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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 ...

How an Online School Schedule Can Benefit Students

By: Stephanie Osorno
How Online School Flexibility Benefits Students

Learning online comes with many perks, including a comfortable learning environment, fewer distractions, and best of all, more scheduling flexibility! By attending virtual school, students who are actively involved in activities such as competitive or professional sports, acting, modeling, or singing can complete their schoolwork on the go when they have some downtime—even if that means early in the morning, late at night, or on the weekends.

Online students can usually choose a learning schedule that works best for their lifestyle, but in order to have a successful school year, it's important for them to still meet their state's attendance requirements, keep up with their courses and assignments, and stay in frequent communication with their teachers. Some virtual sessions are at fixed times, so students should pay close attention to their course schedules.

Read below to learn how six current and former students of Connections Academy—supported schools have been able to achieve their dreams while being full-time students!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Rising entertainer and high school senior Justin Myrick is grateful that South Carolina Connections Academy allows him to balance schoolwork and his acting, voice-over, entertainment, and music career. He costarred with three-time Emmy Award winner Alfre Woodard in the film Knucklehead, has made guest appearances on national TV shows, has done voice-overs for Fortune 500 companies, and established his own entertainment company.

Even though Justin is often on the go, he still finds time to be a member of his school's National Honor ...

Bowing to Biology: Teens, Sleep, and School Schedules

By: Beth Werrell
Should Schools Start Later for Teenagers? A teenage girl sleeping on a desk next to a computer

Go to sleep late. Wake up early. Drag through the school day tired, unfocused, and cranky. Unfortunately, that’s the typical scene for the nation’s chronically sleep-deprived teens caught between their changing biology-driven sleep cycles and their traditional schools’ unchanging logistics-driven early school hours.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this “catch 22” for sleepy teens must change. Since teen biology won’t change to suit schools, schools must change to suit teen biology. Here’s why:

Teens and Sleep Facts

As children enter puberty, their natural sleep cycles change, shifting anywhere from one to three hours later. While teens still need about 8½ and 9¼ hours of sleep nightly to function well academically, socially, and physically, they generally can’t fall asleep before 11 p.m. due in part to changes in their melatonin levels. (Melatonin is the hormone that helps us fall asleep.)

With only 15% of the nation’s high schools starting after 8:30 a.m., this means that the majority of the nation’s high school students are struggling along with fewer hours of sleep than they need to grow and learn—sleep that cannot be simply “made up” by sleeping in late on the weekends. With a median middle school start time of 8:00 a.m., younger students are sleep-deprived, too.

This divergence between biology and school policies leads to a range of problems for teens. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), teen sleep deficits can:

  • Limit teens’ ability to “learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems”
  • Impair memory
  • Lead to aggressive ...

How to Try Workshifting with Virtual School Students

By: Beth Werrell
young online student studying outside of the home classroom in a library

With today’s on-the-go lifestyle, working in the same spot every day can be a challenge. As a virtual school family, you have a designated home classroom to work in most school days, but sometimes your child might work in the car or on the couch.

Although moving around during the school day can affect your child’s focus, learning in different areas can have some surprising benefits.

To find out what these benefits are, take a look at these tips for studying on the go.

The Benefits of Studying On the Go

Our culture now allows many possibilities when it comes to finding places to study or work. In the professional world, men and women are working from home, working while traveling, working in cafés and rented workspaces—working essentially anywhere. A new word has emerged to describe this trend: workshifting.

Workshifting means “working from anywhere other than a traditional office through the use of web-based technology,” according to Workshifting.com, which coined the term. Workshifting has essentially changed the professional world in a way similar to how online learning has changed education!

So, how can workshifting be applied to virtual school? Well, it can offer virtual students the same benefits. Reduced stress, increased motivation, and schedule flexibility are some of the benefits described in an article about workshifting in BusinessWeek.

Some of the reasons why students may want to try workshifting are as follows. Workshifting:

  • Helps children to become more adaptable
  • Keeps the learning experience fresh
  • Spurs ideas and ...

