Tennessee state law states that public school students must spend a certain number of hours in school every day—at least six and a half for it to count as a full day. This holds true for virtual students as well as traditionally public schooled students. There’s just one problem: actually filling those hours.
In a traditional public school, lunch and recess count as part of the school day. For middle and high school students, transition times in between classes—anywhere between seven and fifteen minutes as many as six times a day—count as part of that time. Bathroom breaks for younger students count as parts of those days. So do field trips, assemblies, and special events days. Sure, these are few and far between (in most public schools—there are middle schools where at least one day a week is typically interrupted by something, and dances and other special events occur at least once a month), but they add up over the course of a year.
What about your virtual schooled student? Are they doomed to spend their days chained to a computer, desperately hoping for a reprieve as they struggle through lesson after lesson? Do they have to complete multiple lessons in the same subject to fill in their hours each day? Overwhelm themselves with the amount of information that they’re taking in each week? But there aren’t even that many lessons in each course…are there?
The good news is, it’s not as bad as you think. Following, a series of coping techniques for the virtual school’s six and a half hour day….
It doesn’t always have to be Monday through Friday.
If you have a day when your child is just too frustrated to get anything done, it’s okay to set the schoolwork aside for a little while and pick it up later. Saturday and Sunday are acceptable days to complete schoolwork. Evenings are acceptable times to complete schoolwork. Schoolwork can be completed when it’s convenient for your family, instead of having to be done when it’s convenient for someone else. Just remember that class connect sessions, in many cases, must be completed by Friday of the week they were presented.
Pay attention to PE time.
You get an hour and a half of physical education time each and every day. That means that when you get frustrated with a fidgeting child and throw them outside to run around the house until they’re tired enough or have at least used up enough of the nervous energy to sit down, it counts as school time. It also means that if you take a trip to a park, it’s school time. If your child participates in a sport, this can count as their PE time for the week.
Supplemental time is a gift.
Supplemental time can be anything. It can be watching an educational video, going grocery shopping with mom and discussing prices and how to select food with a high nutritional value, or it can be as simple as your child sitting and reading on their own. Feel like taking a field trip to the library, zoo, or aquarium? Supplemental time. Have an older child reading to or supervising a younger one? Life skills—supplemental time! Are you teaching your older daughter to cook? Yep, that counts, too.
Count completed coursework hours, not the time actually spent on a lesson.
In many cases, that will be far more time than your child actually spent on the work. That’s a good thing, not a bad one, and it doesn’t mean that your child is rushing through the assignment—it just means that the people who designed the virtual system knew what they were doing when they put in extra hours here and there. They will also have optional lessons that show up in many units for literature and math, where they have the option of reviewing previously covered material or of going on to the next lesson. Those lessons should, by the way, be marked “complete,” not “skipped,” particularly if you intend for your child to acquire the next grade level of coursework early.
By contrast, if your student does spend more time on a lesson—perhaps one on which they struggle, an experiment that takes longer than intended, or a lesson that takes off and requires more of their day than anticipated—actually count those hours as total completed hours, not coursework hours.
Class connect sessions count.
Those hours that your child spends glued to their computer, paying attention to a classroom full of other children? They’re classwork hours, just like project hours in class. Count them as they’re scheduled, not as they actually occur. Teachers will tell you that they’re “done when they’re done” with class connect sessions, meaning that even when they’re scheduled for an hour—which teachers will usually hold to, due to scheduling conflicts with other students in many families if they go over—they may not be in the session for that long.