10 Tips for Getting the Whole Family Involved in Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell

How Family Engagement Helps Students SucceedMany families choose a virtual school because parents want to be more involved in their children's learning on a daily basis. There's a lot of data to support making this decision. According to the National Parent–Teacher Association, decades of research proves that when parents are involved in education, students have higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates. Simply put, parent participation promotes student success!

For online school in particular, family involvement is essential. A primary Learning Coach, typically a parent, must provide structure and guidance for students to benefit fully from virtual learning. But involvement isn't limited to the "official" Learning Coach! Any of the important adults in your child's life can—and should—pitch in. Your teamwork will show your child how much your entire family values education. Whether your family includes a dad deployed overseas, a mom who travels, a nearby grandparent, or siblings who are away at college, the hints below will offer great ways for the whole clan to support your student's learning.

  1. To be great, communicate!
    If possible, schedule the first teacher call of the school year when all or many of the key adults can participate. Talking with each teacher about a student's strengths and weaknesses as well as expectations for the year will help get everyone on the same wavelength. As you exchange emails with teachers during the semester, remember to forward important news to other family members, too.

  2. To be great, participate!
    Invite extended family members who ...

7 Projects to Teach Your Child about Sustainable Gardening

By: Tracy Ostwald Kowald

Gardening is a summer activity the whole family can participate in. It's also a great way to introduce your child to sustainable gardening practices that benefit the environment. Here are some ideas to get you and your child started as spring brings the warm weather and rain your garden will need.

Garden Recycling Ideas

Repurposing items can be one way to include sustainable practices in your garden. Making container planters from household items can bring out the creative side in you and your family.

1. Have an old tool kit lying around the house that you've been meaning to replace? After emptying the toolbox, grab the drill and make a few holes in the bottom before adding the soil.

2. An old kitchen strainer with small holes is nearly ready-made to be a planter. Just have your child line the bottom of the strainer with a few coffee filters to hold the soil in the container. After that, you're ready to start planting.

3. Baskets make ideal planters because of their small outlets for water. You can even have your child paint his or her basket with outdoor paint for a fun, personal touch.

4. Old shoes can be converted into outdoor planters in a few simple steps. Click the image below for a fun shoe planter how-to.

Rainwater Harvesting

Rain barrels can be used to trap and store rainwater for garden watering. This helps the environment by reducing the energy used to ...

Make a Difference in the Virtual School Community: Join Chalk Talk

By: Stephanie Osorno
Share Your Thoughts on Chalk Talk

Have you ever wanted to share your ideas or opinions about virtual learning but didn’t know where to express them? Look no further—we want to hear from you! If you would like to make a difference in the virtual school community, consider joining Connections Education’s newly launched online panel, Chalk Talk.

Why Join Chalk Talk?

Chalk Talk is a unique panel that is open to parents of school-age children in grades K–12. Chalk Talk members will have the opportunity to participate in ongoing surveys, polls, and other fun activities that will be used to enrich virtual learning.

Don’t worry; these are not standard or tedious surveys! Chalk Talk takes pride in providing its members with a user-friendly, interactive, and highly visual forum.

Here are a few things you will gain from being a Chalk Talk member:

  • Be heard—Every voice counts! The information shared on the panel will help to improve the virtual school experience not only for students, but also for parents and teachers.
  • Be first—You will have access to exclusive sneak peeks of the progress and different changes occurring in Connections Academy schools.
  • Be rewarded—By participating, you can earn a chance to win some exciting prizes!
Chalk Talk Feedback

With feedback from Chalk Talk members, schools can better customize, improve, and maximize virtual learning. Some questions you could be asked on Chalk Talk are based on a wide range of topics:

Getting to know you better

  • Your relationship ...

What You Should Know about Your Child’s Social Media Use

By: Meredith Yowell
How Students Use Social Media

Did you know that more than 90 percent of teens in the United States use some kind of social media today? In a technology-saturated world, children are growing up to be what’s often referred to as digital natives. While new technologies can offer many learning opportunities online, they can also bring about challenges for parents to manage their children’s digital screen time or protect them from being bullied online.

