A Groundhog’s Tale: Winter’s End

By: Beth Werrell

In anticipation of Groundhog Day, I traveled to Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania last week to talk to Punxsutawney Phil, the marmot who has been predicting winter's end every year since 1886.

With hundreds of reporters starting to gather outside, I managed to squeeze into Phil's burrow early to celebrate the event over a game of Groundhog Day Vocabulary Bingo and to ask him how he came to be the world's most famous weather forecaster.

Here's what the solitary and somewhat cranky rodent told me …

Q: So, Phil, how did Groundhog Day get started?
Phil: Well, the story handed down in my family goes like this.

Long ago, humans were very concerned with how long each winter would be. Being furless and unable to hibernate like us more sensible creatures, they worried that winter would outlast their food and firewood.

So these humans looked for ways to predict when winter would end. In Germany, they wisely looked to my friend the hedgehog for a clue.

Q: What was the clue?
Phil: February 2nd, Candlemas Day, was considered the traditional midpoint of winter—halfway between the shortest, darkest day of the year and the spring equinox. And folks came to believe that the weather on that particular day provided a sign of winter's end. They'd even sing this song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
Go, winter, and come not again.

Q: ...

Taking Attendance in Online and Blended Schools

By: Stephanie Osorno
Taking Attendance in Online and Blended Schools

In a traditional bricks-and-mortar school, attendance is usually tracked when a student says "here" after hearing his or her name during roll call. If the teacher can validate the student's physical presence, attendance credit is most likely received without additional obligation.

So how is attendance monitored in an online or blended school when a student is not physically present? Simply "showing up" for a virtual course is not enough to earn attendance. Attendance in our online and blended schools is determined by various factors that reflect your student's overall progress and academic development.

Online School Attendance

How is attendance determined in virtual school?

  • Verification of physical existence —Is the student real?
  • Evidence of recent activity —Is the school seeing evidence of recent student participation?
  • Learning Coach–reported hours of attendance —Will the student have the state-required number of attendance hours/days by year's end?
  • Pacing toward completion by the end of the year —Will the student complete the assigned curriculum in the appropriate amount of time?

Verification of physical existence

Despite the fact that teachers are not able to see your student sitting in a real-time classroom, they still need to verify that he or she is present within the virtual classroom. Physical existence is measured by logged contacts with the school. For instance, each time the student communicates with the school, the conversation is documented and logged in the system. The school also looks at the time between the present day and the most recent synchronous contact, such as a phone ...

School Choice Week Celebrates Expanded School Options

By: Beth Werrell
Share Why You Support School Choice

If there’s one thing most families agree on, it’s that parents should be able to decide what’s best for their children. Why should selecting a school be any different? If you feel strongly about having options for your child’s education, consider sharing your opinion by participating in National School Choice Week, January 25–31, 2015.

Although people have previously rallied for the right to pick the school their children attend, this marks the first time that National School Choice Week has been recognized officially with a bipartisan resolution from the United States Senate. According to organizers, the event was created to "shine a positive spotlight on effective education options for children," including traditional public and private schools, charter and magnet schools, online learning, blended learning, and homeschooling.

This year, in addition to more than 11,000 events planned nationwide, families of Connections Academy and Nexus Academy students are showing their school pride by posting their reasons for supporting school choice on Facebook. We welcome you to join the conversation!

To participate, download the printable school choice template for your school.

Next, complete the sentence: "I support school choice because…." Then take a photograph of you and/or your child holding the template and upload it on our Facebook page. Or use the hashtag #SCW and tag us on Twitter or Google+. To learn more about school choice, join the online ...

The Most Important Time Management Tips for Learning Coaches

By: Stephanie Osorno
Time Management for Learning Coaches

Last week, we offered students five easy steps for staying organized and managing their time. So what about your time as a parent or Learning Coach? Being a Learning Coach requires some time and effort, so using time management skills will make each day easier. It’s also important to note that as students get older, your role will evolve and the time you spend supporting your student will decrease.

We want to help you stay on track with our simple guide to time management for online school Learning Coaches. The key to success is breaking up your day into sections.

