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What to Include in a Parent-Child Contract for Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell
Making a Parent-Child Contract for Virtual School

Like fingerprints or snowflakes, each virtual school family is unique! And that’s one of the joys of this form of education—the ability to customize learning and the learning schedule to suit the family’s lifestyle. Despite their unique differences, many experienced online school families use similar tools and approaches to ensure that their children succeed in their studies. In this post, we’ll examine how a simple parent– or Learning Coach–child contract helps keep three students headed in the right direction.

To see firsthand how one of our families does virtual school, I spent the day with a family enrolled in our online school in Pennsylvania. The family included multiple children, one high school student and two middle schoolers. Their mom serves as the students’ main Learning Coach while she works from home. Their dad is supportive and involved. He works nearby and sometimes comes home for lunch with the kids.

Each student had a designated and neatly organized school area in his or her room with a desk, computer, learning materials, and school supplies. In addition, a Learning Coach–Student contract was displayed above each desk. The students’ mom developed a set of expectations for her children and formalized basic rules, consequences, and privileges, as well as important contact details in a parent–child contract that each of her students signed at the beginning of the school year. It serves as a daily reference to remind the kids of the rules they’d agreed upon for effective at-home ...

Advice for Helping Families Adjust to Virtual School

By: Kim McConnell
Advice for New Virtual School Families - A mom helps her daughter with homework at the kitchen table

“There’s too much work—my daughter is working into the evening.”

“My student won’t cooperate. How do I motivate him?”

“I never dreamed this would be so difficult.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? The new school year has just begun, but for parents starting virtual school for the first time, each day can be challenging! During these early days of educating their children at home, parents may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and even ready to quit. Fortunately, with a healthy dose of patience, some tips for weaving learning into family life, and a few weeks of practice, you and your child can adapt to—and even enjoy—this new way of learning!

Your first and best stop for help with “learning the ropes” of online schooling should be your child’s teacher! He or she can point you in the right direction for school orientation, tech support, learning resources, and more. Your teacher may have suggestions to help you with student motivation or creating your daily schedule.

While you are adjusting to your new role as your child’s Learning Coach, there are some simple ways to make the schooling-at-home experience pleasant for everyone.

  1. Remember that you are a family. Although education is very important, your relationship with your child should always come first. Make your home classroom a positive environment and find little ways to let your child know that you’re on his or her side. Showing your student that you understand when he or she is struggling can make ...

Helpful Resources for New Connections Academy Learning Coaches

By: Beth Werrell
Connections Academy Learning Coach Resources

You made the switch to virtual schooling! Now that you and your child are starting school, make the first semester a success by mastering Connections Academy’s online learning management system, Connexus®.

Connexus® offers many features and tools to make virtual school easier, and learning how to use it is one of the top 10 things that Learning Coaches should know. To help your child make a strong start in online school, it’s important to know the three R’s of being a virtual school Learning Coach.

The Three R’s: Roles, Routines, and Resources

To prepare for success at Connections Academy, visit our Roles, Routines, and Resources pages. The Roles page can help you understand the responsibilities of parents, students, and teachers in virtual school. The Routines page offers tips for establishing a learning space, creating a schedule, and using virtual school tools.

Best of all, the Resources page can help answer your questions about daily activities and the virtual school structure. To learn more, take a look below at the list of sections on the Resources page.

Virtual School Resources
  • Orientation Courses
    Learn how to access the Learning Coach Orientation and Student Orientation when you are ready.

  • Orientation Sessions
    Check out online orientations presented by current parents and students.

  • Communication with Teachers
    Locate your student’s teacher’s contact information and find other communication resources you will need for regular communication with school staff throughout the school year.

  • Virtual Library
    Locate important school documents and explore ...

How to Juggle the Needs of Multiple Children in Virtual School

By: Kim McConnell
Multiple Children Laughing in Front of a Computer

For many families, the big challenge of at-home education is not the curriculum or the actual learning; it is finding the best way to manage virtual school for more than one student. Although initially the Learning Coach may feel like a juggler in the circus, it is possible, with a bit of advance planning, to meet the needs of all of your children—and even find a balance with other household responsibilities!

It’s important to note that there is no one “right way” to do virtual schooling. What works for one family may not work for you and your children, so be sure to keep an open mind and try various approaches. Here are some of the things that worked for me and helped me balance four children, school, errands, chores, and all the other responsibilities of a virtual school Learning Coach!

  1. Make a Learning Plan
  2. When making your learning plan for online school, consider the number of children, their ages, abilities, personalities, and study habits, as well as factors such as the layout of your home and your family’s usual routine. Your involvement is essential for your students’ success, so plan to be directly involved and easily accessible throughout the school day.

  3. Stay Flexible and Positive
  4. Be prepared to experiment and adjust your overall plan as needed, because no two days of online school are the same. Keep in mind that you are not re-creating a traditional school at home—you are operating a positive learning environment that supports ...

10 Lessons Learning Coaches Can Learn from Sports Coaches

By: Beth Werrell
coaching your child to virtual school success by learning from sports coaches

If you have the “pre-game jitters” about becoming your child’s online school Learning Coach, relax! Your child’s education does deserve your “A” game, but fortunately, although it takes time and energy, becoming a great Learning Coach is achievable.

To inspire you, we’ve examined the actions of great athletic coaches to find out what makes them great. By taking a page out of their playbook, you are sure to motivate your child to succeed academically in virtual school!

