How Parents of Online Students Should Prep for School Success
Starting out the school year in an organized and well-planned way can have a big impact on school success. Parent and Learning Coach Emerald Zeitz, whose daughter is excelling at Colorado Preparatory Academy, shares these tips for other parents:
Create Organized Work Spaces
While online learning does not have to occur just in one particular room or area of your home, having an organized work area that takes into consideration how you teach and learn is important. Make sure you have all daily needed supplies handy and seating arrangements which follow the flow of how you teach and how your student learns (online and desk space). Keeping clutter to a minimum and filing away things as needed is very helpful. Make this your normal/targeted working area with the understanding that at times you may change it up and go read that book or lesson on the couch or in the car if necessary.
Keep Consistent Schedules
Consistency in schedules and expectations is important. Try for the “same-ish” type of format from day to day. While lessons and subjects will change, your approach to what time you start your day of schooling and your expectations towards your student should try to remain as constant as possible. This gives both the Learning Coach and student known entities to work from and there is no need to reinvent the wheel every day even with the different class and school requirements.
Keep Consistency Beyond the “Classroom”
Establish a morning routine (i.e., wake-up time, school start time) as well as a night time routine (i.e., bedtime). We start two weeks before school starts to ensure that by first day of school, the new schedule has been assimilated. Make sure that students are getting enough sleep and getting up at the agreed upon time and, by the first day, you’re on track for a year of school success.
Serve a Healthy Breakfast
A protein-rich breakfast combined with healthy fats are integral to helping you and your student teach and learn. Brains need healthy food to grow and proper nutrition will make a difference.
Involve Your Student in the Planning Process
When planning all of the above, try to engage the student in making decisions. Being a part of the planning helps them feel involved, invested, and excited about their learning and also helps them start to see it as something that they can help shape.
It is amazing how fast time flies, especially when you have lessons, e-mails, and homework to get through. Use timers to help you keep track of time. Once you assign a certain amount of time to a task and the timer has run out, consider if you need more time or if this one task should wait until later. Often, we all get distracted by a task and end up forgetting to really prioritize our activities. Do you really need to answer that e-mail right now, or can it wait until math is done? Timers help you to prioritize and stay on schedule. They can also help you anticipate how long a task might take in the coming days once you get your groove going.
Take Brain Breaks and Have Snacks
Make sure the parent/Learning Coach and student both get a brain break every so often and a HEALTHY snack (no junk, please). Some days you may find you each need more or less of both.
Be Flexible, but Stable
While it’s great to be able to move your schedule as needed, use that option sparingly. Try to set up your days so that you have set aside times for appointments, chores, and shopping during certain hours or days of the week. If you have the occasional doctor or specialist who can only get you in during your school schedule, then you can use the flexibility of the online learning schedule to get in to see them.
Work First, Play Later
Teach your student good habits by getting work done first, and then reward them with play later. This also applies to vacation or days off; don’t take them until you are well ahead and have the flow down. A teacher work day or school closure day does not necessarily equate to a student day off. It is best to prepare for the days of necessity because some days you may need a day or week that you weren’t expecting to take off and if you are already behind it can be very hard to come back from.
Don’t Slack Off
In some ways, online learning is more rigorous than traditional brick-and-mortar learning in that parents and students have to stay more organized on their own without the constant contact from staff. Although a day in the life of an online student can vary for each student, it requires time and effort. Work hard and you will see the rewards.
Keep Up on E-mails and Communications
It will be much easier to know what is going on with your courses if you keep up with communications from the staff and teachers who are there to help you. Getting behind or not answering emails is not only disrespectful but can also make you miss valuable information that is meant to help you (the parent) and your student with a lesson, assignment, or course. This also applies to staff e-mails. Make it a habit to check these at least three to four times per day and no less than twice a day.
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Emerald Zeitz is a mom and Learning Coach for her daughter, who is starting her third year at Colorado Preparatory Academy (CPA) as a sixth grader. Zeitz has been involved in CPA's SAC committee for two years and enjoys being a part of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families Day at the Capitol Rallies. She is a program manager by trade. She lives in Aurora, Colorado, with her husband and daughter.