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6 Steps to Choosing a K12 Online School

By: Beth Werrell

Children spend most of their early lives learning. In fact, most kids spend anywhere from 800 to 1,000 hours* on formal education per year! It’s no surprise that parents want their children to learn from a solid curriculum in the best possible environment.

There are many instances when the best possible option is online learning. But after a quick Google search, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with options—about 75 million options, depending on your search criteria. How can you narrow down your search to ensure you’re finding and choosing the right K–12 online school for your family?

How to Choose A K-12 Online School 

The following steps may help:

Step 1: Understand what your child needs.

As a parent, you know what’s best for your child. This knowledge is crucial to choosing the right school online, because the final decision should align with your child’s needs. Answer these questions:

  1. Would your child benefit from a nationally recognized academic curriculum?
  2. Are you leaning more toward public or private online learning?
  3. Would your child benefit from a personalized learning pace that provides time to speed up for concepts that are easily understood and that permits a student to slow down for more challenging concepts?
  4. Would your child thrive in an environment with fewer distractions and individual attention?
  5. Would your child benefit from working independently and as a part of a team?
  6. Is your child motivated enough to chart his or her own path to the future?

If your answer is yes to the above questions, ...

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 ...

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...

Tips for Juggling Parent and Learning Coach Roles

By: Beth Werrell
Balancing Parent and Learning Coach Roles

Are you juggling parent and Learning Coach roles but are occasionally unsure how to balance the two? Sometimes it can be unclear how and when to switch from being a parent to being a Learning Coach—and vice versa! Although you already have the "inside scoop" about parenting your child, we hope you will appreciate this post. It is designed to help you clarify how the two roles differ and to provide tips and tricks for keeping each role independent of the other.

The Parent Role

Be nurturing. In your parenting role, you are responsible not only for your child's physical needs but also for his or her emotional needs. Your nurturing builds your child's abilities to connect with others, to recognize and respect others' feelings, and to approach difficult situations in a positive way.

Many parents do this instinctively by building strong family networks, using attentive listening, acknowledging their child's challenges and feelings, playing with their children, and showing affection.

As a virtual school parent, it's also important to nurture your child's relationship with positive adult role models and to ensure that your student has time to socialize with other children. At Connections Academy® schools, families can attend in-person field trips and other school events so their students can meet classmates and make friends. Other families choose to socialize their children through participation in sports, scouting, 4-H, the arts, and community- or faith-based organizations. These interactions will help your child build self-esteem as well as communication, collaboration, ...

5 Things I Wish I Had Known When Considering Online School

By: Beth Werrell
5 Benefits of Virtual School I Wish I'd Known

Exploring education options outside of traditional brick-and-mortar school can be uncharted territory for many parents. However, after researching and enrolling their child in virtual school, many parents realize that there is a robust support system of teachers and administrators, a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for college, and many forms of socialization opportunities—all of which leads them to wish they'd made this decision sooner.

A recently conducted online poll* asked currently enrolled Connections Academy parents and caretakers what they wish they'd known when considering online school, and what information they'd share with parents currently in the decision-making process. Results revealed:

  1. The teachers are incredibly involved and helpful
  2. Without seeing teachers face-to-face on a daily basis, some parents had initial concerns that their student wouldn't get the help they needed.

    "I had some concerns about just how accessible teachers would really be to my son if/when he needed them," said Suzan M. of Indiana, whose son is enrolled in a Connections Academy school.

    According to the poll, 98 percent of respondents said Connections Academy met or exceeded expectations when it came to the teacher's involvement in their student's learning.

    "Turns out, the teachers are the absolute best part of the program," Suzan said. "They are dedicated, thoughtful people who return emails and phone calls in a very timely fashion. They genuinely care about my son's success and do whatever it takes to give him his best shot at learning."

    Sue S. of Arizona echoed Suzan's sentiment: "The staff are super-supportive and ...

How to Monitor Your Child’s Intellectual and Emotional Development

By: Beth Werrell
How to Monitor Your Child's Development

Is my child really understanding what he or she is learning? Is he or she progressing intellectually and emotionally? What can I do to gauge this progress?

We all want to make sure our children are growing and maturing, as well as retaining new knowledge, but it can be difficult to monitor this progression as a parent or Learning Coach. While no two children are exactly alike, there are some universal ideas that you and your child can try this semester to start tracking intellectual and emotional growth.

Intellectual Growth Checks
  • Tracking Goals

    Review your family's educational philosophy to remind yourself of what you want out of your child's education. It will help you set expectations with your student and will help guide discussions with his or her teachers when discussing learning goals. Documenting goals for the semester with your child can make it easier to track the progress of your child's educational growth down the road. Plan to have regular check-ins in place to discuss progress with your student and his or her teachers. This is an ongoing process.

