7 Ideas to Get Your Kids Involved in Music This Spring

By: Beth Werrell

You’re in the kitchen cooking spaghetti for dinner with your little one is coloring at the table nearby. You’re both chatting away as the radio plays softly in the background. One song ends and fades into the next, which happens to be your recent favorite.

Down goes your spaghetti-stirring spoon and up goes the volume on the radio as you pull your child to his or her feet. It’s time to dance.

Everyone appreciates the bonding time that music can bring. The benefits of music for you and your children are enormous—from the joy of dancing around the kitchen, to the peacefulness of a melody that helps concentration, to a favorite song on the radio that kick-starts a karaoke session in the car.

Not only can music build happy memories, but also it helps children learn and grow—both intellectually and socially.

“Children who become involved in [music] learn important life skills, such as how to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards that come from working together, and the development of leadership skills and discipline,” said Maestro Eduardo Marturet, conductor, composer, and music director of the Miami Symphony Orchestra.

The key is making sure your child has tools to spark musical creativity. One idea is to create a backyard music wall, along with six more suggestions, below.

Download a Kid-Friendly Music App

With so many educational apps available, why not try a musical one? A great ...

4 Things to Remember When Choosing a Career

By: Penny Reeves
Researching the Right Career Options

Choosing a career is one of the most exciting decisions a student makes—but making a suitable choice requires ample thought, research, and preparation. A career often becomes a major part of a person's life, so it's important for students to choose something that they truly enjoy and are passionate about. Working adults generally spend about 20 percent of their lives at work!

With your help and guidance, students can pursue a career that is the ideal fit for them. If your student is beginning to consider and research career options, below are a few things for him or her to keep in mind along the way—so make sure to pass this post along!

Get to know yourself well

As a student who is getting ready to reach adulthood, you probably have a pretty good idea of who you are already, but try digging a little deeper! Determining what your likes and dislikes are will help you get closer to an enjoyable career path—and you might be surprised by what you find. Even though it may sound odd, taking a moment to have a "conversation" with yourself can really help you to attain clarity and understanding for your future. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself:

  • What do I like to do?
  • What am I good at doing?
  • In what sort of setting would I like to work?
  • What or whom do I want to work with?
  • Do I want to be very involved in my career, or do ...

Slow Down to Support Math Learning

By: Beth Werrell
Support Math Learning

When you watch the news or sports channel, it's easy to associate being fast with being great. We see the fastest athletes winning medals, the fastest racecars taking victory laps, and the owners of the fastest horses claiming the purse. But when it comes to supporting your virtual school student as he or she learns math, the best advice may just be to slow down!

Education researchers have discovered that timed tests, rote memorization, and being expected to answer math problems rapidly not only contribute to math anxiety, but also can have a negative impact on learning. Fortunately, the parents of virtual school students can support the kind of deep, reflective thinking that helps kids excel in math, in many ways.

Talk About It

Encourage your child to explain how he or she solved a math problem. This practice will help develop verbal communication skills while also reinforcing a deeper understanding of the mathematical concepts involved. If you've never done this before, you may have to prompt your child with questions—ideally questions that can't be answered with yes or no! Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What was your first step?
  • What did you do next?
  • Why did you decide to use that approach?
  • What ways did you consider and decide not to use?
Stretch Your Thinking

It's important to recognize that flash cards aren't the only way—or even the best way—to learn math facts! Educators have found that the students who excel are the ones ...

Celebrating Virtual School Student Volunteers

By: Beth Werrell
Celebrating Online Student Volunteers
"Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
—Dr. Seuss

They've rescued aging greyhounds, restored local ecosystems, supported our veterans, comforted the homeless, and fed the hungry. From Ohio to California, Connections Academy student volunteers spent countless hours this year supporting causes that touched their hearts and communities.

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 10–16), we are sharing a few of their stories using #CheersforCAVolunteers and are inviting you to raise a collective cheer for all our student volunteers.

Protecting the Powerless

For many Connections Academy students, loving animals simply isn't enough. With creativity, kindness, and even construction skills, they're also protecting animals from neglect and abuse.

