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6 Learning Ideas to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

By: Stephanie Osorno
Avoid Summer Brain Drain

School's out and the sun's out—yes, summer is here. For many children, summertime is when books collect dust and the "break" from learning begins. While fun and refreshing, this break has downsides: it can lead to the dreaded "summer brain drain"—a time when learning and engagement decide to hibernate until fall.

This doesn't have to happen. Even during the summer months, students can continue to learn, accomplish their educational goals, and expand their creativity. Here are some entertaining summer activities to keep students engaged all season long:

Start a blog.

Does your child love writing? Summer is the perfect time to start a blog. Blogs are a great place to unleash creativity. Best of all, since blogs are digital, they can easily be shared with family and friends to keep them up to date on your child's adventures and learnings. Topic ideas can span anything and everything—from simple "day in the life" posts to your child's inner thoughts and feelings to fictional storytelling. The purpose is to be creative and enjoy the writing process.

Some blog tools or platforms are free and extremely user-friendly. These include Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Medium, and more. We recommend that you supervise to ensure that your child posts only appropriate material and adheres to online safety practices.

If you want to avoid the "digital" component of a blog, simply encourage your children to write in a journal. They can keep their writing to themselves or share it with others to read.

Turn a family ...

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...

4 Tips for Empowering Students to Persevere

By: Beth Werrell
How to Empower Students to Persevere
"It's not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer."—Albert Einstein

What does it take to persevere in the face of tough class assignments or even boredom? Is perseverance a trait students are born with, or is it a skill set, an attitude they can develop over time?

Online schools can help foster perseverance by empowering students to take greater responsibility for their own learning as they mature. So, for parents and Learning Coaches new to online schooling, it’s important to know that your students can develop the power to persevere—and that you can help.

It all begins with the right mind-set.

Mind-Set: Building the Foundations to Persevere

Think about it. Does your student believe he or she is simply "bad" at a particular subject, that no amount of effort can make up for a lack of natural talent? From this faulty fixed mind-set, perseverance or persistence is pointless. Giving up in the face of difficulty seems logical.

But for students who understand that talent and intelligence can be developed through effort and hard work, persevering just makes sense. From this growth mind-set, perseverance eventually pays off.

Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can use to both reinforce the growth mind-set and empower your students to persevere.

Four Tips for Promoting Perseverance
  1. Encourage positive self-talk and mindfulness. "I'm just no good at this." "This is too hard." "I'm too far behind to catch up."

    Telltale signs of a fixed mind-set, statements such as these ...

5 Study Tips to Making Tough Subjects Easier to Learn

By: Beth Werrell
How to Make Tough Subjects Easier to Learn

When faced with studying a difficult topic, do you procrastinate, freeze, or dive in with a kind of brute-force, problem-solving approach that yields more frustration than understanding? Well, thanks to neuroscience, we now understand more about why that happens.

As Barbara Oakley, PhD, explains in "A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)," our first impulse is usually to focus as hard as we can on the details of a difficult subject—like the narrow beam of a flashlight on a dark path. But without first shining a broad light ahead, we fail to see the big picture concepts—all those connecting paths that make mastering a subject possible.

Neuroscientists call these narrow-beam, broad-beam approaches focused and diffused modes of thinking. And it turns out that the ability to switch between these modes at the right time is key to learning complex or difficult subjects.

Five Practical Neuroscience-Based Learning Tips

In her book, Oakley draws from her own early struggles with math and science as well as the latest findings in neuroscience to show students how to make those well-timed switches.

Here are five of Oakley’s study tips we think you’ll want to give a try. Though focused on studying a chapter of text, they readily apply to any assignment—from solving math problems to writing a research paper.

  1. Scan the headings, subheadings, and illustrations of the chapter first. Now take a moment to visualize the chapter and reflect on the broad ...

The Surprising Reason Some Students Don't Like School

By: Beth Werrell
Why Some Students Don't Like School

It's a universal truth that if you ask most students what they don't like about school, their lists will be lengthy! While virtual school students won't have the usual complaints about getting up early for long bus rides or eating cafeteria food, like most kids do, their lists will typically include items such as:

But ask cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham the same question and you'll get a much more surprising answer:

Thinking Is Hard

According to Willingham, students dislike school because thinking is hard, effortful, and slow. As he explains in "Why Don't Students Like School," thinking requires students to:

  • Retrieve information from their immediate environment and the vast factual storehouse of their long-term memory
  • Combine that information in new ways in their more limited, short-term working memory
  • Imagine solutions based on those new combinations

So, even though they're naturally curious, students (and the rest of us, too!) will avoid thinking—unless the learning conditions are right.

What Are the Right Conditions for Thinking?

They're the conditions or activities that allow students to experience the pleasurable rush of solving problems—whether those problems are algebra equations or struggling to understand Shakespeare's sonnets. In fact, neuroscientists believe that the pleasurable rush may be the actual rush of chemicals produced by the brain’s natural reward system. Remember how it feels to get that last crossword, Sudoku, or Jeopardy answer? Well, students love that feeling of success ...

5 Strategies to Inspire Curiosity in Students

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
5 Strategies to Inspire Student Curiosity

"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity." —Eleanor Roosevelt

Think about the last time a book, movie, or conversation sparked your curiosity. When something ignites your curiosity, regions of your brain associated with reward, memory, and motivation actually "fire up" with activity. In other words, curiosity can be a great motivator that makes the brain sincerely want to learn. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, suggests a link between motivation and curiosity as discovered in 2014 when they set out to understand how curiosity affects learning.

