Why You’re Cut Out to Be a Virtual School Learning Coach

By: Beth Werrell
male virtual school Learning Coach giving his daughter a high five

As revealed in a recent survey, greater parent involvement in a child's education is one of the main reasons parents choose virtual school for their child. A parent’s (or other trusted adult’s) daily participation in learning activities shows children that education is a top priority and helps ensure their success. At Connections Academy, the person who supports the child’s education in the home is called a Learning Coach. The Learning Coach works closely with the student to help facilitate learning and also plays a vital role by keeping students on track and regularly communicating with their teachers.

If you are new to virtual school, you might wonder whether you can be an effective online Learning Coach for your child. But you might be surprised to find that you already have many of the skills you need to be a successful Learning Coach. You just need to know how to use them!

Starting your journey as a Learning Coach means changing your attitude from “Can I do this?” to “How do I do this?” To prepare for success, start by reviewing the three R’s:

As you transition into your new role, take a look at this list of abilities and at how you can apply them as a virtual school Learning Coach.


Discipline can help you form the foundation of ...

Virtual or Blended: Choosing the School Day that's Right for Your Child

By: Beth Werrell
How Virtual and Blended School Schedules Compare

There’s brick-and-mortar school, there’s virtual school, and in the middle somewhere is blended learning school. Which learning option is right for your student?

Here’s a quick overview to help you make the right choice.

Brick-and-mortar school refers to the traditional classroom experience, so it doesn’t need much explanation. Online school is also pretty simple—it’s a tuition-free virtual public school that provides K—12 students an online curriculum to complete from home. It’s all supported by a virtual community with certified teachers, socialization opportunities, and much more.

Blended learning schools, on the other hand, offers a combination of virtual school and brick-and-mortar school. At Nexus Academy free public high schools, students spend half the day learning remotely and half the day on the school campus. High school students can choose to attend the morning session or the afternoon session four days a week.

Blended learning school lessons are completed online, but the time on campus offers students plenty of opportunity to work directly with teachers, guidance counselors, and more. There are even special services for college preparation and physical fitness.

To get a better understanding of the differences between virtual school and blended learning school, take a look at these example schedules for a student.

Virtual School Schedule Blended School Schedule Afternoon Session Blended School Schedule
Morning Session
7:00am You wake up and eat breakfast, work out or might get some chores done.
8:00am You start your virtual lessons at home. When you check in with ...

Mark Your Calendar for Back to School

By: Beth Werrell

With the first day of summer and the Fourth of July behind us, back to school is the next big event in everyone's datebook. That's right—the first day of school is right around the corner!

Summer days fly by quickly, so why not mark your calendar now? We have provided a handy list of start and end dates for every Connections Academy school. If you are considering enrolling your student at Connections Academy, we recommend you start the enrollment process at least two weeks in advance of the first day of school.

Click the image below to see the full list of important start dates.

2014-15 Connections Academy School Year

For returning Connections Academy families, please make sure to indicate in Connexus that your son or daughter will be returning for the 2014–15 school year. We suggest doing this in advance of your school's start date.

Experienced virtual school parents know that one of the best ways to succeed at Connections Academy is to make sure you and your student are prepared for the first day of school. The sooner you enroll, the sooner your student will be placed in their courses and their school materials will arrive at your home.

As part of the public school system, Connections Academy online schools are open for a typical 180-day school year. Virtual school students have the same (or similar) breaks and holidays off as their peers at bricks-and-mortar schools.

Online school students typically study about 30 hours per week at Connections Academy, with the required number ...

Making Sense of Math: Applying, Playing, Exploring

By: Kim McConnell
young student using an abacus

Does your child …

  • Feel competent and comfortable working with numbers?
  • Know how to check an exact calculation by estimating the answer?
  • Know and choose between several methods of solving a math problem?
  • Understand the relationship between the four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division)?
  • Use mental math efficiently?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then congratulations, your child is numerate! That is, he or she has numbers sense, the ability to use numbers flexibly and understand basic math concepts.

