Our free online resources for parents, caretakers and students provide knowledge articles, step-by-step visual guides, activities and materials to help all foster a devotion to learning.



  • 5 Strategies for Teaching Empathy to Teens

    by Beth Werrell

    Two Connections Academy students

    Empathy is a quality that has come to the forefront of social and professional conversations over the last several years—and with good reason! Not only is empathy a quality that can aid adults in the workplace(opens in a new tab), but it’s also an important quality to focus on in childhood development. 

    Developing an empathetic heart and mind can help children, and especially teens, become more conscientious, self-aware, and sensitive to the needs of others, which can translate to greater ease in creating friendships, social relationships, productive conversation, and so much more. 

    Check out these insights from psychologists and other experts on how to nurture empathy in teenagers, plus five great ideas for teaching empathy to teens. 

    What Is Empathy? 

    To convey the importance of empathy for teens, it’s necessary to first understand what empathy is. According to mental health education resource Verywell Mind,(opens in a new tab) empathy is defined as “the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their point of view, and imagine yourself in their place.” There are different levels and expressions of empathy, but essentially it has to do with the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  

    Why Is Empathy Important? 

    Empathy is an important emotional response that has many benefits. Some of the benefits of developing empathy(opens in a new tab) for teens include: 

    • Ability to build stronger relationships with other teens and educators 
    • Increased tolerance and acceptance of others  
    • Reduced likelihood of bullying  

    In addition, adults who practice empathy are generally shown to have greater success, both personally and professionally. So, teaching empathy to teens can help equip them for a brighter future in many ways.  

    Online students learning empathy by volunteering in a garden.

    How to Teach Empathy to a Teenager 

    Here are seven tips for you to encourage the development of empathy in your household and assist you with teaching empathy to teens. Most of these are also great empathy activities for middle school students, and can help build a foundation for empathy in their formative years. 

    1. Be a positive role model. 

    One of the best ways to learn is through modeling desired practices. Do your best to model empathetic behavior in your daily life, and especially in your interactions with your teen. Give them your full attention. Ask them how they feel and ask questions about why they feel that way.   

    2. Play devil’s advocate. 

    Teenage life comes with its own set of struggles and challenges, many of which will be centered around personal relationships and disagreements. When your teen runs into a disagreement, encourage them to see the other person’s point of view, and put themselves in their shoes. Can they see where the other person may be coming from? This is a great way to discuss and implement empathy (and also a great practice for teaching empathy to middle schoolers). 

    3. Look to history for empathy-teaching moments. 

    Being a teenager offers the benefit of being able to look to difficult historical events that are not recommended for younger students. Learning about acts of injustice and social catastrophe, such as the Holocaust, can educate teens about empathy on a larger and more historically-driven scale. 

    4. Highlight lesser-told stories to encourage historical empathy. 

    Similar to observing and discussing large-scale historical events to promote empathy, another great tactic is to specifically seek out lesser-told stories of injustice and struggle that might prompt discussion on empathetic response. This allows teens to “analyze history through multiple perspectives,” and tap into the power of historical empathy(opens in a new tab).  

    5. Use art and photography for empathy-teaching moments. 

    Another unique way to encourage empathetic thinking in teens was made popular by The New York Times in their “What’s Going On in This Picture” series(opens in a new tab). This series presents a photo without a caption and prompts students and readers to make their own observations on what might be happening in the photo.  

    Other Great Resources for Instilling Empathy in Teens  

    In addition to the empathy exercises for teens mentioned above, here are some other great learning resources from Connections Academy® that can help teach compassion and empathy to students: 

    Focus on teaching your teen empathetic practices and watch their relationships, engagement with school and extracurricular activities, and self-esteem grow as a result! 

    read more
  • 5 Ways Families Can Learn About Juneteenth

    by Beth Werrell

    Student holding a pan African flag for Juneteenth celebration

    This month we recognize Juneteenth, an important day of Black history dedicated to commemorating independence, celebrating hope, and reflecting on the past. While some people have only heard of Juneteenth in recent years, the holiday has actually been observed for more than 150 years in America. 

    You may be wondering: Is Juneteenth taught in schools? How can I enhance my online student’s curriculum with this topic? Juneteenth is a time to consider our country’s history and how your family can participate first-hand. If you’re looking for Juneteenth resources for kids, check out these five things your student can do to learn about the holiday and its significance while online school is out for the summer! 

    What Is Juneteenth? 

    Before you get started on these Juneteenth activities for kids, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the holiday. Let’s go back in history for a moment.  

    On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring enslaved people in the United States free. However, there were still enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. In the summer of 1865, news of freedom finally made its way to them, marking the end of slavery for them. Since then, African Americans have honored and recognized that historic day. Today, it is an opportunity for families of all heritages and backgrounds to acknowledge and celebrate Black history! 

    Now, let’s delve into Juneteenth lessons for kids. 

    1. Teach Students About Juneteenth Through Books 

    Reading books is a great way to discover history. Whether a textbook or a nonfiction novel, there is something for students to discover on each page. For example, did you know Juneteenth stands for June 19? Or, that it has different names it’s recognized by? Here are a few below: 

    • Freedom Day 
    • Emancipation Day 
    • Jubilee Day 
    • Liberation Day 

    Books are great learning tools with a wealth of information that can make learning about Juneteenth for kids easy. In fact, it has been proven that through reading, young children exhibit improved cognitive skills, which helps them better understand and process information.  

    To help your K–12 student learn more about the holiday, you could propose a “read-a-thon” to encourage your child to immerse themselves in the event. For example, you could talk daily with your young learner. While reading, you could ask questions to encourage active learning. After reading time concludes, ask them to point out something that they learned from the book.  

    Older learners can take on this task more independently. Instead of daily reading, assign them to read one book a week. After they finish, let them share what the book was about. They could even write a short book review to recap what they learned. For inspiration, here’s a list of Juneteenth books for kids. You can also check out this book list for more mature learners to help them get started.  

