“It’s finally going to be okay”: the option of online schooling

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the fall of 2018, 50.7 million students were expected to enroll in public schools. Because of this commonality, many students are under the impression that they’re stuck in the same routine and have to live with the pressures of public schooling, despite what it may do to their mental health.

They believe that public school is the only form of education that they could receive. But Seren Lindquist, a student at Whitmore Online High School, says differently. Despite the many advantages of public schooling and the opportunities it may present, if it’s not good for your mental health, there are other options. Online schooling is one of them.

Public school offers experience with communication, is an easier way to make friends, has a set curriculum that is carefully watched over by the government and  gives students access to clubs and extracurriculars that are student-run or that they might not have access to outside. However, public schools don’t always cater to students’ specific needs, especially when it concerns mental health. Although schools like Neuqua offer access to several social workers, psychologists and counselors, in such a big community it can be hard to address everyone’s individual concerns. In cases that involve severe depression or social anxiety, it can be difficult for students to meet classroom requirements, like presenting in front of an entire class and taking timed tests.

Seren Lindquist, former Neuqua student, recently turned to online schooling. Online schooling offers an option in which you don’t need to dropout of high school to live stress free. Lindquist struggled with being in school for quite a while before leaving it for online schooling.

She felt anxious and outcasted when her teachers pushed a new challenge. “I remember that it was the beginning of November when I had the fleeting thought that I didn’t belong where I was…I would try to distract myself from it, but eventually I just burst into tears after a teacher pushed me to my limit, and I remember sitting in the corner hallway near my locker just balling my eyes out, thinking ‘I need to go. I need to get out of here,’” Lindquist explains. In December, she finally transferred to online schooling at Whitmore Online High School.

Before applying to Whitmore, Seren had to write a 22-page essay, clearly depicting her thoughts on the current schooling system and why somewhere else was better suited for her. “Not that my high school is a bad place, but I’m not exactly the best person to follow a strict schedule, surrounded by thousands of students, with expectations and deadlines creeping up on me, hearing the sound of my empty stomach grumble and having to do things that nobody ‘like me’ would want to do,” she explained.

After her counselor and parents agreed that online schooling was the better option, the enrollment process began. Whitmore Online High School can be enrolled in through their website, whitmoreschool.org. The website offers profiles on a gymnast, a ballerina, and a singer/songwriter and displays what different schedules may look like to show prospective students just what they’re getting into. Some students have school for 3 hours, maybe even less a day, and Whitmore allows them all to work at their own pace and schedule. It even offers 24/7 math tutoring. A basic diploma program is $1499 per year and the enrollment window never closes, so whether it be January or July, students  can enroll any time by filling out a form with basic information, selecting a payment plan and education program and paying the tuition. The school offers six different programs allowing students to either get a complete high school diploma or simply taking individual courses to receive credit.

This easy enrollment process and independent schedule allows Lindquist to do things she loves and get graded based on the mastery of a topic rather than a singular, one-and-done test. It also allows her to work at her own pace without stressing herself out and affecting her mental health. The school still assigns homework but does not require a specific “sit-down” time, so the assignments can be done at the Lindquist’s convenience. “Four months later, and I’m an all A student at Whitmore Online High school. I have completed around 2 courses so far, and I can pace myself however I want,” she says

The opportunity was significantly better for her mental health, allowed her to travel more, and made her more enthusiastic to learn. “The American Schooling System, even though it has many benefits and public schooling is one of the most popular options — for a kid like me, going to school was like putting me in a white room and telling me I couldn’t do things I wanted with the room, I can’t leave the room, etc. It would bring me to insanity having so many rules set in place. I was told when to sit, when to eat, when to listen, when to learn. It was as if I was being trained to work a factory job,” she said.

With Whitmore, Lindquist can now pace herself with her work how she wants, has the opportunity to better her grades by resubmitting work and striving for higher grades, has time to eat a balanced breakfast, and gets enough sleep. “I can ask for help from teachers directly and they will email within 48 hours, I can watch videos to help me with my work,” says Lindquist, explaining the benefits of her new school. “I can re-submit work for a higher grade if it’s not correct, I make corrections and earn better grades, I can wake up later so my Circadian Rhythm is more balanced and I can finally eat breakfast.” Lindquist also mentioned her improved social life, explaining that she no longer feels like she is in a competition with other students.

Online schooling is one of the many options that allows students to learn at a rate better suited to them. Whitmore Online High School has changed Lindquist’s life for the better, allowing her to live peacefully and happily. “I’ve never felt better. I’m even going to graduate earlier than all of my old peers. I thought to myself: ‘Wow, after all this time, this is the only thing I needed to make myself feel better. It’s finally going to be okay.’”