Reducing Anxiety: How to Prep for Success While Transitioning to an Online School

Online education is a choice that families make when — for one reason or another — the traditional school environment just doesn’t work for them. Online schools can offer flexible schedules, curricular choices and a degree of freedom that can make learning more exciting for students and more comfortable for parents.

When making the transition to online education, however, it’s important to remember that the change can stress a kid out. Children may be anxious while adjusting to an online school. When they have a problem with coursework, need help communicating with teachers or peers, or have trouble adjusting to a flexible school schedule, where can they turn?

Let’s take a look at some of the common problems — and the most effective solutions — that we’ve seen children and parents experience during their transition to online education.

What Happens When Students Struggle with a Course?

With freedom comes responsibility! This is often the first lesson when a student starts at an online private school like Keystone.

Sometimes, when given the flexibility of choosing when and how to do coursework, a student falls behind.  When online students struggle to keep up at The Keystone School, there are a variety of solutions available.
“If a parent gets a message that their student is not on track to finish within the one year, it can be really stressful,” Elizabeth Jones, supervisor of the Student Success Advisory at Keystone, says. “It’s one of the many reasons our Student Success Advisory team is in place. It is a common occurrence, especially when you put teenagers into the mix.”

Parents at Keystone School are considered Learning Coaches. Being proactive about encouraging your students to seek help for any struggles they have in a course is part of the Learning Coach’s job.

Keystone students can rely on Student Success Advisors to then work with them on identifying exactly what the problem is, looking at its source so it doesn’t occur again, and finding a solution.

“Maybe a progress report gets sent and a parent says to their student, ‘I thought you were further along in this course. What’s going on?’” Ms. Jones explains. “Parents might reach out to a Student Success Advisor for a plan on how to get back on track. That’s what we’re here for.”

How Can Students Best Communicate with Peers and Adults?

It’s a myth that online students lack social opportunities. These young learners have many chances to chat with peers and teachers.

But — since it’s a new approach for many students — they sometimes need a little guidance to get going.

When a student starts at Keystone for the first time, she may wonder about the best way to establish communication with peers and adults at the school.

“One great place we want new students to take advantage of is the Resource and Orientation Center, which explains everything they need to know,” Megan Strittmatter, Keystone’s Student Success Advisor, says. “There are videos in every section exactly how to submit this type of assignment, how to create a schedule. We also host a ‘Getting Started’ webinar every week. We do a course walk through.”

Those tools offered by Keystone are designed to help a student know where and how to contact everyone they need to communicate with to excel with their program. Students can avoid stressing about who to contact when they have easy access to peers, teachers, and other adult staff members who can walk them through issues they encounter.

What If Students Have Trouble Sticking to a Schedule?

Sticking to a schedule is one of an online student’s most important skills (see the first question above about falling behind!). Like all skills, it takes some work to hone.

“A lot of students aren’t used to this level of responsibility; they are used to relying on a teacher for reminders about reading, assignments and tests, and when they have to meet all those deadlines,” Ms. Jones says. “At Keystone, you need to be working steadily throughout the year in order to really finish successfully.”

“Building a schedule is one of the most important things students can do,” Ms. Strittmatter adds. “Being self-paced, Keystone is truly an independent study program, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need structure. You still need to have a plan. It can be specific to your life, but you need to have a plan.”

Speak Up! It Helps.

At many online schools — Keystone included — the whole process relies on the willingness of the child to do the work and engage with the program. Being proactive helps — when your child has a question or runs into a wall, she can’t wait for someone to come to her. She needs to connect with her teachers and get the answers she needs. It’s a great life lesson!

Interested in an Online Education?

Are the benefits of a flexible education important to your family? Visit the Keystone School online today to learn more.


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


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.