Online Summer School: A Flexible Summer School Alternative

By: Beth Werrell

Are you looking to make the switch to full-time virtual school? Summer is the perfect time to take online school for a "test drive." It's also a great way to prevent your son or daughter from losing the knowledge and skills gained during the school year, allowing him or her to catch up with peers or get ahead for next year. And when school starts up again in the fall, your family will already be familiar with the workings of an online classroom!

Benefits of Online Summer School

International Connections Academy (iNaCA) makes it easy to fit an online summer school course into your family’s summer plans.

Flexible Online Summer School Schedule 2015

  • Schedule Flexibility: Rolling start dates allow you to plan around vacations, summer camps, and family fun. Since course materials are online, you can take summer school with you on your travels, as long as you will have access to an Internet connection.
  • Variety of Summer Classes: iNaCA offers a selection of more than 100 online summer courses that will enrich kindergarteners, help students in grades K–8 review foundational skills, allow high school students to explore new interests, or get seniors back on track for graduation.
  • Certified Teachers and Support Coaches: Your child will have access to a certified teacher experienced in online instruction. Support coaches will be available to guide your child through the summer courses.
  • Flexible Course Time Line: The flexible online format of this summer school program allows students to schedule class work at their convenience.
Online Summer Learning Programs

Check ...

A Parent’s Perspective: 5 Surprises about Switching to Cyber School

By: Beth Werrell

Last fall, Valerie Hofer enrolled her son “J” as a sixth grader in Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA). In today’s guest post, she describes the five most surprising lessons she’s learned so far about cyber schooling.

Surprised cyber school family looking at a laptop.

As a first-time CCA parent, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from my sixth-grader’s new school. I knew that our bricks-and-mortar school wasn’t working—either for him as a student or for us as a family. But that didn’t mean that switching to online schooling was right for us. I just knew we had to do something.

As the saying goes, I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. But what I learned in the first quarter is that I don’t need to worry about the worst, since I could not have imagined things working out better—for all of us. Here are five “lessons” that have surprised me the most about cyber schooling.

  1. My son has more opportunity to socialize than I ever could have imagined.

    When I first mentioned placing “J” in a cyber school (that’s how virtual school is generally referred to here in Pennsylvania), our friends and family were most concerned about the “lack of socialization.” (Of course, attending a bricks-and-mortar school doesn’t address every socialization concern, but that’s a topic in and of itself.)

    In the first three months of school, “J” has had well over half a dozen opportunities to meet with his classmates. He’s gone on educational trips and bowling meets, and he’s explored our local ...

How Virtual School Works for Military Families

By: Beth Werrell
military families and children

Between the frequent moves and stress of parental deployment, the children of our nation’s military families make many sacrifices. Often they’re the new kid on the block, adjusting to a new school and making all new friends. That’s why, in honor of the 1.8 million military kids in our country, the U.S. Department of Defense celebrates April as the Month of the Military Child.

Fortunately, with the additional option of virtual school available today, the one thing military children won’t need to give up is a quality education. Here are a few reasons why virtual schools can be an excellent solution for military families:

  • Portability. Depending upon your school, you may be able to continue with the same online school in a new location, avoiding a stressful transition. Public online schools like Connections Academy are available in many states, and private online schools like International Connections Academy are available across the country and worldwide.
  • Long-Distance Involvement. Virtual school means that lessons, assignments, and grades are all accessible online, so a parent stationed overseas can remain up-to-date and involved in his or her children’s education. This connection to the family’s daily life can help lift spirits and keep family ties strong during a period of separation.
  • Access to rigorous curriculum, exciting electives, and Honors and AP courses. Not all school districts are created equal. By enrolling in a high-quality online school, you can ensure your child receives a top-notch education filled with opportunities to explore his or her ...

4 Sample Daily Schedules for Virtual School Families

By: Beth Werrell

Many of the following scheduling ideas are inspired by Denise Kale, a Learning Coach from Arizona.

