Families Who Figured Out How to Do Education Online: The Vanns

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A public school setting can be stressful for kids who don’t fit the traditional educational mold or who learn differently from other students. It’s easy for students to become frustrated and disenchanted with school and fail to reach their full potential.

Unfortunately, public school budgets usually don’t allow even the best teachers to give the one-on-one time such students need. The need to serve the greater student population often leaves less conventional students without much of a support system.

Meet Thomas Vann, an 11th grade student in Virginia with Asperger syndrome, who sought a more suitable education for his learning style. When he was beginning middle school, Thomas and his family found the public school experience increasingly stressful and unproductive, in ways that inhibited Thomas’ overall education.

After exploring all their options, Thomas and his family found a flexible online private school that allows students to learn at the pace that works best for them: The Keystone School.

Setting up for success

“For Thomas to have the fairly consistent class setup has really made it easy for him to succeed each year,” Larisa Vann, Thomas’ mother says. “Being able to get feedback from the teachers in both online and print classes has also helped him figure out where he needs to spend a little more time and effort.”

The Keystone School had the flexibility and support structure Thomas needed to get the one-on-one attention from teachers, counselors and advisors for him to receive a great education. The schedule flexibility has allowed him to pursue interests and reach personal goals, like becoming an Eagle Scout and landing his first paid part-time job.

“I think I do have more perseverance than most of my peers,” Thomas says, “because I feel that I’ve always had to work harder because of my Asperger’s. Taking online classes removes the distraction of gossips and bullies, but the challenge to learn the material is still there.”

Flexibility Helps: Thomas’ Keystone Experience

Keystone allows students to move through their coursework at their own pace. Thomas, for example, sometimes has trouble concentrating, so this extra freedom is especially beneficial.

“Regular classrooms can be too small and too loud to concentrate, and regular hours don’t always work for me because of my work and karate schedules,” he says. “Plus, when I know what I have to get done (to stay on track) I can work hard on it and finish it early.”

In a traditional setting, if a student wants to set their own hours, or only work on one subject for a whole day, they’ll probably be met with a hard “no.” As a Keystone student, Thomas can adjust his learning schedule to his own pace.

“Some days I work only on one class, and kids at a regular high school don’t have that option. Also, if I finish what I was planning to complete, I have the option of continuing or being done for the day — more game time if I want it!”

What’s the future hold for Thomas? He wants justice. Thomas plans to attend college and earn a degree in forensic science.

“Right now the main thing that keeps me motivated is that I know I need to finish my classes with good grades so that I can get into the college that I want to attend,” Thomas explains. “I want to be a forensic scientist and I know that I need to have good grades to get into the school that I’ve chosen. I’d like to get a job where I can make a difference,” he says, “and hopefully help guilty people get arrested, and innocent people freed.”

Larisa Vann, Learning Coach

Larisa Vann acts as her son’s Learning Coach, overseeing his day-to-day school time and helping him to understand his work when needed. In relation to Thomas’ Asperger’s, Larisa told us, “I felt that, since I understood how [Asperger’s] manifested in him, that Keystone would provide the academic lessons and I would be able to provide the support and assistance.”

Finding a schedule that works for Thomas, she noted, is important — and she uses Keystone’s online tools to keep him on track.

“I use the Parent Observer account (a function of the Keystone platform) to see what assignments Thomas has completed, what kind of progress he is making in each class, and then comparing that to the schedule that he and I have worked out,” she says. “If he is behind, we add school days, meaning that he will spend a few hours on the weekend catching up.”

The right school for the right student

Online schools can potentially offer a number of advantages for families and students like Thomas. The most important benefit can be the flexible scheduling.

“The biggest thing,” Thomas notes, “is that I get to take more breaks during the day instead of having to go from class to class. The struggles that I had to deal with in public school have actually made it easier for me to do online school. Now the only issue is allowing myself to get distracted with games.”

The flexible class schedule gives Thomas the time to participate in outside activities. In addition to a part-time job and ongoing commitments to his Boy Scouts of America troop, Thomas also balances out his schedule with one of the martial arts: karate.

“Thomas started taking karate when he was four years old and continued once we moved to Virginia,” Larisa says. “He has continued with his classes and is currently a purple belt in the adult class. This gives him time with his peers every week.”

When asked about his social life compared to his public school peers, Thomas says attending online school hasn’t really made that big of a difference, outside of the daily interactions during class.

