6 Helpful Tips to Get Started with Online Schooling

6 min to read
6 Helpful Tips to Get Started with Online Schooling

When parents enroll a child in virtual school, the decision to educate at home is only the first (and often the easiest) step! While most parents easily adapt to online learning in time, it can certainly be an overwhelming transition in the beginning.

Fortunately, there are six simple steps families can take now to overcome these early challenges and make a successful start in virtual school. Check out the suggestions below for how to get started with online schooling the right way and set your student up for success. 

Step 1: Attend Provided Orientation Programs

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

In addition, to help new Learning Coaches start online school on the right foot, some school locations may invite them to attend in-person orientation events. Whether seminar style or more of a meeting format, these events can benefit families that want to gain a better understanding of how to guide their child's learning and meet other families in their same district.

Step 2: Organize and Optimize Your Student’s Learning Space

To prepare your student for a fun and successful school year ahead, make sure their “classroom” is organized and optimized for learning. Your student’s home classroomhome classroom should be tidy and clean but also converted into a space where they feel comfortable, inspired, and motivated to work. This is an especially important step for how to start online schooling for high school, since high school-age students exist in a critical time of development for deciding “who they are and want to be”—and their space can be a big part of that vision. 

Taking the extra step of adding new organizational tools or furniture can help transform a space into a new and improved learning environment. Assemble-it-yourself furniture is a great, affordable way to furnish the at-home learning environment. But if that's not in your budget, try a yard sale! A battered bookshelf bought at a yard sale can become a perfect storage area for school supplies in just an afternoon with a can of spray paint in a pretty color. 

You can add a youthful dash of fun by repurposing unexpected materials into storage bins—such as cookie jars or bright, shiny buckets labeled with the name (or a picture, for younger students) of the bin's contents. Colorful "milk crates" can be stacked or placed on shelves, then stocked with color-coded file folders where you and your student can sort learning materials by subject—whatever allows your student to customize their space and feel at ease, inspired, and ready to learn!

Step 3: Ensure Computer and Technology Needs are Met

To ensure that you and your child are ready to learn—without technical difficulties—look up your online school's system requirements. You will want to download the latest software updates, particularly the Internet browser you will be using for school. If your Internet connection is slow or unreliable, you may want to consider upgrading your service or shopping around for a better service provider. Anything you can do to avoid delays and frustration while your child does schoolwork will help him or her benefit more fully from the program.

Step 4: Seek out Socialization Opportunities

In some states, virtual schools may also host in-person back-to-school events, such as picnics, pizza parties, field trips, and other social gatherings. School events often include opportunities to chat with teachers, administrators, and other staff. This will let you get answers to any questions you still have about the school and how it works. Attending events is also a great way to meet other school families! Your children will enjoy getting to know their classmates face-to-face for fun and socialization, and you can benefit from having a supportive network of other Learning Coaches who are ready to compare notes and share their ideas.

With online schools starting, now is also a great opportunity to consider other socialization opportunities that your child may benefit from throughout the school year. For example, consider gauging interest and signing them up for a sports program where they can reap the benefits of an ongoing in-person social activity throughout the school year. 

Step 5: Plan out the Ideal School Day Schedule

Another great way to set your child up for success when thinking about how to get started with online schooling is to brainstorm the ideal structure of their learning day. A virtual school schedule can be much more flexible than the "bell schedule" at a brick-and-mortar school! Consider your child's natural inclination for sleep as well as when he or she is most alert. What kind of family or extracurricular activities and socialization do you have planned? And be sure to ask your child for input on making the schedule so they will be more inclined to be agreeable.

It's important to read your school's student handbook, to ensure that you are meeting the state requirements for hours of attendance. You will also want to talk to your child's teacher early in the school year about what kind of schoolwork and online classroom sessions need to be completed at specific times, and which ones are more adjustable. Additionally, if the schedule you plan isn’t working, change it—and don’t be afraid to ask other virtual school families for advice!

Step 6: Explore all Available School Resources

Take time to discover the information and support that your child's virtual school provides for newly enrolled families. At Connections Academy, the list is extensive! Families can find all kinds of helpful tips for new Learning Coaches on the Prepare for Success website, on the school’s Pinterest boards, and through live online Parent-to-Parent Orientation sessions. During the school year, your child's teacher will also connect you with subject-specific resources to support your child's learning. Don't forget the most important resources of all—teachers and other parents who can offer specific resources, tried-and-true advice, and encouragement! You can be sure that this supportive community of online learners will always "have your back" and be able to help you make your way from being an anxious beginner to being an online school expert!

Want more tips for success in how to start online school? Download our Getting Started in Online School Checklist

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