  1. Exercise Your Communication Skills
  2. Great coaches realize that effective communication with their players is a two-way street. As a Learning Coach, you need to clearly explain your expectations and the rules for online school to your student. You may want to communicate important things both verbally and in writing. And you will need to keep your student on track for projects and course completion, so scheduling reminders are also key.

    Learning Coaches also need to listen. Sharp listening skills will help you determine if your child understands new concepts and enhances skills. When questions arise, you will need to communicate with teachers or encourage your child to make contact independently, depending on his or her age.

  3. Keep the Home Classroom a Positive Environment
  4. Just like a good coach will guide young athletes in developing good sportsmanship, a good online Learning Coach keeps the home classroom an emotionally safe and positive environment. Encouragement can energize a child who is struggling with a lesson. Praise for a job well done will spur your ...

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 ...

A Quick Guide to Parent, Student, and Teacher Roles in a Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell

“Who sets my student’s daily schedule?” “Do I have to plan lessons or teach class?” “How much time will my student spend on the computer?” These are great questions to ask as you begin to explore the possibility of online schooling for your child. At Connections Academy, the answers lie in understanding the roles that parents, students, and teachers each play in our virtual schools and how those roles evolve over the school years.

To explain these roles and answer some of the most common questions, we’ve put together a quick overview describing these roles at each stage of your virtual school journey together—from elementary school to high school. While the roles and activities described here are specific to Connections Academy, we think that you’ll find it useful to understand how parents, students, and teachers work together to ensure students’ success in an online school.

roles in a virtual school

Online Elementary School—Starting Out Together

In grades K–5, students require a lot of support from caring adults at home and in the online classroom. So, roles and activities are carefully structured to ensure students develop a love of learning and gain the reading, writing, and mathematics skills essential to their future success in school.

Students have a flexible schedule and …

  • Devote a minimum of thirty hours per week to learning.
  • Perform most of their schoolwork offline—reading books, writing, and completing assignments.
  • Spend 15–30% of each school day working on the computer.

Parents (or other responsible adults at home) act as Learning Coaches...

Thank You, Connections Academy Moms!

By: Kim McConnell
Mother's Day Quote

A mother can touch a whole generation just by loving her own child well.
— Unknown

When I read the quote above, I immediately thought of when my adult children were young and how invested I was in their lives as their mom, Learning Coach, taxi driver, cook, cleaning lady, etc. Now that my children are grown, I can say that I have such pride in who they have become and how they are so responsible and independent. Currently, I am expecting my first grandbaby. I am amazed that this will begin a whole new generation of children influenced by our love and support.

I also thought of Connections Academy parents, including you, and how blessed your children are to have such dedicated moms and dads. As an online elementary teacher at Commonwealth Connections Academy, I see how you sacrifice time and energy each day to make life interesting, fun, and—most of all—productive. On behalf of all the teachers at Connections Academy, I’d like to say thank you for your hard work and daily faithfulness to your student’s learning and growing.

Mother’s Day is almost here, so it’s time to give Connections Academy moms a special thanks. You, Mom, are a role model and a great example to your family. You may never hear, “Wow, Mom—thank you for making sacrifices so I could attend school from home,” but you know that the daily experiences of family life, responsibility, generosity, and love are all part of watching your student ...

Create a School Stress Management Kit

By: Beth Werrell
school stress relief kit ideas

It’s the end of the year and you and your child are ready for summer break. It’s normal for kids to get burnt out after a year of hard work, especially if your child is busy or overscheduled.

But you and your child don’t have to wait for summer to escape the stress. You just need to have the right tools in your Learning Coach Toolbox to address the issue. In this case, you can create your own Stress Management Kit.

A Stress Management Kit contains the supplies you need to combat school stress when it starts to take hold. You know some strategies for fighting stress, but it’s easier to execute them when you and your child can take out the kit and find the items you need.

Your “kit” can be held in a decorated shoebox, a basket, an old pillowcase, or any other container that works for you. Below are some of the things you can put in your kit.

  • A notepad. If your child feels overwhelmed, have him or her make a list of things he or she is worried about. Then you can discuss how to handle those worries and create a to-do list. Knowing exactly what has to be done can help set your child’s mind at ease.

  • A list of healthy snacks. Chocolate or other types of candy might taste especially good when you or your child is under pressure, but you don’t want to indulge harmful sugar cravings. Instead, choose ...

Are We There Yet? Answering Those End-of-School-Year Cries

By: Beth Werrell
End of School Year Motivation Tips

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” We’re all familiar with those plaintive cries from the kids in the backseat. The end of the school year is a lot like those long car trips. Your student is ready for school to be over and for the summer to begin. But, as a Learning Coach, you have to encourage your students to stay engaged and “on the road” to their destination—a successful end to the school year.

So, just how do help your student “slay the slump in the road”? At Connections Academy, our school counselors say that it helps to keep the end-of-year in a broader perspective—to focus on helping your students develop the traits that will see them through many long projects, school years, and car rides ahead.

Think of it as ending the year WISEly.

Here’s what we mean:

“W” stands for Willpower: At the end of any long project or school year, there’s a natural tendency to slack off. (For high school seniors, there’s even a name for it—“senioritis”.) At such times, it takes sheer Willpower to see things through to the end.

But your student doesn’t necessarily know that yet. To help your students understand their emotions and develop the willpower they need, you can:

  • Listen respectfully to their feelings about the end of the school year. 
  • Explain that the “slump” is a normal problem and willpower is a viable solution.
  • Celebrate past accomplishments that demonstrate your student’s willpower (e.g., persisting with a difficult ...

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