(RNS) Worried about exposure to foul language, immodest dress, peer pressure
, and other inappropriate behavior, Susan Brown didn’t want her two daughters attending public schools — even though she’s a substitute teacher in a public school in Minnesota.
Brown initially home-schooled her daughters until a friend told her about the Minnesota Virtual Academy, an online public school that is fully accredited. She liked the curriculum, and as a single mom relying on substitute teaching income, she preferred how the school provided the supplies instead of having to buy supplies herself as a home-school parent.
Since Florida became the first state to try them in 1996, virtual public schools have enjoyed dramatic growth, with at least some of it coming from religious families. Like home-schooling parents, parents of virtual public school students like having their children home so they can integrate religion and values into the school day.
Virtual schools are different than home schooling in several ways. They are part of the public school system, employ state-certified teachers, administer state assessment tests, and follow standardized curricula. There are also report cards and transcripts.
In a typical week, students spend about 20 to 25 hours on textbook reading and class work, and another five to 10 hours per week attending online classes with a teacher and fellow students.