5 Tips for Creating a Successful Online School Schedule
One of the many exciting aspects of the virtual school experience is getting to manage the learning day—and that means designing a schedule that fits your student. Just like students who attend a bricks-and-mortar school, online students learn best when the school day is well structured. Most Learning Coaches at Connections Academy tell us they use a daily or weekly schedule to organize their students’ school activities.*
If you’re a new Learning Coach, you might be wondering what goes into creating a successful school schedule. To help you get started, here are some scheduling tips to keep in mind!
Talk to your student.
It’s always a good idea to get your child’s input before you set up his or her schedule. The school day will be much more productive if both of your needs are being met or, at least, considered. You can begin by using a family planner to put a plan in motion. More than half of Connections Academy families collaborate with their student to create a school schedule. Below are examples of some questions to ask during the planning process:
- “Which subjects do you prefer to work on first, middle, and last?”
- “What time of day do you feel like you have the most energy?”
- “Which courses are easier for you? Would it help you to work on math one day and science another day?”
- “How would you run things if you had your way?”
After hearing your child’s answers, discuss how his or her expectations differ from yours and how you can compromise.
Don’t get discouraged if the schedule you create isn’t perfect at first, as it may take some time to tweak and modify it before your family is satisfied. Think of the first few weeks as a trial period for your schedule rather than as something permanent or official. Only 64 percent of Connections Academy families create a successful schedule in less than a month. The great thing about virtual school is that you can adjust your student’s learning day as much as you need to!“Be flexible and give it some time. Try different schedules and routines until you find what works for you and your student. It takes a while to get in the ‘groove’ and have a system that works.”—Connections Academy parent
Change your schedule to fit your family’s day.
Even though students work well with a schedule, they don’t need to follow the same one every day. For example, if your student participates in extracurricular activities on Tuesday and Thursday, you can alter his or her schedule on those days. Nearly all Connections Academy families use a different school schedule on some days to accommodate weekly events.
Schedule time for breaks.
Naturally, students need to reenergize their brains from time to time. Even if your student doesn’t ask for a break, it’s important to add a few in the schedule just in case he or she becomes restless. Something as small as a walk around the house will often give students the energy they need to continue working. Breaking up the day will also make the workload feel much less overwhelming and more doable. Taking breaks is proving to be effective for virtual school students, as 80 percent of Connections Academy families incorporate breaks into their weekly schedules.“We started with no breaks until lunchtime. Now we take a break in the morning and in the afternoon. I have [my son] exercise during these times or read a book. It gives him a chance to wind down a little bit before we get back to work. Also, I make sure that he has a snack during those times. This keeps his brain fueled so he is able to do a great job on his lessons.”—Connections Academy parent
Display the schedule in your home.
Instead of letting your child rely on you to provide reminders, help him or her develop independent learning skills. Students should be able to view their learning schedule as needed, as it will help them stay on task and feel more prepared. Consider displaying the schedule in your student’s learning space so he or she can easily refer to it. You can even have some fun with the schedule by decorating it to fit your student’s personality or interests!“Have the first draft of your schedule completed before the first day of school. Hang it at a level that is visible to the students. For younger students use pictures that reflect what activity they’ll be engaged in at each time. Also add the way the clock looks at each point of transition, or at least [display] the time. Try to post the schedule near a clock.”—Connections Academy parent
Once you find a schedule that works for you and your student, you will be pleased by how productive the learning day can be. Ninety-four percent of Connections Academy families tell us that they are happy with their current schedule.
You can easily create a successful school schedule with communication, persistence, and variation. Get started by taking an interactive survey that will help you determine the best type of learning schedule for your student!
What scheduling tips worked for you? Share with us in the comments.
* Connections Education conducted a survey though its online panel, Chalk Talk, for Connections Academy families who were enrolled in the 2014–15 school year.