At International Virtual Learning Academy, we are blessed with many bright students and supportive parents. Andrea W. is one such parent. When asked to “divulge her secret” for successfully supporting online learning for her middle school daughter, this is what she shared –

Supporting Your Online Learner: We Can Do This!

by Andrea W.

I can honestly say that we approached online learning reluctantly; it wasn’t our first choice but traditional brick and mortar schools were consistently letting us down. In our area, there were plenty of bad schools, one or two decent schools, and not one highly-rated school. We moved often but couldn’t escape the feeling of disappointment with what was being offered. After a recommendation from a friend two years ago, we turned to online schooling.

Has it been perfect? No.

Has it been challenging? Yes.

Has it been worth it? Yes, and yes again.

We have learned a great deal along the way. Not only in terms of curriculum, but in determining what works for our family and what doesn’t. Below are a few tips that have helped us overcome some obstacles and keep the up momentum:

Set up firm start and end times to your school day. Although flexibility is a benefit of online learning, routine is key. Your student should know when they are expected to work and for how long. You may decide to set a time schedule or a completion schedule; break every two hours or two lessons. Try out a few schedules and see what fits, then stick to it. Accountability and responsibility will let your learner feel successful and in charge of their education. Independent learning can only go so far – expectations must be set and checked up on.

Set parental controls on the device they are using. No amount of expectation setting will work when boredom hits and YouTube is just a click away. When there is a lesson that hasn’t grabbed their attention or a dreaded test looming, it’s not surprising there is something more fun elsewhere. Let them know you have ways of monitoring the sites they’ve visited, and be sure to check your browsing history often.

Limit screen time on breaks.

Staring at a screen all is day not only a strain on your vision, it affects your posture and energy level as well.  Some coursework requires a great deal of online reading and can leave students feeling drained. Use break time for other activities, practice, or lessons. Get outside – really have a break. Returning from a break, the energy level will be back up and they’ll be ready to work again.  

Monitor grades and lessons.

No software is perfect. If something doesn’t seem right or a test result contradicts the lesson, inform your teacher. Be sure to look back to ensure all assignments have been graded and received by your teacher. Having a lesson missed greatly affects the overall grade.

Beware: Boredom will hit!

To keep learning feeling fresh, find ways to incorporate a lesson into everyday life. Are they learning about personal finance? Take them with you to the bank or the market. Let them figure out the cost per pound of your produce or your interest rate on a loan. If you can show real world applications to their lesson, they will grasp the concept much more quickly and will learn more from their break than from watching another video.

Use your teachers and success coachs.

If your student has a problem, ask for assistance. Additional or alternative lessons have been an invaluable resource. IVLA teachers want to have your student succeed and will work with you and your student to find ways around barriers.

Focus on learning, not grades or completion dates. With real time grades available for most lessons, there can be added pressure to perform instead of learning. Let your student know you’re involved and interested, but don’t focus on the running grade. This isn’t a race to the end. The next level coursework will be much more difficult if concepts are not learned well the first time round.

Enjoy your flexibility.

If your student is not a morning person, have them sleep in a work a bit later. If they are under the weather, just push the schedule a day. No doctor’s note needed! Just be sure they are always working ahead to take those kinds of days into account. We all have them.

It’s your job to do so many things for your children. We never thought that we would be in charge of education as well. It has been a learning curve for all of us, but the benefits are so much more than the drawbacks. We get the best part of her day and our evenings and weekends are for the family once again. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but this is just about as far from difficult as can be.