Once you’ve gotten started in the virtual school, you may hear a lot information that sounds like it conflicts. Sometimes, teachers don’t know quite what to tell you; and many times, what they do tell you isn’t quite what you think it should be. Remember, often, you will be placed in a new classroom with a new teacher when you begin in the middle of the year. They’ve been trained; but in many ways, they are just as lost as you are. Not reassuring? That’s okay. By the end of the year, you’ll both be familiar with the system, and things will be going much more smoothly. There are a few things, however, that will make your first few weeks easier.
Realize that a lot of your time early on be spent on review. When you open up the online school, the first thing you’re going to notice is that you have page after page after page of blank assignment boxes that you are going to be expected to fill in. As you dig through the boxes of materials, you’ll notice that you have books for both semester one and semester two.
Wait a minute! You’re thinking. This isn’t right! If your child started at a new brick and mortar school in the middle of the school year—or at any other time, for that matter—they wouldn’t have to complete the curriculum for the first part of the year. Regardless of where they had been in their previous school, they would dive right in wherever their new class was starting, and they would be expected to catch up on their own.
In the virtual school, that is not the case. As the parent, you are encouraged to use the unit checkpoints and reviews as a starting place to see where, exactly, your child is prepared to start. When you find the place where they start to stumble, you start there. Not a unit back, where they are bored out of their minds because they’ve already covered all of the material; and not a unit ahead, where they’ll be completely lost. As their learning coach, you are the one who decides what they accomplish each day—and it’s on their level, not the level the classroom is on. At some point, they will have to catch up—they are responsible for being able to complete or test out of 80% of the material by the end of the year—but they can get there at their own pace.
Take breaks. When you’re desperately scrambling to “catch up,” constantly feeling as though everyone is ahead of you, it can feel like you don’t have time in your schedule for breaks. Six and a half hours a day is devoted to schoolwork, and you are going to spend six and a half hours a day on schoolwork!
Don’t. You and your child will burn out quickly that way. Take regular breaks. Play. Let your child have time to read independently, regardless of whether or not it’s approved reading material. Keep in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and keep your eyes on the big picture.
Keep in regular contact with your teacher. Sometimes, you may not realize that you have questions until they mention something you hadn’t even thought of. Take advantage of their phone calls, and don’t just hurry them off so that you can do something else.
Know when you’ve had enough. There is more than one reason why the virtual “day” is flexible. There will be days when you need to throw up your hands and call it quits for the day. You can always make up the time later.