Start a Successful School Year: 6 Tips for New Virtual Parents
The results are in—Connections Academy’s summer contest, Going for Gold, was a success! To help families prepare for a rewarding school year, Connections Academy–supported schools discussed an important aspect of the virtual school program on all Connections Academy Facebook pages for five weeks. Every Wednesday, participating families had a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card by answering a prompt about their student’s academic journey, and we are excited to share some of the many responses that we received from parents and even staff.
Now that the summer fun has come to an end, we thought you could use some back-to-school words of wisdom from experienced online school parents. To kick off the 2016–17 school year, here are a few tips that current Connections Academy parents offered for Learning Coaches and parents who are new to online school.
1. Ask questions.
Understandably, it will take some time to adjust to a virtual learning environment, but you’ll have plenty of support and guidance available along the way. If you’re feeling confused and need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to your student’s teachers, as well as his or her school’s staff—after all, that’s what they are there for! The teachers are used to answering many questions from parents throughout the school year and are happy to help. You can also seek out advice and support from other Learning Coaches in the virtual school community through your school’s Facebook page or the Contact a Parent page on the Connections Academy website.
“I would advise you to ask teachers and other Learning Coaches questions—there is no silly question.” —Connections Academy parent
“Everyone—and I mean everyone at the school (support staff, counselors, teachers, assistant principals, principals, and the school leader)—is just a call or email away.” —Nevada Connections Academy school leader
“Don’t be afraid to call your child’s teacher or customer service. Everyone is so helpful and nice.” —Connections Academy parent
2. Try different schedules.
The great thing about virtual school is that you have the flexibility to try out several learning schedules until you find the one that is the most suitable for your student. It’s completely normal to have to sample more than one schedule, as students have many different learning styles and preferences. For example, a typical school schedule from morning to afternoon might not work well for a student who learns better after lunchtime. Consider sitting down with your student and asking for his or her input on how to organize the learning day.
“There isn’t only one right way. It takes time, but you will find what works for you and your family.” —Connections Academy parent
“You are in control. Do not let the schedule run your student’s day. It will all work out.” —Connections Academy parent
“The learning routine may change several times until you find one that fits your family’s schedule.” —Connections Academy parent
3. Take it slow.
Just as with any new undertaking, becoming comfortable with virtual school requires time and patience. Make sure to take it one day at a time rather than trying to learn everything all at once. The teachers and staff know that there is an adjustment period, so don’t feel pressured or expected to understand everything immediately. Throwing in the towel or getting discouraged quickly will only hinder your student from having a productive school year.
“Take your time. Be patient with yourself and your child. The task ahead may seem daunting, but once you and your child find your rhythm, you will know you have found the right school. You are doing the best thing for your student by caring enough to take such an active role in his or her education.”—Connections Academy parent
“Take a deep breath. You will settle into a routine soon enough. You are doing a great job—this is so worth it for your child or children.”—Connections Academy parent
“With time, persistence, and patience, you will succeed!”—Connections Academy parent
4. Encourage breaks.
One of the many perks of learning at home is that students are able to take more breaks throughout the school day. Encourage your student to take a break when he or she is feeling restless or unmotivated. You can even add a few pauses in the schedule to make sure it becomes a part of the online learning routine. A simple and quick activity such as a walk around the neighborhood can really help a student to reenergize his or her brain.
“If a day is really rough, take a break and come back to it.”—Connections Academy parent
“Remember that your student is learning from home, so it’s okay to get up, walk away, and go play outside or do anything else for a few minutes. Then come back to it fresh. You’ve got this!”—Connections Academy parent
5. Change the scenery.
Completing schoolwork entails discipline and focus, but that doesn’t mean that students can’t have a little fun in the process! If the weather is nice, your student might enjoy doing some work outside rather than being cooped up indoors. You could also take him or her to a local park. A change of scenery is often all it takes to motivate students and lighten their mood.
“Have your child complete schoolwork at their desk, on the trampoline, outside in the picnic table, or on the grass at the park. Mix it up a bit and they will love it.”
—Connections Academy parent
“Make your child’s school day fun as well as educational. If it’s a nice day, have him or her do some work on the patio. Take a trip to the library on a rainy day.”
—Connections Academy parent
6. Remember that it’s all worth it in the end.
The rumors are true—hard work does actually pay off! It may not seem like it at first, but getting the opportunity to be a part of your child’s academic journey will make all the frustration and obstacles worth it. Keep in mind that you chose virtual school for a reason and trust your instincts. A few bumps in the road are a small price to pay for your student to have a well-rounded, personalized, and supportive academic experience.
“It is 100% worth every struggle just to see the pride that your child will feel when he or she grasps a difficult concept or aces a test. Never doubt that you’re doing your best.”—Connections Academy parent
“Take notice when you see your child’s face light up because he or she accomplished something that seemed difficult. It is such a joy to see these little things happen with your child. It will be a rewarding experience for both of you.”—Connections Academy parent
Starting something new is always a little nerve-wracking at first, but you can fight off any anxiety and reach your online learning groove by actively seeking support, pacing your progress, and focusing on your student’s academic goals. Do you have any tips for parents who are new to virtual school? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments!
Congratulations to all of our Going for Gold contest winners:
- Shannon Hudgins
- Penny Milhorn
- Heather Frazier
- Terrie Newton
- Lisa Ginsberg
Stay tuned for more helpful advice and stories from Connections Academy’s Going for Gold summer contest!