“Having a job has introduced me to new people and I talk with them on breaks, so that’s something new that is kind of cool,” Thomas explains. “I have friends that I see in karate class, friends that I work with, and friends from Scouts. I’ve also made some closer friends in Scouts and we sometimes get together to game or just do whatever.

Is online education right for your family?

Keystone offers a quality education to students who excel when they have more freedom, flexibility and responsibility. For Larisa Vann, finding a school that worked with her son, and not against him was hugely valuable.

“I think the greatest benefits [of Keystone] were more noticeable over the long term,” Larisa says, “Thomas had been in brick and mortar schools, but they consistently failed to provide the support he needed as a child on the autism spectrum. His safety and his ability to learn were my main concerns and the public schools were not doing their job. Thomas is actually the one who chose Keystone after looking at all the options available for homeschooling.”

To learn more about how The Keystone School could help your family, visit us online today.

 

Keystone’s Online KAL Program: A flexible fit for adults seeking a high school diploma

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There are many reasons why people leave high school without a diploma. Some students, for example, miss several days, or even weeks, of school due to illness, moves or family issues. They fall behind and never catch back up.

Others think that earning a GED will be quicker and easier than going to class every day.

Poor grades may discourage a student, who simply decides to quit; and there are people who just don’t like school.

More important than the decision to leave school, however, is the decision to go back. Beginning on Jan. 23, 2017, the Keystone School is giving adults who want to earn their high school diploma the flexibility to finish high school from home.

Why does an adult need a high school diploma?

The first reason is simple: money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a high school graduate can earn, on average, over $185 more each week than someone who doesn’t have a diploma — that’s $9,620 a year. That’s extra income that any person could use.

Opportunities like attending college and work promotions become real possibilities. More of life’s doors start to open.

Pride plays a role, too. A high school diploma is a big moment in all of our lives. Reaching that goal is a genuine achievement, regardless of age.

“The benefits are significant,” says Elizabeth Jones, Keystone’s Deputy Head of School, Adult Learning. “Adults with a high school diploma have a higher income potential and can be proud that they reached such an important milestone.”

How does someone find time for school if they’re busy working or raising a family?

Many hard-working adults want to earn their high school diploma but have a difficult time seeing when they’ll have the time. They already struggle with long hours, uncertain schedules and tough commutes just to earn a living each day.

Keystone’s Adult Learning (KAL) program, however, offers the flexibility to fit into busy lives.

How?

  • School is always in session. The KAL program is online and students can work on their courses at any time. If 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. is the best time to get schoolwork done, KAL offers that flexibility.
  • The student chooses the courses to take — and not to take. Students can take as many or as few KAL classes as they want. When someone wants to earn that high school degree, she can dive into KAL’s Standard Pathway with a full course load that includes core subjects, electives and world languages — or just take one or two courses at a time. Can the student do this on the standard pathways? If yes, okay
  • Some students can even accelerate. If a student has a long work history, earned 12 or more high school credits in the past and is highly motivated to get a diploma fast, she can choose KAL’s Accelerated Pathway. A student can earn a high school degree in a year or less in the Accelerated Pathway program. Is this true? If yes , okay

“Keystone’s flexibility allows adult learners to create a plan that meets their specific needs,” Ms. Jones says. “They can do school work after their day job ends, or after they put their children to bed at night. The flexibility is a key benefit to Keystone’s Adult Learning program. It can be overwhelming to think of going back if an adult has been out of school for quite some time — but Keystone has the option for students to only enroll in one or two courses to get started. This can help adult learners take small, but important steps toward reaching their goal of earning a high school diploma.”

How do students get the work done?

On any given day, an adult student can work on assignments, email teachers, administrators or advisors or ask instructors coursework questions.

“Teachers are available to support adult learners when they have questions — they only need to reach out their teacher by phone or email to request assistance,” Ms. Jones notes. “Student Services are also available to assist with non-academic questions. Keystone’s guidance counselors can assist with the college application process or answer questions regarding college or career planning.”

Since the program is flexible — adults can enroll at any time of the year and complete courses on their own schedule — there may be some days when students just don’t have time for schoolwork. That’s fine, too.

How do students pay for the program?

Keystone offers a generous tuition payment program for adult learners. If a student needs to pay incrementally, KAL will work to make sure that happens.

Does this diploma “count” as much as a traditional high school diploma?