    2. Teach Students About Juneteenth Through Media 

    When introducing a new concept to students in virtual school, video visuals can be helpful in building knowledge. Thankfully, there are many wonderful videos, TV shows, movies, and documentaries that explore Black history and culture. For instance, movies like The Color of Friendship and Ruby Bridges are available to watch on popular streaming platforms. Both movies explore important topics in Black history and culture. By watching, students will be able to learn about historical events and experiences first-hand. For older learners, PBS has a powerful series that delves into the holiday’s history, and also offers a list of documentaries exploring Black culture.  

    In addition, Juneteenth lessons for kids can be taught through media like music. If you want to further expand your child’s learning in the absence of virtual school, family-friendly radio stations like WEE Nation stream 24/7 R&B, Funk, Jazz, Go-Go, and Hip-Hop, which are all integral to Black culture. While at home, you can also play Juneteenth specific songs for a fun history lesson and dance break. For middle and high schoolers, you might recommend they listen to a podcast, TED talk, or watch a video that explains the significance of the holiday. Whatever form of media they select, there are ample opportunities for them to bring the past to life. 

    3. Teach Students About Juneteenth Through Cooking 

    When you celebrate your student’s birthday, you probably incorporate their favorite things into that day. That could involve anything from games to food to special traditions. Something as simple as food can tell a story about their past and previous birthday celebrations. The same could be said about Juneteenth. 

    Food is a big part of the holiday and incorporating cooking as an activity is a fun way to celebrate. Red foods in particular are customary and also serve as a symbol of the resilience and ingenuity of enslaved people. Traditional Juneteenth foods like strawberries, watermelon, cherry pie, and red velvet cake are just some of the foods you can include in your feast. Before starting to cook, let your student do some research to assist with creating the menu. While you’re in the kitchen together, you can go over this list of Juneteenth facts for kids to encourage dialogue around the holiday. Conversation can also be initiated when setting the table. Take that time to decorate and discuss the significance and history behind the meal you’re sharing.  

    4. Teach Students About Juneteenth Through Decorations 

    You can honor and learn more about this holiday through decor! Encourage your child to do research on where enslaved people came from. They can honor those places by making a banner of African flags at home. For young learners, all you’ll need is construction paper, glue, and markers. You could also craft a Juneteenth flag which symbolizes a new beginning in America. If you want to take it a step further, you could work on confetti poppers with green, black, and red colors. Not only are these great party favors that can be passed out during your Juneteenth feast, they are a concrete illustration of celebration.  

    The staple piece at any Juneteenth celebration will be the Pan-African flag, which represents liberation. Instead of doing crafts, have older learners study the meaning of the flag and why it is important to the celebration. Have them research what the red, black, and green colors mean and what parts of history they represent. As they’re digging into history, they will be exploring and learning interesting facts they may have never known existed, which can benefit them when they return to online school! 

    5. Teach Students About Juneteenth Through Community 

    Community is an important aspect of Juneteenth celebrations. In prior years, communities have gathered together to host events like parades and block parties featuring marching bands, drumlines, and floats. Events like these are fun for the whole family and represent the true spirit of Juneteenth. This summer, there will likely be a variety of events that you and your K–12 student can attend to celebrate Juneteenth for its freedom, diversity, and inclusion.  

    Another great community outlet is your local library or museum. On historical holidays like Juneteenth, libraries often host readings that allow people to discover African American authors, musicians, and poets. Events may only last a few hours, but can give your student a glimpse into how meaningful community connections can be viewed as educational opportunities! 

    From books to community events, there are so many fun and empowering ways your online student can learn about this historical holiday!  

    read more
  • The Right Message at the Right Time: How to Help High School Graduates Build Upon Their Success

    by Beth Werrell

    A high school graduate hugging her mom

    The young men and women who will march across stages nationwide to receive their high school diplomas this spring are often described as adventurous, self-motivated achievers who are ready to change the world.     



    And, while high school recognizes their achievements and opens doors to independence and possibilities, graduation also can kindle thoughts of life’s challenges beyond the familiar and comfortable structure of home and school.  



    Roberta Katz, the senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, describes graduates as a self-driven, deeply caring, highly collaborative social group. They grew up online and in a global culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion. They value relevance and authenticity. 



    It is impossible to know what the future holds for this year’s graduates, but here are some topics along with inspirational quotes to write in their graduation cards that will help you inspire any grad to change the world.  



    Be an Advocate for Others



    Recognize that over the course of their high school careers, grads have attained a worldview that advocates for human rights, creating and connecting effective networks for change, and making the world a better place. 



    Treat Everyone Equally



    “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader 



    No name is more synonymous with equal rights than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Dr. King challenged the nation to rise up in support of equal rights, high school taught grads to see themselves and others within the context of the world and inspired them to continue the legacy of Dr. King’s vision. 



    Help Build Diverse Communities



    “We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States



    As members of the most diverse and inclusive generation in American history, graduates believe in Justice Ginsburg’s vision. A word of encouragement can put them on the path toward the just world she helped pioneer. 



    Follow Your Passion



    This year’s graduates are the country’s first digital natives. They came of age in a world where the Internet has made all things possible. Many started small online businesses. Stepping into the world, most see themselves in careers that are rooted in the things they love to do. 



    Pursue Your Dreams with Confidence



    “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” – Nelson Mandela, civil rights leader



    Before graduates take on the future, help them reflect on all that they have accomplished. Encourage them to take what they’ve learned and go forward with confidence. 



    Persevere with Optimism



    “I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.”  – Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States



    The future is uncertain. But this year’s graduates are naturally optimistic. They learned how to persist in high school. Now, challenge them to rely on those qualities to realize their dreams. 



    Meet Challenges Head On



    "It may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”Maya Angelou, poet



    Life beyond high school will have its challenges, but Maya Angelou’s inspirational wisdom can help graduates overcome those challenges so that they can discover their true selves.   



    Encourage Reflection So That Graduates Can Build Upon Their Achievements



    Now is the time for graduates to celebrate their accomplishments. High school was full of challenges, but they persisted and rose above them. Their diplomas prove that. They learned new things about the world and about themselves. They deepened their commitment to inclusion, to the importance of authenticity, and to the possibilities of making the world a better place. 



