How Summer School Works in Private Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Benefits of Virtual Summer School

As the spring semester comes to a close, you might be considering summer school options for your student. Online summer courses can be beneficial for many reasons, including gaining credits to accelerate graduation, retaking a course without falling behind, catching up because of a busy schedule, or simply continuing to enjoy learning throughout the summer.

You may already know that International Connections Academy (iNaCA), Connections Academy's online private school option, can be a great choice for students who live in a state that does not offer a Connections Academy®—supported public school, or for students who live abroad, but did you know that it can also be a great option for summer school?

iNaCA's flexible online summer school program offers students in grades K–12 a wide range of courses—with certified online teachers—at an affordable price. To familiarize yourself with iNaCA's summer school program, read below and learn how iNaCA's summer courses benefited four students!

Getting Ahead of Schedule: Emma Gaydos

Emma Gaydos is a current student at Colorado Connections Academy. She spends a lot of her time on fun hobbies such as writing and playing tennis.

Emma has taken summer courses with iNaCA for two years in a row. She decided to take a geometry and an algebra course so she could get a head start on precalculus as a sophomore. Now she will be able to take AP®* Calculus next year. She would like to be two years ahead in school, and taking summer courses ...

Step into Nature’s Classroom This Summer

By: Beth Werrell
How to Become a Citizen-Scientist

Did you know that there are millions of as-yet unidentified plants, animals, and other organisms living on our planet today, or that many will become extinct before we even know they exist? What if you could help scientists discover those species while exploring the outdoors, learning more about plant and animal life, and meeting other aspiring citizen scientists and student scientists in your own community?

Welcome to BioBlitz 2016!

What Is a Bioblitz?

A bioblitz is a timed event, usually 24–48 hours, during which scientists, teachers, families, and students work together to identify and catalogue plants, animals, and other organisms living in a certain area such as a park, a stream, or even a city neighborhood. These citizen scientists then upload that information along with photos to the free iNaturalist app so professional scientists and ordinary citizens alike can easily share knowledge about life on our planet. (The app is available as a free download for both Android and iPhone.)

Ecologists can use the information collected to map and protect endangered species. Hikers can use it to avoid poisonous plants. Park rangers can use it to identify and remove invasive species that threaten local habitats. Ordinary people around the country can use it to learn what's growing in their own backyards.

In celebration of the National Park Service's (NPS's) one-hundredth anniversary, the NPS and the National Geographic Society will be hosting hundreds of organized bioblitz events in parks around the United States throughout the year. You can be part of ...

Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo for Families

By: Beth Werrell

Bright colors, lively critters, bird cries, wild, pungent aromas, and budding life. There's so much to discover and observe as the summer days grow longer and new life emerges. Whether you have your next big adventure planned or your summer will be spent at home, you can spice up family time with a nature bingo scavenger hunt. Teach your child how to appreciate and observe nature with these simple bingo cards the entire family can use.

How to Use Your Nature Scavenger Hunt Bingo Cards

Going to the beach? These scavenger hunt bingo cards are perfect for that. Going for a stroll through the park? You can bring your bingo cards there, too! They can go everywhere with you. Follow the simple instructions below to make your cards, and then stick them in your busy bag for your next adventure.

  1. Print your bingo card pages on stock paper or another thick material.
  2. Cut out each scavenger hunt item individually.
  3. Stick Velcro dots on the back of each item, and then stick the other side of your Velcro dots into each square on your blank bingo card.
  4. Change out your bingo items as your destinations change.
  5. When you and your little scavengers hunt for items, peel each item off your board as you find it.

Tip: Glue your bingo board to the outside of a brown bag with handles. This will make it easier to keep track of the board ...

Words of Appreciation for the Virtual School Community

By: Beth Werrell
Appreciation for the Virtual School Community

Although most schools in the United States only celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, the Connections Education community of learners also does something a bit different. We kick off our "season of appreciation" during the last week of April by reminding students to recognize the important role their Learning Coaches play in their education! Then, in May, we join families in showing appreciation for the caring, certified teachers at Connections Academy® supported online public schools and International Connections Academy online private school.

