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Parents, Here’s Why a Nontraditional Education May Be Right for Your Child

Written by Nicole Dalbo on Friday, 05 May 2023. Posted in College Bound, For Parents

Excited mother and her daughter lean on a table full of snacks and look at a laptop screen.

As a parent, it’s likely that your experience with high school followed the traditional path. However, in today’s modern world there are more options to finish high school than before to fit the needs of different learners. A self-paced, online education can give your kids ownership in their learning in ways that a traditional education cannot. If you’re curious about a modern alternative to traditional learning, here’s why a nontraditional education may be the right path for your child.

What is nontraditional education?

A nontraditional education provides an educational experience that differs from a typical in-class setting.

While there are many types of nontraditional education, many learners are turning to independent online learning as an alternative to traditional school settings.

How can a nontraditional education be important?

Here are a few ways your child may benefit from nontraditional education.

  1. Nontraditional high school can help prevent students from dropping out
    Pressure from both inside and outside of school can be so much for some students that they decide that earning their diploma is no longer worth it. A nontraditional education can help empower students that are feeling like they’re at the edge of their rope by giving them much more control of their learning environment.

    In online education, students can choose what time they learn, and for how long. They can choose their exam and due dates and submit when they’re fully confident. Because nontraditional students are in control of their learning environments, they also have the ability to limit the distractions that are around them. This type of autonomy can be the difference for many for whether they finish high school or not.

  2. Read more: Is a High School Diploma Important? (A Realistic Look)

    Nontraditional high school helps students get what they need
    Traditional high school is not a one-size-fits all for every student. Students need different factors that a traditional school setting may not provide. Just a few common needs are:

    • More time to study and work on assignments.
      Your child shouldn’t need to cram or pull all-nighters in order to keep up with their schoolwork. In a nontraditional high school, students can take advantage of no due dates. When students are in control of their assignments, they’ll have more time to produce quality work, take exams when they’re ready and have mastered the material, and discover where they need help while they’re working on whatever’s due.

    • Progressing through school at a more advanced pace.
      Gifted students, although incredibly intelligent, may actually perform worse in a traditional school setting. Because they are subjected to the learning pace of their peers, these students may develop bore-out and become bored, unchallenged, and unmotivated to excel. If your child is gifted, a nontraditional education can empower them to move at their own pace and can keep them engaged in their learning.

    • Getting enough sleep by resting on their own schedules.
      Your child wanting to sleep in isn’t necessarily a sign of laziness. In fact, sticking to a traditional school schedule with early start times can actually be detrimental to your child’s health.

      “Late bedtimes and early school start times are a contributing factor to a lack of adolescent sleep. A lack of sleep impacts overall student health, wellbeing, and academic success, and it can even have long-term health consequences.”

      The Sleep Foundation.

    • Time to fit a job and extracurriculars around their classes.
      Whatever your child’s needs are outside of school, it can be tricky to balance with so many time-dependent activities to work around. A flexible schedule can help your child earn money, participate in a sport or social activity, or even volunteer completely around their school schedule.

    • Mental health days to avoid burnout.
      While some stress can be a positive aspect for their development, when kids are faced with ongoing stress or frustration with no chance to relax and recharge, an overwhelming amount can lead to a mental burnout.

      “Student burnout is a type of burnout that comes from extended academic stress. The main symptoms of student burnout include a lack of motivation and interest, impaired ability to focus, physical health issues, lack of creativity, and decreased academic performance.”

      This is extremely relevant to neurodivergent students that may take more time and effort in order to accomplish the same schoolwork as neurotypical students. A nontraditional education can allow students to take the time they need on their schooling, as well as take the much-needed time off in order to manage their stress at tolerable levels. The best part? They can pick up exactly where they left off without missing further homework or assignments.

    • Controlling their environment to limit distractions.
      The ability to limit distractions in a learning environment is a critical need for many learners. In the United States, according to the Department of Education, the typical classroom size is 21 students. With class sizes as large as those, there are bound to be distractions from others which are unavoidable. Controlling their environment can empower your child to accomplish their schoolwork and avoid typical classroom distractions with much more ease.

      Some students operate differently, so an education that is different than traditional may benefit them.