    Now is also the time to encourage them to take what they have learned as they move forward. Whatever plans your graduate has for their future—whether it be college, work, or a gap year—an authentic, relevant message at this important time can inspire them to build upon the success of their high school experience. 


    read more
  • How to Write a Thank You Note to a Teacher

    by Beth Werrell

    Parent helping their child with schoolwork.

    Because Connections Academy® has been an online school for over 20 years, making the most of teacher-student and parent-student interactions has always been a priority.  

    In that vein, teaching kids how to write a thank you note, and helping them remember to do so, will serve them throughout their lives. The challenge is showing them how. But by using a thank you note template for kids or following a sample, children of all ages can not only get started, but can also begin building a very important habit of expressing gratitude before adulthood. 

    Especially with Teacher Appreciation Week coming up, this presents the perfect opportunity to teach and encourage your child to write a thank you note or two for their favorite teachers. Consider this article a helpful “how to write a thank you letter” lesson plan! 

    Get started by downloading this thank you letter template for kids. 


    Download our Sample Thank You Card Here


    Benefits of Expressing Gratitude for Children

    Teaching children of all ages about gratitude is a valuable lesson. Even recent studies have touted the benefits in children’s schoolwork, social, and emotional well-being, as well as in their communities. 



    A happy girl full of gratitude.



    Why Teach Kids to Write a Thank You Note Using a Template

    Using a thank you card template or a gratitude letter template for students is a great way to start building this very important habit, especially for younger kids. Here are some reasons why: 

    • They have a guide throughout the writing process. 
    • They are shown what the card should sound like and how it should look. 
    • With a basic structure given to them, children can feel free to add their unique voice, which will make the thank you card more genuine. 
    • A template also gives kids ideas of what to say in a thank you card, which helps inspire their own ideas, and helps to make them more personal. 

    Thank you notes are a great way to help children start expressing gratitude, and using a sample thank you letter for kids is a great way to get them started. And, perhaps even more importantly, when children learn to express gratitude, they tend to feel it, too. 



    A parent and child learning how to write a thank you note to a teacher.



    How Kids Can Write a Personalized Thank You Note  

    Does your child want to write a thank you note from scratch? Encourage them to craft creative thank you notes from kids with these five easy steps: 


    Step 1. Brainstorm Why You Want to Thank Them

    On a piece of paper, jot down whatever comes to mind when you think of the person you are writing a thank you letter for. This could be a parent, teacher, or friend. Try making a list of characteristics that make them great, such as kindness, patience, motivation, creativity, and compassion. 


    Step 2. Remember the Specifics

    Recall memories you have had with this person. Did your parent work extra hard with you to help you with your homework? Did a friend go out of the way to cheer you up on a bad day? Did a teacher find unique ways to make math fun? Write down specific instances that you appreciate. 


    Step 3. Use Nice Stationery

    Think about the last time you received a card. In the age of technology, it probably felt like a welcome surprise. A nice card or stationery really goes the extra mile. It’s a simple gesture, but it can make all the difference! 


    Step 4. Include a Greeting

    It’s no secret that emails and texts have changed the way we communicate. It’s common for everyday language to be direct and casual. However, when writing a thank you note, maintain a respectful tone. Be formal with your greeting by beginning with, “Dear ______.” If your child calls his or her teacher Mr. Bradford, use the same name in your greeting. This provides a great intro for ideal thank you letter format for elementary students, especially.  


    Step 5. Start Writing

    You’re ready to put all the elements of a thank you note together! Here’s an example of how to how to write a thank you note to a teacher: 


    Dear Mom/Dad/Mr. Bradford,

    Thank you for all you’ve done this year/a fun start to the school year. At first, I was nervous to begin third grade, but thanks to you, it’s now my favorite year!

    You were amazing this year when we both had to learn fractions and decimals together. I know you’ve been busy, and I just wanted to say thank you for being my mom/dad/teacher!

    I’m excited to see where the rest of the year/school year takes us. Thank you for everything you have done/taught me!

    Sincerely, Emma Smith


    Helpful Tips for How to Write a Thank You Note to a Teacher

    Does your child need some help getting started? Check out these testimonials from some other students and their families about their favorite teachers: 

    “I am so very grateful for the helpfulness of my son's teachers and their willingness to meet with him … as a need arises. He has learned skills this year that will forever change his attitude toward learning and his confidence in his ability to learn new things.”

    - Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    “I've had nothing but positive experiences with the teachers and staff at Person Online Academy. Everyone there listens carefully and provides whatever support has been requested. Remote school isn't for every student, but for those that thrive remotely, I can't think of a better place!”

    - Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    “The whole learning program is set up to help the student to excel. I like that the teachers seem invested and interested in their students doing well in the courses. The follow-up is a really great motivation to the students, at least they know that the teacher is available when needed.”

    -Pearson Online Academy Parent 


    When it comes to kids’ thank you notes, no matter how big or small, a handwritten note or a thoughtful gift can go a long way in showing appreciation for a parent, teacher, or friend. And Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect time to give these thank you note ideas for kids a try! 

    read more
  • Climbing Water Experiments for Kids: Defy Gravity with Water and Paper

    by Beth Werrell

    Child watering plants

    Your child knows that plants need water to grow. That’s a fact. But if you want to stump your child, ask him or her this question: How can water defy gravity by traveling up from the ground and into a plant?

    Once your student is intrigued by gravity-defying water, work together to set up this fun activity, which is a great option as far as science experiments for online school go, since it doesn’t require any fancy equipment. (You’ll need water, but you won’t need any plants—just some strips of paper.)

    Check out the details of how to conduct one of our favorite science experiments with water below.


