That scary bathroom cabinet can wait to get organized, you know what can’t wait? My kids education. Some of you already know my kids are schooled at home, and I’m eager to introduce you to my secret weapon for staying on task with schooling…a few carefully executed techniques, and virtual school.
What is Virtual School?
Virtual school allows your children to attend school at home while providing the necessary support system…that means teachers, field trips, online lessons, and more. Every virtual school is different, so you’ll have to look up the perks of your local virtual school. The Ohio Connections Academy is a part of the public education system, which also means they are tuition free. Our virtual school provides us curriculum, Ohio certified teachers and tutors, materials and loaner computers free, and they even help subsidize our internet expenses! The beginning of each school year is like Christmas morning as the girls excitedly dive into boxes filled with educational goodies that appear on our doorstep. While the kids love the materials and classes, I love the teachers! Having teachers to grade, and teach a weekly or bi-weekly class online provides me extra time to hone in on each child’s specific educational and personal needs. I homeschooled prior to virtual schooling and have discovered that virtual schooling aids with diligent and adds the structure I previously struggled to attain. Nothing keeps us on task quite like our online profile pages. Each child has their own page to sign into each day, and I can track their progress from my own home page! Daily classes populate their online schedule, and a simple click of a button walks them through each lesson. While virtual schooling gave me the structure I needed, it also provides the flexibility I love in schooling from home. Click here for more information about Connections Academy nationwide.
There are many virtual schools out there, and each different from the next, so I recommend doing your research to ensure you choose one that suits your family’s needs.
Organizing For An Effective School Day
Organizing for the school day really means organizing the entire day. Nothing is worst than waking up late, scrambling to get everything accomplished, then school spilling over into the evening hours…it usually ends with you feeling frazzled, and kids whose attention has been long since lost finding clever ways to escape their work! Blegh…don’t you hate those days? Well, here are a few tips to never having them!
Tip #1. Create a Schedule: Remember the Chore System I created for my kids? It contains so much more than their daily chores, it includes their daily schedule, as well as goals and tasks. My girls know exactly what is expected of them each day, and they know that accomplishing everything comes with certain natural rewards! It motivates, and keeps them on task both in school and daily to-do’s! You can read details and download a free customizable Chore Chart & Schedule system for your family here.
Tip #2. Diligently Store School Items: I can’t tell you the number of hours spent looking for a single missing textbook, until I wised up! Worst, my youngest will spend half an hour looking for a pencil to write with, forget what she is doing and start playing. Then busy me won’t notice until another hour after that! Designate a place for school books and each specific supply, and keep your supplies well stocked. Label things so there is no mistaking where to find them or where to put them back. Oh, and whatever you do, DON’T allow your kids leave their things scattered about the houes…train them to put each item back after use. You’ll save lots of little “searching” minutes that tend add up! Phew, this is still a work in progress for us, it takes patient effort and gentle but continuous reminders!
Tip #3. Create a Space For Educating: Whether you have a school room, a desk, or just the kitchen table, allocate an area for school and school items. Some kids require a dedicated space otherwise things pose as a distraction. They often need an area to mentally associate with school work to help keep focus. Not every child has the same needs, however it is important for them to have school materials close at hand, and for us to easily keep tabs on them!
Tip #4. Reward Best Effort: Were you the type of kid who got rewarded for everything you did? Did you think your work was remarkable? Was it actually? Or perhaps you were that kid whose parents never said anything until you got less than an A+ because excellence was an expectation. How about we take a balanced middle ground with our kids. Young children are especially in need of encouragement and respond well to earned reward. Reward shouldn’t always be about the results, sometimes it should be about the enormous effort it took to improve. Watch how each child’s individual personality responds, and see what they need in order to go above and beyond. The beauty of reward is that it can start as small as a comment and a smile, or be as large as a gift, or a special trip. Either way, don’t neglect to make school a positive experience by rewarding hard work and effort!
Making the Most of School from Home
No matter what form of home study you employ, all those who school at home know that success depends on us as parents. We have the power to make our kids educational experience exceptional! Not everyone has the opportunity, so if you are fortunate enough to be home with your kids, be sure to take advantage of it’s greatest benefits! My experience growing up as a homeschooler, and now electing to school my own kids from home has given me a glimpse into it’s many attributes and what makes it work.
Create Structure: We often opt for this type of schooling because it allows the benefit of flexibility…however flexibility does not exclude structure. Rather, it is the careful marriage of the two that can give us the greatest benefit.This is the time to start structuring our kids approach to the day, as well as how they view and accomplish duties. This doesn’t mean we take away the freeing joys of childhood. It means we find fun inventive ways to begin the process, making it second nature to practice positive industrious habits.
Take Advantage of Flexible Schooling: Home based schooling is an opportunity to go above and beyond!
Specialize in a field: Most child athletes, musicians, or other star types, opt to school-from-home so they have flexibility for practice and training. This is your opportunity to help your child truly specialize in something they love. Do more than enroll them in a music class, art, a sport, whatever their area of talent…make it an important part of education. You are molding their future opportunities, take the time and be creative about it.
Give your kids real life work experience: Just because you school from home doesn’t mean you can’t get your upper grades an internship, or your lower grades volunteer positions. As a teen, my dad took me into work with him once a week for several months as a volunteer. I was given a real life glimpse into a field I held interest. What an invaluable experience! I hope to one day give my children the same opportunity. Before seeking an internship or early volunteer position, coach your child to be polite, professional, diligent, and to seek knowledge. They will learn to function in business rather than just among peers, they will learn to take instruction, and they can gain real world experience under their belt. Take it from me, it will stretch them!
Personalize Education: As early as possible, seek to understand your child’s learning style. I find this a bit of a challenge, as my kids are still young and it takes time to recognizing strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be discouraged, I am discovering that some things take a lot of experimenting, and many months of dedicated effort. Once you begin to recognize how they learn, things will begin to come easier…those long hours of struggle will pay off! As they get older, remember that it is also greatly beneficial to help them learn to function within the educational norms… this means strengthening their learning weaknesses and disabilities. Teach them how to test well, how to take good notes, how to listen to lectures, to work well with others, methods to achieve success no matter what obstacles they encounter. You have the benefit of giving one-on-one attention to your child’s strengths and their weaknesses, don’t ignore one over the other.
Help Them Acquire, Not Just Regurgitate: Remember that Spanish class you took in high school? Yeah, we all took a language, music, or some class that did us no good as adults. Don’t let there be years of useless study… go the extra mile to help your kids truly acquire beyond book study.
Go on field trips of your own making, some with large groups, some with only one other family. The benefits of a small group field trip is in hands-on experience and personal attention to important details… and we’re not talking museums and factories alone, we’re talking time behind the scenes in small businesses doing not only seeing.
Do the experiments recommended in your textbooks, and other kitchen experiments! The lesson is more likely to make an impression through activity.
Let learning be your play. Younger children don’t know any better, play can be educational! Allow elementary level children to enjoy educational only websites such as Starfall.com or ReadingEggs.com. Allow educational shows such as the Nest Entertainment historical series. Play games that reinforce basic skills such as counting, money, spelling, etc. You’ll be spending quality family time, and educating!
Join a group. Especially in music or language, groups also dedicated in that area will help with immersion. From library clubs, to area orchestra or choir, to neighborhood events & classes, to church groups or participating in services…these all provide opportunities to practice and hone skills with support from others.
Most of all, make education a part of everyday living. Use tasks as an opportunity for educational discussion. Encourage your kids to ask questions, and ask lots of questions of them! Learning occurs every second of every day, whether you are teaching or not…what do you want your kids to acquire?