A Lesson in Observation with Animal Tracking

By: Beth Werrell

Do your children ever play spy or detective, or maybe veterinarian? Whether your kids have an interest in detective work or animals, or if they just love any excuse to get outside, animal tracking can be a great lesson in observation.

Before you head off on your tracking adventure, download the animal tracking guide below for animal tracking tips, as well as pictures and descriptions of common animal prints across the United States.

Where to Start

Tracks made in softer earth are typically more distinct and easy to identify, so look for spots with:

  • New snow
  • Mud
  • Wet sand

However, if you don't have any land in your area that fits the ideal terrain for animal tracking, remember that there are other signs of animal activity, such as fur and feathers, broken or gnawed branches and tree trunks, scat, and more. Encourage your child to be aware of his or her surroundings and to look for signs of life beyond prints.

When to Start

It's typically easiest to track prints in the early morning or late afternoon, as the sun will cast a shadow inside of the grooves of each print and make them easier to see.

The time of year for print tracking does not matter as much as the weather and environment you and your child will be tracking in. As mentioned above, tracks made in new snow or mud are easier to see and identify, so winter ...

Connections Academy Families Support School Choice

By: Beth Werrell
Connections Academy Families Support School Choice

Last week, tens of thousands of yellow-scarved students, parents, and teachers converged on schools, state houses, and city halls across the country to support National School Choice Week (NSCW). Celebrated every January, National School Choice Week events raise awareness about the benefits of having a range of education options open to U.S. students.

Among the schooling options represented during NSCW are online public schools like Connections Academy, online private schools such as International Connections Academy, and blended schools such as Nexus Academy, which combine online and in-person learning. Other educational choices include traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, and homeschooling. In the process, NSCW events draw attention to the importance of making those choices available to more students.

Many Connections Academy families and school leaders raised their voices for school choice, helping to make this year's NCSW the single largest series of education-related events in U.S. history. Here's a sampling of what this vibrant school community had to say about the importance of making school choice available to all students—regardless of where they live.

Different Roads to Student Success

Speaking before her state's Senate Education Committee on School Choice, South Carolina Connections Academy (SCCA) Executive Amanda Ebel got straight to the point.

"Some students need different avenues to be successful. [At SCCA], our families need an alternative to the traditional school for a variety of reasons. … A student with a medical condition may require intensive, ongoing treatment. A student who is pursuing a music or ...

4 Steps to Forming Effective Study Skills in High School

By: Beth Werrell

As online high school students gain more independence, they also gain more responsibility with their own studies. With standardized tests, as well as ACT®, SAT®, and AP® tests approaching, this is the time to develop good study habits.

For quick bullet points and takeaways on study techniques, click the link below to view and download our guide containing study tips for stressed high schoolers. Print this out and keep it in a folder, or pin it to your desk, as a constant reminder while you study.

For a more comprehensive guide to developing effective independent study habits, see our tips below.

  1. Before you study, schedule your time.
  2. Plan to study for about two hours each dedicated study night, five nights per week. It helps to schedule your time by writing down all the study goals you have at the beginning of the week and then estimating how much time each task will take. You should also assess the urgency of each task, as more urgent tasks should be scheduled for the beginning of the week.

  1. Learn the tricks for efficient note-taking.
  2. The more comprehensive, legible, and organized your notes are, the easier it will be for you to study them. Notes can increase your recall of important information and can be used to call out important topics or ideas that you need to revisit.

    • Create your own bullet system, using different numbers or symbols for different things. ...

4 Keys to Establishing Schedules and Routines for Online Students

By: Stephanie Osorno
A Day in the Life: Establishing Schedules for Virtual School Families

If you're new to virtual school or considering making a midyear switch, you probably have some questions about organizing your child's learning day at home. But you can put your mind at ease and your list of questions down, because online students have some flexibility to structure their school schedule in a way that works best for them!

