Starting your child in an online school can be a little scary at first.
That’s understandable. New adventures can be both frightening and exciting. But like any new experience, all it takes is some learning and practice to get good at it.
Trust me. Before long, you’ll be a pro and you’ll wonder why you ever worried about virtual schooling.
Now you’d probably like some tips on how to make thing run smoothly on the first day of school. So I put together some pointers that will help you to prepare yourself and your home for that first big day. Hopefully they’ll help you get rid of those butterflies in your stomach.
First, Take a Deep Breath
Relax. Teaching your children isn’t as scary as you think. Believe it or not, you’ve been teaching them every day since they were young, right? You taught them to eat healthy food, sit up straight, use good manners, and play nicely. Now you are just throwing in a few subjects like math, reading, and science. You know these subjects and you can help your child learn them.
Still not convinced? If you feel unsure of yourself in any area, help is available. You can contact a teacher if that is part of the program you are using.
Besides that, there are plenty of online resources at your disposal. Some include:
- Support groups in Yahoo, Facebook, CafeMom, and the company you purchased the program from
- Blogs and forums on homeschooling and online learning
- Informative websites like Khan Academy, ABCTeach, and Starfall.
You can also connect with other online learning families. Tips on how to do that are here: How to Connect With Other Families Who Use an Online School.
Being prepared helps to get rid of the jitters of any new undertaking. If you can prepare your household and get some things straight in your mind, you will feel much more confident on day 1. Here’s what you can do.
Unpack the Materials
As soon as the boxes of books and materials come from your online school, let your kids dig into them. Let them see the books, art supplies, and cool science paraphernalia. It’s a great way to get them excited about starting the new school year.
Compare the packing list to the actual materials in the box. I know that this can be a tedious job, but you can read the post I wrote on how to Have Fun While Checking Your Materials if you need some inspiration.
If you find you are missing anything, notify the online learning company as soon as possible. There’s nothing so frustrating as trying to do a science experiment when you don’t have the right stuff.
If you need some ideas on where to put all of these materials, I wrote a post on ways to organize books and materials.
Go Over Teacher Guides
Skim through all of the printed Teacher Guides to familiarize yourself with the curriculum. The beginning of each guide should give you some clear guidelines on how each subject is set up. You’ll want to read this section a little more carefully and then browse over the topics for each unit. This will help alleviate surprises and give you more confidence in teaching.
One of the benefits of an online school is that you typically don’t have to buy as many school supplies as you would for a B&M school. That’s a nice money saver.
The supplies also tend to last longer. I haven’t bought folders in a few years because the ones we have are still in great shape. That’s another plus to online learning.
Want to know what to buy? Here are some supplies we keep at our house for our online school.
- Pencils and pens
- Crayons and/or colored pencils
- Folders (we use one for each subject)
- Paper and/or a few notebooks (we mostly used notebooks for math and language arts)
- Index cards (for note cards if your child is old enough to write essays)
- School box for keeping the supplies in
- Miscellaneous containers like butter tubs, jars, and shoe boxes (for science and art)
Your online school may have a list for you to use. You can also skim through the Teacher and Student Guides to get an idea of what you will need.
Check Out Your Online Account for Your School
If you haven’t already done so, you should start up your online account. Your online school should send you the information on how to do that.
Once it is set up, I would take a little time to look it over. If your school has any video tutorials on using the program, begin watching those. Afterward, explore the online school yourself. You might want to take a few notes as you do. Write down the different tabs and list what features are accessible under them. This will make a handy reference for your first few weeks and save you time trying to find things.
There is more than likely a schedule of the lessons online. Looking at this will help you to pace yourself and your children. This schedule can typically be changed. If, for example, you don’t like having science on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can switch them to Monday and Wednesday. You can learn more about how to schedule your day here: Creating a Schedule That Works For Your Family.
If you have a teen in high school, you may find that his online classes won’t be available. Don’t panic. Some schools don’t make them available until the first day of school.
Connect With Your Child’s Teacher
Your child’s teacher(s) will probably send you an email the first week or two of school if your child is in grades K-8. She’ll provide you with contact info like a phone number, maybe a Skype name, office hours, etc. Feel free to contact her with any questions or troubles that you are having. She can give you advice or direct you to a source of help.
High school students will probably receive emails from their teachers. Usually the first week of school, each teacher will ask her students to introduce themselves in an email. This is a fun activity and gives each teen a chance to a tell a little about himself. This also helps the teacher to see the child as more than just a name on a roster.
The First Few Weeks of School
Spend the first few weeks of school getting used to the program. You’ll probably find that in the K-8 program, there are sometimes several activities listed for each lesson. You don’t always have to do every single activity for every single lesson. In fact, you shouldn’t or you will burn out. Choose activities that will help your child to achieve the objectives (or goals) for each lesson. You’ll find more tips for preventing burnout here.
If you are starting your online learning program later in the school year, you might need to streamline the lessons a bit and double up to get caught up. I wrote some tips on catching up in another post. You might want to check those out.
Above all, try to have a little fun with your online school. Smile and enjoy learning with your child. Over time, you will develop confidence in guiding him through his lessons.
Any questions about starting your first day? Feel free to share them in the comment section.