How can a nontraditional education benefit my child?

A nontraditional education can help keep them on track to graduate.
For some students, a traditional school can be so limiting that they feel like they have no choice but to stop short of graduation. A nontraditional education can help empower students to take control of their education. Whether it’s what time they’re learning, where they’re learning, who they’re learning around, or having the ability to work at a pace that suits their needs, many students can find what they need from a nontraditional education that makes them feel confident about their decision to finish school.

Finishing high school is much more than just getting a piece of paper. Your child earning their diploma means that a wider array of jobs become available. In fact, on average, high school graduates earn up to $10,000 more per year than those who have not yet earned their diploma. Greater financial stability may mean greater happiness and health, and less stress, in your child’s life.

A nontraditional education can help them graduate quicker.
While some students may need more time to get their work done, other students are able to excel much faster. Whether your child would like to quickly move on to the next phase in their life or take some time off before getting a job or going to college, then a self-paced education that enables them to graduate quicker may be good for them. If your child is more advanced, they should be able to advance through their curriculum quicker and can also help them keep a strong work ethic along the way.

“I never thought I would be able to do it, but here I am. I was able to graduate high school at the age of 16 and now I’m in college pursuing a psychology degree!” – NyJada B. 2022 JMHS Graduate

A nontraditional education can help them take control of their education.
With the ability to control their schedule, due dates, pace, and which subject is worked on that day, students in nontraditional education hold ownership over their studies—and a little ownership can go a long way.

“Students are more motivated when they feel a sense of ownership over their work” (Harvard).

A nontraditional education in which the students can have control over may help develop a more positive relationship between the student and their learning.

A nontraditional education can help your child develop lifelong skills.
History and math aren’t the only kind of education your child can get at a nontraditional school. Although not explicitly taught, students in nontraditional environments often pick up critical skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. In a nontraditional, self-paced setting, self-motivation and time management skills are naturally picked up along the way as they navigate their day-to-day learning. They may also become more self-sufficient learners, as while resources are always readily available, they must be sought after.

Is online school good for my child?

The type of school that is good for someone is ultimately up to the individual student. It’s always best to communicate openly to your child about what they would like from their education and how to make that happen. However, here’s how online school can be good for your child:

Flexible education
With a flexible education, your child will have more time to get the sleep they need around their natural schedule. It can also provide them with the ability to stay on top of their schoolwork and extracurriculars simultaneously—important for both recreationally destressing and can help them stand out to colleges.

Read more: A Day in the Life of a High School Student (Online High School Edition)

Helps students with special needs
If your child is neurodivergent, the ability to move at their own pace can dramatically help them navigate school in a way that they wouldn’t be able to with strict schedules and due dates in traditional schools. Less distractions at home or in another neutral learning environment can mean that your child is able to better focus on what they’re learning, as well.

What should I look for in a nontraditional education for my child?

When searching for any type of education, accreditation is always one of the most important factors. An accreditation is often what is needed for an education to be viewed as legitimate in the eyes of others. Whether your child is looking to pursue a college education, enter the military, or go straight to work after high school, an accreditation can help them open the doors to these types of opportunities.

As for what else to look for, that’s mostly between you and your child. Have a discussion with them and determine amongst yourselves what is most important for you both in their education. Here are some topics you may want to bring up in your discussion:

  • Availability of college prep courses or a common core curriculum
  • Availability of courses to prepare for a career after high school
  • Self-paced education with flexible schedule
  • No due date or exam date policy
  • A moderated social environment to escape from bullying

Choosing the perfect nontraditional school may require research in order to find the perfect fit for your child. However, if the above appeals to both of your needs, James Madison High School can be a great option. JMHS is an accredited online high school that helps learners take control of their education while preparing for their future. If you’d like more information on this nontraditional option, reach out to one of our Admissions Specialists at 1-800-349-8281 or get started at today.

About the Author

Nicole Dalbo

Nicole Dalbo

Nicole Dalbo studied English Literature with a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Scranton and is currently working toward her MS in Marketing. When she isn’t writing, Nicole can be found watching the newest Marvel movie, baking something sweet, or jamming out to live music.