, somebody is paying attention to them, and it matters to them whether they get their work done. It's not just about checking a box. Somebody cares about their personal learning experience. That makes all the difference.”
Mrs. Wilberg would recommend virtual school to any parent. “We appreciate that our school district partnered with Proximity Learning this year because it’s been a great experience. My son’s having a great 5th-grade year!”
Proximity Learning partners with school districts to provide high-quality, live virtual learning.