Online Schooling for Beginners: 7 Tips from Experienced Parents

6 min to read
An online school Learning Coach with headphones on

Education in today’s world is filled with challenges and changes. Families that have decided to permanently switch from a traditional, brick-and-mortar school to a real learning academy online can find that there’s a bit of a learning curve at first. Often, the person with the most to learn about online learning is the parent. Like a homeschool environment, the Connections Academy® virtual experience prioritizes parent involvement and parents often provide the support their child needs to learn at their highest potential. While the transition period for school at home for beginners may take a few weeks, successful Connection Academy families tell us the rewards make it worth the effort.  

What Is the Parent’s Role in Online School?

With K–12 online schooling at Connections Academy, a parent or other trusted adult takes on the role of Learning Coach—the person who guides an online school student during their at-home learning. Typically, a Learning Coach helps structure the school day, communicates with the student’s teachers, provides support and encouragement, and makes sure the student stays on track to complete assignments. It’s not much more than any involved parent does.

Below, parents and Learning Coaches at Connections Academy schools talk about some of the realities, best practices, and benefits of homeschooling your child online. 

Learning Coaches Give Online School Tips for Parents

1. Start with a Positive Attitude.

“Connections Academy has completely transformed my child’s feelings about learning,” said Johanna G., a Learning Coach at Florida Connections Academy. “Now he gets excited to learn!”

“One thing that surprised me about online school was how much fun it can be,” said Heather H., whose children attend Texas Connections Academy @ Houston. “You actually get to go on field trips and meet other students just like you.” 

“I’m surprised how involved the teachers are in each student’s performance!” said Nicole S., a Learning Coach at Reach Cyber Charter School, a Connections Academy affiliate in Pennsylvania. “They have gone far past my expectations and changed my whole view on schooling!” 

2. Expect a School Program that Fits Your Child’s Needs.

“My son has autism and had trouble previously participating in classroom discussions,” said Glenna J., whose son attends Washington Connections Academy. “It was wonderful to hear from several teachers that they highly value his participation in LiveLesson® class discussions!” 

“Our prior school included us in IEP meetings and sent home progress reports, but FCA [Florida Connections Academy] has truly made me feel like part of the team,” Erin McCoy said. Her 8-year-old son has had an IEP for over five years, “but because they have listened to my questions/concerns and acted on them,” she explained, “he is finally receiving additional (much needed) services, and more evaluations are still in progress. As a result, he has made so much progress this year it’s remarkable.”

“There were some personal hardships that made us enroll, and I’ve found that it has been an excellent fit and choice for her health and social concerns, all while keeping her on track with her education,” said Melanie B. of her daughter’s experience at Utah Connections Academy. 

3. Get Involved in Your Child’s Online Learning.

"I have a second-grader and a third-grader. They both learn differently,” said BreeAnn Anderson, whose children attend Reach Cyber Charter School. “So, I found out how they learn and how I can help them the most effective way possible. Also, if they are struggling understanding a concept, I can spend more time with them on that subject and not just push them on ahead. Both my kids love different subjects. I see them learning to problem-solve and think outside the box.”  

“Listening to your student’s preferences is a great way to start,” Learning Coach Susan W. told  the parent group, Club Connections. “Perhaps they feel they would work better after lunch. Try it for a week or so, letting them know that if they don’t do well with it, you’ll go back to a morning schedule. People’s energy levels peak at various times during the day and night, and the freedom to take advantage of those higher energy levels is one of the greatest benefits of remote schooling.”

A parent taking part in his student’s education by helping with a science project.

4. Keep a Daily Schedule.

“For my family, a daily schedule was a basic framework to our day, but that framework was also flexible enough to allow us to adapt, depending on what each day’s tasks looked like,” Jane K. said. “I also allowed my boys to offer input into what their daily schedule looked like. This helped them take ownership of their learning. It also taught them organization, time-management, and self-motivation.” 

“The best is to set a schedule and stick with it, but also incorporate breaks and time outside,” according to Heidi A. “Fresh air is wonderful for kids and helps keep them stay calm and relaxed. As important as this is, knowing when your kids have had enough is even more important. If homeschooling for the first time, it can be very new and frustrating for kids. Keep your cool, and if they begin to get frustrated, take a break.” 

5. Stay Organized.

“We make our schedule for the entire week on Sunday evenings. We call it our weekly download session!” Jessica W. said. “We use a physical planner that each child picks out, and together we put everything in it, from assignments to lessons, chores, breaks, and lunch. Having a set schedule makes a huge difference in productivity for kids.”  

“Get up at a consistent time each day, set an alarm to remind you of LiveLesson® sessions, and use timers to help kids see how long their lessons are taking and keep them on task,” Melanie L. said. “Talk to older students about their goals for the day and let them have a voice in the schedule for the day and how to accomplish those goals.”   

6. Stay Connected to Teachers and the Virtual School Community.

“I’m very pleased how engaging and interactive this school is,” said Cristi E., a Learning Coach for a child in Arkansas Connections Academy. “Teachers and school staff are very responsive and present!”  

“You can book the teachers for a one-on-one if you have questions or if you are having trouble understanding what is being taught,” BreeAnn Anderson said. “The teachers are positive and supportive. They have a desire for your student to succeed. They care. They are on your side, not against you. They are your allies.”   

“What surprised me the most was how much of a community there actually is,” said Tiffany K., a Learning Coach with kids at Texas Connections Academy @ Houston. “I have found a nice group of friends who are amazing. What a wonderful experience.” 

A parent and her online student stay connected with her virtual school teachers.

7. Enjoy the Rewards of Online Homeschooling.

"Online school gave my students the freedom to do the lessons in what order they want and to focus more on lessons they don’t understand,” said Tasha H. a Learning Coach for kids in South Carolina Connections Academy. “I didn’t realize the freedom of choice that my children would have daily.” 

“My children both came from a very small [school] district, and in that district, there were not a lot of opportunities class-wise, due to the size of the school/amount of the students,” said Brandi Cooper, whose children attend Reach Cyber Charter School. At Reach, “My eleventh-grader was able to take classes like 2D Animation, 3D Computer Modeling, and Driver’s Ed. My seventh-grade son was able to take a class called CS Discoveries, where he learned to do coding. These are classes they would not have been able to take without attending Connections Academy/Reach Cyber.”  

“The best benefit has been the time with my daughter,” said Michelle Green, whose daughter is a student at South Carolina Connections Academy. “She is the youngest of five girls. The other four are all adults now. And recapturing that eight hours every day that she spent under the care of others is absolutely fabulous!” 

Find Your Child’s Path at a Real Learning Academy

The Connections Academy learning experience is designed to help students—and their families—define student success for themselves in and out of the classroom. While there is no perfect path to success in online schooling, with some time, effort, and good advice, you can find what works best for you and your homeschooled student. 

To learn more about how you can improve your student’s virtual school experience, check out our video on making online learning work for your family.  

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