Fourth of July Education for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Most American families are familiar with the festivities of Independence Day. In fact, 63% of people attend a fireworks display and 76% get together with family. With the busyness of the day, it's easy to forget to discuss the symbolism behind the day, especially with young children who don't yet understand.

This time of year is perfect for a history lesson teaching kids the meaning behind July 4th and why we celebrate the day. The information in this blog post should help get you started. As an added bonus, view the instructographic below for a fun activity you can use during your Independence Day celebrations.

The Declaration of Independence

Before the first Fourth of July, five men (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Thomas Jefferson) were tasked with writing a document explaining why America was declaring its independence from the British. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft, and the first version was officially signed and adopted on July 4, 1776.

In the document, which still exists today, the 13 original colonies explained why they wanted to be free from the British. The document listed all of the bad acts the British king had committed against the colonies and made clear what the colonies felt their rights were, including "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

It was with this document that the United States officially became free.

The Liberty Bell

After the Declaration of Independence was signed ...

How an Online School Schedule Can Benefit Students

By: Stephanie Osorno
How Online School Flexibility Benefits Students

Learning online comes with many perks, including a comfortable learning environment, fewer distractions, and best of all, more scheduling flexibility! By attending virtual school, students who are actively involved in activities such as competitive or professional sports, acting, modeling, or singing can complete their schoolwork on the go when they have some downtime—even if that means early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends.

Online students can usually choose a learning schedule that works best for their lifestyle, but in order to have a successful school year, it's important for them to still meet their state's attendance requirements, keep up with their courses and assignments, and stay in frequent communication with their teachers. Some virtual sessions are at fixed times, so students should pay close attention to their course schedules.

Read below to learn how six current and former students of Connections Academy—supported schools have been able to achieve their dreams while being full-time students!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Rising entertainer and high school senior Justin Myrick is grateful that South Carolina Connections Academy allows him to balance schoolwork and his acting, voice-over, entertainment, and music career. He costarred with three-time Emmy Award winner Alfre Woodard in the film Knucklehead, has made guest appearances on national TV shows, has done voice-overs for Fortune 500 companies, and established his own entertainment company.

Even though Justin is often on the go, he still finds time to be a member of his school's National Honor ...

Summer Reading for the Gifted Student

By: Gintas Bradunas
Keep Gifted Students Reading All Summer

If you're the parent of a gifted and talented student or a student who reads above grade level, you may want to begin the summer by reading your child his or her rights. No, not their "right to remain silent," but rather their summer reading rights! "You have the right to read and to not read. You have the right to skip, to browse, and to explore. You have the right to read anything."

These are great words to use when kicking off summer reading for a gifted student. As students blessed with endless curiosity, gifted students will read when given books that challenge, that tap into their imaginations and spark their interest. But how do you find such a book? How can you draw a gifted and talented student away from video games and into the worlds of words and endless creation?

Start by exploring some outstanding reading lists that make finding books for gifted students easier. Many of the links that follow were developed by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, an organization devoted to the development of exceptional students' talents. The recommended books also may be appropriate for other students reading above grade level—or for reading aloud as a family.

As you review these lists, remember that each gifted student is unique and will find different books stimulate their interests. Allow your students the space to explore, to create, and by the end of summer, they may have their own recommendations to contribute to next year's reading ...

Parent Picks: Our Ten Most Popular Blog Posts

By: Beth Werrell
Our 10 Most Popular Blog Posts

Although Connections Academy–supported schools have helped students learn successfully since 2001, online school is still a new idea to many people—and that's one reason why we publish Virtual Learning Connections. Parents can bookmark this blog to explore virtual school, gain online learning tips, and learn how their involvement can make a huge difference in their children's education.

To keep this blog relevant and helpful to families, we analyze which posts generate the most interest. The list below includes audience favorites from 2015 and 2016. Some posts had the highest number of visitors, or "clicks," while others were shared more often or kept the viewer's attention for longer. We hope you'll review this list and learn something new that you can use to prepare for a success in online school!

