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The Online School Option for High School

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The non-traditional school is growing across the United States. In California, where I live, there are over 189,000 kids currently enrolled in some type of homeschool or non-traditional school like online school.  That’s a lot of kids.  So why are so many parents turning to non-traditional schooling?

 
 

Why Do Families Choose Online School?

homeschooling

 

There are a number of different reasons why parents choose to educate their children outside the walls of a traditional school classroom. This online school method provides…

  • A more flexible schedule
  • Better protection for children with severe or life-threatening allergies
  • More quality family time
  • Young athletes and actors can a quality education while on the road
  • The ability to better understand your child’s learning style and provide support
  • Protection from bullying or social threats that happen at schools
  • Stability for families who move more often
  • Flexibility for children with health issues
  • A solution for students who move to a different city, midway through the year
  • A non-traditional school environment for kids who aren’t thriving in traditional schools

 

Occasionally, I have thought about taking a different approach to education with my children.  I see a lot of benefits and I have a number of friends who are homeschooling their kids. 

Here’s the thing, the responsibility of being my kids’ main teacher, and ensuring I’m up to speed on their subjects ahead of time, is a bit overwhelming to me.  Doing all of this and my work is a bit too much to take on. 

Connections Academy is a highly accountable virtual school for kids in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade.  This is a viable option for schooling kids at home.

But it’s more than just an online school.  Connections Academy builds socialization skills through online communities, clubs, online classroom sessions, in-person meet-ups, activities, and field trips.  

It doesn’t matter where you are, you can connect to Connections Academy anywhere there is an internet connection. So if you travel a lot, Connections Academy can go with you. 

Just like a physical school, you are required to log a certain number of online and offline hours, but the timing of when you take your classes each day is flexible.

In Connections Academy’s annual survey, 93% of parents said they’d recommend the school to other parents and 95% stated that their child was satisfied with their schooling there. 

Like me, I’m sure you have a lot of questions, so here are a few of the main points. 

  

Connections Academy

Connections Academy started in 2001 with schools in just two states, and now there are 34 schools across the country in 27 states enrolling for the 2017-18 school year – that’s a lot of K-12 students!   

Each Connections Academy school operates independently and is governed by a school district or governing board. 
 
 
Connections Academy Profile F
 
Connections Academy focuses on the student, preparing them for their school and life goals while encouraging them to pursue well-rounded lives.
 
 

Connected Students

After enrolling, each student receives a personalized learning plan based on an evaluation of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.  Lessons are modified as needed based on the student’s progress and regular benchmark testing.

Students not only interact online with their teachers and classmates, they will also have independent work, science experiments, and individual or group projects to work on.

 

 
Connections Academy Student Schedules
 
 This sample schedule shows how your high school student might manage his/her time with Connections Academy.
 

Students also learn self-discipline and time management skills as schooling is dependent upon their own schedule. This gives them the flexibility to pursue extracurricular activities and interests outside of the classroom that builds confidence and character.

Connections Academy realizes the benefits of socialization and offers a number of different experiences to help students connect with teachers and one another.  
 
Experiences include…
  • Online clubs
  • In-person meet-ups
  • In-person field trips
  • Talent networks
  • Special school events
  • Many schools even have a Prom!
  • In-person graduation ceremonies
  • Picnics
  • Scavenger hunts
  • College fairs
  • College campus tours
  • Business tours
 

Online Clubs

Connections Academy has over 20 online school clubs students can join, including:

Connections Academy Clubs

 
 
There is even a gifted and talented program that allows gifted students to deepen and accelerate their learning with the ability to work above their grade level and participate in special enrichment projects.
 
 

Connected Parents

Parents or other guardians are an integral part of their child’s learning environment.  As their child’s Learning Coach, they are trained online to provide a good learning environment, structure, support, and communication with Connections Academy teachers, counselors, and coordinators.

Learning Coaches can find online support through orientation materials, secure message boards, the virtual library in Connexus, the Virtual Learning Connections blog, and Club ORANGE, a network of Connections Academy parents, among other resources.

