How to Help Your Teen Transition to Online High School
While teenagers often think they are invincible, they still need some coaching to adapt successfully to the changes they’ll face in high school. Although virtual school students can escape much of the teenage angst and drama endured by their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, they will still encounter many new experiences. The following suggestions should help you and your teen get a strong start as he or she transitions to online high school.
Prepare your student for raised academic expectations.
High school classes are geared toward preparing students for college or the workplace, aka “the real world,” so the demands increase significantly. Virtual school students should be ready to encounter:
- a more rigorous curriculum
- a higher volume of coursework, including more reading, more writing, and more frequent assignments
- more time spent online
- even higher expectations for Honors or Advanced Placement courses
Discuss your teenager’s duties as an online high school student.
During the high school years, many responsibilities shift from the Learning Coach to the student. Make your teen aware that while you are always available for support, he or she is responsible for:
- initiating contact with teachers when help is needed
- taking responsibility for his or her learning
- working independently
- being resourceful in finding solutions
Shift responsibilities for organizing and planning.
Hand over your crown as the “Calendar Queen” (or King) and let your high schooler manage his or her own schedule, with only occasional gentle reminders. Your teen should also be ready to take charge of the filing system you’ve established together for course materials and assignments.
Move teens toward working privately.
In online high school, students start to develop the self-discipline to work on their own, without anyone hovering over their shoulders. Before you transition your teen to working in his or her bedroom or other remote space, make sure you explain the consequences of slacking off! Let your child know that he or she will be held accountable for doing the required work, and that the privacy privilege can be revoked for failing to do so.
Make yourself available.
Visit your teen’s workspace periodically during the day to offer your assistance—and to be sure his or her focus is on academics, not texting or playing videogames. One Learning Coach we know established a rule that any student who thinks he or she knows the material well enough to goof off during school hours can take the next assessment immediately.
Establish goals for personal achievement and future planning.
Sitting down with your teenager to discuss his or her goals—and yours—for the coming school year can be useful both in clarifying expectations and helping your student maintain focus. Don’t be afraid to let your student know if you want to see him or her achieve a certain GPA, make honor roll, or sign up for more challenging courses. Guide your son or daughter in setting longer-term goals, too, such as attending a certain college, beginning a specific career, or starting a business. And remember that your student’s school counselors are a great resource for preparing for life after online high school. Helping your child focus on a bright future sets a positive tone and points him or her in a good direction, even if specific goals change later.
While these suggestions may make you feel that you’re turning control over to your child entirely, let me reassure you that you still play an important supporting role in his or her education and daily life. Taking these steps to nurture your son or daughter’s self-discipline, maturity, and confidence now, while he or she is still living at home, enables you to guide the process and provide a safety net. Your efforts should also aid your student’s transition to independence when beginning college or a career—and help shape him or her into a successful, purpose-filled adult.
What creative methods have you tried for helping your teen move toward independent learning? Share your most effective approaches and ideas in the comments.