  1. How Parents Can Prepare for Their Role in Virtual School
    Discover how parents can get ready to facilitate learning for students as online school Learning Coaches.

  2. How to Help Your Child Become a Self-Motivated Student
    Try these effective age-appropriate strategies to get your child engaged in and excited about learning.

  3. The Growth Mind-Set: How Intelligence Can Change and Grow
    Think you are “bad” at math or another subject? Think again! Changing your attitude can help your student view learning in a positive light.

  4. Time Management for Students in 5 Easy Steps
    Use these practical tips to support your students as they plan projects and learning schedules.

  5. 5 Things I Wish I Had Known When Considering Online ...

6 Learning Ideas to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

By: Stephanie Osorno
Avoid Summer Brain Drain

School's out and the sun's out—yes, summer is here. For many children, summertime is when books collect dust and the "break" from learning begins. While fun and refreshing, this break has downsides: it can lead to the dreaded "summer brain drain"—a time when learning and engagement decide to hibernate until fall.

This doesn't have to happen. Even during the summer months, students can continue to learn, accomplish their educational goals, and expand their creativity. Here are some entertaining summer activities to keep students engaged all season long:

Start a blog.

Does your child love writing? Summer is the perfect time to start a blog. Blogs are a great place to unleash creativity. Best of all, since blogs are digital, they can easily be shared with family and friends to keep them up to date on your child's adventures and learnings. Topic ideas can span anything and everything—from simple "day in the life" posts to your child's inner thoughts and feelings to fictional storytelling. The purpose is to be creative and enjoy the writing process.

Some blog tools or platforms are free and extremely user-friendly. These include Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Medium, and more. We recommend that you supervise to ensure that your child posts only appropriate material and adheres to online safety practices.

If you want to avoid the "digital" component of a blog, simply encourage your children to write in a journal. They can keep their writing to themselves or share it with others to read.

Turn a family ...

Homeschool vs. Online School: What’s the Difference?

By: Beth Werrell
Homeschool vs. Online School

When researching options for their children's education, many parents confuse virtual school with homeschooling. It's understandable, because both methods involve learning from the comfort and safety of home. Parents can be closely involved in their student's learning with either approach, too. However, there are key differences that can make an online public school or an online private school an excellent choice for many families.

Real, live teachers who value parent involvement

With homeschooling, the parent serves as the child's teacher for all subjects. He or she plans all of the lessons, assignments, and tests. To monitor the student's comprehension, the parent must also grade all student work.

At a Connections Academy®–supported online public school or International Connections Academy online private school, students work with certified teachers who are specially trained to engage students in online learning. They develop a personalized learning plan for each student. Online school teachers periodically meet with students for real-time instruction in the virtual classroom. They also grade student assignments, evaluate comprehension, and provide ongoing feedback to students by telephone and email. These caring, experienced teachers are available to parents and to students to answer questions, and they may give extra one-on-one help when needed.

Parents do not act as teachers, but they do have the opportunity to serve as a Learning Coach. Although every family does this a little bit differently, many Learning Coaches choose to help keep kids on track by structuring the daily schedule, by monitoring schoolwork completion, and ...

Top Reasons Why Online Schools Work for Parents

By: Beth Werrell
Why Online Schools Work for Parents

Imagine yourself in the shoes of a parent with a child who has asthma. Sometimes, asthma attacks keep your child out of school. He misses classes, homework, and tests—which means he has to work extra hard to catch up. This happens multiple times per year, and it's starting to take a toll on your child and your family.

Now think about the flip side of this scenario: with online learning, your child's asthma attacks don't hold him back. Instead, your child gets schoolwork done at home in a time line that works for you and your family. No more missed tests, stockpiles of homework, or anxiety on account of falling behind.

As a parent of a child in virtual school, you have access to greater flexibility and control. You set your child's daily schedule. You decide if your child can go on a family vacation and still get schoolwork done. You decide when the learning day starts and when it stops.

