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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. ...

5 Keys to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication in Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Parent-Teacher Communication in Virtual School

In any school setting, communicating and interacting with teachers is essential for a successful school year. Among other things, teachers can assist parents in identifying their student’s areas of weakness, provide extra help, and offer suggestions for improvement.

In a bricks-and-mortar school, parent–teacher conferences are usually held a few times a year to discuss a student’s progress. While virtual schools don’t hold official conferences, teachers regularly check in with families, and parents can also reach out whenever they need to through email, message boards, or a phone call. Online teachers are always eager to help in any way they can. At Connections Academy, they make at least three real-time contacts with parents or Learning Coaches each school year—whether this is done through a phone conversation or a face-to-face meeting.

As you and your family get back into the daily school routine, consider the following suggestions to help you prepare for frequent parent-teacher communication throughout the year!

  1. Make a list of questions.
    If any general questions or concerns come up, make sure to write them down. It will be easier to give your student’s teacher an update if you already have a list of topics to discuss. Connections Academy teachers conduct welcome calls at the beginning of the year to introduce themselves and get things started—a great opportunity for parents to address issues early, before diving into the school year. A list will also help you to feel more prepared and ready for the conversation!
  2. Set a goal.

6 Steps to Help Families Start Strong in Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell
6 Steps to Start Strong in Virtual School

When parents enroll a child in virtual school, the decision to educate at home is only the first—and often the easiest—step! Although some parents, once they adapt to online learning, find it very rewarding and report that it's the best fit for their child, many of those same parents found it overwhelming at the beginning. Fortunately, there are six simple steps families can take now to overcome these early challenges and make a successful start in virtual school.

  1. Orientation
    A high-quality online school typically provides orientation materials to help parents learn how to support their child's learning. At Connections Academy schools, both students and parents benefit from an online orientation course presented using the same learning platform as the curriculum. As they learn about their new responsibilities as online students and Learning Coaches, they are also familiarizing themselves with the computer systems.

    To help new Learning Coaches learn "the ropes," some school locations may invite them to attend in-person orientation events. Whether seminar style or more of a meeting format, these events can benefit families that want to gain a better understanding of how to guide their child's learning.

  2. Organize the Learning Space
    Organization is always an appropriate theme for your student's home classroom. Assemble-it-yourself furniture is a great, affordable way to furnish the at-home learning environment. But if that's not in your budget, try a yard sale! A battered bookshelf bought at a yard sale can become a perfect storage area for school ...

How Parents Can Prepare for Their Role in Virtual School

By: Stephanie Osorno
How New Learning Coaches Can Prepare for Virtual School

If your student is transitioning to a virtual learning environment, you will soon be playing a significant and exciting new role in his or her education. Like any other new venture, becoming a well-informed virtual school parent requires time and dedication. Actively preparing for and learning about your new role as Learning Coach will not only help you feel more confident, but will also allow your student to start the school year off strong.

Consider the following suggestions to help you and your family get ready for a successful school year!

Before the School Year Starts

Make sure to take advantage of all of your school's orientation resources and events—a great way to become more acquainted with the virtual school program. For instance, families enrolling with Connections Academy can sign up for Online Parent-to-Parent Orientations, which are webinars hosted by experienced parents who share their insight, answer questions, and give pointers. Your school might even host an open house or special summer events where you and your family can meet the staff and other virtual school families face-to-face.

You should also take some time to explore the school's learning management system. Virtual schools usually provide online tools to help families get started. Connections Academy offers a collection of helpful resources specifically designed for newly enrolled parents. These are available in Learning Coach Central within Connexus.

Here are some other things you can do before school starts:

  • Set up your student's learning space in an area free ...

An Easy Summer Assignment for New Online School Parents

By: Kimberly McConnell
Easy Summer Assignment for Virtual School Parents

Much like an accomplished sporting league, a successful virtual learning experience evolves from a team effort. In virtual school, the team consists of the student, teacher, and parent or Learning Coach.

As a teacher, I am always eager to talk to parents and students throughout the year so that I can assess progress and help with areas of weakness. If you're new to virtual school, you might ask yourself, "How do I know if my child is really learning?" To help you better understand your student's learning style and prepare for regular communication with his or her teacher throughout the year, consider completing the following summer assignment.

Online Learning Coach Summer Assignment

You can start to gauge students' learning patterns by observing their engagement with enjoyable hobbies. Set some time aside to observe your child while he or she plays a board game, a sport, or even an instrument. Here are some things you can look for:

  • What keeps your student's attention? Is it the colorful board? The characters? Speed or motion? A challenge or competition?
  • Watch for facial expressions and determine what they tell you about how your child is connecting with the game or activity. Is he or she smiling or frowning? What kinds of expressions show that your child is thinking hard?
  • What seemed to give your child a sense of accomplishment? Was it figuring something out? Achieving a high score? Working as a team with another child? Completing something or ...

Advice from Former Learning Coach Newbies

By: Beth Werrell
Advice from Virtual School Learning Coaches

New to online learning? As a "newbie" Learning Coach, you may have some questions and concerns—and this is perfectly normal! After all, when beginning any new "job," whether paid or volunteer, it can take a while to learn your new role and its responsibilities. During this kind of transition, it also helps to have someone show you the ropes. That's why, in the spirit of mentoring, we have gathered some great Learning Coach tips and advice from experienced Connections Academy families to help your transition into virtual school.

Be Mentally Prepared

Accept the idea that while you are becoming a virtual school Learning Coach, you will experience a learning curve. Stick with it, and don't be too hard on yourself. Start with an open mind and an appreciation for the challenges the role may entail. Set aside time to familiarize yourself with the interactive web tools and resources. Plan to attend an information session and any orientations offered by your school. Taking these steps will prepare you and your child for success in virtual school and help you tackle each day with a positive attitude.
Learning Coach Danielle B. Quote

Be Patient

Every student is unique. Each one learns at his or her own pace and flourishes in different subject areas. Don't compare your student to others. It's important to learn to be patient with his or her learning style and speed—after all, accommodating a child's individual needs and preferences is one of the great advantages of this type of schooling.
Learning Coach Kelley A. Quote

Be Organized...

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