With the onset of COVID-19 two years ago, families were forced to make difficult decisions about their children’s education. As new technologies were implemented, the transition was difficult and communication was lacking. However, as schools and families adjust to this new pace, many have discovered that the right kind of online education isn’t just an alternative, stopgap measure during the pandemic years – rather, it’s the best way forward.
In 2020, homeschooling rates skyrocketed by more than 60% as families embraced the digital classroom, and in-person learning began to open up, the homeschooling rate home fell only 17%. Many continue to reap the benefits of remote learning even when pandemic restrictions no longer dictate their choices. For middle and high school students, an online option also offers the support and expertise students need as they transition to college.
Two hesitations that families have
A solid foundation. Many families choosing a non-traditional upbringing say centering learning around a Christian worldview is a priority, but online platforms can be heavy on academics and light on character building. Is there room for Christian families in virtual education?
Gravitas, the online global extension of Stony Brook School (SBS), meets the needs of 21st century students while building on a rich heritage of Christian character and scholarship. Within the Safety of Growth Groups, all students are challenged to grapple with big questions while finding purpose and meaning through vulnerability and responsibility.
Along with their studies, students are challenged through daily lessons and exercises to lead a virtuous life centered on love, hope, faith, wisdom, justice, courage and temperance. . “We seek students with a strong work ethic, a desire for spiritual growth, and a willingness to engage in deep conversations,” said Executive Director Sean Riley.
To make friends. Another common concern is the lack of face-to-face socialization that students might enjoy offline. Even before the pandemic changed our thinking about virtual spaces, researchers at the University of California, Irvine were studying face-to-face relationships versus online relationships to determine whether digital relationships can serve people well. They found that adolescents who interact with friends online experience increased intimacy with their peers and that these relationships often meet the same needs as offline relationships such as self-disclosure, validation and companionship.
Riley understands the concerns, but says “the worries people have about socializing just aren’t supported by the research. Our students are in smaller classes with live instruction, so there are plenty of opportunities to build community with their peers. We also have an incredibly diverse student body, leading to fantastic cross-cultural learning that would never happen within the walls of most neighborhood schools where student populations represent a very small slice of the kingdom of God.
Three reasons to say yes
Individual plans. For many families, the flexibility of online school is the greatest asset. Whether families travel frequently, accommodate sports or arts schedules, or simply need a different pace or rhythm to thrive, the online school day is a great choice for independent, high-achieving students. Those who might get bored in a traditional classroom can dive deep into their personal passions and quickly work on the content they master.
Safety and security. Some parents and students are increasingly concerned about safety, social pressures and stress in traditional education. Nearly 1 in 3 people between the ages of 13 and 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder. In 2020, a startling report from the American Psychological Association declared that stress is a national public health crisis in America. Likewise, more introverted students find that they can better focus on their studies without the taxing social interactions with other students and teachers. The online classroom is a safe space for anyone who feels overwhelmed by more traditional environments.
Preparing for the future. Online platforms can offer a wide range of courses that might not be available in physical schools, which stimulates the broadening of students’ interests. More and more college preparatory courses are being taught in online spaces, so students can be better prepared for academia.
Whether the students are academics or professionals, the benefits of online education are not limited to academics. Online education requires students to improve their time management, take personal responsibility for their work, and use clear communication with their peers and teachers – all skills that will serve them well no matter what their future holds.
Stronger individuals, stronger communities
Gravitas leadership is especially passionate about providing access for students who may not have the resources to attend the SBS boarding campus. When this high-profile Christian boarding school began to feel the pressure of physical space constraints, Riley says, “we began to ask ourselves, ‘Do we want to continue to become more elite or do we want to be more missionary?'”
The response has led school leaders to establish an online program that invites students from around the world to take synchronous lessons with their peers. Enrolling students from China, India, Belize and, more recently, Ukraine has motivated the school to consider who else it could potentially serve.
The Gravitas online platform is an invitation to students around the world to take advantage of academic opportunities that are not available where they live. For families looking for a college-preparatory experience with a Christian worldview, Gravitas might be the best choice. Learn more about attending Gravitas or partnering with them for global impact.