A well-rounded school routine…in the digital space

Young African American female student looking at a laptop computer

In a society that thrives on customization, why should education still be considered one-size-fits-all? The traditional, classroom isn’t the ideal environment for all K-12 learners who can -and do- thrive in other settings. Virtual school can be the best choice for your family for a myriad of reasons;  researching and knowing your options is the first step towards finding the best school “fit” for your child.”

One such option meeting the educational needs of thousands of students across the U.S.,are Connections Academy-supported, online public schools. Fully-accredited and tuition-free, Connections Academy delivers a quality education, complete with certified teachers and an award-winning curriculum, to students at home.There is no singular type of learner, so why should we expect all children to learn in the same way?

How do online schools like Connections Academy support individual students and their families? Virtual learning is inherently flexible, especially with regard to time. A 2016 University of Chicago study extolled the advantages of planning lessons around the times when children and teens are most alert and receptive. Most traditional high schools start long before the time when scientists have found teenagers are ready to absorb and engage with information. Working together with their teachers, online school students and their parent or other “Learning Coach” can  design and keep their own schedules.

Twelfth grade Ohio Connections Academy student Caleb Martin has hit on a routine that works for him. “Normally, I wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning,” Caleb says. “I get my breakfast, I’m either meditating or working out, and I kind of get myself mentally prepared for the day. Then I go into my work starting around 8 o’clock.” Caleb uses his lunch break to “refresh” and “get some air” after completing half the day’s lessons, a practice that helps him clear his head and approach difficult work from a renewed place when he returns to his desk.

Students not only have the option to begin their daily instruction when they’d like, but they also have the freedom to order their subjects in a way that best helps them achieve their goals. If math is a student’s toughest subject, they can get it out of the way first, or attack it right after a midday breather.

At Connections Academy schools, teachers are responsible for instruction while Learning Coaches (typically a parent) monitor progress in the home. Caleb’s mother Carla checks her children’s lessons to confirm that they’re hitting their milestones and maximizing their days. “I like to help them budget their time,” Carla says.

Schedule flexibility also enables learners to supplement their classroom work with hands-on activities and extracurricular pursuits that contribute to their status as well-rounded individuals. The Craigo family makes it a priority to seek out “field trip” sites like museums and local nature centers that support and expand on the topics their son and daughter are studying in their digital classrooms. “There are lots of things to do and different ways for your students to learn,” Ohio Connections Academy mother Jeanette Craigo says.

Outside of schoolwork, and in their own time, students can incorporate into their days the artistic, physical, and volunteer work that are important to them. Eighth grade Connections student Martha Redman trains as a swimmer and begins her classes after a daily morning workout. Her parents, Pamela and Robert Redman, told the Jasper County Sun Times that they appreciate how digital schooling allows them to plan an itinerary that keeps their daughter challenged by her lessons and fulfilled by other interests South Carolina Connections Academy “lets Martha’s creativity shine,” Pamela says.

Digital learning also allows Martha to work at a pace that suits her. Traditional classroom environments can be frustrating to students who are either digesting concepts faster than their peers or need more time with a topic before they can move on. Martha wanted more challenge from her school day than she was receiving in her previous school. With the flexibility virtual school offers, Martha is now free to move ahead and tackle more advanced coursework than most students her age would be expected to understand.

One concern of families considering online schooling may be that their students will be isolated from their peers and miss out on social time. Beyond the day-to-day LiveLesson sessions (online classrooms), email, phone calls, and online clubs, Connections Academy educators facilitate opportunities for students and parents to meet and form friendships, often over an activity that benefits their community. One such experience was recently offered to the students of the MTS Minnesota Connections Academy. The Eden Prairie News reported that the Connections group packed over 30,000 meals at the not-for-profit hunger-fighting organization Feed My Starving Children, which would feed over 80 hungry children in the Dominican Republic for an entire year. Other examples of these in-person events include proms and graduation ceremonies.

The many advantages of online education can continue to positively affect students after graduation. The nine-to-five work day has become a thing of the past in many industries, and 21st century employees are often tasked with setting their own schedules. Digital learners are well-versed in time management and may have more experience prioritizing their work.. In a recent survey of Connections Academy alumni, one graduate stated, “the college I chose to attend found the online schooling to actually be a good thing as far as time management. In online school you are responsible for keeping your own schedule and completing deadlines… online schooling taught me more responsibility.”