As the foundation for all later math study, numeracy ensures that students will be ready to approach progressively more difficult problems and subjects like algebra confidently and logically—without being overwhelmed. Like literacy, it’s an essential skill set for navigating through life.

But what if your child isn’t numerate? What if your he or she …

  • “Hates” math?
  • Doesn’t know how to estimate an answer to check its reasonableness?
  • Needs pencil and paper to perform simple calculations?
  • Isn’t sure how numbers and operations are related?

Well, just because a student isn’t numerate today doesn’t mean that he or she can’t become numerate tomorrow. Here are a few suggestions and resources you can use to help.

Developing Numeracy Skills

To help develop your child’s numeracy skills, it’s important to first understand how students make sense of math. Basically, it comes down to APE: applying, playing, and exploring.

11 Book Resources to Help Parents Find Great Children’s Reading Books

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
website list of children’s book reading resources

By now, you’ve gotten the hang of how to choose age-appropriate books for your child’s summer reading list. The next step is finding great books that fit his or her interests.

Browsing the library shelves, asking librarians or friends for recommendations are good ways to find children’s books, but there are also plenty of online resources you can try. You might even find a few tools to support your own summer reading!

Try the book resources listed below.
  1. Bookish
    Bookish is one of several websites that provide you with personalized recommendations based on the books you’ve read. Once you create an account, start adding favorites to your shelf to find new titles. Although older students will be able to manage their own accounts, you’ll have to use the site on behalf of a younger child.

  2. Goodreads
    Students in middle school and high school may enjoy using Goodreads, a book-focused site that encourages interaction. Users can write reviews, track books they have read and want to read, join book groups, take quizzes, and more.

  3. Children’s, Teachers’, and Young Adults’ Choices Reading Lists
    The International Reading Association provides recommended reading lists for kids, young adults, and teachers each year. A short description is included next to each book to give you a better idea of what it’s about.

  4. The Best Children’s Books
    Formed by a family of teachers, this site lists children’s book recommendations by subject. For example, you can find books about punctuation, fossils, and ...

Can Online Students Change an Uncivil Culture?

By: Beth Werrell
Online Civility: Being Kind Online

As the World Wide Web celebrates its twenty-fifth “birthday” this year, there is a growing consensus that, in addition to their many advantages, the Internet and social media have contributed to a perception of an increasingly rude, uncivil culture. An annual survey, Civility in America, found that:

  • 70% of Americans believe that incivility has reached crisis proportions.
  • 81% think incivility is leading to an increase in violence.
  • 70% think the Internet and social media encourage uncivil behavior.

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines civility as “polite, reasonable, and respectful behavior,” Americans surveyed defined it more simply as “treating others with respect.”

Over the last decade, there have been many efforts to reverse this trend of incivility:

  • Johns Hopkins University launched the Civility Project to study and encourage civil behavior, inspiring other universities, school systems, and even states to adopt similar initiatives.
  • The nonprofit CiviliNation was formed to “foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information.”
  • Hundreds of books and articles have been written dissecting the problem and proposing solutions—from P. M. Forni’s Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct to Andrea Weckerle’s Civility in the Digital Age.
Will Online Students Lead by Example?

But in the face of these growing concerns about online civility and its impact on society at large, online school students may actually be uniquely qualified to create a more civil online culture. Here’s why and how we think our students ...

50 Facts and Events in U.S. Education History

By: Beth Werrell
50 important events in U.S. Education History

The Fourth of July is practically here! Flags wave at every corner, fireworks sprinkle the sky, and children sing patriotic anthems. It’s time to gather with family for festive picnics and celebrate the birth of the United States.

We all know how our country grew from thirteen British colonies to fifty United States. The Boston Tea Party and the ride of Paul Revere are just a couple legendary events that dot the timeline. But while U.S. parents and children know how the U.S. was formed, few know how our education system has evolved.