  • When allergies prevented her from volunteering at a local dog shelter, Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) eighth-grader volunteer Jessica Nichols found another way to help. Launching Madison Pride for Pups, she sold bracelets with local school colors every weekend during football season to raise funds for the shelter.

  • Katherine Withington, another OCA eighth-grader, exercised and cared for abused horses at the Angel Haven Horse Rescue. She also shared her skills and caring spirit with younger children as a volunteer counselor at horse camps.

  • Arizona Connections Academy (ACA) student Thomas Szczepaniak wanted to help shelter animals stay cool during hot Arizona summers. So he spent six months gathering materials, equipment, and skilled volunteers to construct a new shade structure at the Town of Parker/La Paz County Animal Shelter. His hard work helped him attain the ...

Online School Connections: 4 Ways Students Collaborate

By: Stephanie Osorno
Students Collaborate in Online School

Just as students in a traditional bricks-and-mortar school do, online school students have many opportunities to interact, share ideas, and develop friendships with classmates. Even though online school does not take place in a physical classroom, students are often encouraged to collaborate and communicate through engaging virtual platforms—and even some in-person events.

Online school can be a great way for your student to connect with peers from all over the state! If you would like to learn more about virtual learning, take a look at some of the ways that online students regularly work together.

  1. Real-time online classrooms
  2. Many online teachers use real-time online classrooms for interactive lessons and projects. At Connections Academy® online public schools, they are known as LiveLesson® sessions. During the session, students can have group discussions through chat pods, ask questions, hear—and sometimes even see—the teacher and other students through a webcam, and view presentations. Not only is it educational and informative, but it is also a fun way for students to get to know each other!

  1. Online clubs and activities
  2. A high-quality virtual school will usually offer a wide range of online clubs and activities such as a book club, music club, and sports club. By participating, students get the chance to interact with peers who have the same interests and hobbies. These clubs often help students form a community, and also help to strengthen their leadership and collaborative skills.

  1. Specialized online programs
  2. Aside from online clubs and activities, Connections Academy offers specialized academic programs ...

How Can Parents with Math Anxiety Help Their Kids Learn Math?

By: Beth Werrell
How Learning Coaches Can Overcome Math Anxiety

When I was in school, learning math meant nerve-wracking timed practice drills and intimidating worksheets with endless rows of numbers. My dislike of math turned to math anxiety in fourth grade, when the teacher tested us on multiplication facts orally, in front of the class. I would forget everything I had studied and return to my seat, humiliated by my failure. I never did memorize the multiplication tables. After a while, I began to believe that I was just "bad at math." Like an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adults, I have math anxiety.

If you have math anxiety and are considering an online school for your child, you may worry about helping your child succeed in math. You're smart to think about it, because studies prove that parents may unknowingly pass math anxiety to their kids, negatively impacting a student's achievement in math. Fortunately, with some effort and the tips below, you can overcome this obstacle so that you and your child can succeed in mathematics together.

Your Best Resource

When beginning virtual school, even parents who don't have math anxiety wonder if they'll be able to support their children's mathematics learning. After all, it may have been many years since you last tackled a word problem or solved for x! Luckily this concern is easily put to rest, because with this educational method, unlike traditional homeschooling, a virtual school family has access to a wonderful resource: real, live teachers.

For example, at Connections Academy...

Getting Ready for College: A Guide for High Schoolers

By: Beth Werrell

The online middle school and high school experience can prepare students for many of the challenges of college. Entering college with certain study and life-management skills will help you tackle challenges head-on, so you can make the most of the college experience. Consider the tips below for getting ready for the admission process and sharpening your skills!

Portfolio Preparation

One thing you can do now to help ensure you are admitted to the college of your dreams is to build a college portfolio. Begin by exploring your interests and getting involved in your school and community. Be sure to document your participation and accomplishments. These activities and the process of building a college portfolio may even help you decide on a college major. Follow our step-by-step guide, and when it's time to apply for your dream college, your college portfolio will help you show admissions officers how you stand out from the crowd.


