What Virtual School Students Think You Should Know

By: Beth Werrell
5 Reasons Students Embrace Virtual School

According to the latest research, more than 2.7 million students across the United States are digital learners, and many K–12 students receive a full-time online education.

Students everywhere are embracing virtual school, but online education is not just a passing trend. You may be neighbors with an online learner, or perhaps you attend the same music lessons or play soccer together. You know some friends who attend online public school or perhaps an online private school, but you're not sure what that means.

So what is virtual school all about? Read on to learn five things your online school friends want you to know.

#1. They study very hard.

While your online school friends may learn from the comfort of their own homes—occasionally while wearing pajamas—their virtual school curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and correlates to state or national standards. They complete lessons using high-quality texts, learning materials, and resources. Gifted, honors, and Advanced Placement®* courses are available for students seeking extra challenge.

Expert highly educated teachers use multimedia presentations and interactive tools to bring learning to life in the online classroom. They grade assignments and portfolios to ensure students are learning. They are also available to provide assistance as needed.

In short, virtual schools, teachers, and students take learning very seriously.

#2. They learn at the pace that works for them.

Online learners have a more flexible schedule, which means they plan their school day around their personal needs and preferences. A night owl ...

How Bullying Affects Your Child and What You Can Do

By: Stephanie Osorno

Whether your child is starting kindergarten or a senior in high school, it's always the right time to have conversations about bullying. So what is bullying, and how should you approach it?

When talking with your child, it's important to draw clear distinctions between friendly teasing—often characterized by joking and smiling—and persistent aggressive behavior that hurts feelings.

Kids who understand what bullying looks like are better prepared to do the right thing to keep themselves, their friends, and their peers safe. Download the instructographic below to learn more about bullying and find activities that can help your child take a stand.

Keep reading to learn the different faces of bullying and how role-playing with your child can be a positive solution.

What Is Bullying?

Bullying is aggressive behavior that is hurtful, threatening, or persistent. It can occur in a friendship or relationship and is characterized by an imbalance of power.

Frequently, children don't understand or feel comfortable sharing a bad experience. Parents may not always see bullying warning signs. This means it's important to maintain an honest, open dialogue with children so they are better able to identify, discuss, and overcome the most common forms of bullying:

  • Direct Bullying: hitting, kicking, intimidation
  • Indirect Bullying: manipulation, mean jokes, exclusion
  • Cyberbullying: teasing or threats via posts, texts, or email

What Can Parents Do to Help?

If your child comes to you with concerns about bullying, it's important to offer comfort and support. ...

How Parents Can Raise Smart Digital Citizens

By: Beth Werrell
How to Raise Safe, Smart Digital Citizens

Do you think of yourself as a good digital citizen, navigating the online world safely and respectfully? As a parent or Learning Coach, do you know how to effectively help your student become a responsible digital citizen?

In an online environment that's evolving by the nanosecond, it's not as simple as just teaching the golden rule. So, in honor of Digital Citizenship Week (October 16–October 22), we'd like to share some information and resources that can help.

Defining Digital Citizenship

Merriam-Webster defines citizenship as "the qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community." What are those qualities? At a minimum, they include practicing basic civility in our daily interactions, understanding our rights and responsibilities under the law, respecting the rights and property of others, and contributing to the life and health of the community.

Practicing Civility Online

According to a nationwide poll, Civility in America 2014, the vast majority of Americans believe incivility in the United States has reached crisis proportions and that the Internet and social media are largely to blame for this. A majority also believe that uncivil behavior is leading to an increase in violence in our country.

As members of an online community, we can help transform this troubling landscape by:

  • Making sure our students know and practice the basic rules of netiquette.
  • Teaching them to respond safely and effectively to cyberbullies.
  • Encouraging them to pause before they post on social media, asking first, "Is it ...

8 Ways Students Can Improve Test Grades

By: Stephanie Osorno
8 Test-Taking Tips for Students

Taking tests may not be your child's favorite part of school, but evaluating student comprehension is important to the learning process. Some students dislike exams because they don't do well on them. While getting a low score can be discouraging, it doesn't necessarily mean that the student is not capable or does not understand the material. Rather, it could mean that he or she does not know how to properly prepare for the test. In fact, even top students struggle with exams sometimes.