At most virtual schools, as long as your online student keeps up with lessons and schoolwork, remains on track to complete the school year, and meets the number of learning hours required by the state,* there is no right or wrong school schedule. Before you begin organizing and creating an online school schedule, here are four important things to keep in mind:

  1. Try different schedules until you find one that works.
    If you create a schedule that doesn't seem to be working well for your student, don't give up! Try sampling different schedules during a school week to see which one is the most successful and beneficial for your child. It might take several attempts, but finding a routine that complements your child’s learning style and interests will feel incredibly rewarding. There is no pressure or rush to have the online school system figured out right away, as the staff and teachers understand that families will need some time to adjust.

  2. Incorporate your student’s interests into the schedule.
    Since the learning day can be personalized in online school, talk to your child about how he or ...

Managing Kids' Screen Time in the Digital Age

By: Tisha Rinker
Managing Screen Time for Kids

Is my child getting too much screen time? Are there good and bad kinds of screen time? What is considered screen time? If these are questions you've asked yourself, you're not alone—and in the digital age, these are questions that need to be asked in order to properly manage your child's time in front of a computer or television screen.

Screen time was defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics for measuring the amount of time a child spends in front of a computer or television screen. The initial intention was to provide recommendations that could offset the potentially harmful effects of passive computer or television use, especially for very young children.

However, the definition of screen time is changing. Studies have found that certain programs can improve social and language skills, as well as school readiness for children above two years old. Screen time can greatly differ in quality and effectiveness when it comes to educating your child.

Using Screen Time to Encourage your Child’s Growth

You can help support your child's learning with the correct use of education technology. To find out if your child's technology use is serving his or her growth, consider the factors below.

  • Is it built into a larger curriculum? Your chosen technology should not be a stand-alone curriculum; rather, it should be built into an educational structure. It should function as just one asset among many learning activities, resources, and educational models. Make sure there is a balance of technology and other ...

Coaching Children to Use Inferences and Draw Conclusions While Reading

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald
Use Inferences to Aid Reading Comprehension

Recently during a test, a puzzled student carried his test booklet over to where his teacher sat, pointed to a word he didn't know, and asked her, "Inference—what does that mean?" Unable to assist because it was a state exam, the teacher suggested that he make an educated guess. Later, we teachers chuckled together, saying that this particular teacher's advice was that the boy infer the meaning of the word inference. We also made a mental note to strengthen our teaching of inferences.

What Are Inferences in Reading?

Making inferences is like drawing conclusions: discovering information in the text, adding it to our own knowledge, and forming an educated guess based on the combined evidence. Reading between the lines, filling in the blanks, and enhancing the meaning of the words—all of these skills are part of one overarching strategy: inferring, or making an inference while reading.

Examples of Making Inferences to Aid Reading Comprehension

Comics and cartoons are ideal tools for students to use when practicing how to make inferences. One of my favorites pictures a snowman under a starry night sky surrounded by rabbits. The snowman is looking worried and thinking, “Uh-oh.” I ask my students to look over the cartoon and then infer what might be bothering the snowman. A conversation might sound like this:

Student: "He's melting."
Teacher: "Does he look hot?"
"No. Not really."
"What else do you see?"
"You're right. I see a lot of rabbits surrounding the snowman. I wonder why?"
"Rabbits ...

How to Monitor Your Child’s Intellectual and Emotional Development

By: Beth Werrell
How to Monitor Your Child's Development

Is my child really understanding what he or she is learning? Is he or she progressing intellectually and emotionally? What can I do to gauge this progress?

We all want to make sure our children are growing and maturing, as well as retaining new knowledge, but it can be difficult to monitor this progression as a parent or Learning Coach. While no two children are exactly alike, there are some universal ideas that you and your child can try this semester to start tracking intellectual and emotional growth.