Here’s what you can do …

… Right Now

Know your time management personality. This way, you can organize each day based on your innate time management skills. This will also help you pinpoint which situations may set you back and how to avoid them.

Make sure you and your student both have designated learning areas. Whether it be a desk, a table, or a couch, having separate working spaces where you can spread out and work independently creates structure and individual workspace boundaries. If you’re managing multiple students, it’s also important for each student to have his or her own learning area. Make sure each learning area has minimal noise and distractions, adequate lighting, and comfortable furnishings.

Prepare your toolbox. Plan for your student’s school year by keeping certain resources on hand. Some examples include a list of school rules, a computer maintenance ...

Reenergize Your Student: 8 Tips for a Productive Second Semester

By: Stephanie Osorno
Re-energize Your Student for Second Semester

The holiday fun has come to an end, and getting back to the daily learning routine can be challenging for students who might still be mourning the loss. But fear not! As an active Learning Coach, you can keep the momentum going with a little encouragement, support, and persistence. Consider the following tips to help your student remain focused and ready for a productive second school semester!

  1. Be a cheerleader.
    From time to time, students tend to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. A Learning Coach can ease these feelings by serving as a personal cheerleader. When students are having an off day, uplift their spirit by not letting them give up and reassuring them that they can do it. Express how proud you are when they do something well or get an answer correct. Additionally, if they are struggling in a particular subject, try some new learning activities that might help. For instance, if a new vocabulary word is introduced, write the new word on a word wall to strengthen a student's memorization skills.

  2. Set a plan for the week.
    Sometimes, students react to a large workload by panicking and doubting their ability to complete the work. Help your student to stay organized, calm, and less stressed by helping to set a reasonable plan at the beginning of each week. Break it down by different days of the week. For instance, suggest that he or she work on a math assignment or project on Monday, and a science ...

Time Management for Students in 5 Easy Steps

By: Stephanie Osorno
Time Management 101 for Students

So, are you an Early Bird, Multitasker, Helper, or Deliberator? In last week’s post, we showed you how to identify your personal time management style—the first step in making more time and less stress for family, friends, and school. Today, we’re going to show you how to apply that knowledge in a Five-Step Time Management Plan you can customize to fit your unique style.

Your Five-Step Time Management Plan
  1. Analyze how you’re currently spending your time. Have you heard the saying “You can’t control what you can’t measure”? Well, that’s especially true of time. So, for just two school days, track how you spend every hour of the day. Be thorough and honest! Include eating, sleeping, studying, LiveLesson® sessions, spending time on social media, playing video games or sports, and watching TV. As an enrolled student, you can use our activity tracker to log your time for reading assignments, music practice, and physical activities. If you want to track everything in one place, use our downloadable time tracking sheet template in PDF format.

  2. Create a priority list that includes everything you need to do today, including any social or family commitments. Group the items based on whether they’re onetime, daily, or recurring tasks. Don’t worry about the order; we’ll get to that in the next step.

    Now, rank each of the items on your to-do list as A, B, or C, based on their importance:

    A = Important and urgent
    B = Important, but not urgent
    C = Not ...

5 Reasons It's Not Too Late to Transfer to Online School

By: Beth Werrell
5 Reasons It's Not Too Late for Transferring Schools

Traditional education follows two conventions: 1) students start school in the fall, and 2) they learn in a regular classroom setting. Traditional schooling isn’t the only option, of course. Today, your student can also opt for online learning, blended learning, or homeschooling. Many of these alternatives still start in the fall, but they don’t have to. In fact, a midyear transition to virtual school or another option might be the best choice for your family.

How do you know it’s not too late to switch learning options? To answer this question, we have compiled five reasons why students and their families may consider a midyear transition. Take a look at the following reasons to learn more.

1. Students should have a choice of learning options so they can access the right education at the right time. A midyear switch might work for your family for a variety of reasons, for example, if your family has moved, if you are looking for a more customized approach to learning, or if your student needs to take care of his or her health while still being able to attend school. Ultimately, if your current schooling option isn’t working, why wait to get your student the education he or she deserves?