Fortunately, there are practical strategies that students can use before and during a test to ensure they do their best. Share these tips with your students to boost test-taking savvy—and maybe their grades, too!

Before the Test

  1. Take time to prepare.
    Even though many students procrastinate, waiting until the last minute to prepare for a test can be overwhelming and difficult. At least one week prior, students should start studying and getting ready for the big day. This way, they can tackle a little bit of the material each day, instead of cramming it all into their brain at once. Students will also feel much more equipped and confident if they take their time. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

  2. Use all of the resources available.
    Reviewing course notes is a good starting point, but there are many other tools your student can use to study. Make sure your child has all the appropriate resources needed for the test. Teachers often provide study guides ...

The ABCs of Socializing Your Online Student

By: Beth Werrell
Socializing Your Online Student

When parents consider making the switch to online school, socialization is a hot topic. Some families choose to leave a traditional school due to peer pressure or bullying—and they may welcome the peace and quiet of schooling from home. Others need flexibility of scheduling or pacing, or may simply prefer to learn at home. Whatever the reason, it's important to ensure students develop good social skills. Fortunately, although it takes a bit of planning, many parents find that being able to customize the amount and type of socialization students receive is a significant benefit of virtual school.

So how does a parent replace that daily peer contact with another form of interaction? At high-quality virtual schools such as Connections Academy®–supported online public schools, families have many opportunities to interact and arrange social gatherings though in-person field trips and other events, the school directory, message boards, and private Facebook pages. Students can also connect with classmates in the online classroom and during online clubs and activities.

And that's not all. With a more flexible learning schedule, parents can take advantage of neighborhood gatherings for their children to meet up with homeschool study groups, attend museum and library events, and volunteer within the community. You and your student choose the events and activities to participate in based on your family's interests, goals, and values.

Consider the ways your child communicates with others, and encourage variety to ensure that your child has experiences connecting with peers one-on-one, as ...

Learn How You Can Help Kids Prevent or Overcome Bullying

By: Beth Werrell
Taking Action to Prevent Bullying

Bullying is a significant problem nationwide, with far-reaching consequences for victims, witnesses, school staff, and the bullies themselves. According to a study published in the School Psychology Review,1 more than 70 percent of young people have seen bullying in their schools—and even homeschooled and virtual school students are not immune.

Bullying can occur in neighborhoods, organizations, and the workplace, as well as via electronic devices and online. With the problem so widespread, it's important to educate your family about the types of bullying and how to handle them. In recognition of the tenth anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month, we've gathered some excellent resources you can use with your children.

  • Get a helpful overview of the types of bullying, risk factors, and steps your family can take to prevent bullying at StopBullying.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    On this site, you can watch an interactive slide show and videos to learn how your student can safely be more than a bystander when encountering bullying situations. You can also view information from a student's or parent's viewpoint, find a helpful FAQ, and take a bullying prevention pledge.

  • Books that feature bullying situations can get kids thinking. Try reading an age-appropriate book with your child and using it as a discussion starter for the whole family. Visit the PACER Center's book list—it includes books about bullying, with selections for all ages.

  • Coach your students on safety while surfing the web...

Celebrate the Fall Season: 8 Autumn-Themed Crafts

By: Stephanie Osorno
8 Fall-Themed Crafts for Students

While the weather may still be warm in some areas, fall has officially arrived. It’s time to get ready for apple picking, pumpkin carving, and Halloween costume shopping!

The changing seasons are a great learning opportunity for students—and the best part is that they can have fun while learning. With your guidance, the right materials, and a spacious and comfortable work space, your child can engage in many educational and enjoyable autumn-themed crafts at home.

To celebrate and help your student learn more about the fall season, here are few crafts that the whole family can do together this autumn:

1. Salt dough leaf prints

Instead of throwing all the fallen leaves in a trash bag, consider saving a few for this neat leaf activity. It will bring the fall leaves to life and capture their uniqueness and beauty. It’s also a great way to make fall memorable, even after the season is over.

