An Education Alternative In Maryland?

Online Education In Maryland’s Future

Emerging Minds of Maryland, (EMoM) is a relatively new grassroots organization originating in Baltimore County by five families who participated in a Baltimore County Public School pilot program in the 2008-09 academic year.

Senator Rosapepe met with the families of E-mom at the introduction of SENATE BILL 1032 "Funding Formula to Expand K-12 Online Education" on March 25th, 2009 at the MD state house.

Senator Rosapepe met with the families of E-mom at the introduction of SENATE BILL 1032 "Funding Formula to Expand K-12 Online Education" on March 25th, 2009 at the MD state house.

The pilot school was a virtual school comprised of students with brick and mortar public school and home schooling experience, parents who supervised their own children’s learning, certified teachers, quality curriculum and internet access.  Most of the families considered the program extremely successful, so successful in fact, that many chose to continue with it despite Baltimore County’s decision to not fund it for the 2008-09 year.

Most people do not know what virtual schooling is, and lack of understanding often brings criticisms. But EMoM is not afraid of discussion because when the critics take the time to investigate virtual schooling they begin to think of individuals who could benefit from another effective education option in the tool box.

Virtual school is not home schooling.  Though it occurs in the home, parents do not choose the curriculum, nor grade the assessments. The parents are considerably more involved than traditional schools as they must approve all work that is completed.  Students find themselves accountable to certified teachers with whom they interact over the internet, e-mail and phone.

Virtual school is not only for troubled or special needs children. It should be viewed as another option just as our magnet schools are an option given Maryland’s students. The Baltimore County Virtual Instruction Program included average children, gifted and talented children, children with compromised health issues, children focusing on the arts, children who could not succeed in the traditional classroom and more.

Virtual school is not a death knell for socialization. Interaction does not only occur in cyberspace.  Families involved in virtual schooling, as in home schooling are very intentional about the interaction their children have available. Students in a virtual school frequently get together for organized field trips, create study groups, compete in sports and form clubs.  They also interact at many levels within their families and with the school support staff.

Delegate Boteler poses with students of Connections Academy and the families of E-Mom after the introduction of House Bill 1543 (Education - Public Schools - Virtual Schools) Sponsored By: Delegates Boteler and Kach. March 24, 2009

Delegate Boteler poses with students of Connections Academy and the families of E-Mom after the introduction of House Bill 1543 (Education - Public Schools - Virtual Schools) Sponsored By: Delegates Boteler and Kach. March 24, 2009

Virtual school does not take tax dollars from the local school any more than tax dollars providing unique programs in various schools do. Revenue is distributed in an unfamiliar manner, but it is still designated for the education of the children whose parents pay into the system.  It provides an alternative for the parent who does not want to send their child to a grossly over capacity zoned school.  It offers hope to a student who is overly anxious or distracted in the brick and mortar school. It provides the school system with another option for the student who is facing expulsion, becomes pregnant, has health issues, etc.

Virtual school is a school. It has teachers. It has a principal. It has a quality curriculum, student supplies. It is full of students and learning is taking place.  It exists in over 23 states and internationally. It can be a  constant for families who are extremely mobile. Its inherent flexibility allows learning at the individual student’s own pace.  EMoM wants this option available for all who could benefit from it… not to replace traditional brick and mortar schools… but an option possible because of 21st Century technology.

EMoM will have a “Meet and Greet” Monday, June 22nd in Baltimore County. For more information on Virtual Schooling in Maryland see www.emergingmindsinc.org

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About the Author - Emerging Minds of Maryland, Bonnie Wesselhoff

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