How Online School Can Benefit Students with Disabilities

By: Stephanie Osorno
Students with Disabilities Can Thrive in Online School

If you visit this blog often, you've probably read several of our posts explaining that a nontraditional schooling method like virtual school can be a great fit for many students with different personalities, interests, and learning styles. You may not know, however, that online learning perks such as scheduling flexibility and advanced technology can also be valuable for students who have medical limitations and disabilities.

Take it from Jeffrey Crouch, who is blind and a recent graduate of Great Lakes Cyber Academy (GLCA), a Connections Academy®—supported school. Jeffrey knew that having his former guide dog, Benson, in a traditional classroom would be difficult and inconvenient, so he switched to GLCA for a more suitable and supportive academic environment.

During his time at GLCA, Jeffrey helped the school improve its accessibility efforts and even became a user consultant for Connections Academy. With more scheduling flexibility, he was able to maintain his busy schedule as a proactive advocate for accessibility while still keeping up with schoolwork. Jeffrey is the president of the Michigan Association of Blind Students and of the Genesee County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Michigan. He plans to attend college and pursue a career in forensic psychology.

To learn more about Jeffrey and his experience with online school, check out the Q&A below!

Q: What has been your most rewarding experience with Connections Academy?

A: I would have to say my favorite experience was being able to meet all the wonderful staff ...

Ultimate Back-to-School Guide for Virtual School Parents

By: Beth Werrell
Resources for Virtual School Parents

Your virtual school child may not be physically heading back to school this fall, but it's still time for everyone (yes, you included) to gear up. A new school year marks new courses, different teachers, and a fresh start. Let's make sure you and your student get off to the best start possible.

Below, we've compiled of list of resources for the ultimate back-to-school preparation. From school supplies and organization tips to ideas for snacks and soaking up the final days of summer, you can find what you need here.

Parent and Learning Coach Preparation
  • Organization Tips for New Online Learning Coaches
    If you're becoming a Learning Coach for the first time this school year, it's easy to look at your student's curriculum, workbooks, school supplies, and other materials and feel overwhelmed. The trick to overcoming this feeling? Organization. Use this handy list of organization tips to fully prepare yourself for the new school year.

  • Advice from Former Learning Coach Newbies
    One of the best ways to prepare for your role as a new Learning Coach is to consider the experiences and insight from others who were once in your shoes. This is especially helpful if you have many questions and/or concerns. Take a look at this compilation of tips and advice from experienced Connections Academy families to help your transition into virtual school.
Virtual School Prep: Supplies and Organization

Preparing Students for Jobs That Don't Exist Yet

By: Beth Werrell
Preparing Online Students for Jobs of the Future

"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist … using technologies that haven't been invented … in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."—Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education

Data scientist. Digital artist. App developer. Virtual assistant. Blogger.

What do they have in common? They're all jobs that didn't exist 20 years ago.

According to a 2016 report by the World Economic Forum, "By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don't yet exist." Even "old" jobs will look radically different in workplaces transformed by technology, changing demographics, and globalization.

So how do we prepare students for jobs and workplaces that don't exist yet? Here are a few thoughts gathered from teachers at Connections Academy®—supported schools. After all, they are pioneers in online education, a field that itself didn't exist 20 years ago.

Three Essential Skills

We can't predict exactly what the new jobs will be, but from various economic experts, we do know the skills that will be needed. As educators, we also know how student-centered online schools are helping to develop those skills.

Complex Problem Solving: In the industrial age of the early 20th century, employers needed workers who could simply show up on time and follow instructions. Reflecting those needs, our public education system emphasized "seat time," rote memorization, and basic skills development. But in the information age of the 21st century, employers ...

Organizing Your Home Classroom for Back-to-School

By: Stephanie Osorno

Virtual school parents, how ready are you for the new school year? Is your home classroom set up and ready for learning? If no, take a deep breath. There’s still time to get organized if your student’s workspace needs some love. We’re here to make it easy.