Practical Tips to Inspire Student Curiosity

This research reminds parents, Learning Coaches, and teachers how crucial it is to engage our students' curiosity every day. Consider these five strategies you can use to inspire curiosity in school and beyond:

  1. Be curious yourself. Model an open, inquisitive attitude to new and familiar activities, ideas, people, and cultures. Curiosity is contagious. Try a new sport, start a new hobby, or take an online course in an unfamiliar subject. Seek out people with different backgrounds and viewpoints, and then actively listen to what they have to say. As you take on these new challenges, share your experience with your student—the excitement, the rewards, and the challenges. In the process, you’ll inspire your student to tackle new subjects and persevere through the initial discomfort that often comes with learning something unfamiliar.

  2. Ask questions and ...

Neuroscience of Learning: A Look inside the Amazing Brain

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
Inside the Amazing Brain

You’re not alone if you've ever looked at your son and wondered, "What’s going on inside his head?" or scolded your daughter for her actions, asking, "What were you thinking?!" Parents and educators worldwide have asked questions like these, and neuroscience researchers have uncovered some interesting answers about the human brain and how we learn.

Brain-Based Learning and Neuroeducation

According to Merriam-Webster, learning is "the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something." This makes sense. It's what we do, we teachers and Learning Coaches. Learning is what we're all about.

Neuroscience, on the other hand, is "the scientific study of nerves and especially of how nerves affect learning and behavior." The nerves, we know from studying science, are controlled by the command center we call a brain. When we join neuroscience and learning together, the connections have a direct impact on education. While neuroeducation may sound lofty, it simply means the interdisciplinary study of the mind, the brain, and its function, as well as individual education and learning.

Research into the brain's role in learning is not new. Psychophysiology and educational neuroscience are just two of the many scientific disciplines that conduct research into how the brain functions when learning. Books like Eric Jensen's Teaching with the Brain in Mind and Arts with the Brain in Mind were first published in the late 1990s, and they remain relevant today. Howard Gardner's discussions of multiple intelligences have influenced teachers since ...

Influential Learning Theories: Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles

By: Tracy Ostwald-Kowald
 Learning Styles Diagram: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic Modalities.

Educators and researchers are always looking for innovative ways to improve student performance. As a result, the education field is crowded with different theories about learning, teaching, studying, and so on. Two of the most popular ones are the Multiple Intelligences Theory and Learning Styles Theory.

No single theory or philosophy can fit every situation and meet every need. To make sure you help your virtual school student learn and study effectively, review the details about these theories below.

The Multiple Intelligences Theory

Psychologist Howard Gardner developed this theory in 1983. He claimed that people have eight independent ways of processing information, which are:

  1. Verbal–Linguistic (Word Smart)
  2. Logical–Mathematical (Logic Smart)
  3. Visual–Spatial (Picture Smart)
  4. Auditory–Musical (Music Smart)
  5. Bodily–Kinesthetic (Body Smart)
  6. Interpersonal (People Smart)
  7. Intrapersonal (Self Smart)
  8. Naturalistic (Nature Smart)

It’s more accurate to think of the eight intelligences as abilities or strengths. The human brain is extremely complex, and all of these types of “smarts” work together.

How to use the theory
To apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory to online learning, use it to help your student develop all of his or her strengths. Remember that there are activities that help develop more than one ability at a time. For example, you can help your child do some creative learning activities, such as:

Break the Multitasking Habit with These Study Tips

By: Beth Werrell
Breaking the Habit of Multitasking

It’s easy to get lost in thought when you shower, brush your teeth, or do your hair. But have you ever gotten so distracted in the shower that you wash your hair twice—or forget to wash it at all? If you’ve ever done something like this, then you have fallen into the trap of multitasking!

Multitasking, or doing two or more things at once, is something we do every day. An example is having a conversation with your child while you’re driving. There’s no harm in talking in the car because it’s easy for your brain to handle these tasks, but multitasking becomes a problem when one task interferes with the other. You might talk in the car, for example, but you wouldn’t text while driving because texting and driving both require your vision.

Virtual students are especially prone to multitasking because they’re surrounded by digital distractions. When students try to multitask while studying, they often fail without realizing it. Psychology professor David Meyer says, “Under most conditions, the brain simply cannot do two complex tasks at the same time. It can happen only when the two tasks are both very simple and when they don’t compete with each other for the same mental resources. […] But listening to a lecture while texting, or doing homework and being on Facebook—each of these tasks is very demanding, and each of them uses the same area of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.” When these types of tasks compete for mental ...

Taking Breaks: A Surprising Technique to Enhance Online Learning

By: Beth Werrell

Taking Breaks to Enhance Online LearningHaving a productive school day takes concentration. Students have to be motivated and focused on each task they need to complete. They also need to learn how to look at the big picture, set priorities, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. Then there are the different lessons and activities to juggle—math, trumpet practice, science, lunch, robotics club, reading. It’s hard work keeping everything straight!

School can be challenging at times, so it’s normal for students to get tired, get distracted, and lose motivation. Successful students, however, need a way to avoid frustration and stay on track.

To stay focused on learning, there’s an unexpected technique students can try: taking breaks.

Refresh Your Brain

Your student probably already takes breaks during the day, reserving time to eat lunch or grab a snack. But if he or she gets distracted often, it might mean that your child needs to take more breaks.

“In problem-solving, when you get stuck, you’ve run out of ideas, distraction is really your best friend,” says Benedict Carey, the author of How We Learn. “You need to stand up, let it go … and that is really your best shot at loosening the gears a little bit and allowing yourself to take a different and more creative approach to the problem.” Getting distracted is really just a sign that your child’s brain needs a rest before moving to the next lesson.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that students should take breaks every time they get distracted. With some ...

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