10 Tips for Getting the Whole Family Involved in Virtual School
Many families choose a virtual school because parents want to be more involved in their children’s learning on a daily basis. There’s a lot of data to support making this decision. According to the National Parent–Teacher Association, decades of research proves that when parents are involved in education, students have higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates. Simply put, parent participation promotes student success!
For online school in particular, family involvement is essential. A primary Learning Coach, typically a parent, must provide structure and guidance for students to benefit fully from virtual learning. But involvement isn’t limited to the “official” Learning Coach! Any of the important adults in your child’s life can—and should—pitch in. Your teamwork will show your child how much your entire family values education. Whether your family includes a dad deployed overseas, a mom who travels, a nearby grandparent, or siblings who are away at college, the hints below will offer great ways for the whole clan to support your student’s learning.
To be great, communicate!
If possible, schedule the first teacher call of the school year when all or many of the key adults can participate. Talking with each teacher about a student’s strengths and weaknesses as well as expectations for the year will help get everyone on the same wavelength. As you exchange emails with teachers during the semester, remember to forward important news to other family members, too.
To be great, participate!
Invite extended family members who wish to get involved to join you in attending school functions such as open houses, field trips, and family fun nights. Enter these events into the family calendar and forward the information to others at the beginning of the year, or as soon as the events are announced. Attending as a united front shows your child (and teachers) that your family is ready and willing to help him or her succeed!
Out-of-town parents can log on to the school’s online education system to see a student’s grades, projects, and lessons. This enables them to stay current with what the student is learning and provides opportunities for praise and encouragement during phone calls.
Consider sharing information access.
If grandparents, aunts/uncles, or noncustodial parents want to be involved in your student’s education, you can request that the school grant limited access to his or her online account. This type of access would typically let these other people open lessons and learning materials, view assignments, and view grades, but would not permit them to make decisions about the child’s education.
Enlist the experts.
Because virtual school families have unlimited access to the curriculum, families can easily extend a child’s learning into real life. Why not recruit family members to act as subject-matter experts? Perhaps Grandad could talk about the historic events that have occurred in his lifetime. A sibling who is studying mathematics at college could help a student practice math facts or solve algebra problems by phone.
Talk it out.
Open communication with students is essential when doing online school. Asking the student to summarize what he or she has learned can open the door for a parent who works long hours outside the home to become more involved. Ask questions. Do not take “I don’t know” as an answer. And sometimes, when a child puts up a “brick wall,” a grandparent or other relative can help break through and open the channels of communication.
Be a family of readers.
Support your child’s literacy by encouraging reading among the entire family. Ask all of the members of your child’s support network to read the same book, then discuss it book-club style at a family gathering. When Mom’s out of town, she and her student can still take turns reading an online text via a video call.
Share the news.
Encourage relatives to support your child’s communication skills by introducing current events to your family discussions. Whether these talks become insightful conversations or lively debates, they are sure to encourage your student to express him- or herself and to be a good, well-informed citizen.
The flexible schedule of virtual school makes it possible for families to integrate all sorts of excursions and fun learning activities into the school day. Maybe Grandma would enjoy getting her hands dirty with lab experiments, taking a trip to the zoo, or helping your student discover new ways to make art! Building things, practicing fractions while measuring ingredients for a recipe, and keeping track of the amount of money spent on a family project are all great ways to apply learning through real-life situations.
Have great expectations.
Your attitudes can affect your child’s motivation to learn, so stay positive and expect your student to do well in school. It is also important to help your student realize that the old adage “practice makes perfect” applies not only to skills like playing the piano or shooting hoops, but also to academics. And the occasional setback is part of life. Encouragement from adults to “stick with it” and praise for making the effort and finally mastering a subject will help your child gain confidence in his or her ability to learn.
Surrounded by the support and involvement of not only the immediate family but also extended family and friends, your young scholar will have the best possible environment for learning success!
What kind of things have you done to get the whole family involved in your child’s education? Share your favorite ideas in the comments!