These are just a few of the many benefits parents can experience when their child attends school online. Over the years, many parents have told us that Connections Academy works well for their family when they can:

  • Dedicate time to keeping the student motivated throughout the day
  • Provide ongoing guidance and encouragement
  • Help monitor student comprehension and progress
  • Organize and structure the learning day
  • Maintain regular contact with their child's teachers
  • Encourage their students to interact with others through field trips, clubs, and community activities
Don't Take ...

The Virtual School Experience: Learn from the Students

By: Stephanie Osorno
Learn from Experienced Virtual School Students

You and your family will most likely have a lot of questions about virtual school when you begin to consider the idea. With some research and time, you'll find that it's not too different from a traditional school experience—but it offers many notable benefits! Virtual learning can be a great alternative for students who learn better in a more personalized academic environment. It's also a beneficial option for students who need more flexible scheduling for different reasons, including sports, frequent travel, and special hobbies.

One good way to learn more about the virtual learning experience is to hear from the experts themselves—online school students! To help answer some frequently asked questions about online school, Connections Academy® online public schools have started a series of short videos on YouTube called "Ask CA!" These videos are hosted by Connections Academy students Justin Myrick from South Carolina Connections Academy, and Kendra Grosso from Oklahoma Connections Academy, and cover several online school topics such as daily schedules, social opportunities, and homework.

Justin and Kendra introduce the questions, and then other Connections Academy students answer them based on their experiences. You'll be surprised by the responses!

Make sure to check out the "Ask CA" videos below . If you would like to watch more videos, visit Connections Academy's YouTube channel and subscribe to stay up-to-date with the latest "Ask CA" videos.

What are some online school topics that you would like to learn more about? Share with us in the comments! ...

Composting 101: How Nature’s Process Helps Reduce Waste

By: Beth Werrell

Composting (nature's method of recycling decomposed organic materials) is essential for the environment. Recycling and composting prevented 87.2 million tons of material from being disposed in 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And it's not just adults working to positively impact that number—kids can take an active role, too!

Composting 101, which we will go into more detail below, is just one of many areas of science you can discuss and explore with your child. In addition to composting, you can help your child discover food chains, how plants grow, the cycle of water, and so much more. To start with a fun science project related to Composting 101, try this easy soda bottle composting science experiment, which we will walk you through in the instructographic.

What Is Composting?

There are different types of composting you and your family can do. They are:

  • Backyard composting
    This is perfect if you have a yard and fallen leaves, straw, grass clippings, and food scraps. Note: this is the type of composting explored in the soda bottle experiment mentioned above.
  • Worm composting
    Maybe you have a small yard or no yard at all. As long as you have food scraps, you can do worm composting.
  • Grasscycling
    Avoid the compost pile but still use your grass clippings. Simply leave them on your lawn to decompose.
Why Compost?

There are numerous benefits for both you and the environment when you compost, as ...

6 Steps to Choosing a K12 Online School

By: Beth Werrell

Children spend most of their early lives learning. In fact, most kids spend anywhere from 800 to 1,000 hours* on formal education per year! It’s no surprise that parents want their children to learn from a solid curriculum in the best possible environment.

There are many instances when the best possible option is online learning. But after a quick Google search, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with options—about 75 million options, depending on your search criteria. How can you narrow down your search to ensure you’re finding and choosing the right K–12 online school for your family?

How to Choose A K-12 Online School 

The following steps may help:

Step 1: Understand what your child needs.

As a parent, you know what’s best for your child. This knowledge is crucial to choosing the right school online, because the final decision should align with your child’s needs. Answer these questions:

  1. Would your child benefit from a nationally recognized academic curriculum?
  2. Are you leaning more toward public or private online learning?
  3. Would your child benefit from a personalized learning pace that provides time to speed up for concepts that are easily understood and that permits a student to slow down for more challenging concepts?
  4. Would your child thrive in an environment with fewer distractions and individual attention?
  5. Would your child benefit from working independently and as a part of a team?
  6. Is your child motivated enough to chart his or her own path to the future?

If your answer is yes to the above questions, ...

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