Being organized doesn't just mean your work space is tidy. Organization can also mean keeping up with your computer maintenance, organizing your file names, and otherwise always knowing where to find your class materials, resources, and more. Developing an organizational system for your notes, assignments, and more will come in handy when you are expected to be independent in college.

Time Management

Are you an early bird, a multitasker, a helper? Identifying your time management style early on will help you determine how you should schedule your ...

Meaningful Connections Increases Reading Comprehension

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Connecting the Dots Improves Reading Comprehension

I was reading a book about a family who had a large yellow parrot that could mimic any sound or voice. This made me recall my job during college. I was working in a resort-area gift shop that had a parrot near my checkout counter. Reading this book and the tales of how the bird picked up the family voices reminded me of how, when a customer walked through the door and the chimes jingled, the parrot would sing out, "Hello, how are you?"—in my voice. This was a powerful text-to-self connection; I had the prior knowledge to identify with the family and the ups and downs of having a talented mimic nearby!

Facts in isolation make very little sense. Random concepts with no rhyme or reason rarely stick in a student's mind. But when young people read books that connect to personal experiences, other books they've read, or something going on in the world, the material in those books makes more sense. Comprehension, that valuable "I get it!" understanding, reaches a higher level when there's a connection or a link.

These links come in three types: text to self, text to text, and text to world. To form a text-to-self connection, readers notice that a book or other text reminds them of something from their own lives. A strong personal connection increases comprehension by strengthening the pathways in the brain to help remember reading material.

Text-to-text connections, sometimes referred to as book-to-book, occur when something in the text reminds ...

Tips for Juggling Parent and Learning Coach Roles

By: Beth Werrell
Balancing Parent and Learning Coach Roles

Are you juggling parent and Learning Coach roles but are occasionally unsure how to balance the two? Sometimes it can be unclear how and when to switch from being a parent to being a Learning Coach—and vice versa! Although you already have the "inside scoop" about parenting your child, we hope you will appreciate this post. It is designed to help you clarify how the two roles differ and to provide tips and tricks for keeping each role independent of the other.

The Parent Role

Be nurturing. In your parenting role, you are responsible not only for your child's physical needs but also for his or her emotional needs. Your nurturing builds your child's abilities to connect with others, to recognize and respect others' feelings, and to approach difficult situations in a positive way.

Many parents do this instinctively by building strong family networks, using attentive listening, acknowledging their child's challenges and feelings, playing with their children, and showing affection.

As a virtual school parent, it's also important to nurture your child's relationship with positive adult role models and to ensure that your student has time to socialize with other children. At Connections Academy® schools, families can attend in-person field trips and other school events so their students can meet classmates and make friends. Other families choose to socialize their children through participation in sports, scouting, 4-H, the arts, and community- or faith-based organizations. These interactions will help your child build self-esteem as well as communication, collaboration, ...

Around the World: How Students Connect in Private Virtual School

By: Katie Mussachio
Connecting Students Around the World

A high-quality private virtual school such as International Connections Academy (iNaCA) offers students many opportunities to connect with classmates, including online clubs and activities, and real-time classrooms. Even through a virtual setting, students often develop meaningful friendships that continue after a course is over!

If you are considering a private online school for your student, be sure to consider this global awareness as a potential advantage. Here is just one example of how a great international virtual school event can bring students together from around the world.

What's Around the World?

Around the World in 60 Minutes is an event that connects our iNaCA students across the globe by allowing them to share their cultures and homes with classmates and teachers through a virtual presentation. I collaborated with one of the fifth grade teachers, Cassie, to develop this event after she mentioned that she would love to get her students involved as well. We kept an eye out for students from different parts of the world, and then we held a meeting with them to brainstorm some aspects of their homelands or cultures that other students might be interested in learning about.

It started out as a onetime event, but it grew quickly as students began to show interest. Before the first event was even over, I received a message that read, "Mrs. Mussachio, I want to present at the next Around the World event." In the next couple of days, I received similar messages, so Cassie and I ...

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