The last week of January is National School Choice Week, a celebration that encourages parents to choose the best educational environments for their kids. This makes January an excellent time to consider changing learning options.

2. We provide you with detailed ...

Healthy Recess Ideas: 5-Minute Exercises for Kids

By: Beth Werrell
5 Minute Exercises for Kids

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to exercise more, and it’s a good goal for kids as well as parents. Adding more exercise to your student’s routine is an effective way to keep him or her active during the winter. And it’s a great way to celebrate National Staying Healthy Month in January!

Exercise helps kids expel energy and stay healthy, but it’s also essential to effective learning.

Exercise boosts brainpower because it:

  • Pumps more blood to the brain
  • Increases the brain’s levels of oxygen, glucose, and hormones
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves memory, attention, and other processing functions

Does your child have a regular exercise routine? Both the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents exercise for an hour a day. Not all of this exercise has to be vigorous, however. You can help your child be active throughout the day by breaking up virtual school lessons with 5-minute exercises. Some of these activities can even count toward your student’s physical education hours. So let’s get moving.

Seven 5-Minute Exercises for Kids

These simple 5-minute exercises are easy for kids to pick up. Switch them up for variety or combine them for longer workouts. Try the exercises below.

Hula-Hooping—This is a fun and easy exercise that kids will gladly try. See how long your child can keep the hoop in motion.

Exercise in place—Kids can use a timer to do five cardio ...

What’s Your Style? 4 Time Management Personality Types

By: Stephanie Osorno
Time Management Personality Styles

When it comes to managing your time, are you more like John F. Kennedy or George Washington, Charlie Brown or Sherlock Holmes? Today, we invite you to find out which time management type you are.

Knowing your time management style is the first step in finding the strategies that work specifically for you as a Learning Coach and also for your student.

Evaluate Your Own Time Management Style

Review each time management personality type below to uncover your family member’s time management style. Don’t worry if you have traits in more than one category.

The Early Bird

Famous early birds include George Washington, Queen Victoria, and even Santa Claus.

Early Bird Time Management Personality Style
  • I added this exercise to my to-do list.
  • When I get an assignment, I immediately identify all the tasks involved and plan my time accordingly.
  • When planning or working on projects and portfolios, I prefer working on one subject and project at a time.
  • I’m usually one of the first people to arrive for class or social events. I like being on time!
  • I am stressed when other people are late or when something forces me to be late.
The Multitasker

Well-known multitaskers include Lucille Ball, Charlie Brown, Amelia Earhart, and John F. Kennedy.

Multitasker Time Management Personality Style
  • I am doing other things while going through this exercise.
  • I like having control over my own schedule so I can “switch it up” to keep school and life interesting.
  • I often underestimate how long it takes to complete a task.
  • I’d like to get items on ...

The Year in Review: Top 14 Virtual School Resources of 2014

By: Beth Werrell
Best of 2014 Virtual School Resources

In 2014, we covered a wide range of topics, from test anxiety to taking breaks; from Digital Learning Day to Computer Science Week; from the benefits of workshifting to the problems with multitasking. What did you learn about?

We’ve enjoyed hearing about your child’s virtual school experience this year and greatly appreciate your participation through our social media pages and comment sections. To thank you, we’ve compiled a list of the top 14 posts of 2014 for your viewing pleasure. So what were the most popular posts of 2014?

Virtual School Essentials
  1. A Quick Guide to Parent, Student, and Teacher Roles in a Virtual School
    New virtual school families can benefit from this guide, which clearly explains the format of student learning, the time commitment involved for Learning Coaches, and more.
  2. Parents Bust the Top 5 Virtual School Myths
    Many parents believe that students won’t receive as much teacher guidance or social interaction in virtual school. Take a look at this post to find out why these preconceptions are just myths.
  3. Top 10 Things Virtual School Teachers Want You to Know
    Teachers are always ready to help parents and students. Here are some great tips on what to expect when your family starts virtual school.
  4. Answers to Parent Questions about Common Core State Standards
    As a parent, you have probably heard about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for education. Our Common Core FAQs help you understand what Common Core means and how ...

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