    “Does Water Defy Gravity?” Discover the Answer with One of Our Favorite Easy Water Experiments for Kids

    Here’s what you need to conduct this experiment:

    • 2 small cups or glasses
    • Paper towels
    • Scissors
    • Food coloring – any color
    • Water
    • 3 books (something to give one of the water cups
      a height advantage)

    Directions for the Climbing Water Experiment

    1. Cut a strip of paper towel at least 6 inches long, and approximately 1 inch wide.
    2. Fill both cups or glasses about halfway with water.
    3. Add 2–3 drops of food coloring to ONE of the cups of water and mix it up fully.
    4. Place the cup with the food coloring on top of the stack of books.
    5. Place the second cup on a flat surface next to the stack of books.
    6. Insert one end of the paper towel strip in the colored water, then drape it down into the second glass of water.
    7. Watch as water from the colored glass slowly creeps up the paper towel strip into the second glass! Take notes to log the progress.


    Why Does This Experiment Work?

    This experiment is a great way to experience and observe capillary action—the process that plants use to take in water from the ground. The water travels upward through the paper towel and into the second cup the same way that water travels upward through plants’ xylem tissues to give them nourishment.

    Download the Climbing Water Experiment

    Once you finish this experiment, give some of these
    activities a try to keep exploring science experiments with water.


    Test Different Types of Paper

    Try this activity with these different types of paper from
    around the house:

    • Toilet paper
    • Napkins
    • Tissues

    How does each type of paper look and feel as it absorbs the
    water? Does it transfer the water faster or slower than the paper towels? Pit
    two different types of paper from the list above against each other and have a


    Mix Colors

    Place 2–3 drops of food coloring into the cup with water and
    2–3 drops of another color in the middle of your paper strip. Watch to see what
    happens as the water hits the colors on the paper. What does the water look
    like when it reaches the second cup? Try these color pairings:

    • Red and blue
    • Red and yellow
    • Blue and yellow
    • Red and green


    Test How Plants Absorb Water

    If your child wants to experiment with real plants, put a stalk of celery in a glass with water and add a few drops of food coloring. What happens over the course of time? You can also try this with other plants, such as carnations.


    Grow a Plant with Paper

    In this activity, you can grow a bean plant using paper towels. Line a glass jar with paper towels and slip a bean seed between the paper and the glass. Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the jar and watch the bean grow over the next couple of weeks.

    So, as you can see, the answer to the question, “Does water
    defy gravity?” isn’t always so simple! We hope you and your child enjoyed one of our favorite fun water experiments for kids.

    read more
  • The Ultimate Summer Reading List for Grades 3–5

    by Beth Werrell

    Connections Academy student reading during the summer break.

    Third grade is an important year for reading because students are no longer just learning to read but are reading to learn. Practicing this new skill keeps that momentum going, even when online homeschool is out! 

    Being a Learning Coach for children grades 3–5 also presents a wonderful opportunity to instill a love for reading in students. Having the ability to read longer fiction and nonfiction books boosts confidence, encourages students to cultivate the lifelong habit of reading, and also has mental health benefits. 

    Benefits of Encouraging a Summer Reading Habit

    The coaxing that may be necessary to help some children become self-motivated readers is especially important over the summer break from school. According to a 2020 study, the Scholastic Teacher & Principal School Report: 2nd Edition, 62% of teachers said they noticed a summer slide among their students in the 2019–20 academic year and, among pre-K–5 teachers, it was 69%. Educators overwhelmingly agreed (99%) that reading books for fun supports students’ academic success. 

    Research cited by the New York State Library says a child’s participation in voluntary summer reading opportunities can lead to improved reading skills, motivation, confidence, and enjoyment. Additional research says that providing high-interest reading material and reading opportunities “is an especially important aspect of increasing reading proficiency among lower-income students.” 

    Encouraging Summer Reading for Elementary School Children

    For its latest Kids & Family Reading Report, Scholastic asked parents about the different strategies they use to encourage summer reading at home. Their top tips were: 

    • Taking trips to public libraries. 
    • Ordering from school book clubs or book fairs/shopping online or in stores for books with their children. 
    • Taking books on road trips or vacations. 
    • Putting limits on screen time. 
    • Finding a new book series their children will enjoy (to ensure multiple selections). 
    • Making reading part of their summertime daily routine. Reading the same books so they can talk with their children about them. 

    The good news about summer reading for grade school students is that the majority of kids told Scholastic they understand the importance of summer reading. Better yet, 59% of kids said they really enjoy reading books over the summer. Parents of elementary school kids will appreciate that younger children and frequent readers are more likely than teens and infrequent readers to enjoy reading books over the summer, the survey found. 

    Kids know why they like summer reading, too. According to Scholastic, it’s about: 

    • Getting to choose books they want to read.  
    • Enjoying reading as a fun way to pass the time.  
    • Wanting to keep their brains active. 

    One of the most effective means of improving reading achievement levels is supplying students with engaging and comprehensive reading materials, according to the New York State Library. Your elementary school kids are probably ready to read several good books this summer. To help them enjoy their summer and keep their minds sharp and ready for the next school year, help them select stories and topics of interest from our Connections Academy® ultimate summer reading list for grades 35: 

     Fiction Summer Reading for Grade School

    • Because of Winn-Dixie | Kate DiCamillo  
    • Frindle | Andrew Clements   
    • A Week in the Woods | Andrew Clements   
    • A Dog Called Kitty | Bill Wallace   
    • Big Red | Jim Kjelgaard   
    • Ramona (series) | Beverly Cleary
    •   Judy Moody (series) | Megan McDonald   
    • Maniac Magee | Jerry Spinelli   
    • Everywhere | Bruce Brooks   
    • Fly Away Home | Eve Bunting   
    • Keeper of the Doves | Betsy Byars   
    • Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story | Mary Downing Hahn   
    • The Foxman | Gary Paulsen   
    • The Stories Huey Tells and The Stories Julian Tells (series) | Ann Cameron   
    • The Flunking of Joshua T. Bates | Susan Shreve   
    • Freckle Juice | Judy Blume   
    • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing | Judy Blume   
    • Stone Fox | John Reynolds Gardiner   
    • The Great Gilly Hopkins | Katherine Paterson   
    • Misty of Chincoteague | Marguerite Henry   
    • The Secret Garden | Frances Hodgson Burnett   
    • Goosebumps (series) | R.L. Stine   
    • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson | Bette Bao Lord  
    • The Silver Coach | C.S. Adler   
    • The Children of Green Knowe (series) | L.M. Boston   
    • Old Yeller | Fred Gipson   
    • The Higher Power of Lucky | Susan Patron   
    • Joey Pigza Loses Control | Jack Gantos   
    • Nancy Drew (series) | Carolyn G. Keene   
    • Chocolate Fever | Robert Kimmel Smith   
    • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory | Roald Dahl  
    • Rules | Cynthia Lord   
    • The Sign of the Beaver | Elizabeth George Speare   
    • The View from the Cherry Tree | Willo Davis Roberts   
    • The Best School Year Ever | Barbara Robinson   
    • Project Mulberry | Linda Sue Park   
    • Charlotte’s Web | E.B. White   
    • Piper Reed, Navy Brat (series) | Kimberly Willis Holt   
    • Swindle | Gordon Korman  

