If you’re like most virtual school parents, you are probably eager to discover new ways to improve the learning experience for your student. While blogs and Pinterest(opens in a new tab) boards are certainly great places to search for educational ideas, don’t overlook what can be your very best resource: your child’s teacher!
Just like a traditional schoolteacher, your child’s online teacher can be a wonderful advisor with keen insights into how children learn best. As they work with children each day, they develop new ideas and fresh approaches to learning that help ensure academic success.
In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked online teachers across the country to tell us the most important things families need to know about virtual school. We hope their insights and tips will inspire you and help fuel your family’s success with online learning!
Stick to it!
Teachers tell us that the first few months of online learning can be challenging for families. “Hang in there” and maintain regular contact with your child’s teacher. As you become accustomed to the technology and establish a routine, it will get easier and you’ll begin to reap the rewards of educating your child at home.
Know your computer.
Parents who serve as their child’s Learning Coach need basic computer and software skills. Take time to complete your virtual school’s orientation and to explore the school’s education management system. It’s important to know how to access and use your school’s online resources, including the curriculum, virtual classroom, grade book, and communications.
Get directly involved.
Virtual school is not a self-study program for children! Parents need to be engaged in their child’s learning on a daily basis. For younger students, the parent or Learning Coach will need to be hands-on for much of the day. Middle and high school students will require less direct involvement, but still need supervision, support, encouragement, and assistance with time management.
Expect challenging schoolwork.
A high-quality online school will offer a curriculum that is just as rigorous as that of any bricks-and-mortar school. Your student should be prepared to work hard and to be held accountable for the quality of his or her schoolwork. Learning self-motivation is key for student success.
Your student is the focus.
With online learning, teachers often have greater freedom to personalize the program to fit the individual. They can tweak lessons or projects to provide additional study on a difficult concept, direct a child to online resources for practicing skills, or add challenge to inspire the advanced student. They also provide regular feedback and personal attention when needed.
Ask your teacher!
Online teachers have to meet the same professional and educational qualifications as teachers in traditional schools. They know their subject matter and how to teach in any setting, so when your child has a question or problem, contacting the teacher is the best way to resolve it. The parent may initiate a call or email to the teacher for elementary school students. In middle and high school, students can reach out by themselves—and develop social and communication skills as they learn.
Don’t overdose on flexibility.
While having a more flexible schedule is one of the wonderful qualities of virtual school, that shouldn’t necessarily mean doing “whatever you want, whenever you want.” Children do need structure, and it’s the Learning Coach’s job to provide that framework. Your student will also have deadlines that must be met and may need reminders and assistance with planning long-term projects.
Set a good pace.
With virtual school, students can advance through their lessons at a pace that works for them. Instead of waiting for classmates to catch up, an advanced student can proceed to the next lesson once he or she has mastered the material. For more challenging subjects, students can take extra time to absorb new information, if needed. Parents do need to make sure their child is on track for deadlines and for completing the semester on time. Teachers strongly recommend working ahead so your student has a “cushion” built into the schedule.
Join the community.
To ensure your student develops socially as well as academically, it’s important to take advantage of the field trips, parties, and other special events offered by your virtual school. Your child can also exercise his or her social skills by joining online clubs and activities. These opportunities can also help students and their families connect with the school’s supportive learning community.
Be prepared to spend more time with your child! Doing virtual school together works well for a family-centered lifestyle. With a more flexible schedule, you can arrange the school day to accommodate family time, community- or faith-based events, and other activities that your family values. Sharing these activities and working as a virtual school team can strengthen the family bonds you cherish.
We hope that these teacher-tested tips will help you make the most of online education—and your relationship with your child’s teacher. Many students and families tell us that the strong connections with teachers are among the most rewarding aspects of virtual school. So, as the spring semester winds down and in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, be sure to reach out and thank your teachers for their hard work throughout the school year!