The appreciative responses we received from students and their families are genuine and heartwarming. And while you may have read our blog posts about how parents/Learning Coaches work as a team with teachers and other school staff, nothing describes this partnership better than a note of thanks written by a student or family member. The excerpts featured below will give you a window into the workings of virtual school and reveal the value families place on becoming a part of a supportive school community.

Families Appreciate Online School Teachers Because…

"I love Connections Academy. One of the reasons why I like this school so much is the communication between teachers and students and Learning Coaches. Our teacher is phenomenal! She is dedicated to organized, fun learning, and bringing out the fun in learning, yet [she is] serious to teach my child that this subject will benefit them in life."
—Melissa B., North Carolina Connections Academy parent

"My third grader loves his homeroom teacher! She is always there to help ...

7 Ideas to Get Your Kids Involved in Music This Spring

By: Beth Werrell

You’re in the kitchen cooking spaghetti for dinner with your little one coloring at the table nearby. You’re both chatting away as the radio plays softly in the background. One song ends and fades into the next, which happens to be your recent favorite.

Down goes your spaghetti-stirring spoon and up goes the volume on the radio as you pull your child to his or her feet. It’s time to dance.

Everyone appreciates the bonding time that music can bring. The benefits of music for you and your children are enormous—from the joy of dancing around the kitchen, to the peacefulness of a melody that helps concentration, to a favorite song on the radio that kick-starts a karaoke session in the car.

Not only can music build happy memories, but also it helps children learn and grow—both intellectually and socially.

“Children who become involved in [music] learn important life skills, such as how to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards that come from working together, and the development of leadership skills and discipline,” said Maestro Eduardo Marturet, conductor, composer, and music director of the Miami Symphony Orchestra.

The key is making sure your child has tools to spark musical creativity. One idea is to create a backyard music wall, along with six more suggestions, below.

Download a Kid-Friendly Music App

With so many educational apps available, why not try a musical one? A great example ...

4 Things to Remember When Choosing a Career

By: Penny Reeves
Researching the Right Career Options

Choosing a career is one of the most exciting decisions a student makes—but making a suitable choice requires ample thought, research, and preparation. A career often becomes a major part of a person's life, so it's important for students to choose something that they truly enjoy and are passionate about. Working adults generally spend about 20 percent of their lives at work!

With your help and guidance, students can pursue a career that is the ideal fit for them. If your student is beginning to consider and research career options, below are a few things for him or her to keep in mind along the way—so make sure to pass this post along!

Get to know yourself well

As a student who is getting ready to reach adulthood, you probably have a pretty good idea of who you are already, but try digging a little deeper! Determining what your likes and dislikes are will help you get closer to an enjoyable career path—and you might be surprised by what you find. Even though it may sound odd, taking a moment to have a "conversation" with yourself can really help you to attain clarity and understanding for your future. Here are some questions that you can ask yourself:

  • What do I like to do?
  • What am I good at doing?
  • In what sort of setting would I like to work?
  • What or whom do I want to work with?
  • Do I want to be very involved in my career, or do ...

Slow Down to Support Math Learning

By: Beth Werrell
Support Math Learning

When you watch the news or sports channel, it's easy to associate being fast with being great. We see the fastest athletes winning medals, the fastest racecars taking victory laps, and the owners of the fastest horses claiming the purse. But when it comes to supporting your virtual school student as he or she learns math, the best advice may just be to slow down!

Education researchers have discovered that timed tests, rote memorization, and being expected to answer math problems rapidly not only contribute to math anxiety, but also can have a negative impact on learning. Fortunately, the parents of virtual school students can support the kind of deep, reflective thinking that helps kids excel in math, in many ways.

Talk About It

Encourage your child to explain how he or she solved a math problem. This practice will help develop verbal communication skills while also reinforcing a deeper understanding of the mathematical concepts involved. If you've never done this before, you may have to prompt your child with questions—ideally questions that can't be answered with yes or no! Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What was your first step?
  • What did you do next?
  • Why did you decide to use that approach?
  • What ways did you consider and decide not to use?
Stretch Your Thinking

It's important to recognize that flash cards aren't the only way—or even the best way—to learn math facts! Educators have found that the students who excel are the ones ...

