5 Tools for Expanding Family Involvement in Your Online School
From online grade books to virtual libraries, today’s online schools offer a wealth of tools that allow parents to be involved in their children’s education. But did you know some of those tools can also help other family members actively support your online students’ learning?
Weaving a Wider Web of Support
Parents play a pivotal role as Learning Coaches in online learning—but they don’t need to do it all alone. Not only do they have the involvement of experienced online school teachers, but also they can enlist other family members or trusted adults to support the student’s education.
Parents who travel frequently and deployed military parents can stay up to date on their child’s schooling, enabling them to provide encouragement during tough assignments and ask more meaningful questions about study subjects. With permission from parents, a school can grant limited access to tools and student information to additional Learning Coaches, enabling parents who share custody, older siblings, grandparents, or other caring adults to play key supporting roles.
Five Tools for Engaging Your Family and Your Student
So what are those tools? Terms vary by school, but here are five of the most common, along with tips for helping the entire family get more out of them.
Online student planners. Customized to show your student’s schedule, assignments, and lessons, these planners can keep family members up to date on what’s going on in your student’s school life. With that information in hand, they can then lend a hand where needed. For example:
- A parent traveling on business or a military professional deployed overseas can call home to encourage a student facing a challenging assignment.
- An older sibling might offer to keep the house quiet when a virtual class or LiveLesson® session is scheduled.
- A grandparent might volunteer to help with a review session for an upcoming assessment.
In Connections Academy®–supported schools, the student planner even integrates with a family calendar to help you avoid conflicts between family activities and your student’s learning schedule. Because the planner also connects with lesson content, families can learn more about what their students are studying, which could make dinner conversations more interesting.
Message boards. In these private online forums, families and teachers in the school community connect with one another, often exchanging tips and resources about learning online. Teachers, for example, may post the latest tips on helping students overcome math anxiety. Families may set up study groups or organize a student social event in your local area. Through message boards, your extended learning family can become part of your school community.
Proprietary internal email. Today, smart online schools have dedicated email systems open only to parents, teachers, and students. The Connections Academy WebMail system, for example, is designed to keep communications safe, confidential, and spam-free—providing a direct, uncluttered pipeline between your family, teachers, and other online school families.
When you authorize WebMail access for other family members, for example, grandparents or noncustodial parents can ask teachers or counselors questions directly. But only the official parent or guardian will have permission to make significant decisions about a child’s education.
Online grade books. Parents no longer have to wait for semester’s end to find out how their student is doing in school. Online grade books provide an almost daily academic snapshot. At Connections Academy–supported schools, that snapshot even includes teacher feedback on specific assignments—so your family will know precisely where your student needs extra help and when he or she deserves another cheer.
Curriculum and virtual libraries. Having lessons, assignments, and often texts online means that a dad living in another state will have access to what he needs to help his child with reading. A big sister who’s away at college can help quiz her little brother or sister on math facts before an exam.
Additionally, virtual school libraries are often packed with grade-appropriate resources you can’t access on Google, from educational websites and subscription services to videos on historical events. With so many resources, your family can take a deep dive into any subject—whether just out of curiosity or to help your student with an assignment.
Armed with all of the tools and information, your family can engage your student in meaningful conversations about his or her studies, deepen learning, and reinforce the message that education matters to all of you.
How have you involved distant or extended family in your student’s education? Share your most successful ideas in the comments!