Intellectual Growth Checks
  • Tracking Goals

    Review your family's educational philosophy to remind yourself of what you want out of your child's education. It will help you set expectations with your student and will help guide discussions with his or her teachers when discussing learning goals. Documenting goals for the semester with your child can make it easier to track the progress of your child's educational growth down the road. Plan to have regular check-ins in place to discuss progress with your student and his or her teachers. This is an ongoing process.

    Start the semester by printing and filling out our student road map, which will walk you and your student through a thoughtful approach to creating goals.

  • Measuring Critical Thinking

    Create a weekly problem-solving game for your child that offers a problem in the form of challenging scenarios to overcome.

    Examples of different scenarios include the following:

    • You and your child set out different types, colors, and sizes of ...

A Parent's Advice: 5 Ways to Make a Smooth Midyear Switch to Online School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Parent Advice for Switching School Midyear

Sometimes life circumstances such as a move, social conflicts, health issues, or learning challenges cause students to switch schools midyear. If the traditional schooling method isn't a good fit, virtual school can be a great alternative for any student who would benefit from a more flexible and customized learning environment.

Switching to a new school might seem overwhelming at first—especially in the middle of the school year—but the transition can be relatively simple and stress-free with the proper mind-set, support, and resources. If you're thinking about making the midyear switch to virtual school for your child, below are a few tips from Aubrey Lakey, a Connections Academy parent who has experienced it firsthand!*

  1. Make sure to take advantage of all the orientations that your school provides.

    Getting accustomed to a new learning system takes some time, but you don't have to do it alone—and neither does your student! Good online schools often provide both parents and students with orientation sessions to help them feel more confident and prepared for the school year. Simply attending an orientation session could be the key to you and your child having a successful school year!

    Aubrey says, "The orientations gave us a lot of direction. They helped us
    adapt to the virtual learning program tremendously."

  2. Seek support and ask questions.

    Even though Aubrey only had three days to get her children enrolled with the school, Connections Academy staff members were more than willing to help her complete the enrollment process quickly....

6 Simple Tips to Help Your Teen with Goal Planning

By: Stephanie Becker

Building goals with your teen can be challenging, because it often involves a more hands-off approach than with younger children. An offer of quiet encouragement and helpful resources may be just what your teen needs to start the year off right.

Click on the image below to view and download our printable goal road map for older students. Then, follow the tips below for extra goal-planning ideas.

  1. Take a Step Back

    As a parent, you have a great amount of influence on your child's life choices. With teens, it is important to take a step back and allow them to pursue their own aspirations. If your student is brainstorming to generate ideas, it's particularly important to provide positive support without criticism. Rather than steer your child, offer encouragement and guidance when he or she is in need of help.

  2. Self-Evaluate

    Encourage your teen to self-evaluate his or her performance from the previous semester and reflect on strengths and weaknesses. Take a look at the questions from the preplanning section in the printable PDF file to get started. If your teen needs help, allow the questions to lead the discussion about his or her hopes for the upcoming semester.

  3. Frame the Future

    Help your child think about a portion of these New Year goals in terms of what he or she wants for the future, career-wise and in other areas. By using the preplanning questions and self-evaluation discussion, you can help him or ...

Helpful Tips for Starting Second Semester Strong

By: Beth Werrell
Starting Strong in Second Semester

Looking for ways to make a great start on a new year and a new semester? You've come to the right place! We've collected the best tips from previous years to help you start 2016 strong!

Whether you're a new student switching schools midyear, a longtime student setting goals for 2016, or an experienced Learning Coach fine-tuning your routines, below you'll find practical tips geared specifically to our online community.

But don't get overwhelmed! Just choose one area where you or your child needs help or inspiration, and then dive in. You can always come back when you're ready for more.

Get Inspired

From buying a new calendar to cleaning closets, almost everyone has their own ritual for starting a new year or a new project. But if you're looking for an additional inspirational boost for 2016, we suggest you:

Set New Goals; Make a Plan

"It's only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal."

That's one of our favorite ...

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