Parents are also encouraged to connect with teachers, school counselors, community coordinators and even other parents, online and in person, in some cases. 

Before classes start, the teacher will reach out to the Learning Coach to understand the student’s needs and discuss a plan on how they can work together to help your student meet his/her goals.
 
In high school, a parent’s involvement is much less than with younger children.  Learning Coaches will likely spend time in the following ways: 
  •  Ensuring lessons and assessments are complete
  •  Encouraging students to talk with their teachers when having trouble
  •  Communicating with teachers as needed
  •  Supporting your teen’s growing independence
  •  Attending regular teacher/parent conferences
 
As your child’s Learning Coach, you will have a much better understanding of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions.
 

 

The Technology

OK, I’m sure you’re curious, like I was, about what technology is needed to make online school happen.  For the family, it’s actually quite simple.  All you need is a computer (Windows 7+ or Mac OS 10.7+), a printer, internet connection and a phone.

Depending on the school and the state, families may receive a computer and subsidy for Internet access.

The power behind the Connections Academy online platform is the Connexus® online education management system. 

Connexus allows for online teaching sessions, access to educational resources, attendance tracking, LiveLesson® sessions (how the classroom meets), and more.

Connections Academy provides families with extensive technical support via phone and webmail messages (the school’s secure email system) during the school week to ensure students are able to keep up with their studies.

In addition, there are numerous resources online to help students and families with Connexus features, computer issues, and more.

 

 

The Classroom

Connections Academy computer 3

The Connections Academy classroom consists of engaging interactive sessions via the LiveLesson® online classroom.  Teachers use video, digital whiteboards, hands-on activities, demos, and other interactive experiences to teach students through real-time lively discussions.

During a LiveLesson® session, students can type or speak into headphones or a headset to ask questions, answer questions, or participate in group discussions. If a student misses a LiveLesson® session, they are recorded and available to view later.  

High school curriculum for all grades includes math, science, language arts/English, and social studies.  Students also have an extensive list of electives to choose from to broaden their skills and explore new interests.  

Electives include foreign languages, sign language, game design, music, criminal investigation, public speaking, marine science, and so much more.

   

Teachers

 All teachers are state-certified and are trained in online learning strategies.  They are high-quality teachers with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  Teachers get to know their students personally through LiveLesson® sessions, phone calls, and webmail messages.

Teachers hold virtual office hours to meet with students as needed for one-on-one instructional support. 

Licensed school counselors, helpful staff, and principals are also available as resources for families.

 online school
 WellConnectedMom.com

 A Mom’s Perspective

Everything about Connections Academy online schools sounds really great, doesn’t it?  

But, as a parent, one of my biggest questions was whether my kids could actually get into a good college and are their chances the same as traditional high schools?

The answer is yes.  Connections Academy provides counselors for advising and helping students prepare for top universities or apply for scholarships.

On average, Connections students score on par with the national average on the SAT and ACT exams. Many have been accepted by top universities across the United States, including Harvard, UC Berkeley, Santa Clara University, University of Florida, Tulane, and Duke, among others.

In 2015, Connections Academy students received over $22 million in scholarships.  Some students who attended Connections Academy and went on to college even stated that the time management, organization, and study skills they learned greatly helped them to succeed in college and in their careers.

Over spring break, our family rented an RV and drove up to Sacramento and back.  We met a family along the way that had been traveling for 9 months with their three kids in tow.  

I wondered how they were able to school their kids and travel so much. No doubt they were doing some type of virtual education or homeschooling. Internet access is available for free at most RV parks, so RV life with virtual schooling is very possible.

Being able to have this kind of flexibility while having your children attend a highly accountable K-12 virtual school is an amazing option.  

Thinking back to the RV family, I can only imagine the life lessons their children are learning through their travels and online schooling.

Connections Academy online school opens up new possibilities for families that they may not have even been aware of before.  The best part? There is no cost for this #OutsideSchoolWalls freedom of learning and living.

 
 
 



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