    Fantasy and Folklore Summer Reading List for Grades 3–5

    • Space Race | Sylvia Waugh   
    • The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse | Bruce Hale   
    • The Case of the Raging Rottweiler | John R. Erickson   
    • The Great Good Thing | Roderick Townley   
    • The Doll People | Ann M. Martin   
    • I, Houdini | Lynne Reid Banks   
    • Poppy | Avi   
    • Mean Margaret | Tor Seidler   
    • The Moorchild | Eloise McGraw   
    • The Secret of Platform 13 | Eva Ibbotson   
    • Abel’s Island | William Steig   
    • James and the Giant Peach | Roald Dahl   
    • The BFG | Roald Dahl   
    • The Wind in the Willows | Kenneth Grahame   
    • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | C.S. Lewis  
    • Charlotte’s Web | E.B. White   
    • The Castle in the Attic | Elizabeth Winthrop   
    • Magic Tree House (series) | Mary Pope Osborne   
    • Going Through the Gate | Janet S. Anderson   
    • The Sea Egg | L.M. Boston   
    • The Talking Parcel | Gerald Durrell   
    • Mick Harte Was Here | Barbara Park   
    • The Cricket in Times Square | George Selden   
    • The Wizard of Oz | Frank L. Baum   
    • Whittington | Alan Armstrong   
    • Under the Bridge | Ellen Kindt McKenzie   
    • Just So Stories | Rudyard Kipling   
    • The Fiddler of the Northern Lights | Natalie Kinsey-Warnock 

    Historical FictionSummer Reading List for Elementary School 

    • Linnea in Monet’s Garden | Cristina Bjork   
    • Meet Kit: An American Girl – 1934 | Valerie Tripp   
    • Love From Your Friend, Hannah | Mindy Warshaw Skolsky   
    • Sarah, Plain and Tall | Patricia MacLachlan   
    • Little House on the Prairie (series) | Laura Ingalls Wilder   
    • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes | Eleanor Coerr   Understood Betsy | Dorothy Canfield Fisher 
    • King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian | Marguerite Henry   
    • The Birchbark House | Louise Erdrich   
    • The Night Journey | Kathryn Lasky   
    • Grasshopper Summer | Ann Turner   
    • The Midwife’s Apprentice | Karen Cushman   
    • The Borning Room | Paul Fleischman   
    • Jacob Have I Loved | Katherine Paterson   
    • The Boxcar Children | Gertrude Chandler Warner   
    • Pink and Say | Patricia Polacco   
    • The Perilous Road | William O. Steele   
    • Boston Jane: An Adventure | Jennifer L. Holm   
    • Our Only May Amelia | Jennifer L. Holm  
    • Follow the Drinking Gourd | Jeanette Winter   
    • Hattie Big Sky | Kirby Larson   
    • Show Way | Jacqueline Woodson   
    • Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie | Peter and Connie Roop   
    • When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky | Lauren Stringer   
    • Beethoven Lives Upstairs | Barbara Nichol  
    • Little House on the Prairie (series) | Laura Ingalls Wilder   

    Science FictionSummer Reading for Grade School

    • I’m Out of My Body ... Please Leave a Message | Dan Greenburg   
    • Heartlight | T.A. Barron   
    • Space Garbage | Isaac Asimov   
    • The Dog That Pitched a No-Hitter | Matt Christopher   
    • The Package in Hyperspace | Janet Asimov  
    • The Computer Nut | Betsy Byars   
    • Frankenbug | Steven Cousins   
    • The Classroom at the End of the Hall | Douglas Evans   
    • My Life Among the Aliens | Gail Gauthier   
    • Nose Pickers from Outer Space | Gordon Korman   
    • The Time Warp Trio | Jon Scieszka   
    • Carrot Holes and Frisbee Trees | N.M. Bodecker   
    • Shadows in the Water | Kathryn Lasky   
    • The Sword of Aradel | Alexander Key   
    • The Moorchild | Eloise McGraw   
    • Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery | Deborah and James Howe  

    Poetryfor Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grade Summer Reading

    • Bird Watch: A Book of Poetry | Jane Yolen   
    • From Sea to Shining Sea | Amy L. Cohn   
    • Snow Toward Evening: A Year in a River Valley | Josette Frank   
    • Hand in Hand: An American History Through Poetry | Lee Bennett Hopkins   
    • Fingers are Always Bringing me News | Mary O’Neill  
    • The New Kid on the Block | Jack Prelutsky   
    • Something Big Has Been Here | Jack Prelutsky   
    • Pierre | Maurice Sendak   
    • Journey through Heartsongs (series) | Mattie J.T. Stepanek   
    • Spin a Soft Black Song | Nikki Giovanni  

    Nonfiction Summer Reading for Elementary School

    • The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle | Dan Wulffson   
    • Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (and What the Neighbors Thought) | Kathleen Krull  
    • A River Ran Wild | Lynne Cherry   
    • Look to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary | Jean Craighead George   
    • The Man Who Walked Between the Towers | Mordicai Gerstein   
    • Pink and Say | Patricia Polacco   
    • Dateline: Troy | Paul Fleischman   
    • Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? | Jean Fritz   
    • Six-Minute Nature Mysteries | Faith Brynie   
    • The Truth About Great White Sharks | Mary M. Cerullo   
    • Through My Eyes | Ruby Bridges   
    • The Story of Baseball | Lawrence S. Ritter   
    • Girls Think of Everything | Catherine Thimmesh   
    • Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for Kids Only! | The Bathroom Readers’ Institute   
    • Meet Me in St. Louis: A Trip to the 1904 World’s Fair | Robert Jackson   Just Peace: A Message of Hope | Mattie J.T. Stepanek with Jimmy Carter  

    Do you have a kid who loves to read? Reading together and discussing books is a great family activity and, by asking the right questions, you can help your child strengthen their reading comprehension.

    read more
  • 7 Ways Online Students Can Socialize Outside of the Classroom

    by Beth Werrell

    Students working on a project together


    When you think about socializing in school, you probably envision children playing at recess or working together in the classroom. While these are accurate depictions of socialization in brick-and-mortar schools, peer-to-peer interaction can occur anywhere—even outside of a traditional classroom setting.  

