While changing from a traditional school to a virtual school gives families more control over their children’s education, there can be significant adjustments. Coming from a traditional school culture, kids may not have the skills or the mind-set needed to take full advantage of online school’s many benefits. As a Learning Coach, you can help your child succeed by providing extra support and guidance during the transition period. Teaching or reinforcing the following skills with your children will help them catch on quickly and get a strong start in online learning.
- Navigating on a computer.
Make sure your children complete any computer training provided by your online school. Quiz them on finding their way through their school materials, virtual classroom, instructional tools, and communications systems. Why not create a virtual school scavenger hunt, just to make it fun? For very young children or those with delayed motor skill development, consider finding a kid-friendly website or selecting some age-appropriate games so they can practice their mouse skills. As your child grows and gains dexterity, you may want to enroll him or her in a keyboarding course to help develop speed.
- Taking initiative.
Parents tell us that new online students often complete a lesson and screech to a halt—waiting to be given their next assignment. They’ve learned this from the traditional classroom environment, where students wait for the teacher to direct them to move to the next activity as a group. As a Learning Coach, you need to help your child “unlearn” this behavior and promote independent study skills! Explain how online school makes it possible for kids to work at their own pace, moving more quickly through lessons they find easy, or going slowly on material that is more difficult. Let children know that if they focus and complete their work efficiently, they may have more time for play and other favorite activities.
- Putting forth their best effort.
Kids also need to understand that they can’t just rush through lessons to get to the fun stuff. Be very clear about the quality of work you expect from your children—and let them know you’ll be checking that their assignments are not only completed, but completed well. Be aware that this may be an adjustment for kids, since in a group classroom, teachers may not have time to grade classwork or homework. Stick to your guns, and if your child’s work isn’t up to snuff, return it for corrections. Eventually your child will realize that it’s easier to do the assignment right the first time!
- Looking it up.
Make sure your son or daughter knows where to look for information. Equip your computer (or bookshelves) with basic reference materials, such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia or almanac that are age-appropriate. In addition, create some “favorites” or “bookmarks” on your Internet browser that will connect your student to safe, reliable resources. Depending on your child’s age and experience, you may need to demonstrate how to use these references. And don’t be afraid to test their “look-it-up” skills with the occasional quiz. Add a little excitement by making it a competition! Grab a stopwatch and see if kids can beat your best time—or each others’—in their race to find the facts.
- Managing time.
Keeping track of time and juggling a schedule are difficult enough for most adults—imagine how challenging it must be to a child! Help your student manage his or her time by developing a weekly school schedule. Provide a “to do” list for each day, or teach your child to use any online planning tools your school may provide. For larger or longer-term projects, assist your son or daughter in dividing the work into manageable chunks and setting a deadline for each one.
Starting a new school (and a new educational method) does require some adjustment from both the student and the Learning Coach, but working on the skills outlined here will help you succeed as a team. Stick with it and keep a positive attitude, and soon your family will be reaping the many benefits of virtual schooling!
What skills have helped your student make a successful transition from a bricks-and-mortar to a virtual school? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below.