Parents weigh options with virtual kindergarten

As 5-year-olds everywhere prepare to enter kindergarten new online schooling options emerge

By Sandra Ali - Anchor/Reporter

DETROIT - For 5-year-olds everywhere the end of the summer is a big time of year; in just a few weeks they'll start kindergarten.

Kindergarten means big changes, like having to listen to a teacher and making new friends.

However, some parents are opting to keep their kids out of a traditional brick and mortar school and are instead enrolling them in virtual kindergarten.

Wesley Klein, age 5, is very excited for kindergarten.

But, instead of going to school Wesley's mom Holli is keeping his learning at home.

It's not homeschooling, but rather virtual schooling through a free charter school online.

"Right now it's about a mix, he probably spends two-thirds of the time just working directly with me and through books and reading and the other third online," said mom Holli Klein.

The curriculum, the books and web program are all free.

From home Wesley will do four hours of work a day at his own pace and when he needs help, Wesley can webchat with his teacher.

Mom Holly can even carve out time with Wesley to engage with other kids.

She's connected with his classmates' parents through Facebook and the school helps facilitate playdates and field trips.

The question: is online schooling at a kindergarten level causing kids to miss out on critical social development?

"There's so much power in learning in a social environment. When children are home with maybe just one or two people they are limiting the amount of social opportunities they have," said Mary Duggan from the ASU School of Social and Family Dynamics.

"I would be worried, concerned about a child getting the experience that they need to experience and to hone and develop sills, especially these self regulation behaviors, emotion regulation, learning motivation how to read social cues, make friendships and maintain friendships how to become empathetic, and take perspective," said mom Tashia Abry.

For Wesley's mom the option works. Holli says she was home-schooled herself for years.

She has another child who did a year of online schooling, but is now enrolled in a traditional school.

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