That’s why it’s important to discuss social media usage with your child. Talking about topics like kindness, reputation, and permanence related to your child’s social media accounts is one way to help him or her stay safe online. But first, let’s see how older children are using social media today.

What Social Media Platforms Are Teens Using?

Social media websites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and YouTube, among others. These are the main sites for teens, according to a Piper Jaffray study, with Instagram topping the list at a 76 percent usage rate among teen social media users in the fall of 2014. Twitter usage follows Instagram at 59 percent.

What Are Teens Doing on Social Media?

Teens use social media as a means of communication between peers, which accounts for the shift from Facebook to other platforms. As parents and older generations create Facebook accounts, teens are looking for social media platforms that allow them to escape and openly communicate.

Apart from communication, teens also use these accounts to figure out what their peers like. By ...

How to Hit a Home Run in Blended or Virtual School Enrollment

By: Stephanie Osorno
Batting a Home Run in Blended or Virtual School Enrollment

Choosing the appropriate form of education for your child is a major-league decision that requires ample research, thought, and planning. And just as a baseball team starts training long before opening day, a family that’s interested in switching to virtual or blended learning should get ready for enrollment by doing the legwork well in advance.

The decision-making process might initially feel a bit daunting, but don’t just sit on the bench! If you’re seriously considering virtual or blended school, get in the game and consider the following steps to help you make the best choice for your child—and prepare to knock it out of the park with an enrollment home run!

“It’s what you do before the season starts that makes a champion.”

First base: Study the playing field

The most important thing to do is determine whether the program is suitable for your son or daughter. Make a list of all the things you want to know, and do some extensive research. As you learn more, ask yourself some key questions: Would my child benefit from this? Is this something he or she would like? Will he or she learn better in this learning environment?

Get to know exactly how the school works and what it provides—including the curriculum, teachers, and technology—so that you and your family feel as comfortable as possible about beginning this new academic venture. Here are some ways to learn more

  • Visit the school’s website.
  • Request a Program Guide, either online or in ...

Family Game Night: Using Board Games to Improve Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

By: Stephanie Osorno
Improve Critical Thinking with Board Games

Chances are, wherever you live, that there's a shelf or a closet with a stack of board games waiting to be dug out and opened for family game night. Whether it's a low-key weekend, a snowy or rainy day, or an after-dinner activity, board games are often a go-to social activity for children and adults.

You may think that board games are simply a great way to entertain your child, but they can also serve to foster learning by boosting his or her critical thinking skills! If you're looking to make family game night fun and educational, we have some tips and suggestions for finding the right game for your family.

How Can Board Games Help Students with Critical Thinking?

Board games that deal with major subjects such as English, math, and history can be a useful source for students to practice essential academic concepts. Here are some ways board games can stimulate critical thinking:

  • Game rules often make things a little tricky. Students will have to put their thinking caps on and figure out a way to score points while still abiding by the rules. This will help with problem-solving skills.
  • Board games are all about strategizing and planning ahead. Not only do students have to focus on what they're doing, but they also have to pay attention to the moves their opponents are making!
  • Many games require players to think and make decisions quickly. This is a greatly beneficial skill for school tests and quizzes.
  • Logic ...

How to Help Your Child Become a Self-Motivated Student

By: Beth Werrell
Helping Students Build Self-Motivation Skills

Online and blended learning environments can accelerate students to become self-motivated, independent learners. As your child progresses through the online learning space, his or her self-reliance and independent learning skills will develop, and your role as a parent will start to shift.

You may be familiar with the 9-Step Motivation Model, but what happens as your child gets older and you need to start reinforcing self-motivation? Below, we’ll explore your shifting role as a Learning Coach as you help your child develop self-motivational skills.

Self-Motivation Basics (Grades K–5)

Building self-motivation starts with a foundation. Virtual education is a personalized experience, guided by you and your child’s teacher. When your child begins virtual school, you will work with online teachers to evaluate his or her individual needs. While you establish learning objectives together with the teachers, you can provide support by discussing and setting clear expectations. As your child's education progresses, you will guide your child by communicating and establishing responsibilities regularly. Providing this for your child will lay the groundwork for self-motivation, because he or she will know what is expected and have an idea of what to be working toward.

