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Back to School: Advice from Parents in Online Schools

If you are like me, when you have a question or need advice about life, you reach out to your family or group of friends in hopes that one of them has been there, done that.

At the beginning of every school year, if not for the entire school year, I am constantly calling, emailing, or using whatever method of communication I can get my hands on to get advice and information from fellow parents about what I am supposed to do.

What forms do I need to fill out and where do I send them?

What is my daughter supposed to bring with her next week?

What site do I need to log into to see my son’s progress?

9 out of 10 times, someone I know has the answer, and I am feeling back on track and back in the running for parent of the year!

Needing advice, looking for guidance and seeking out support throughout a school year is no different for online school parents. The challenge for them, however, is there just aren’t a lot of parents who have heard of, let alone understand, online education. So, what’s a parent to do?

Throughout the Back to School season, we will be asking all sorts of questions on our Facebook page, giving our seasoned K12 parents and learning coaches an opportunity to share their years of collective wisdom, advice and experience to help newer families get off to a strong start.

Our first question of the season was: What do you wish you would have known about the first few weeks of starting an online school?

We have received almost 300 responses so far! That’s a lot of advice to go through for busy parents, so we read through them and pulled out a few of the tips that have been shared over and over again.

Relax, Don’t Stress

Learning how to make it all work will take time and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and stressed, especially during the first few weeks of school. You won’t get it all right away and that is A-OK.

Make sure you decide on a reasonable ending point for your school day – 3pm or 3:30 or whatever time that helps you get your required number of hours for the day done.

When that time rolls around, as long as you completed math/language arts and you reached out for help, call it a day.

Start the next day fresh. If you’re letting school go until supper time and you started at 8am, you’re going to have more bad days than good and you’ll never really start fresh.

Relax! Don’t stress about getting it all “right” the first week…it will come together in due time. Amy

Don’t freak out if your child can’t pass or even attempt the assessments at the end of lessons after the first day of teaching the material. Save the assessment until the next day/ block day, spend a few minutes reviewing, and THEN take the test.” Shelley

Don’t think you have to do everything. Double up on some days and take a day off to have some fun time. Michelle

It is OK to skip the optional lessons, or something your child has already mastered. I was so worried about doing everything that my daughter and I were both overwhelmed!”-Michelle and Steve

It might seem like a lot more work for us parents than the kids at first, but trust me, after a month or so you will be so into the swing of things that it will only take minutes to do what it used to take you a few hrs. Simone

Relax! I remember feeling that I had to finish everything on our OLS for the day, every day. You are expected to be on track as far as progress, but you have time to catch up on holidays and breaks.-Tracy

The first week is full of trying to understand the program, and finding routines. Take it easy, remembering to breath and smile. You WILL find your way.-Tricia

Get Organized

Create a learning space that works for you and your family.  Ideally if you have the space, this should be a permanent area that is quiet, promotes learning, and is free of unnecessary distractions. A well-organized learning space will be very important as you progress through the school year.

Spend a couple of days (and a trip to the dollar store for inexpensive storage containers and supplies) and sort, bind, & label every item. Keeping all materials together in a central (easy to access) area will save you time and money. -Deena

I bought my daughter one of those big desk calendars and my daughter wrote down the dates that assignments were due and when she had onboarding etc. It helped her to stay organized and more importantly, it kept her from feeling overwhelmed.”-Christina

With multiple kids and tons of materials, I let each kid decorate their consumable workbooks with fun stickers, then cover them with clear shelf paper, then put a strip of fun colored duct tape along the spine to differentiate each kids’ books. -Patrice

Plan and Schedule Your Day

A tried and true way to reduce stress is through planning. By planning out your day, you can accomplish more and be sure you are spending your time on the most important tasks of the day.

Take your time and find “your” family’s routine. Don’t feel that you have to be doing school at 8am because that’s what time other kids start. If your family sleeps late, then start later. If your family rises early, then start early. Maybe your kid prefers to do all their Math in two days rather than a little every day. Do what works for you as long as they are learning.”-Kristen

Make a time schedule that works best for you and the student.-Melinda

Log into the OLS with plenty of time to get familiar with things and pick up and self-supplied materials you will need. Be in the habit of always being 1-2 weeks ahead in your planning.-Tanya

You can do school all 7 days of the week. It’s all up to you. Elaina

One day we will do a few lessons on art, then the next History, and so on. That way when you have all of your supplies out, you get a few lessons done at once.”-Mary Jo

Print out the weekly plan and make sure all that gets done in the week. Now we print off the weeks work and highlight as it gets done. Sometimes your kids are just into a subject and you accomplish more doing a few lessons of that subject in one day.”-Melissa

I have 4 kids in the program. My oldest is in high school so she pretty much does her own thing, but my younger three are in different grades as well. We do 1-2 subjects a day instead of all 5 or 6. It is a lot easier if they are all doing history at the same time even if it is at different levels.-Deb

Make a schedule from the start! As soon as you know what the classes are start planning a schedule and stick to it. Make sure you do the most troubled subjects first and get them out of the way.”-Anne

Get Support!

You do not have to do this alone. In addition to the larger K12 community, you will be developing relationships with your child’s teachers, school administrators, and local families. Don’t hesitate to ask for help no matter how small or big the question may seem.

After a few Monday morning kickoffs with the home room teacher, we fell into an almost effortless routine-Heather

Find a Facebook group for your city/state. That way you can get info from locals and get together. Also, check out the parent network for workshops.-Brett

Communicating with our homeroom teacher has been really important. Asking questions and staying calm…realizing there’s a learning curve for learning coaches.-Jennifer

Connecting with other K12 parents made things seem easier. Get in touch with other K12‘ers, not just for the kids but for you too.-Amber

At the end of the day, learning something new rarely happens without some initial ramp up time.  Remember to give yourself a break as you are learning how to make it all work for your family.

Rosa, one of our Facebook fans, said it best:

Every family is different and within each family, every student will differ as well. Take some time to develop your family’s learning style.

To read through all the comments, visit our K12 Facebook page!

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Stephanie Hoaglund

Since graduating college, I have been involved in the Internet and/or Social Media. I guess you can call me an early adopter. I share information and connect with families and help create and participate in an online community focused on educating our future generations. My role combines my passion for social media, education and helping parents and families. Being a parent myself, I get to be a part of and witness first-hand how our current generation is growing up in a world where social media and technology is the norm.

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