The Evolving Role of Online School Learning Coaches
What’s it really like to juggle parenting and be a Learning Coach for your child’s online schooling? What does the role of Learning Coach involve? Do virtual school students and Learning Coaches interact all day long, every day? If you’re thinking about online school for your kids, it’s important to learn the answer to these questions and grasp the big picture of how virtual school works for students and Learning Coaches. You’ll especially want to understand how these roles will change as your child grows up (which sometimes happens more quickly than we’d like!).
Online Elementary School: Children in Motion
As a parent, you already know that in elementary school, attention spans are as tiny as the children themselves. In our experience, virtual school for young children works best when Learning Coaches help kids stay on task by minimizing distractions and by setting a schedule with varied activities and breaks. Remember, kids need exercise and playtime every day to burn off their excess energy!
Online school students in grades K–5 will have a very flexible schedule and do a large percentage of their schoolwork offline, including reading books, writing, and doing hands-on assignments. Learning Coaches tell us they typically spend about five hours each day supervising these learning activities.
To support a child’s learning, a Learning Coach’s has the opportunity to demonstrate positive organization and good study skills, and provide assistance with time and project management so kids complete lessons as scheduled. Learning Coaches may also:
- record attendance
- check grades
- help monitor student progress and comprehension
- communicate frequently with the teacher
Online Middle School: Kids in Transition
The middle school years can be as unpredictable as “tweens” themselves! Always keep in mind that these years are a transition period for kids, filled with physical and emotional changes. A student’s need may range from fairly substantial assistance to relatively minor assistance, and it will vary depending on the student’s age, maturity level, and ability to be self-directed and comprehend the materials.
Classes in middle school blend both online and offline work. Students become more independent learners as they transition to a larger percentage of online work, and as more real-time, online class sessions are required. Middle school students start to interact directly with a larger number of people, including their advisory teacher and subject-specialist teachers. While kids need to know that help is always available, it’s important to encourage them to develop the independent study skills they’ll need in high school.
Although middle school students will still be engaged in learning for approximately five to six hours per day, most Learning Coaches find that their time commitment decreases significantly. Instead of overseeing daily activities, Learning Coaches may be checking that work is complete and verifying that the student understands the material. They will still have the opportunity to:
- help monitor attendance and grades
- assist with some lessons
- refer the child to the teacher as needed
Online High School: Teens Learning Independence
While high school students may not need as much direct adult supervision during the school day, Learning Coaches may wish to stay in contact to ensure that their children are safe—and not goofing off! As teens get closer to graduation, Learning Coaches can continue to encourage and support their growing independence. Granting kids more freedom and responsibility (while keeping a watchful eye on their performance) helps them develop time and personal management skills—a key factor in college success.
Most online high school students will spend about five to six hours working independently, mostly online. With more complex subject matter to master, students will participate more frequently in regularly scheduled real-time online class sessions and class discussions, resulting in a firmer schedule. Learning Coaches may continue to:
- help monitor daily attendance
- verify that lessons and assessments are completed
- attend regular teacher conferences
While I can’t deny that being a Learning Coach requires time and effort, most parents find that the personal rewards are beyond measure. Whether your children are just beginning school or nearly finished, your choice to have hands-on involvement in their education will strengthen your family bonds and create memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
If you’re a Learning Coach and have weathered the changes and transitions in involvement that accompany your child’s development, please share your experiences and any ideas that helped you succeed by posting in the comments below.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was updated on December 7, 2016. It has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.