Here are some additional ways to build a basis of self-motivation early:

Teach Your Children about Water Sustainability for Earth Month

By: Beth Werrell

In honor of Earth Month in April, teach your child the importance of water conservation. One way to start this discussion is to learn more about freshwater scarcity. With 97 percent of the world’s water supply being salt water, and with many people without access to fresh water, water conservation is a great way to make an impact globally.

One route to freshwater sustainability is water desalination, or removing the salt from salt water. There are more than 16,000 desalination plants1 across the globe currently, and that number is still growing. To begin learning how desalination occurs, click the image below for instructions on how to create freshwater from salt water using a few household items.

What Is Water Scarcity?

Water scarcity occurs when there is not enough drinking water to meet the needs of the population in a given area. Since most of the planet’s water is salt water, is frozen freshwater, or is not accessible, this leaves some areas high and dry.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Fresh Water?

Freshwater is an essential part of life. Water helps nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream move around the body. Humans are generally made up of about 45 to 65 percent water.

Freshwater is a key to good health. When your body doesn’t have enough water, it is dehydrated. Dehydration can keep you from doing your best at sports, school, and whatever else the day may throw ...

Virtual or Blended School: Viable Short-Term Education Options

By: Tisha Green Rinker
Online School:  Perfect Fit or Short-term Option?

With more school choices than ever before, many families are redefining what constitutes a successful K–12 education. Today’s parents can select from traditional bricks-and-mortar schools, private or charter, and technology-based learning options. They may even combine methods, switching schools and educational methods to meet their children’s needs as they change. While some decide to use a virtual learning method permanently, other families choose online school as a short-term solution to a child’s changing needs.

A “DIY” Approach to Education

The idea of choosing from a menu of options to create a cohesive educational experience that is customized to fit each child has enormous appeal for parents. It’s a trend that prompted education experts to dub these families “Generation DIY,” for their do-it-yourself approach to education. Over the past decade, parents and students have embraced the options of fully online schools, making online learning and, more recently, blended learning environments one of the fastest-growing forms of education in the U.S. today.

Full-time virtual schools deliver education directly to students in their home via the Internet. Students work with certified teachers online while a parent oversees progress in the home. With blended learning, students get a mix of in-person and online instruction—all from certified teachers—plus have 24/7 access to their lessons online. Both of these school options utilize curriculum aligned to state standards. And, as public schools, they are tuition-free.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term Education Options

Digital learning can meet the needs of all types of students and families. ...

Simple Ways to Spring-Clean Your Family-Fitness Routine

By: Beth Werrell
Spring into a Family-Fitness Routine

Well, it's official. Spring is finally here. Our students, along with Mother Earth, are practically bursting with pent-up energy, making this the perfect time for the entire family to ease into new fitness routines and outdoor adventures. From understanding the biology of spring fever to finding local resources, we've put together some of the information you need to give your family a jump-start on fitness this spring.

Making the Most of Spring Fever

Did you know that as the hours of daylight lengthen in spring, our retinas react and trigger hormonal changes in the brain that affect our sleep and mood? As our bodies produce less melatonin, we typically sleep less, crave fewer carbohydrates, and have more energy. The sunlight also triggers the release of serotonin, another mood and energy booster, and improves our absorption of vitamin D, essential for healthy bones.

In short, feeling happier and more energetic, we're primed by nature to try and succeed at new physical activities and dietary changes in the spring.

A Focus on Family

With research showing that family attitudes toward fitness, nutrition, and the outdoors have a profound impact on our children's future health, parents and Learning Coaches need to lead and join in when it comes to fitness. Fortunately, the prescription is simple and the resources readily available.

Let's All Go Outside and Play!

We're all more likely to stick with activities that are enjoyable and allow us to spend time with the people we care about. So here are a few tips and resources for outdoor activities that lay ...

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