8 Ways to Catch Up in Online School When You’re Starting Late

5 min to read
A young boy in a blut shirt is working on a laptop with his mom learning coach guiding him through an online class for Connections Academy.

Although starting a virtual online school at the beginning of the semester is ideal, there are various reasons why some families may have to get a late start. Perhaps parents needed more time to enroll, or maybe the student needed to transfer schools due to a lack of accommodation. No matter the reason for a delayed start, getting up to speed with the rest of the class often requires some patience and dedication. Fortunately, a high-quality virtual school can offer family support and practical suggestions for how to catch up in high school, middle school, and elementary school classes so the student can overcome this temporary setback and succeed.

1. Prepare for a Catch-up Period

Being behind their peers can cause anxiety for kids and adults alike, so have a discussion about the situation before students begin their new classes. Work together to create your family plan for adjusting to starting a new virtual online school, especially if this is their first time in a full-time online learning environment. Help the student understand that there might be more work than usual during the first couple weeks, but that it will be temporary as they get caught up to the rest of their class. It may be helpful to create a daily schedule or weekly calendar and help them visualize the increased demand and how (and when!) they will eventually return to a more typical pace. During the school day, encourage the student to take breaks regularly to eat, exercise, or relax. Remember, everyone needs time for fun, so also consider planning family outings to celebrate their progress along the way.

2. Talk to the Teacher

A child’s online school teacher (or teachers) can be the best resource to help them succeed in school. If parents would like to introduce themselves to their student’s teacher, they can send an email or schedule an appointment to chat in a video call or talk on the phone. The teacher can help caregivers and Learning Coaches understand which learning activities students need to complete and their new due dates as well as help with  supplemental lessons to be used as reinforcement if the student has not yet grasped the concept.

It may also be possible to extend deadlines for projects, assignments, or tests if your child is behind. Work with the teacher to set up a reasonable schedule for catching up; however, keep in mind that policies for this type of scheduling can vary by school. Families might be able to work on weekends or during school holidays. Some schools even allow students to skip over material they’ve learned previously. An online private school like Pearson Online Academy may offer an even higher level of flexibility through summer school courses or other course recovery options. Whatever catch-up schedule you may establish, be sure to stay in touch with the teachers and contact them for help when needed.

Image of a young student in a pink sweater taking an online class with her learning coach dad who is wearing a grey sweater.

3. Make Time for Orientation

When new students are to get started, they may be tempted to skip school orientation. However, an online school’s orientation materials can provide a good general overview of expectations and responsibilities, as well as instruction for how to navigate the online system and where to find resources. Learning this information up front will save time in the long run. 

4. Delay the Extras

While having a wide range of courses to choose from is an advantage of high-quality virtual schools, it’s a good idea to wait until catching up before adding any extracurriculars to the child’s schedule. Clubs and Activities can be an incentive to stick with the schedule and get back on track.

5. Learn to Access and use the Computer Tools

When starting a virtual online school, it’s essential to have easy access to the internet through a reliable high-speed connection. Check to see if the computer’s hardware, software, and any other necessary devices meet the school’s system requirements. The general orientation can help familiarize you with the education system they use, or there may be separate training sessions. Parents and students should consider taking notes and downloading any “cheat sheets” the school provides to help families learn the system and ensure a smooth school transfer.

6. Use Available Resources

At Connections Academy®--supported schools, most instruction in the virtual classroom is recorded and available for students to watch (or rewatch) at any time. Teachers sometimes also schedule real-time review sessions or “office hours” when families can call or meet with them in the virtual classroom. Some teachers also provide individual or small-group sessions in the virtual classroom for students who need extra support or guidance on how to catch up in school. Virtual schools usually provide educational tools for skills practice and online research resources. Learning Coaches can also ask teachers to provide study guides and grading rubrics.

Image of a young student in a white shirt looking at a laptop while taking some pointers from her mom.

7. Get Organized

Organization and advance planning are the most important tools for anyone beginning virtual school—but particularly those who start late. A home classroom should have books, learning materials, and school supplies easily within reach. Learning Coaches may also want to have drawers or bins for filing documents, schoolwork, and tests for their student.

8. Reach Out to Other virtual School Families

Online school newbies can learn a lot from families experienced with online school. If the new online school offers in-person field trips or other events, try to attend and make these valuable connections. Or ask about online ways for parents to connect. Whether caregivers and Learning Coaches need practical tips, encouragement, or just a listening ear, an experienced online school family can help.

As families focus on helping their student get back on track in their schoolwork, keep in mind that every family experiences a period of adjustment while starting a virtual online school. It’s perfectly normal to have questions or to feel a bit overwhelmed when first transferring schools. But with the advice here and by reaching out for help when needed, the rewards of a personalized, online education from home are just around the corner.  

To learn how you can be more involved in your student’s education,  download our free eGuide or to learn about online private school, visit Pearson Online Academy ’s website.

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