Online learning tips from a parent and student who have been doing it for years

With so many local public school systems developing virtual classes and parents lining up their kids to take them, ABC11 checked in with a parent, student and administrator at the state's largest virtual school for tips.

It turns out a key ingredient is a closely involved parent.

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It may be doable if you're working from home but there must be a parent around to make it work.

Lauren Acome is the Head of School at the North Carolina Virtual Academy, an online charter school established five years ago.

That's where 9-year-old Peyton Houghton is a student.

Peyton, who will soon start fourth grade at NCVA, has some advice for the many kids who will start online learning for the first time next month.

"The amount of education in it is just so cool. And it's so much fun. Maybe even some of your friends are there too. And you can make new friends, go on field trips. It's so much fun," she said.

But it wasn't so much fun for her mom Crystal Portillo when Peyton first started online learning in the second grade.

Portillo had to develop a strict schedule to keep Peyton from getting distracted by being at home.

"It took her a while to learn the routine but she finally got it down. And now that she's got it down, she wants me to teach her all the way through college," she said.

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Note that Portillo talked as though she's doing the teaching because that's what online learning is -- kind of a combination of regular school and home school.

But virtual schools provide the expertise many parents don't have.

"If for any reason there was any struggle, you always had tech support or the school that you can contact or even be able to contact a teacher," Portillo said.

The current situation has certainly shown that online learning likely needs to be at least an alternative for the future.

"Whether it be a hurricane or a pandemic such as this. We can't allow that to stop education. We still have to provide a quality educational environment for students across the state," said Acome.

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The North Carolina Virtual Academy is at full enrollment with 2,945 students.

Their waiting list is nearly 4,000.

Acome says school officials are willing to enroll more if the state gives the go-ahead.
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