Some people may be hesitant to pursue a high school diploma as an adult because of the concern that, for whatever reason, achieving a degree later in life is somehow worth less to a college or an employer. This is not true.

Your options are not limited by a diploma from Keystone’s Adult Learning program — they expand significantly. An adult who earns a Keystone high school diploma has met the same requirements that any of our traditional students must achieve, as well. There is no difference in quality.

In fact, Keystone graduates generally meet college entrance requirements and have a strong history of acceptance into post-secondary programs.

Where can adults who want to earn a high school diploma get more information about the KAL program?

For more information on the Keystone Adult Learning Program or to enroll today, visit Keystone online at www.keystoneschoolonline.com or call 1-844-363-5206 today.

 

How To Get Your Children Motivated To Do School Work

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How to get your children motivated to do school work

It’s easy to spot the things that your child enjoys. Kids are naturally motivated when they have a passion for an activity or truly look forward to a project. Think about your own work life — when you are assigned a project that excites and motivates you, you want to work on it all day long. When you have a task you consider dull, tedious or uninteresting, the work may sit on your desk for a week (or longer).

Just as you had to train yourself to tackle the projects that you’d rather hand off to the office intern, your child has to learn how to complete schoolwork even when she’d rather do anything else. This is especially true for students who receive an online education — the flexibility and freedom provided by the digital learning environment can be a double-edged sword if procrastination becomes a regular problem.

Motivation isn’t always easy, though. We’ve compiled some strategies for you, as a parent and learning coach, to use when your child seems less-than-engaged with the day-to-day responsibilities of an education.

6 ways to get your child motivated today:

1.
Switch the Routine.

Nobody enjoys getting stuck in the same routine every day. For many students, a rigid schedule can be one of the biggest drawbacks of traditional schooling. Luckily, online education allows your family to have a great deal of flexibility — take full advantage! When the brain gets a change in its routine, it feels more stimulated, challenged and open to taking in information. Something as simple as switching the order of subjects or where you review a lesson for the day can work wonders.

2. Use the “When You” Rule.

The “when you” rule is a concept that all kids can grasp. Adults know it all too well because we get paid by the “when you” rule — when you put in a week’s work, you get a paycheck.

You can teach your child that she can earn rewards for doing well in school. For example, you can motivate a child to study by offering them the opportunity to do something fun after school — when you finish your math lesson, you can go spend time with your friends.

3. Small Things Can Lead to Big Successes.

Encourage your child to break their tasks down into small, doable parts. For example, if your daughter has to read an entire chapter of a textbook, you may encourage her to break it up into a page at a time. Adults have found that the Pomodoro technique is very effective in getting business work done — that’s when you use a timer to break the day into periods of work followed by short breaks — because it breaks up heavy concentration into small segments at a time.

When you want your kids to get motivated to do schoolwork, that can enjoy the same benefits by breaking up their schoolwork down into small pieces.

4.
Create Structure.

Structure doesn’t go out the window just because you and your family pursued online education. Add some expectations into your child’s school day.

You may opt to have a time each day that you help your child with schoolwork, such as right before dinner. Also, simply having one specific work station for your child is a great idea.

“Making independent learning feel like school is important,” K12 Student Success Advisor Megan Strittmatter says. “You are working from home, but having a designated spot in the home that feels like school can make students much more productive.”

5. Acknowledge Good Work

Everyone wants to receive praise for doing good work. Heap praise on your child when she does well in school. Be sure to praise the work that she does, too. For example, even if your child is naturally very bright, praise how hard she worked to prepare for a test instead of complimenting her natural-born talents. That will help motivate her to try even harder in school, develop that work ethic and earn your praise again.

6. Set Attainable Goals

As much fun as it can be for a child to work towards a goal, you don’t want to set expectations too high — you may discourage a youngster who can’t live up to the height at which the bar has been set.

“Having an end date to the school year helps get parents and students on the same page, facing that one goal together,” Elizabeth Jones, supervisor of Student Success Advisory at Keystone, says. “Getting this direction established will answer questions like, ‘Where am I going and what am I doing with this class?'”

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Want to learn more about online education?

If your child is an athlete, actor, musician or just wants the flexibility that an online education can provider, please visit The Keystone School online today.

 

Tips for Time Management from the Best Colleges and Universities in the U.S.

Frustrated high school student

One of the key reasons why a family chooses to forgo the traditional, brick-and-mortar educational system is flexibility – the desire to pursue an education on their own schedule and their own terms.