Celebrating Virtual School Student Volunteers

By: Beth Werrell
Celebrating Online Student Volunteers
"Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
—Dr. Seuss

They've rescued aging greyhounds, restored local ecosystems, supported our veterans, comforted the homeless, and fed the hungry. From Ohio to California, Connections Academy student volunteers spent countless hours this year supporting causes that touched their hearts and communities.

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 10–16), we are sharing a few of their stories using #CheersforCAVolunteers and are inviting you to raise a collective cheer for all our student volunteers.

Protecting the Powerless

For many Connections Academy students, loving animals simply isn't enough. With creativity, kindness, and even construction skills, they're also protecting animals from neglect and abuse.

  • When allergies prevented her from volunteering at a local dog shelter, Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) eighth-grader volunteer Jessica Nichols found another way to help. Launching Madison Pride for Pups, she sold bracelets with local school colors every weekend during football season to raise funds for the shelter.

  • Katherine Withington, another OCA eighth-grader, exercised and cared for abused horses at the Angel Haven Horse Rescue. She also shared her skills and caring spirit with younger children as a volunteer counselor at horse camps.

  • Arizona Connections Academy (ACA) student Thomas Szczepaniak wanted to help shelter animals stay cool during hot Arizona summers. So he spent six months gathering materials, equipment, and skilled volunteers to construct a new shade structure at the Town of Parker/La Paz County Animal Shelter. His hard work helped him attain the ...

Online School Connections: 4 Ways Students Collaborate

By: Stephanie Osorno
Students Collaborate in Online School

Just as students in a traditional bricks-and-mortar school do, online school students have many opportunities to interact, share ideas, and develop friendships with classmates. Even though online school does not take place in a physical classroom, students are often encouraged to collaborate and communicate through engaging virtual platforms—and even some in-person events.

Online school can be a great way for your student to connect with peers from all over the state! If you would like to learn more about virtual learning, take a look at some of the ways that online students regularly work together.

  1. Real-time online classrooms
  2. Many online teachers use real-time online classrooms for interactive lessons and projects. At Connections Academy® online public schools, they are known as LiveLesson® sessions. During the session, students can have group discussions through chat pods, ask questions, hear—and sometimes even see—the teacher and other students through a webcam, and view presentations. Not only is it educational and informative, but it is also a fun way for students to get to know each other!

  1. Online clubs and activities
  2. A high-quality virtual school will usually offer a wide range of online clubs and activities such as a book club, music club, and sports club. By participating, students get the chance to interact with peers who have the same interests and hobbies. These clubs often help students form a community, and also help to strengthen their leadership and collaborative skills.

  1. Specialized online programs
  2. Aside from online clubs and activities, Connections Academy offers specialized academic programs ...

How Can Parents with Math Anxiety Help Their Kids Learn Math?

By: Beth Werrell
How Learning Coaches Can Overcome Math Anxiety

When I was in school, learning math meant nerve-wracking timed practice drills and intimidating worksheets with endless rows of numbers. My dislike of math turned to math anxiety in fourth grade, when the teacher tested us on multiplication facts orally, in front of the class. I would forget everything I had studied and return to my seat, humiliated by my failure. I never did memorize the multiplication tables. After a while, I began to believe that I was just "bad at math." Like an estimated 10 to 20 percent of adults, I have math anxiety.

If you have math anxiety and are considering an online school for your child, you may worry about helping your child succeed in math. You're smart to think about it, because studies prove that parents may unknowingly pass math anxiety to their kids, negatively impacting a student's achievement in math. Fortunately, with some effort and the tips below, you can overcome this obstacle so that you and your child can succeed in mathematics together.

Your Best Resource

When beginning virtual school, even parents who don't have math anxiety wonder if they'll be able to support their children's mathematics learning. After all, it may have been many years since you last tackled a word problem or solved for x! Luckily this concern is easily put to rest, because with this educational method, unlike traditional homeschooling, a virtual school family has access to a wonderful resource: real, live teachers.

For example, at Connections Academy...

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