    Many people assume there are limited opportunities for online students to develop friendships; however, the opposite is true. These days, people often use technology to form relationships. For example, 57% of teens have made a new friend online. Though digital connection is a key component of today’s social life, there are many other ways for online students to establish and maintain relationships while attending online school. Here are seven ways online learners can establish and maintain socialization outside of school: 


    1. Join an Educational Club 

    Clubs are an opportunity for students to connect with peers who share similar interests. From pursuing their favorite activity to exploring a new hobby, extracurriculars serve as a positive outlet. Academic clubs in particular allow students who excel in a specific subject area to further explore that subject and meet like-minded individuals. For instance, if a Connections Academy® student loves science, they could join Science Sleuths. In this group, students meet virtually to have discussions centered around the scientific method and how it relates to the world around them. They also conduct experiments at home, share insights with peers, and compete in contests—building on skills learned in virtual school while making new friends.  

    In addition to a variety of online clubs to choose from, students can further grow their social circle by joining educational groups outside of school. Most communities have local programs such as 4-H and STEM clubs designed to empower youth and encourage leadership skills and teamwork. Whether in or outside of school, online learners can thrive and socialize in educational clubs. 


    2. Attend Field Trips 

    The world is a school and there is so much for students to do and see. Field trips are another great way to teach online students how to stay social while being homeschooled. Trips offer time away from virtual and traditional classrooms, and provide the perfect environment for students to learn and build relationships in a more informal atmosphere. 

    Studies show that social isolation can significantly impact kids’ mental health. That’s why it’s important that children have multiple opportunities to connect with other kids. Luckily, students at Connections Academy have the option to attend voluntary field trips where they’re exposed to historical sites, museums, and so much more! As they go on adventures alongside their peers, they are bonding with them and seeing the world. After forming an initial connection, parents can even coordinate monthly field trips to maintain social connections while students explore, learn, and have fun together. 



    An online school class on a field trip.


    3. Participate in a Learning Pod 

    Some people think homeschooling and socialization can't coexist, but learning pods may help sway doubts. Pods can be hosted by Learning Coaches during the day, or after school to keep students engaged and connected with peers and classmates. Because learning pods are designed for collaborative learning, they allow online students to work together with their classmates to stay on task. For example, if a student is struggling to understand a concept, they can easily ask their peers for help. Students can also opt to take breaks with one another, whether that is eating lunch together or having a 15-minute snack and chat time in between a LiveLesson® session.  

    Although most learning pods are hosted virtually because students don’t always live in the same location, Learning Coaches can choose to host in-person groups where students can complete assignments, work together on projects, and socialize throughout the day. Being in a pod makes it possible for students to learn in virtual school while still being connected to others. 



    Children socializing outside of online school.


    4. Volunteer in the Community  

    One of the best ways to build new friendships and strengthen existing ones is through a shared activity like volunteering. Because online learners do most of their schooling from home, finding a community organization or facility to give their time to is bound to have extensive benefits. In addition to strengthening neighborhood ties, volunteer work can help online students boost their social skills. This is particularly helpful if a student is shy. And, it’s more simple than you think to get started. Begin by asking your student what they are interested in. If they like animals, they could volunteer at the zoo, and if they like reading, they could help out at the library.  

    Since volunteer work occurs regularly, continued interactions allow students to become familiar with others and make genuine friends. Once they have momentum and build their confidence, it’ll be easier for them to branch out in online school to make even more contacts. Research also shows that donating time makes people feel more socially connected

    5. Prioritize Family Time 

    Culture and family play a key role in shaping a student’s socialization skills. And, family is a child’s first foundational social group. Parents have the responsibility of teaching children how to converse as well as how to form and maintain relationships.  

    One of the key benefits of online school is that students have increased family interaction. That means simply engaging in conversation at dinner time or spending a brain break with their Learning Coach will significantly increase their interpersonal skills. Building on the foundation of family, students learn how to communicate with others and are more comfortable with seeking out friendships.  

    Let’s take a look at how online students can do this practically. If they’re in an after-school club and notice that a peer shares the same interests as them, they could message them and ask if they’d like to plan an outing or attend the next field trip. It all starts with conversation, and family socialization makes building foundational interaction skills much easier. 


    6. Make Local Connections 

    A sense of community is incredibly beneficial for day-to-day social well-being. Therefore, getting involved in the neighborhood is a great way for students to socialize.  

    Getting involved will look different for each online learner, but one fun and engaging option is through community sports. Many neighborhoods have local sports teams to help youth stay connected. From cheerleading to soccer, online students can learn teamwork and also develop strong social bonds. Students can also find mentors through community sports teams who may help them interact more effectively with peers, furthering their social skills.  

    Another fun way to make local connections is through community events. That could be anything from participating in a 5K race to a talent show. Shared experiences like events help students build profound relationships and solidify their sense of identity and belonging. As online learners join local activities, they can find their place in the community while flourishing as social individuals. 



    Students participating in ballet to socialize outside of online school.


    7. Go to Summer Camp 

    Online students’ social life should be a priority year-round, but especially during summer break when classroom interaction is often absent. Although some students attend summer school, an ideal seasonal opportunity to socialize is summer camp. Camp can be extremely beneficial for virtual learners if they struggle to maintain friendships while out of school. 