Online education is not, however, a quick and easy shortcut! With freedom and flexibility comes great responsibility.

When your child attends an online private school like The Keystone School, he or she is still responsible for completing the necessary coursework. He or she is still responsible for reaching out to teachers and faculty for help.  And, he or she is still responsible for hitting certain deadlines.

And you – as the parent and learning coach – are still responsible for making sure your student is getting his or her work done.

Time management becomes a crucial skill. When the moment comes to buckle down and learn, your child must do the work.

Need help? Consider these tips for time management from some of the top colleges and universities in the United States – highly-charged, hyper-competitive environments where every minute of studying counts.

Make Studying Social

The admissions department at Harvard[1] understands that a student may want to put off studying because your child would rather socialize. There’s no reason she can’t do both.

Studying with friends gives your child a chance to catch up with her peers, have a few laughs and avoid suffering from FOMO – fear of missing out. At the same time, she has a ready made group to ask questions, find inspiration and debate interpretations.

These study get-togethers also offer you, as a parent, a chance to meet other parents and do a little socializing of your own while the kids dig into their coursework.

Plan and Prioritize

Stanford Undergrad, a guide published by the vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford University,[2] acknowledges that time management is one of the toughest jobs that incoming students will face at the school.

That’s why young learners are advised to be realistic about their workload; to plan out their week to hit deadlines; prioritize their most important work; and pursue healthy eating and sleeping habits. Good advice for all of us!

Divide Up Your Work to Avoid Procrastination

At Columbia University[3], students are warned about the dangers of procrastination. There’s nothing worse than the overwhelming feeling that there’s too much work to do and not enough time to get it all done!

By dividing projects into a series of smaller projects, knocking out small tasks every day and sticking to a schedule, your child can steer clear of unproductive all-nighters and last-minute cramming.

See the Big Picture

Sometimes, with so many micro-tasks, assignments and other day-to-day minutiae in a student’s path, it’s tough to see the end goal. The Academic Resource Center at Duke University[4] advises students to “get the big picture” at the start of the school year. This includes:

  • Creating an overview of all classes and assignments. Make sure your child looks through all of the course material and understands how much work will be involved to successfully complete their studies. This alone can be a nice reality check.
  • Make a monthly planner. Notice that this is a common theme – plan, plan, plan. Duke recommends setting goals for each month (as well as each week).
  • Set realistic goals. Another popular recommendation. A realistic goal is completing a tough project over a period of two weeks. An unrealistic goal is waiting to knock it out over a weekend.
  • Plan to meet with instructors. This is particularly valuable for students and parents of students at online schools like Keystone, where instructor outreach must be initiated. Teachers and advisors want to help! Make sure your family uses them as resources.

Build on Your Successes, Don’t Dwell on Your Failures

According to the Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth University,[5] dwelling on mistakes is a time-wasting activity. If your child gets a bad grade on an assignment, discuss it, make sure she learns from the mistake and then moves on. When your young learner does especially well, retrace the path she took and try to identify ways to relive that success.

Use All Seven Days of the Week

The MIT Center for Academic Excellence[6] recommends that when you and your child create an schoolwork schedule, use all seven days of the week. A little each day goes a long way, and helps to prevent procrastination.

Looking for a different kind of educational experience for your children?

Do you think your child would thrive in a freer, more flexible educational environment? Learn more about The Keystone School today.

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[1] “5 Protips for Time Management at Harvard” https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/hear-our-students/student-blog/5-protips-time-management-harvard

[2] “How Do I Manage My Time?” https://undergrad.stanford.edu/advising/student-guides/how-do-i-manage-my-time

[3] “Go Ask Alice: Time Management” http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/time-management

[4] “Effective Time Management,” https://arc.duke.edu/documents/Effective%20Time%20Management.pdf

[5] “Managing Time,” http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/time.html

[6] “Time Management: Using Your Class Syllabus and Other Information to Build an Effective Semester Schedule” http://web.mit.edu/uaap/learning/time/schedule.html

How much Screen Time is Just Right for an Online Student?

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Is too much screen time a concern for online students?
We live in an age of amazing technological breakthroughs. Your mobile phone could probably replace a half-dozen devices around your home – if it hasn’t already.