2. The rotting pumpkin

Ever wondered what happens when a pumpkin rots? If you want a project that will keep your child engaged for a few weeks, this is the perfect one! The idea of letting something decompose might not sound appealing to you, but the science behind it will be entertaining and stimulating for your child.

3. Autumn sensory table

Go on a little nature walk and gather some fall treasures, including leaves, pinecones, and sticks, to place in an autumn sensory table. Students will get a chance to examine the texture ...

The Differences Between Online School and Traditional School

By: Beth Werrell

Are you thinking about making the switch from traditional public or private school to online school? Online school offers plentiful advantages for children, plus benefits for parents, that most traditional schools can't match. Download the infographic below to learn more about the differences so you can make an informed decision.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these two schooling methods.

Parental Involvement

The level of parental involvement is one area in which traditional and online schools can differ greatly. At a traditional school, for example, parental involvement is often limited to things like reviewing homework and attending parent–teacher conferences. Some schools may have opportunities to volunteer or to chaperone field trips, but these typically decrease as children move into middle and high school. Beyond that, there isn’t much room for parents to monitor or guide their child’s education.

With online school, parents have many options for being involved in their children’s education as personal Learning Coaches. As Learning Coaches, parents (or other trusted adults) may choose to support learning by structuring the student’s daily routine or reviewing lessons and grades as often as they wish. They can consult with teachers in regular meetings and, when needed, play an active role by helping to monitor attendance, progress, and comprehension. While every family does online learning a bit differently, online educators agree that it’s a good idea to assist with organization and time management, and to encourage students and praise ...

How Tech-Savvy Parents Change the Future of Online School

By: Beth Werrell
How Millennial Parents Influence Online Learning

A growing population of tech-savvy parents are more accepting of online learning—and likely to influence future growth of online schooling. Millennials, defined as those who were between 18 and 34 years old in 2015, are the first wave of adults who never experienced life without the Internet or personal electronic devices. And now they're having children and embracing the educational options made possible by connectivity.

A new independent survey of U.S. households,1 supported by Connections Education, the parent company that offers Connections Academy®—supported online public schools and International Connections Academy online private school, found that millennials are overwhelmingly in favor of alternative approaches to education.

Now the largest living generation in the United States,2 having surpassed baby boomers, millennials have the power and motivation to shape public opinion about their children's education. In 2014, 43 percent of children age 0–17 had millennial parents, and this figure is expected to exceed 50 percent in 2016.3

Three-fourths of millennial parents surveyed (77 percent) said a do-it-yourself approach to education, in which learners craft a path to graduation that best fits their needs, is a good idea. As leaders in online education, Connections Academy–supported online schools have fostered this personalized learning approach since the company's founding in 2001.

"The millennial generation flipped the workplace on its head, and all signs point to them breaking the status quo for education as well," said Steven Guttentag, president and cofounder of Connections Education. "Compared to older generations, this generation of parents ...

4 Signs It's Time to Make the Switch from Homeschool

By: Beth Werrell
Why Switch from Homeschool to Virtual School?

Homeschool can be an effective alternative to public and private schools, but it isn't always right for every family. Not only is homeschooling a huge time commitment for parents, but also it can make it difficult for children to stay motivated and on track. If you're wondering if homeschool is really the best option for your family, here are four signs it may be time for a change.

You can also hear from a real parent who made the switch in our blog post "Four Reasons I Switched from Homeschooling to Virtual School."

1. You're Starting to Feel Burned Out

If you feel overwhelmed with homeschooling, you're not alone! Homeschooling can be exhausting for parents, especially when you're trying to juggle other responsibilities like work, caring for younger children, and maintaining a household. Teaching multiple subjects to one child is challenging enough, but when you're trying to cover a variety of subjects with multiple children at different grade levels, things can get hectic fast.

If you are feeling tired and stressed all the time and other family members are unable to lighten your load by assuming some of the homeschooling responsibilities, you may want to consider a less demanding way to provide your children with a high-quality education.

2. You're Struggling with Self-Doubt

Teaching is equal parts art and science. Without formal training, being an effective teacher can be a challenge. Many parents who homeschool find themselves doubting their abilities. Feeling this way doesn't mean that you aren't ...

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