    Top benefits of summer camp for children include socializing and friendship-building, eliminating screen time and getting exercise, making memories, and learning from positive adult role models. In camp, youth participate in group activities like read-alouds, scavenger hunts, and field day. By the end of the summer, students know what it means to work in a team, accept others, and express themselves, which is key for future communication with their peers.  

    Online students don’t need a physical classroom to have a healthy social life and build meaningful relationships. If your child is just getting started with online school, and you’re interested in learning how to socialize homeschool students or want to learn more about Connections Academy parents' perspective on online school socialization, explore our resources page. 


    read more
  • 6 Free Online Tools to Help Your Child Learn a Second Language

    by Beth Werrell

    young boy on tablet


    Learning a new language has many benefits. Multilingualism helps with cognitive function, including improved memory, concentration, and empathy. It’s even been shown to change the literal makeup of your brain: According to one study, bilingual people have more grey matter than those who speak one language.  



    Speaking more than one language also opens up opportunities for travel, future employment, and connections with different people around the world. Children who learn a second language show “accelerated progress” in learning to read and tend to score higher on standardized tests.  



    The most frequently cited advice around language learning is to start early, and for good reason. Children may pick up languages more easily than adults, perhaps because their brain plasticity is higher and language acquisition happens at a faster rate. Luckily, learning a language is more accessible than ever before. You don’t have to invest in expensive classes or pricey apps to introduce your child to a new language. Check out these free language learning websites and tools to start learning a new language today.  



    Apps, Games, and Online Language Courses  



    1. Stories by Gus on the Go  



    Languages: Spanish, French, Greek, and Hebrew 



    Cost: Free; Individual language apps at $3.99/app 



    Stories by Gus on the Go is a free learning tool created by the popular language learning for kids program, “Gus on the Go.” Each app follows playful animated characters on whimsical adventures, using short sentences to aid in learning and language comprehension. One reviewer noted that their 5- and 7-year-old children enjoy the app and that it’s helpful for building on basic Spanish vocabulary. Another reviewer says her 9-month-old daughter loves the mouse and lion story in the app, so it appears to a broad age range.  



    If your child enjoys the free Stories app, check out Gus on the Go’s paid apps, which are available in 30 different languages and include 10 interactive lessons, vocabulary reviews, and language learning games for kids. 



    2. Quizlet 



    Languages: English, French, German, Latin, and Spanish  



    Cost: Free; Quizlet Plus is $35.99/year 



    Using a classic learn-by-flashcard approach, Quizlet uses the scientifically-backed learning principles of retrieval practice, guidance fading, and pre-testing, plus AI software and user-generated content, to build a library of learning materials for free online language learning. Because it’s a more advanced learning method, Quizlet is best-suited for elementary-level students or older.  



    Quizlet is free to access on their website and through the app. The premium plan, Quizlet Plus, offers detailed explanations, downloadable flashcard sets, and an ad-free experience.  






    3. YouTube  



    Languages: Many  



    Cost: Free 



    Looking for an easy way to get started with a language lesson? YouTube is one of the best online language resources. There’s a channel or video for different languages, age groups, and specific needs, so whether you’re looking for basic Spanish or Japanese for travel, there’s a video for you. With 1.3 million subscribers, Rock ‘N Learn is one of the most popular learning channels, with content in French, Spanish, Chinese, and more.  



    4. Video Streaming Services with Subtitles  



    Languages: Spanish, and some others  



    Cost: Free (with your current streaming service) 



    Anyone who has spent time with a toddler knows that kids can get obsessive with movies and will go through phases where they watch the same film on repeat. The next time your kid wants to watch Happy Feet on Netflix again, switch the audio and subtitles to Spanish! Many children’s movies have subtitles and audio in different languages. This makes the content more accessible to different audiences, but it’s also a powerful language-learning advice, especially if your child is familiar with the dialogue in English. Netflix has mostly Spanish subtitles available for popular titles, and Disney Plus has subtitles available in up to 16 languages, with Disney legacy content in Spanish, French, and Dutch.  






    5. News in Slow 



    Languages: Spanish, French, Italian, and German 



    Cost: Free 7 Day Trial 



    Is your child a budding news enthusiast? Try News in Slow, a podcast that shares slow-paced and easy-to-follow news of the day. The podcast encourages language learning through current events and is great for intermediate language learners. After the free, 7-day trial, the cost to continue is $19/month. 



    6. Coffee Break Languages 



    Languages: French, Italian, Chinese, German, Spanish, English, and Swedish 



    Cost: Free Podcast Access 



    Coffee Break Languages builds on the power of habit by building language-learning into a daily routine. Take advantage of times when you and your language-learner can listen to something together—in the car, on a walk, during breakfast—and fit in a quick Spanish or German lesson. They also offer One Minute Languages for $12/course and a free initial sneak peek into the lesson that provides a quick intro to more than 30 different languages.   



    Online Language Courses for Kids 



    Free online resources are helpful, accessible ways to get started with a new language. If your budding bilingual student is ready for the next step, or prefers a more structured approach, Connections Academy® offers curriculum for a number of foreign languages in online school. See if there’s a school near you to continue learning new languages.  


    read more
  • Top 5 Reasons Why Psychology Curriculum Matters in High School at Connections Academy®

    by Beth Werrell

    Online Student

    Understanding and learning basic psychological principles as early as high school can have major benefits on the social and emotional development of students, and help them prepare for the real world. Not only do students learn core life skills, but they begin to understand the complex nature and evolution of human behavior. Incorporating psychology into high school curriculum also helps students develop scientific skills like how to conduct and analyze research

    Connections Academy® offers psychology classes online for high school students as part of its virtual public-school curriculum. Foundational psychology courses provide students with new knowledge of the academic discipline and help deepen their understanding of not only their behavior, but others as well.  

    Why High School Psychology Curriculum Matters

    Famous psychologist Carl Rogers said, “When I look at the world, I’m pessimistic, but when I look at people, I am optimistic.” 