If you’ve wondered what a typical day of virtual school is like, you’re not alone! In fact, questions about the daily routine or schedule are probably the most common inquiries we receive. The irony of this type of question is that one of the most delightful things about virtual school is that there is no typical day!

Virtual school gives parents and Learning Coaches the flexibility to arrange their schedules to fit children’s needs and the family’s lifestyle. Naturally, there are some limits, such as regularly scheduled virtual classroom sessions and teacher conferences. And in high school, when courses become more challenging, the number of fixed-scheduled online classroom meetings increases. Within these limitations, online school families enjoy freedom from the typical “bell system” of traditional schools.

Sample Virtual School Schedule

But how does this freedom translate into a family’s lifestyle? Here are just a few samples of how having a more flexible daily schedule might work for various situations:

Sample Virtual School Schedule 1:

For some families, one lesson per day for each class works well. Here’s how one family uses this type of schedule for children of different ages and attention spans:

Jimmy, first grader
8:00 a.m. Breakfast, chores
9:00 a.m. Reading
10:00 a.m. Science
10:30 a.m. Education Technology or Art
11:00 a.m. Flexible school time, used for projects or learning activities
11:30 a.m. Recess
12:00 p.m. Lunch
12:30 p.m. Free time/play time...

Behind the Scenes: How Students Balance School and Acting

By: Beth Werrell
Aspiring Oscar Nominees Balance School and Acting with Virtual School

It’s Oscar weekend!

The 2013 Oscars begin this Sunday, February 24, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Actors, actresses, directors, costume designers, and more are up for awards for making films such as Lincoln, Life of Pi, and Les Misérables.

Among the nominees is Quvenzhané Wallis, who played the leading role of Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild. At the age of nine, she has become the youngest actress ever to receive a Best Actress nomination.

Quvenzhané’s situation is certainly extraordinary. Today’s young actors experience the excitement of auditioning, performing, traveling, and building their careers early in life. But their busy lifestyles usually don’t fit the steady routines of going to school.

A great solution to balancing school with a demanding acting career is to attend a virtual school. Because most learning is done on a computer, students in virtual schools can study at home or even away from home. Some of these aspiring Oscar nominees attend Connections Academy. Take a look at our list of students below to find out how they balance school and acting.

Riley Rydin

Riley is a 12-year-old sixth grader at Capistrano Connections Academy (CapoCA). Originally from Oregon, Riley now lives in North Hollywood with his parents and grandparents. He has acted on Disney shows such as Zeke and Luther and even had an appearance on Modern Family. During the week, Riley juggles schoolwork with auditions and spends his free time writing, swimming, and riding his bike....

Learning Coach Secrets: Creating Learning Schedules for Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell
Online school student studying at home. Alarm clock in the foreground.

Many of the following tips are inspired by Denise Kale, a Learning Coach from Arizona.

Although flexibility is one of the many strengths of virtual schooling, most experts agree that children benefit from having structure in their lives. Many virtual school families recommend establishing a routine for your school days. With an agreed-upon schedule, you and your student can predict your daily and weekly flow—no surprises, no arguments—so your student can focus on learning.

  1. What are your child’s natural tendencies and preferences? If your daughter is an early bird, you may want to plan to do her most challenging subjects early in the day, when she’s at her best. On the other hand, if your son is a night owl, you may want to arrange a later start time, with the more involved topics covered in the afternoon.
  2. What are your child’s favorite subjects? Some families prefer to get a positive start each day by beginning with a student’s favorite subject. Others place the favorite courses last, as an incentive for completing the rest.
  3. Everyone needs a break! Having a schedule will also help you remember that children—and adults—need breaks for physical activity, lunch, and play! Many Learning Coaches schedule “recess” immediately before lunch, so they can prepare the meal while the children play.
  4. Does your student have regularly scheduled events? Reserve times for your student’s piano lessons, sports team practices, doctor appointments, volunteer commitments, and other repeating events. Attending virtual school means you can arrange your flexible ...

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