This does mean, however, that you spend a lot of time absorbing information from screens – and so do your kids. When your child attends an online school, you may begin to wonder if your daughter or son is spending too much time staring at their devices.

The new reality

Your children love their own cell phones, video games, tablets, laptops, televisions and smart devices just as much as you do. It’s the world we live in, and there’s no going back.

“I think a lot of families have come to the conclusion that screen time is just a reality of life,” says Erica Rhone, head of school at The Keystone School. “It’s something that we all have to deal with.”

At the same time, Ms. Rhone notes that parents can take steps to make sure that their children are interacting with their world in different ways, as well. Keystone, for example, is an online private school that gives students the ability to print out assignments and scan in completed work for review by graders. Students are required to complete hands-on science lab work. Studying for various classes can be done away from the computer.

“It’s really important to have a schedule that builds in breaks” Ms. Rhone says. “Parents and teachers need to know how to appropriately schedule and build in downtime so that students can refocus when they get back to work. And by scheduling it in, not only does your brain get a rest, but your eyes also get a rest from the computer.”

A parent’s role

As a parent, you need to be honest with yourself: how do you feel about your child’s screen time? Do you think it’s an issue? Is it causing problems for you, your child or their peers?

“Technology can play a positive role in everyone’s lives, especially if it is something they’ve learned in school, or connecting with someone to fill a social need,” says Robbye Fox, a certified parenting instructor from Kensington, Maryland. “But parents first need a clear concept of why they are bothered with their kid’s involvement in technology. Bullying, plagiarizing homework, videogames to avoid homework, haven’t done the chores — these are some reasons why technology could be inhibiting home and school life.”

We’ve all read horror stories about what can happen when children are given free and unfettered online access. As a parent, it is your responsibility to be aware of not only how much time your child is spending in front of a screen, but what he or she is doing, too.

“The stakes get higher because what they can do with the inappropriate use,” Ms. Fox says. “Part of it is constant communications about it. There are some ways to monitor social media. For instance, when a kid turns 16 years old, we don’t just hand them the keys to the car. Many precautions are taken, laws and training and incremental steps are in place, because a car can take a life. So can the internet. Parents need to say ‘I love you too much to just hand you the keys and say have a nice drive.’ Even once they get the keys, we still keep an eye on how they drive and how they use the car.”
The solution is communication

Talk to your children about how they are using technology, and listen when they have questions or concerns of their own. As a family, you can set the bar for what is and is not acceptable.

“It’s important to work as a family to set limits about technology in a way that allows a dialogue,” Ms. Fox says. “Using language like ‘Here is my issue, here are my concerns about what’s going on’ and seeing where the conversation goes from there. My kids had frustrations about how WE as parents were using technology, and we would talk about that and try changing our behaviors too. Not all technology is bad.”

Is online education right for your family?

Do you think your child could thrive in a flexible educational environment? Learn more about The Keystone School today.

 

AP Courses at Keystone

This month’s theme at Keystone is focused on Advanced Placement.  We think it is important to highlight for Keystone families the opportunities available at Keystone that can help impact their future education pathways.  Students who engage and test for any Advanced Placement courses that are accepted by their colleges or universities give themselves the opportunity to get ahead as a Freshman. However, if an Advanced Placement course through Keystone is not something that would interest your student, you could always consider visiting a local community college and select a course which could be considered for a dual credit opportunity.  More information on dual credits can be found on www.keystonestrong.com or through the Student Handbook.   If you are interested in reading more about AP courses, take a look at the April 2016 newsletter, located here.

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Resources and Tools at Keystone

Keystone has a number of tools and resources available to both you and your students to help make your educational experience with us a successful one. Take a look at the Resource and Orientation Center and Guidance Services Resource Center in your student’s online classroom and you will find a wealth of information.  You will also find a number of resources at www.keystonestrong.com.

We take pride in listening to you, as parents, and working to develop resources and tools that you find to be helpful. You will notice that during your time with Keystone, we will ask either you or your student to complete surveys; at the completion of the Strong Start program, at the completion of each course, on a yearly basis through an annual customer satisfaction survey and at various times throughout the year. While I understand that answering these questions may seem repetitive, the questions we are asking are there to help us improve our support for your experience. If completing surveys is not your cup of tea, then feel free to connect with another member of the Keystone staff and let them know you wish to provide some feedback. This feedback allows the Keystone staff to step back and reassess the tools, services and support we are providing and work on making necessary adjustments to make your experience even better.