    Rogers’ thought illustrates that while people’s choices or behaviors may not always be optimal, understanding how people’s minds work and what motivates them reveals the human potential for positive change. Psychology can show us how to make these changes. 

    Here are the top five reasons why psychology curriculum matters and how it can benefit students: 

    1. It helps us understand how our brains work. 
      When we have a thorough understanding of how our brains work, we can learn how to implement strategies that help us become more effective at work, at school, and in our relationships.  
    2. It helps us understand human behaviors.
      There are some surprising facts about how our brains work. Did you know it’s impossible for our brains to multitask? Or that naps can improve our overall performance? 

      People may seem to act without cause at times, but psychology can help us better grasp why people do the things they do. By studying the brain, we can learn about what motivates people and what drives their behaviors.   

      For example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological concept that illustrates human needs and what must be achieved before we can become the best version of ourselves.

    3. It’s relevant to all aspects of life.  
      Psychology has several subdisciplines that study different areas of life, including organizational psychology, behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, sports psychology, and school psychology.  

      As long as people are concerned, everything from staying motivated to achieve an academic goal to repairing a broken friendship involves psychology. The more we know about psychology, the more capable we are of better understanding the world around us.  

    4. It increases our understanding of mental health.  
      When we have a thorough understanding of what can cause poor mental health, we are better able to understand others and ourselves while cultivating more empathy. By studying behavioral and cognitive psychology, you can find the answers to important questions, such as: What causes mental illness? How can we make mental illness more manageable? And how can we support others who have a mental illness?  
    5. It helps us understand human development.  
      Understanding development allows us to see how a person’s past experiences influence their present and future. For example, if we learn about milestones in developmental psychology, we can know what new activities or behaviors to expect from our little brother, sister, or cousin as they turn a year older. We can also learn how to help them during different stages of their development.  

      You could say that learning psychology has the potential to change the world.  

    Psychology Memory Corner: Learning with Connections Academy 

    The high school psychology curriculum at Connections Academy covers a variety of psychology-related topics just like these. To provide a lesson preview, let’s look at our brain and its memory centers.  

    Your brain’s memory system includes iconic memory and echoic memory. Iconic memory helps you remember what you see throughout the day, like the graphs in your school lessons or the yellow sweater your friend wore yesterday. Echoic memory helps you remember things you hear throughout the day, such as the lyrics to your favorite song or the reminder from your parents about an upcoming trip.  

    Time also plays a role in our memories. Long-term memory allows us to remember something for the rest of our lives, while short-term memory allows us to retain information for only a brief period. For information to stay with us long-term, there are a number of memory techniques we can use, including reading out loud, using mnemonic devices, and getting adequate sleep.  

    Knowing this information about memory, how do you think it plays a role in your daily life? How might you use this information to help you learn and remember?  

    Connections Academy High School Psychology Curriculum

    Designed by experts in online learning, Connections Academy high school psychology curriculum inspires curiosity and helps students become resilient learners, capable of thriving in a changing world.  

    Check out our K-12 Curriculum page to learn more about Connections Academy and our online public-school curriculum.  

    read more
  • How to Write a Great Essay

    by Beth Werrell

    A young girl typing on her laptop

    Whether it’s pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard—writing essays can be overwhelming! Where do we start? How do we organize our ideas to frame a cohesive argument or viewpoint? 

    How to Write a Great Essay 

    1. Check out our Super Simple Sandwich Outline for a video and essay outline made by our very own Connections Academy teacher to get started with your essay.  
    2. Now that you have your essay outline, it’s time to practice essay mastery. Watch this video below to teach your child basic concepts of what to include in every paragraph of their essay – from introduction paragraphs, body paragraphs, to those pesky conclusion paragraphs! 
    3. Keep practicing. The more your student writes essays using these essay tips, the soon they will be a master essayist in no time. 

    Essay Writing Tips: Hot, Buttered, Toast and Teas 

    This lesson titled Organizing Paragraphs provides essay writing tips to help you master your essay flow, organize your paragraphs, and helps to make sure all of your arguments and viewpoints are covered. 

    Watch the full online lesson on Youtube 

    Helping your student to master writing today will have long-lasting benefits in the future. In a recent study, “Writing is important because it’s used extensively in higher education and in the workplace. If students don’t know how to express themselves in writing, they won’t be able to communicate well with professors, employers, peers, or just about anyone else.” 

    Mastery of essay writing is a critical skill to master in English Language Arts class, and is a part of the Connections Academy virtual school curriculum. If your student, whether enrolled with us or in another school format, is struggling with English, check out these study tips that make tough subjects easier to learn.  

    read more
  • How to Design a Robot for Teens

    by Beth Werrell

    A middle school girl is starting to build a robot


    From kindergarten to high school, educators are incorporating STEAM lessons into their coursework. STEAM is where science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics come together, with STEAM lessons helping students develop the skills they need for the jobs of the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that STEAM jobs will grow by 8 percent over the next 10 years. 

    At Connections Academy, we weave STEAM activities and principles into our online school curriculum, sparking curiosity and helping students build problem-solving skills. Check out these reasons to encourage STEAM activities for your student.  


    How to Build a Robot

    If you’re looking for a fun STEAM activity to add to your online student’s school day, check out this step-by-step video developed by a Connections Academy teacher on how to build a robot in 3D using a free web app. Watch your student use design and engineering principals to build their 3D robot from scratch. 


    Watch the full lesson taught by one of our Connections Academy teachers on how to design a robot, and get tips on taking your designs to a 3D printer to help the robot come to life (literally!) 


    STEAM Activities for Teens

    Whether you have a middle schooler or a high schooler, making STEAM projects fun for teens can sometimes be a challenge. Supplement your homeschool STEAM projects with other fun STEAM activities from our Resource Hub.  

    If your teen is enrolled in virtual school or a traditional brick-and-mortar school, mix up their daily schedule with other STEM activities like how to create crystals with common ingredients or how to build a Rube Goldberg machine. Who says that STEAM fun must stop after you’ve built a robot? 

    read more


Ready to learn about the tuition-free, accredited, online public school options in your area? Complete the form below to receive your free online school eGuide today.

Send Me Information