There are numerous organization ideas you can implement now to get your home classroom in tip-top shape. The checklist below can help you sort out what you have and what you need to shop for. Plus, our newest instructographic can help you build a home classroom bulletin board planner, which only takes a handful of materials, some craftiness, and the instructions below.

Everything You Need for Ultimate Home Classroom Organization

Print this checklist and take it with you to the store to get your home classroom one step closer to being back-to-school ready.

For your bulletin board planner:

  • Corkboard
  • Thumbtacks or pushpins
  • Stapler and staples
  • Printer paper and construction paper
  • Folders
  • Markers, pens
  • Calendar templates
  • Post-it Notes
  • Block letters
  • Ribbon
  • Clipboards

For your virtual school student:

Connections Academy provides virtual school students with some supplies related to specific learning activities. For every enrolled student, we also supply a more comprehensive list of other things virtual students will need to purchase. It’s all organized for your convenience. Below is a general list of supplies for your home classroom to get you started.

Note: these items may vary depending on student age and course requirements, but for ...

7 Tips to Encourage a Positive Attitude in Students

By: Beth Werrell
How to Inspire Student Optimism

"Change your thoughts and you change your world."—Norman Vincent Peale

Negative thinking is like a giant wall. It closes you in, keeps you from accomplishing goals, and blocks you from moving forward in life—whether it be learning, growing, or obtaining happiness. In the same way, negative thinking can hold a student back from his or her true potential. What's one way to stop this from happening? By encouraging a positive attitude.

Parents can play a huge role in teaching their children how to think positive. In turn, those same parents can have a front-row seat to witness the amazing transformations that happen when students simply begin to believe in themselves.

Practical Tips to Inspire Optimism

We know for a fact that positive thinking has many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. Consider these strategies to inspire a positive attitude and teach your virtual school student how to think positive this year and beyond:

  1. Be an example. Model a positive, encouraging attitude in all that you say, do, and believe. Optimism is contagious. Positive thinking tends to breed positive results, and if your child sees positive results from your attitude, he or she is more likely to want to experience the same positive results. Show how optimism creates an ideal environment for happiness and how positivity influences the success rate of any goal you may have. Sometimes seeing is believing, and there's no better model to show it than you.

  2. Create a positive learning space for your student. What ...

Americans Favor Online School Choices for Students

By: Beth Werrell
Families Favor Online School Choice

If you are considering virtual school for your family, you may not realize it, but you are part of a widespread trend of Americans who view this way of learning as a viable and beneficial choice. A recent survey* showed that the majority of Americans, 76 percent, feel that K–12 public school students should be able to choose tuition-free online learning options to meet a student's learning needs.

These positive attitudes were revealed by a new independent survey of U.S. households sponsored by Connections Education, parent company of Connections Academy®—supported online public schools and International Connections Academy online private school. Those with children in the household were even more likely to support online learning options (86 percent), compared to those with no children in the household (71 percent).

For Steven Guttentag, president and cofounder of Connections Education, these results rang true, echoing the familiar conversations parents of Connections Academy students have with school staff each year. "As the national conversation about online schools continues to be driven by policy-makers and industry groups, it is important to take a step back and listen to what the American public, particularly parents of school-age children, want for their children's education," he said.

Americans are optimistic that online options could help personalize education, a view that is not widespread in the traditional education system according to the survey results. Educators agree that the more personalized a student's education is to his or her individual needs, the better that student will ...

Join the Going for Gold Summer Contest

By: Stephanie Osorno
Going for Gold! Participate for a chance to win a $500 gift card!

A new school year is just around the corner—and we know the perfect way to get ready for and celebrate your student's new academic benchmark. By simply answering a question about your student's accomplishments and academic journey, your family will earn a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card for back-to-school supplies through Connections Academy's new summer contest, Going for Gold!

How does it work?

To help families prepare for a successful school year, Connections Academy®—supported schools are focusing on and discussing one key aspect of the program Monday through Friday, for five weeks, in a series of informative posts and videos on all Connections Academy Facebook pages. Every Wednesday, families are asked to share stories, pictures, and advice in the comments for a chance to win the grand prize. Responses can be submitted until Friday mornings. One random winner is then chosen for the week—so it's important to reply to the prompts each week! The contest will run from July 18 to August 21, 2016.

