8 Ways to Help Students Transition to Blended School

By: Beth Werrell
Make an Easy Transition to a Blended Learning School

Traditionally, back-to-school preparation means buying new shoes and stocking up on spiral-bound notebooks. For families who are switching to a blended learning school, which combines face-to-face teaching and online learning, the steps may be a bit different, but parent involvement is just as essential. Check out the hints below to learn what you can do to help your student make a smooth transition to blended school.

  1. Get Oriented
    Most schools start the year with orientation sessions. For completely online schools, this may be done using the Internet, but for a blended school, there is likely to be an in-person orientation on campus. Attending this meeting will give you the opportunity to tour the school and get answers to any remaining questions you have about the school and its programs. Orientation also enables you to meet the people who will be working directly with your student. At Nexus Academy schools, for example, this includes teachers, school counselors, administrators, and Success Coaches, who guide students as they set and achieve goals—and help keep them on track for graduation.

  2. Set an Appointment
    If you have concerns about your student's needs, consider contacting the school to set an appointment for a conference early in the school year. This will give you a chance to discuss your student's learning style, course schedule, strengths, weaknesses, interests, and other traits. This information can help school staff personalize the program to support your child's learning effectively.

  3. Familiarize Yourself with the ...

Accommodating Special Needs with Online Education Technology

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
25th Anniversary - Americans with Disability Act

I had an interesting phone call from a Learning Coach recently. The parent asked if he could modify a journal-writing prompt. His student was struggling to write from the perspective of a disabled person because he didn't know anyone with a disability. Could he write about a person coping with a broken leg instead?

After giving my approval, I hung up the phone and smiled. You see, that dad and his student know me, and I have a disability. I have a hearing impairment and wear two hearing aids to correct it. These tiny but powerful digital electronic devices tuck behind my ears and feed sound into my middle ear. Having hearing loss is an important part of how I face the world: how I work, how I use a phone, and how I listen to and interact with others.

I've never kept my hearing loss a secret from employers, my coworkers, or my students. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this month, businesses and public venues are required to provide "reasonable accommodation" for people who have disabilities. For example, my hearing aids are my own responsibility, but I can ask for hearing-aid-compatible headsets and phone attachments.

I am fortunate that "reasonable accommodation" is all I need to keep doing what I love: teaching online. Before the ADA was in effect, a person with a disability had no legal rights to request assistive devices or to fight discrimination related to ...

How Parents Can Prepare for Their Role in Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
How New Learning Coaches Can Prepare for Virtual School

If your student is transitioning to a virtual learning environment, you will soon be playing a significant and exciting new role in his or her education. Like any other new venture, becoming a well-informed virtual school parent requires time and dedication. Actively preparing for and learning about your new role as Learning Coach will not only help you feel more confident, but will also allow your student to start the school year off strong.

Consider the following suggestions to help you and your family get ready for a successful school year!

Before the School Year Starts

Make sure to take advantage of all of your school's orientation resources and events—a great way to become more acquainted with the virtual school program. For instance, families enrolling with Connections Academy can sign up for Online Parent-to-Parent Orientations, which are webinars hosted by experienced parents who share their insight, answer questions, and give pointers. Your school might even host an open house or special summer events where you and your family can meet the staff and other virtual school families face-to-face.

You should also take some time to explore the school's learning management system. Virtual schools usually provide online tools to help families get started. Connections Academy offers a collection of helpful resources specifically designed for newly enrolled parents. These are available in Learning Coach Central within Connexus.

Here are some other things you can do before school starts:

  • Set up your student's learning space in an area free ...

An Easy Summer Assignment for New Online School Parents

By: Kimberly McConnell
Easy Summer Assignment for Virtual School Parents

Much like an accomplished sporting league, a successful virtual learning experience evolves from a team effort. In virtual school, the team consists of the student, teacher, and parent or Learning Coach.

As a teacher, I am always eager to talk to parents and students throughout the year so that I can assess progress and help with areas of weakness. If you're new to virtual school, you might ask yourself, "How do I know if my child is really learning?" To help you better understand your student's learning style and prepare for regular communication with his or her teacher throughout the year, consider completing the following summer assignment.