    Start the semester by printing and filling out our student road map, which will walk you and your student through a thoughtful approach to creating goals.

  • Measuring Critical Thinking

    Create a weekly problem-solving game for your child that offers a problem in the form of challenging scenarios to overcome.

    Examples of different scenarios include the following:

    • You and your child set out different types, colors, and sizes of ...

A Parent's Advice: 5 Ways to Make a Smooth Midyear Switch to Online School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Parent Advice for Switching School Midyear

Sometimes life circumstances such as a move, social conflicts, health issues, or learning challenges cause students to switch schools midyear. If the traditional schooling method isn't a good fit, virtual school can be a great alternative for any student who would benefit from a more flexible and customized learning environment.

Switching to a new school might seem overwhelming at first—especially in the middle of the school year—but the transition can be relatively simple and stress-free with the proper mind-set, support, and resources. If you're thinking about making the midyear switch to virtual school for your child, below are a few tips from Aubrey Lakey, a Connections Academy parent who has experienced it firsthand!*

  1. Make sure to take advantage of all the orientations that your school provides.

    Getting accustomed to a new learning system takes some time, but you don't have to do it alone—and neither does your student! Good online schools often provide both parents and students with orientation sessions to help them feel more confident and prepared for the school year. Simply attending an orientation session could be the key to you and your child having a successful school year!

    Aubrey says, "The orientations gave us a lot of direction. They helped us
    adapt to the virtual learning program tremendously."

  2. Seek support and ask questions.

    Even though Aubrey only had three days to get her children enrolled with the school, Connections Academy staff members were more than willing to help her complete the enrollment process quickly....

Helpful Tips for Starting Second Semester Strong

By: Beth Werrell
Starting Strong in Second Semester

Looking for ways to make a great start on a new year and a new semester? You've come to the right place! We've collected the best tips from previous years to help you start 2016 strong!

Whether you're a new student switching schools midyear, a longtime student setting goals for 2016, or an experienced Learning Coach fine-tuning your routines, below you'll find practical tips geared specifically to our online community.

But don't get overwhelmed! Just choose one area where you or your child needs help or inspiration, and then dive in. You can always come back when you're ready for more.

Get Inspired

From buying a new calendar to cleaning closets, almost everyone has their own ritual for starting a new year or a new project. But if you're looking for an additional inspirational boost for 2016, we suggest you:

Set New Goals; Make a Plan

"It's only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal."

That's one of our favorite ...

How to Implement a Chore Chart Reward System for Kids

By: Beth Werrell

Does your child lack motivation to finish his or her chores? Are you unsure where to start when it comes to keeping track of completed chores?

Children may be inspired to work hard and correct resistant behavior if they are working toward a goal, which is where a chore reward system may come in handy. Take a look at these step-by-step instructions to make a homemade chore chart for your child.

Once you have implemented a process for keeping track of household chores, you can reflect on the idea of a reward system for your child. Let's start by considering his or her age.

Age-Appropriate Reward Structures

For young children, financial responsibility and "saving up" are most likely new concepts. To help your child develop good financial habits early, consider a reward system that offers a more immediate reward. Some age-appropriate rewards for children in elementary school include:

  • Reading an extra bedtime story
  • Having a picnic at the park
  • Having a pizza night
  • Going roller skating or ice skating
  • Having a playdate
  • Getting a chance to earn small sums of money

Preteens and teenagers should have greater understanding of how to budget money. They should also know that they will have to work harder and wait longer for certain rewards. To reinforce this concept, have your child collect a star or memento on each day of the week and then turn them all in at the end of the week for ...

Home Classroom Design Ideas for Online Students

By: Beth Werrell

When students make the transition to online learning, parents often want to upgrade the design and location of the home study station. With your student using the area full-time, it makes sense to ensure that the space is comfortable, appealing, and appropriate for many types of learning activities. Whether you are a "veteran" virtual school family or just starting, consider our tips for designing a learning space—they're sure to help you make the most of your home classroom!

Look for Sunlight

One thing to consider for your at-home learning space should be how much natural light the space receives. Because sunlight triggers cortisol levels to rise and affects general emotional and physical well-being, it can positively influence your child's productivity. Sunlight can also combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). One note of caution: when positioning your child's computer monitor, be sure to compensate for sun glare.

Consider the Amount of Space

When designing the learning area, it's important to allow space for both online and offline work as well as storage. For efficiency, your student needs to have his or her computer and all school supplies, learning materials, and textbooks, within easy reach. Families with more than one student learning from home should make sure each student has his or her own place to store materials.

If your students will share a common work surface, allow enough space so they can work without bumping elbows with their fellow learners. ...

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