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Support for Families Learning the Ropes of Online School

By: Stephanie Osorno
Support for Online School Families

Adapting to the routines of a particular learning method such as virtual school can take some time and patience, but by selecting a high-quality school, you can be sure that you'll have plenty of help and guidance along the way!

Whether you're new to virtual school, considering virtual learning, or getting ready to begin another virtual school adventure, Connections Academy®–supported online public schools are equipped to support you and your student. After thorough research, the schools developed three family support programs, Get Started!, Get Coaching!, and Get Connected!, which provide families with all the information and tools they need to have a gratifying virtual learning experience.

Each program focuses on one key factor to online school success. Get Started! helps families begin the school year confident and strong. Get Coaching! ensures that Learning Coaches, both new and returning, are prepared for their role. Get Connected! offers families many opportunities to connect with other local families in the virtual school community.

To get a more extensive look into Connections Academy's family support programs, check out the video below! For more virtual learning videos, make sure to subscribe to Connections Academy's YouTube channel.

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Having trouble seeing? Try going directly to YouTube.

By actively seeking support, resources, and guidance, you and your family can have a successful and enjoyable online school year! What are some ways that you and your student have prepared for online school? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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 ...

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 ...

The Pioneer Generation of K-12 Online Education

By: Beth Werrell
Reese Flurie Quote: “The students and teachers who joined our school for its inaugural year took a leap of faith—faith not only in our school, but also in virtual learning in general.”

A little more than a decade ago, K–12 education online was still a very new concept. With several Connections Academy schools celebrating their tenth anniversaries this school year, we wanted to capture the experiences of the pioneer students, families, and educators who have spent many of these formative years in an online school.

Here’s some of what we learned about the pioneer generation in K–12 online education.

Taking the Leap into the Online Classroom

As Commonwealth Connections Academy (CCA) Principal Reese Flurie puts it, “The students and teachers who joined our school for its inaugural year took a leap of faith—faith not only in our school, but also in virtual learning in general.”

“Early adopters” such as the Brems of Ohio Connections Academy (OCA) say that switching to an online school was a “big family experiment.” Parents like Cyndi Fugate had to overcome her extended family’s fear that her children would be “doomed to failure” and “unable to get along in the real world.”

As for the educators, Christy Lamb, High School Assistant Principal in Ohio who started as an OCA teacher in 2003, acknowledges that she worried how she would “connect” with her students in an online school. Kindergarten teacher Rachel Fiest knew that she would need special approaches to build the trust of such young students online, step by step.

But years later …

  • The Fugates and the Brems are delighted at the level of teacher involvement. Contrasting other school experiences, Mindy Brems says, “As ...

How Online Education Builds Career Readiness with the 4 Cs

By: Beth Werrell

Fifty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a person to start a job fresh out of school and to continue working for the same company until retirement. When today’s students enter the workforce, they can expect to change jobs and employers multiple times during their careers. They’ll face an evolving workplace influenced both by technology and the global marketplace. In order to face these challenges, the next generation of workers will need advanced knowledge and skills—and virtual school and blended learning high school can play a significant role in helping them gain these skills.

The traditional three Rs, “reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic,” are no longer enough. Today, these subjects are joined by foreign languages, the arts, geography, science, and social studies. Even more important is that educators, in helping students to prepare for successful careers, are supplementing the content students must learn with the “four Cs” of the 21st century:

  • communication
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • collaboration
The 4Cs in a 21st Century Education

In high-quality virtual and blended learning schools, students have many opportunities to develop these important skills during lessons and while completing projects for a variety of subjects. For example, while communication skills would naturally fit into a language arts class, students may also practice explaining mathematical concepts orally during their algebra class, or writing about scientific principles during Earth Science. By integrating the four Cs into many subjects, teachers ensure that students learn to exercise their skills and adapt them to a variety of audiences, purposes, and media.

Below, take a ...

Why Families Choose Online School

By: Beth Werrell
why families choose online school

Parents choose to educate their children at home using virtual school for a variety of reasons. In fact, most families name several contributing factors. After all, with so many ways to customize the learning method, schedule, and environment, online school can be personalized to a child’s needs. Yet, while there are many reasons for choosing this form of education, recent data revealed that the most common fall into several broad categories.

Not so traditional
Fifty-one percent of families surveyed reported that their children do not learn well in a traditional school setting. This is not surprising, in light of the comments parents make once they’ve made the switch to online learning. We often hear them mention the benefit of having fewer distractions and a quieter learning space. This statistic may also reflect those children who need more one-on-one attention to learn, as well as those who thrive with extra parental involvement.

Change of scenery
Families were also concerned with the setting in which their children learn. Forty-three percent of parents named wanting a “change in the learning environment” as a reason for opting out of their previous school situation. Another 32 percent specified their desire to have a “more controlled educational setting.” These results seem to mirror comments we hear about children’s safety on school campuses and transportation, as well as concerns about discipline and health.

