As my 25 year high school reunion approaches, I’m thinking about how our world has changed over the years. One of my prized graduation gifts was a huge, silver boombox that probably weighed 10 pounds…complete with radio, stereo sound, and cassette player. It provided hours of enjoyment through college and beyond.   boombox2

And now my 12 year old walks around with his Ipod touch in his pocket, downloading music instantly and volunteering to order pizza for dinner for the sheer joy of being able to do it with his wifi connection.

Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that we were wrestling last spring with finding the appropriate educational experience for our now 10th grader. The choices in our small city are fairly limited and none were just the right fit. What did not occur to us at the time was that the same technology that has made my boombox obsolete and made Facebook a household word has also transformed the face of education. No longer are we limited to schools and teachers that are within driving distance. With an inexpensive computer and an internet connection, the whole world is literally opened up to us.

This year, my son is enrolled in Veritas Scholar’s Academy, an online school with live, interactive classes. His instructors and classmates live from Hawaii to Bermuda, and everywhere in between. At first I was leery of the concept of online classes, and didn’t think of it as “real” school.  I couldn’t imagine how a teacher would explain a complex algebra problem online. Until I learned about the digital scribe. This special tool allows someone to work a problem on paper as it is simultaneously appearing on the computer screen. Thus, the kids can take turns working problems and the teacher can see exactly what they are doing.

What about class discussions, I wondered? Never fear; each student has a speaker and microphone. Debates have been an almost daily occurrence in his rhetoric class.

Because each class meets twice a week with study time in between, his schedule is much like that of a college student. He can’t miss the bus in the morning, but he can still oversleep and miss class. He may not see his classmates face to face, but he gets to interact daily with people from all over the country.  The online option has allowed him to continue studying the subjects that interest and challenge him under some of the best teachers and without having to move away from home or break the bank.

I walked by him yesterday during what I knew was a class period. I heard nothing and he was looking at a book. “Aren’t you supposed to be in class?” I asked. “Yeah, we’re working on homework right now,” he replied. Right then, I heard a young lady ask,        “Mrs. S., I don’t understand this …”

And it hit me…it IS “real” school, and this is one of its new faces.