(WICHITA, Kan.)—For many Kansas school kids, next week marks the first week of a new school year. There's an exception to that rule: e-schools.
Students Paige and Arden Farrar are seniors - and twin sisters. Paige prefers her science classes, Arden excels in English. Neither sits in a classroom and daydreams while a teacher talks. They learn through computers. They are seniors in Wichita's eSchool.
"What I miss is just being with a lot of people," said Arden, "but then, you know, we're around a lot of people a lot of time."
The twins have been a part of the eSchool program since they were freshmen in high school. And they are part of a growing trend.
The eSchool's director says more than 400 students applied this for the 2010-2011 school year -- double the number from three years ago.
"I think that in all walks of life, people have more choice now,"said Robin Surland. "And people have more information about their options."
But don't expect the eSchool to be easy. "At school, they've been used to someone telling them, all the time, what to do every minute of every day," explained Surland.
Paige Farrar echoed the sentiments. "It was harder because we had to motivate ourselves."
It's not just difficult for the students. Teachers have to get creative when teaching over a computer. "Teaching Spanish is much harder -- without the interaction, with verbal skills."
But the Farrar twins said its worth it, and they would only miss one thing of the traditional senior experience.
"With eSchool, we have a graduation ceremony. And that's pretty much all I would've looked forward to in a traditional school anyway."
The program director said some students attend because they are involved in other activities that take them away from school - like competitive ice skating, or fashion modeling, or racing. Other students prefer smaller class sizes, and can't handle the anxiety associated with going to a large school.
The program director said the students who do well in eSchool are students who are determined to graduate -- not those looking for an easy way to avoid classwork.
The program is for kindergarten through 12th grade. The younger kids don't use the computers for learning. Their parents get lesson plans online, and use that to teach their children at home.