Change of pace
Another top answer was the desire for “a more flexible schedule.” Creating the daily schedule to suit your ...

Blended Learning: Building High Schools Around Student Needs

By: Beth Werrell
Blended Learning High School Students Studying

While full-time virtual schooling is a great solution for many kids, it might not be a good fit for everyone. Some students may prefer face-to-face instruction or miss the company of their peers. Yet teens in particular desire the added flexibility and personalization online school can provide. As online education continues to grow in popularity, Connections Education has drawn on the knowledge gained from 11 years of experience with virtual school students to develop a brand new high school model that brings together the best of both worlds.  

Improving the Ability to Personalize Learning

New Nexus Academy blended high schools  in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio offer a unique blend of in-person and online learning, plus the extra personal attention some students need to succeed.

Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education executive vice president, explained the thinking behind these blended learning schools in a presentation at the International Association of K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) Virtual School Symposium in 2012. “Many teens typically think high school is boring, impersonal, and irrelevant to their lives. This new school model offers more flexibility than a traditional school, plus ways to customize learning to a student’s abilities and interests, making it more personal and engaging.”

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Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation

“We’re essentially wiping the slate clean on high school and starting over by building schools around kids instead of vice versa. We have discovered that when students can sit where they want, eat when they want, and tackle their courses in the order they ...

Celebrate Virtual Education on Digital Learning Day

By: Dan Reiner
Connections Academy online teachers supporting School Choice.

It’s a great time to celebrate education—last week was School Choice Week, and today is Digital Learning Day. School Choice Week encourages parents, students, and organizations to speak out about the importance of offering students different education options, while Digital Learning Day emphasizes the effective use of technology in our classrooms. Both movements have the same goal—to promote dialogue about the progress of education.

This year, over 200 partners collaborated during National School Choice Week and hosted at least 3,600 events across the nation with the goal of highlighting the variety of education options available, including:

  • Public schools
  • Public charter schools
  • Virtual schools (public and private)
  • Magnet schools
  • Private schools
  • Homeschooling

Students who choose virtual schools experience and appreciate digital learning in a unique way. In fact, every day is Digital Learning Day in virtual schools. Each day, students use technology to engage with their online curriculum. They learn lessons at a pace that’s customized to their unique needs, and along the way they make meaningful connections with their teachers through one-on-one interaction. Students also socialize in the virtual classroom and through online clubs and activities. All of these interactions are facilitated by technology, and virtual school students embrace it daily.

Digital learning empowers students to take ownership of their learning. Teachers learn to manage their classrooms a little differently, and students become more active in their own education, which better prepares them for college and career. In virtual schools, students are familiar with this increased ...

Tips for Balancing Time between Multiple Virtual School Students

By: Dan Reiner

This is a guest post by Jane Kummer-Meyer, a Learning Coach from Wisconsin.

siblings doing virtual school work

Working with multiple children in a virtual school or homeschool setting can at first seem daunting, but with some organization and planning, and a bit of flexibility, it can be quite manageable. For the past three years, I have had four boys enrolled in Wisconsin Connections Academy, and during that time I’ve been the Learning Coach for grades ranging from kindergarten through 12th. I definitely had to find creative ways to simultaneously give all of my children the support and attention they need, ensure success, and maintain my own sanity.

It doesn’t have to be stressful! Here are a few key things I do to help balance my time between each of my boys:

  • Having a schedule is imperative. With a schedule, I can plan to work with my youngest son when the older ones are doing an online class session or working independently. A schedule also helps keep the kids focused on their responsibilities as online students. One great feature of online learning is the ability to be flexible, so if we have an appointment or special event, we tweak the schedule. If my students ever get behind, we talk about how or why this happened and what adjustments they need to make to their schedules to get back on track. This is a great way to teach them how to effectively manage their own time and to take ownership of their own learning...

Virtual School and Working Parents: Ways to Make It Work

By: Peggy Barnholt
Working mom with kid on her lap

One of the questions parents often ask me is, “Can children attend a virtual school if both parents work outside the home?”

The answer is, It depends on the grade level of your student. The Learning Coach plays a key role in the elementary years, and for kids in elementary school it’s recommended that someone is available for guidance full time. As the student becomes a more autonomous online learner, he or she will need less supervision in middle school—and online high school students are usually able to succeed independently.

However, stay-at-home parents are not the only ones who are capable of serving as Learning Coaches for children attending online schools. There can be more than one designated Learning Coach. Another responsible adult can help facilitate daily lessons and assignments, or you can share Learning Coach responsibilities with your partner who supports your student while you are away from home. Some working parents are on different work schedules and each can spend time with the students—one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

Even if you cannot arrange for such assistance, depending on your child’s age you can develop an arrangement with some creativity and flexibility on everyone’s part. Below are a few suggestions for how you can potentially make this arrangement work:

  • Plan your child’s learning schedule around your work schedule. Make sure the activities that require the most support and input from you are done during the times you’re home. Designate your working hours for independent ...

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