The Role of the Parent in a Cyber School
The National Education Association, Public School Review, and the National Parent Teacher Association agree. Parent involvement in education is key to student success. As NEA Today phrases it, “the most significant type of involvement is what parents do at home.”
There is no question that a parent’s role has a substantial impact on any child’s education, but the role of the cyber school parent requires a level of time, commitment, and priority that makes what they do “at home” that much more impactful on their child’s academic success.
But what does the role of the cyber school parent look like? Many parents considering the cyber school option want details. They want to know what the cyber school model really requires of them and how that translates on a daily basis.
A Matter of Time
Although it may seem obvious, being a cyber school parent means you are at home with your children every day. This arrangement can be one of the best parts of cyber education, but it can also be one of the most challenging!
Being a cyber school parent requires realizing that you will be spending even more time with your children than most parents, and it also requires recognizing what needs to be done with all of that time.
A Matter of Commitment
Cyber school parents will invest much of their time each day building positive relationships with their children and being their children’s primary role models.
But, cyber school parents also have the task of continually prioritizing education in their homes. Although it might seem like an overwhelming job, emphasizing education in the home on a daily basis is possible when we break it down into smaller, more tangible pieces.
A Matter of Priority
Cyber school parents can actually communicate the importance of academics to their children and prioritize education in the home through what they do every day as cyber school parents.
Giving attention to each part of your cyber school parent role will send a powerful message to your students. Education is important!
Part of the cyber school parent’s role is managing the daily and weekly schedules for their students. Cyber school parents have 24/7 online access to their students’ academic schedule, which includes the days and times of any live, online classes, or instructional sessions.
Cyber school parents can use this information to develop a school day routine that works for their family. When planning a school day routine, cyber school parents will need to answer questions like:
- What time will school start?
- What time will we include breaks?
- What time will school end?
Once those decisions have been made based on the academic schedule, cyber school parents will need to include some additional questions to create a more specific daily routine.
- What time will we wake up?
- What time will we include chores?
- What time will we spend on extra-curricular, social, or family activities?
- What time will we allot for appointments?
- What time will we go to bed?
To maintain the established procedures, cyber school parents often use paper or digital planners or calendars to plan ahead and communicate the schedule to their students. Many cyber school parents find that posting a printed schedule is an effective way to reinforce its importance.
Students, especially younger ones, often need training in order for a routine to become habitual. The extra time spent in establishing a solid daily routine at the beginning of the school year will pay off with a lot less wasted time later!
Another crucial part of the cyber school parent’s role is monitoring their students. But, what does “monitoring” a cyber school student mean? And, how do cyber school parents accomplish it?
Monitoring cyber school students will vary depending on the age, learning style, and experience the student has with online learning.
Elementary students and students who are new to the cyber school setting will need to be monitored closely.
Parents will sit alongside new or elementary students during live online classes or instructional sessions.
Parents will make sure students are participating appropriately and interacting with the tools that are available to them in their virtual classroom.
As students mature and gain experience with online learning, cyber school parents should still expect to monitor their students, even if their students have achieved some independence as an online learner.
Parents will remain present in the room during live class times. Students left to themselves can easily become distracted, affecting their participation, performance, and learning.
Parents will provide participation goals for their student for each class. Does your student engage in learning with tools like the microphone, chat box feature, or whiteboard tools when prompted by the teacher? If not, set specific goals together for the number of times your student should actively participate in each class session.
Parents will make sure that their student is engaged in the class through note-taking, participating with online tools, or working with other students as directed.
No matter the age or grade level of your student, there will be times when additional help is needed with the information that was covered in class. Assisting your student with understanding concepts, completing assignments, or communicating questions to the teacher are additional ways of prioritizing education in the home and filling the cyber school parent role.
Most cyber schools also include additional work in the curriculum that is not covered by the teachers during live, online classes or instructional sessions. Cyber school parents are the key factor in making sure these parts of the curriculum are understood and completed by their students, meaning the parent will be the main instructor of these lessons.
Cyber school parents will not only need to plan time into the school day to work one-on-one with their students in these subjects, but may also have to set aside some time in the evenings or on the weekends to review lessons ahead of time. After all, we cannot teach something effectively if it is unfamiliar to us!
Finally, cyber school parents are also responsible for tracking their student’s progress through the courses and curriculum and making sure assignments are submitted on time. Since cyber schools typically provide various methods for viewing student progress and submitting work, cyber school parents will need to become familiar with using the necessary technology. Otherwise, their students may fall behind and have a difficult time catching up.
Being a cyber school parent also requires a fair amount of administration. There is a certain amount of administrative detail involved in online learning, and the responsibility of those details falls on the cyber school parent.
But, don’t underestimate these administrative tasks. These details can make a huge difference in student success!
Take attendance, for example. Cyber school parents not only have the responsibility to explain the importance of regular school attendance to their students, but to follow through by making sure their students are logged into the school’s online portal every school day and are attending their live class sessions, every school day.
Such diligence requires more than just checking your student’s name off on your home education roster. It involves making sure students are up on time each morning, which can be a challenging feat in the home setting when there is no school bus to miss. It also requires keeping school break times during the day in check by setting timers or alarms that remind students (and parents) that it is time to return to class sessions or schoolwork.