Online Learning Coach Summer Assignment

You can start to gauge students' learning patterns by observing their engagement with enjoyable hobbies. Set some time aside to observe your child while he or she plays a board game, a sport, or even an instrument. Here are some things you can look for:

  • What keeps your student's attention? Is it the colorful board? The characters? Speed or motion? A challenge or competition?
  • Watch for facial expressions and determine what they tell you about how your child is connecting with the game or activity. Is he or she smiling or frowning? What kinds of expressions show that your child is thinking hard?
  • What seemed to give your child a sense of accomplishment? Was it figuring something out? Achieving a high score? Working as a team with another child? Completing something or ...

Staycation and DIY Summer Camp Ideas

By: Beth Werrell
Staycation and at-Home Summer Camp Ideas

Sending your child to summer camp can be expensive and may cut into his or her summer schedule. Find the right balance with the summer learning pyramid and gather ideas from the list below to create your own "staycation" and at-home summer camp experiences, which can be shaped around your family's agenda.

Summer Camp Activities at Home

It's summer! Take advantage of the weather and get active with outdoor games and activities, like water balloon tosses, tug-of-war competitions, and scavenger hunts. You can also encourage your child to find a sport he or she likes and practice with you in the backyard. Set up a volleyball net, grab a soccer ball, or throw a baseball back and forth.

Get creative with movie nights by hosting a backyard theater. Set up a "drive-in" movie by situating your car to face the garage and projecting a movie on the garage door or on a white sheet on the side of your house. Host a sleepover with your child and his or her friends and have them select a movie. Provide snack ideas, such as "ants on a log" or caramel popcorn, or have each child create his or her own trail mix snack bags.

Keep learning alive this summer with learning activities your child can have fun with. Create a tree guide or an animal guide and take your child to the park so he or she can observe nature. You can also sign the family up for a ...

2015 Parent Satisfaction Survey: Did We Make the Grade?

By: Beth Werrell

To learn and grow, everyone needs feedback, whether you're a student hoping for a good grade on a challenging project or you're a home "chef" awaiting the family's reaction to a new recipe. At Connections Academy, we obtain the feedback we need from our annual Parent Satisfaction Survey, one of our most important "report cards." The 2015 results reveal that families who educate their students with Connections Academy continue to be overwhelmingly pleased with their children's online school experience.

The 2015 Parent Satisfaction Survey was open to all families with students enrolled at the time of the survey. This year, 38 percent of families responded, for a total of more than 18,000 respondents.* An independent third party conducted the survey and kept responses anonymous, so families could feel comfortable sharing their opinions freely. The survey shows us what we are doing well and reveals areas in which we can improve.

Having trouble seeing? Try going directly to YouTube.

School Earns Overall High Marks

When asked questions that gauge overall satisfaction, responding parents gave Connections Academy very high marks:

  • 93 percent of Connections Academy parents recommend the school to other parents.
  • 89 percent of parents gave Connections Academy an "A" or "B" grade. (In comparison, in the 45th Annual Phi Delta Kappa / Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes toward the Public Schools, only 71 percent of public school parents gave the public school their oldest child attends an "A" or a "B" grade.)**
  • 84 percent of ...

Virtual School Students Making Headlines in the 2014–15 School Year

By: Beth Werrell
Virtual School Students Making Headlines

From cyber-sleuthing to competing on American Idol, Connections Academy students across the country made headlines this school year. So settle down for an inspiring read today as we recap just a few of their achievements for 2014–2015.

Connections Academy Students Stand Out

With the flexibility to pursue their talents, our online students put in hours of hard work to excel in the sciences, performing arts, sports, and their communities.

In the Sciences . . .

  • Four students in our Science and Technology Academy program gained honors for their cybersecurity skills. Earning first place in the top-ranking tier of their division during the CyberPatriot VII National Youth Cyber Defense Competition State Round were Evan Tonkin (Commonwealth Connections Academy), Ashley Wright and Miguel Hoch (both from Texas Connections Academy @ Houston), and Alex Hardin (Arizona Connections Academy).