Review the fifty facts and events on this timeline with your child and give thanks for getting an education!
  • 1635—Boston Latin School becomes the first public school as well as the oldest existing school in the U.S.
  • 1647—A law passed in Massachusetts requires towns with fifty or more families to hire a teacher, and towns with a hundred or more families to build a grammar school.
  • 1690—Benjamin Harris prints The New England Primer, a reading textbook that becomes widely used for the next century.
  • 1783—Noah Webster finishes A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, a three-volume work he developed because he didn’t like the textbooks from England that were used at the time. In later editions, Webster rewrote words using American spelling.
  • 1791—Individual states take control of education when the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified.
  • 1801—While James Pillans discovered the method of using chalk on ...

Pinterest Contest: Enter to Win Back-to-School Gift Cards

By: Beth Werrell
Pinterest Contest: Enter to Win Back-to-School Gift Cards

Whether you are just switching your children to virtual school or you’re a veteran online school parent, your support and involvement are essential. To ensure your child’s successful transition to online school, check out our virtual school family planner, Learning Coach tips, and other free educational resources available online. You’ll find a wealth of tips to inspire and prepare you for educating your family at home!

Get ready to make learning from home more “pinteresting” by following Connections Academy on Pinterest. This gives you instant access to a steady stream of parent-tested ideas for organizing, motivating, rewarding, and supporting online school students. Once you get started, you’ll love how easy and fun it is to collect ideas for enhancing your child’s learning!

While you’re online, use your enthusiasm for pinning educational ideas to enter our Pin to Prepare contest, and you could win one of five gift cards to help you spruce up your home classroom! The contest ends August 15. Here are the details on how you can enter.

How to Get Started

To enter the contest, you’ll need to start pinning now! Follow these easy steps:

  1. Create a board titled “Cool Tools for Online School.”
  2. Re-pin at least one tip from our “Cool Tools for Online School” Pinterest board to your new board. Then, add your other favorite resources for the school year to your board. This can include new learning activities, home classroom ideas, tips for Learning Coaches, or whatever you find ...

Test the Sun’s Effects in this Sunscreen Experiment

By: Beth Werrell

Does your young child wriggle away when you apply sunscreen to his nose? Does your teen complain that she isn’t “tan enough”? Some children need help forming good sun-safety habits, and reinforcing them is crucial if you want to protect your child from permanent sun damage.

“There’s no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s why it’s so important to apply sunscreen diligently. To help your student understand the effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, try this sunscreen experiment for kids. All you need are a few household items and a sunny day.

Click on the graphic below to see the full instructions for this sunscreen experiment.

True or False

Ask your child these true-or-false questions to measure his or her knowledge of the skin.

  1. The skin is the largest organ of the body.
  2. Birthmarks are caused by minor damage to a baby’s skin in the womb.
  3. A callus is a bump on the skin that’s filled with fluid.
  4. You should wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
  5. One way pimples form is when your skin produces too much oil.
  6. Scars can form on your skin when an injury heals too quickly.
  7. You don’t have to worry about UV rays on cloudy days.
  8. You have skin on your scalp.
  9. A first-degree burn damages the first layer of skin.
  10. Only humans and primates have fingerprints.


  1. True...

2014 Survey Reveals Why Parents Choose Online School

By: Beth Werrell

The beginning of summer is a natural time for families to consider how much their children have learned during the school year. For a school’s administrators, faculty, and staff, it’s a time to consider not only whether their students measure up academically, but also how happy parents are with the school’s performance. At Connections Academy, it’s time to reveal the results of the 2014 Parent Satisfaction Survey, one of our online school’s most important “report cards.”

Now in its twelfth year, the annual survey is open to all families with students enrolled at the time of the survey. This year, 45% 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.

Bar chart of the main reasons why parents choose K-12 online school for their child.
High Quality Equals High Satisfaction

The 2014 results are in, and they reveal that families who make the choice to enroll students in Connections Academy schools continue to be overwhelmingly pleased with their children’s educational experience. Overall, parents continue to give Connections Academy schools high marks for academic rigor, program flexibility, quality teachers, and delivering high levels of student achievement.

Additional highlights include:

  • 92% of Connections Academy parents recommend the school to other parents.
  • 89% 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, 71% of public school parents gave the public school their oldest child attends ...

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