How to Prepare for Your First Year at Cyber School
How do you prepare for online school? This is a serious question because when I went to school, I attended a brick and mortar. Parents know when their children go there, they’ll need crayons, pencils, and notebooks because these are tangible items students need to learn. Then, the students go to school and the rest is up to the teacher. But for an online school, what do you need to do to get ready? Maybe you’re thinking, “We received our computer and materials from the school so maybe that is all that needs to be done.” No, you need to do a little bit more to have a successful, enriching, and positive year with your student and for your student. If your child is starting cyber school for the first time, we have some tips on how you can prepare for a successful first school year.
Just like with everything in life, you have to manage your time wisely. So when sitting down to design your day, you want to make sure that you are getting what you want most from the day. The best way to start is to make a list of important things that you want you and your student to get from this experience, apart from getting a quality education because that is a given. You picked this model because you want to optimize your child’s time, and they will have time to explore extras. Let’s begin by looking at some items that parents have mentioned that are important to them.
Some parents want to make sure that they have time to talk and connect with their students throughout the day. If this is something you believe will help your student, then eating meals together is definitely the way to go. This is great because you both can get ready in the morning and have breakfast together. What an amazing way to start the day and have them ready to begin learning. During the day, you can have lunch prepared and eat outside together if weather permits.
You don’t want your student too overwhelmed in the evening with gobs of homework. In between synchronous classes, they have the opportunity to work on their assignments. The great part about this is that the teacher is available if the student has questions, so there’s no need to wait until the next day. This is a great way to build on the students' understanding because they will be engaged in learning.
Making a list of your priorities will help you to set up a schedule for your child so that work gets completed and they do not fall behind. It is important to establish a routine from the beginning so that the student will thrive throughout the day. I suggest writing down what time the student wakes up and then have them get dressed for the day. If you do not start with this, your student might get used to wearing pajamas and eating breakfast half asleep, and that isn’t an ideal way to start the school day. Students who wake up at the same time and get dressed for the day will be more alert and ready to learn.
Set Up Learning Space
After you decide what your day is going to look like, then you can decide what the learning space will look like. For students to be successful in this model, it’s important to have a dedicated workspace. The student needs a place that they know means it is school time. Look around your house and see where there are the least amount of potential distractions. For example, you do not want your student in a room that has the television on because that is an unnecessary distraction. With that being said, you don’t want a space that has nonstop traffic or for them to be going to school while on their bed. Believe it or not, some Learning Coaches have done all of these things with their students, which makes it difficult for the students to focus.
You know your house best of all. Sometimes there are not many options so you need to look around to see what works best for you. Not everyone has an extra room that they can turn into a learning space, but wouldn’t that be nice? If your child’s bedroom is where you have chosen, then make it a dedicated learning space. Your student will need a desk or table to set up their computer and items they will need daily for school. You will need a place to put the journals they use daily, as well as items that they are sent to do hands-on activities. It’s important for students to easily locate their materials so they can be engaged in lessons. Do not let your child have their toys and games at their desk as they will be a distraction.
If you do not choose the bedroom for the learning space, a corner of the family room could also work. I have seen families use part of their dining room table with crates that they have there daily. This allows the student to have all of their materials during the school day, but it is also easy to clean up the space to have dinner.
If possible, have a place where they can hang items for school. I have a student who has a calendar that they put pieces in to help with the date. You want your child’s learning space to help them learn and make them excited about learning. Remember that as a Learning Coach, you need to be available to the student throughout the day. Kindergarten Learning Coaches usually sit right next to the student so that they can keep the student on track while the teacher is teaching them.
For more tips on how to set up your child's learning space, check out this blog post.
Become part of the community. At PA Virtual, the Parent Ambassador Program offers weekly parent learning sessions where you can meet other families and receive tips and support from other parents in the online learning community. If you want to get more involved, this is a great group of parents that will let you know how to do so. There is also a Parent Mentor program that pairs new parents with an experienced Learning Coach. These are great ways to find out what other families are doing to be successful in online learning.
There are also online clubs that the students can be involved in virtually. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand your students' interests. There are a variety of clubs that your student can join. Also, if your child has an interest and you don’t see a club for it, you can brainstorm with others and it is possible to start a new club. Here at PA Virtual, we never want to limit your possibilities - we want to grow your possibilities.
Blackboard is where the students go for class, but it is also a great way to see what is going on within our school community. Make sure to look at this daily and be familiar with this page. You can see a variety of activities, news, and upcoming outings. There are also notes posted from your child's teacher, a scrapbook of class memories, and resources that can enhance your students' online learning environment.
There are many things you can do to prepare for your first year as an online learner. By adequately preparing, you are getting your student excited to start their new school year because most students are nervous at the beginning of the year. Make sure you build the learning space with all the necessary materials in a tidy, quiet place that has the least amount of distractions. Talk about what your daily routine will be and make a fun visual so that your student can see what their day will look like. Always remember you are not alone: we’ve all had new students and there are parent mentors and staff to help you along the way. Finally, remember that your orientation leader is a great resource and is willing and ready to help you in any way. We love our school and online learning and want to make it special to your family as well.
If you’d like to learn more about PA Virtual, meet current PA Virtual parents, and get your questions answered live, we invite you to RSVP to an upcoming online open house.
About the Author: Janese Claar is a kindergarten teacher at PA Virtual.