Cyber school parents will also keep track of the hours that their student completes schoolwork or academic activities each day. Cyber school parents will log the time their students spend in live classes, time spent doing school work offline, and time spent doing any other academic, educational, or school-related activities. Logging a student’s academic or instructional hours isn’t just data collection. This cyber school parent task ensures students are meeting state mandates.
If a student does need to miss school, cyber school parents have several responsibilities:
Communicate the absence with the appropriate school staff,
Submit any necessary paperwork related to the absence, and
Ensure their student completes and submits any assignments that took place during the absence.
Placing importance on administrative tasks and making them part of the cyber school parent’s daily routine is a powerful way to prioritize education and help cyber school students succeed.
The cyber school parent role creates a unique relationship between parents and school staff. And, like any relationship, this partnership requires regular communication to be effective.
Most likely, we are familiar with the importance of teacher-to-parent communication; after all, communicating with parents is part of the teacher’s job, right?
But, what about parent-to-teacher communication? Why is that distinction so crucial in the online setting? And, how does the cyber school parent make it work?
Since the communication between parents and teachers is so critical to student success, cyber school parents can expect to spend part of their day communicating with school staff. In the virtual setting, communication from parents is often the key that unlocks a student’s full potential and helps them excel.
When cyber school parents regularly communicate with teachers, they accomplish several things.
They demonstrate the importance they place on education to their students.
They hold their students accountable by working closely with teachers.
They provide insight into their student’s interests, strengths, and challenges.
They provide background information that gives the teacher a whole view of the student.
They demonstrate their respect for the parent-teacher partnership.
They recognize the demanding job of the teacher.
How parents communicate with teachers in a cyber school may vary depending on the school, but there are usually several tools available to make communication with teachers a regular part of your role as a cyber-school parent.
Email – Email is often recommended as the first way to connect with teachers. Since teachers are usually engaged in instructing their online classes during the day, phone calls during the school day are often not an option, unless scheduled ahead of time. An email allows the parent time to put their thoughts clearly in writing, allows the teacher time to consider the questions or concerns, and gives both parties the opportunity to schedule a phone call if the situation would be best handled through a conversation.
Office Hours – Many online programs include virtual Office Hours so that the teacher has time set aside during the week to meet with students or parents. This can be a convenient way to connect with a teacher to address issues that are not personal or sensitive in nature.
Parent-Teacher Conferences – If your school hosts Parent-Teacher Conferences, make an effort to attend, regardless of how your student is performing. Your attendance communicates to your students and to the teacher that you care about what is going on in the online classroom and want to do your part at home to be sure your student is successful.
Phone – Some situations are best handled through a conversation. If this is the case, request a phone call with your student’s teacher via email.
Mail – Teachers appreciate encouragement! Recognize the hard work and commitment of your child’s teacher with a short thank-you note. Check with your cyber school for the best way to get mail to your student’s teacher.
Face-to-Face – Many cyber schools include field trips or outing opportunities so that families and staff can connect with each other. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet your student’s teachers and get to know them better.
The role of the cyber school parent is a big one! Cyber schools recognize the unique and demanding position of the parent and often have tools and supports in place to help them succeed.
At PA Virtual Charter School, we not only want parents to succeed in their role as a cyber school parent, we want parents to thrive and truly enjoy the educational journey they are taking with their students.
Here are some of the resources PA Virtual provides to help parents succeed:
New Student Orientation – New Student Orientation is an onboarding program for new students and their parents. Run by experienced PA Virtual teachers, this orientation acclimates new families to the programs and platforms used by PA Virtual so that they can start their school year with confidence.
Parent Ambassador Program – The Parent Ambassador Program can best be described as “parents supporting parents.” The program is staffed by current and former parents in the school and includes a group of parent volunteers who offer their time monthly on behalf of the school. The program’s goal is to support and encourage PA Virtual parents through opportunities for education and engagement.
Parent Learning Sessions – The Parent Ambassador Program offers weekly online learning sessions to provide support, ideas, and tips for fulfilling your role as a cyber school parent.
Parent Mentor Program – The Parent Mentor Program offers one-on-one mentoring for our Learning Coaches by matching new parents with an experienced Learning Coach for mentoring by phone and email.
PA Virtual encourages parents to utilize these resources as part of their role as a cyber school parent.
A Matter of Partnership
The parent role in cyber education can be a huge transition for new families. Taking such an active role in your child’s education can be challenging and overwhelming! But, it can also be just as rewarding and fulfilling to be such an integral part of their learning each day.
PA Virtual Charter School recognizes the many obstacles cyber school parents face and how worthwhile it is to overcome those obstacles and enjoy being part of your child’s education. PA Virtual offers many ongoing resources, programs, and educational opportunities to partner with parents and help them prosper in their cyber school role.
You’re invited to attend a PA Virtual Online Open House to learn more about PA Virtual Charter School and what it means to be a cyber school parent. RSVP to an upcoming online open house here.
About the Author: Darcie Lusk is a Parent Ambassador Regional Coordinator at PA Virtual.