Why should I participate?

Aside from getting the chance to score the prize, participating in the contest is a great way for both currently enrolled and new families to become more familiar with the program and start the school year off strong. The contest posts will include information on interactive resources that you may not know about and that could be useful to you and your student throughout the school year. It's also a good opportunity to connect with other ...

Focus on Family with This List of Summertime Activities

By: Stephanie Osorno
Summer Activities for Virtual School Families

Learning doesn't only happen when a student opens a textbook or completes a schoolwork assignment. Knowledge growth can happen year-round from a variety of activities, including games and tasks that feel vastly different from the traditional notion of learning.

Now here's the question: what's better than learning via fun activities and games? Even though it's not mandatory for a student's success, getting the entire family involved can make learning even more engaging. A 2010 study on school improvement found that elementary students with strong family engagement were ten times more likely to improve in math and four times more likely to improve in reading than students with weak family engagement.

Summer is no time to lose balance between family time and education. Get the whole family involved in learning activities this summer. Try one of the popular options below!

Educational Board Games for Kids and Families

Is a rainy day keeping you cooped up inside? Think of it as the perfect opportunity to play a family board game that improves your student's critical thinking skills. 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 with their family beside them—yes, even in the summertime!

Read our blog post on educational family game nights to explore new game ideas for students of every age—in elementary school, middle school, and even high school.

Outdoor PE Activities for Grades K–12

Now let's consider the opposite scenario—it's a beautiful ...

Geology Lesson for Kids: What Happens Inside a Volcano?

By: Beth Werrell

Volcanic eruptions are a rare yet fascinating natural phenomenon. There are, on average, 35 volcanic eruptions every year. Many kids know about volcanoes in general, but how they work is often an intriguing mystery. What happens inside the earth when a volcano erupts?

Looking inside the earth’s layers can uncover this and spark a sense of wonder in your student. To create your own volcano in the comfort of your home, explore the instructographic below for a safe, fun (and slightly messy) activity.

Inside the Earth’s Crust

Understanding volcanoes starts with understanding the structure of the earth. The outer part of the earth that we see, called the crust, is the top layer of many layers. Underneath the crust are bigger and hotter layers that lead to the center of the earth, the core. Within these layers are huge sections called tectonic plates, which we explain in more detail below. At the bottom of the crust, before we get to the deeper layers, is where we find hot liquid rock called magma, which might be beneath massive amounts pressure.

Tectonic Plates, Magma, Friction, and Pressure

Tectonic plates are parts of the crust that act like giant puzzle pieces. The plates have the ability to move, and when they do, they create problems—like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. These natural disasters happen because the movement of the plates cause friction. That friction can create pressure on the magma, and the magma can no longer stay ...

Take the Summer Olympics Quiz Bowl Trivia Challenge

By: Stephanie Osorno

Whether you’re an athlete or not, you can train your brain for the Olympic Games! Every few years we are able to root for the United States as we watch dedicated athletes from around the world compete against each other in the Olympic Games—and now you and your family can join in the excitement and praise with Connections Academy’s Olympic-themed Quiz Bowl trivia challenge.

What better way to prepare for and celebrate the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, than by testing your Olympic knowledge? Our summer Quiz Bowl includes 20 trivia questions that will get the brain fueling and help build enthusiasm for the main event. Taking the quiz is also a fun way to learn more about the legacy and history of the Summer Olympic Games, as it often stimulates a positive and interesting educational discussion.

Participating in the Quiz Bowl challenge could be especially exciting for online students who are taking advantage of the scheduling flexibility in virtual school to train for the Olympics themselves. The best part is that the challenge is for all ages, so the whole family can take it together for a friendly and fun competition! Students can also share it with friends. The quiz is available online, but if you prefer to take it on paper, you can download the printable version.

We hope you'll use this quiz to make dinnertime, a car ride, or summer ...

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