  • Eleven-year-old Ria Cheruvu, Arizona Connections Academy's 2015 valedictorian, will be taking neurobiology and artificial-intelligence courses through the Harvard Extension School this summer. Ria says she plans to eventually become "one of the pioneers in neural cryptography."

  •  Courtney Thurston, Commonwealth Connections Academy valedictorian and captain of last year's winning Real World Design Challenge team, was named one of Best and Brightest Class of 2015 by the Patriot News and PennLive.

In the Performing Arts . . .

Several Connections Academy students made their marks on local and national stages:

Summer Weather Experiments for the Family

By: Beth Werrell

Take advantage of the warm weather and teach your child about rain, the sun's rays, rainbows, and weather patterns. Here, we've gathered fun, grade-appropriate experiments based on ease and safety. Pick one or try them all!

Weather Experiments for 6–8 Learners

This decorative wind experiment is perfect for a summer holiday activity, like a birthday, the Fourth of July, or another summer celebration. Teach your child about wind science with the step-by-step pinwheel instructions below.

Bake outside using the heat from the sun. In this activity, you will need a pizza box or other cardboard container, aluminum foil, and common household items. This activity involves a lot of cutting and taping until you have shaped your homemade oven. Make s'mores. If you have more time to wait, then bake cookies! Explain to your child that the oven works by collecting the shorter wavelengths from the sun and trapping them, which is also known as the greenhouse effect.

Make it rain in a jar. Since this experiment involves boiling water and hammering small indentations into a jar lid, make sure you are around to supervise. This activity provides your child with a visual representation of rain on a smaller scale, which is easier to digest. As the cold surface of the lid cools the evaporating water, the vapor collects at the top of the jar and forms back into a liquid.

The old "suck an egg into a bottle" experiment...

Free Printable Pet Trivia Questions for Kids and Parents

By: Beth Werrell

Considering adopting a pet for your family? Put down the pro–con list. Pets can be extremely beneficial to your child's growth and development. Consider some of the advantages of pet ownership listed below, and then download our pet trivia game for a fun way to learn more about animals.

Pets and Physical Activity

Active pets, such as dogs, need physical activity, so your child will likely become more active, or stay active, with a pet. Just make sure that he or she is pitching in. Create an activity calendar, or add activities with your pet to an existing calendar, so that your child knows what is expected each day. Schedule activities like runs, walks, or playtime so that your pet is sure to get the attention it deserves.

Pets and Life Lessons

Owning a pet can be emotionally trying through certain periods, but these are the times when your child may learn some crucial life lessons about death, illness, and mourning. These can be difficult concepts for child to grasp, but learning these lessons early will allow your child to develop coping mechanisms.

Pets and Responsibility

Pets take care and attention. Teach your child responsibility by assigning him or her pet-related chores, such as cleaning the litter box, refilling your pet's water, or taking your pet for a walk. Keep your child on a schedule and show him or her the value of taking care of another living being. The emotional connection to a pet ...

6 Free Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Kids

By: Stephanie Osorno
Father's Day Gift Ideas for Kids

Parents deserve a pat on the back for the countless things that they do for their children on a daily basis. We especially praise the parents amongst the virtual school community for not only being loving moms and dads, but also for serving as supportive Learning Coaches.

A parent holiday, such as the upcoming Father’s Day holiday, is a great opportunity for sons and daughters to show their parents appreciation. Since kids might not be able to purchase a gift on their own, we have some other ways that they can say thank you on Father’s Day!

  1. Write a letter.
    It can be tough for anyone to verbally express their feelings, but it might be even more difficult for children who are still learning about their emotions. Instead, children can express themselves by writing a special letter to Dad. He will be able to keep the letter forever and reread it as much as he would like. And it doesn’t have to be a formal letter. Kids of all ages can list all of the reasons why they love and appreciate their father. Dad will treasure this sweet gesture!

  2. Make a craft.
    You can never go wrong with a homemade craft! Gifts tend to be more meaningful when they’re handmade rather than store-bought. If the student isn’t very crafty, Mom can provide some assistance and reassure the child that the gift doesn’t have to be anything too complicated. Even if it’s a simple drawing, it will ...

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