Here at Uplift Michigan, we talk to a lot of parents who are entirely new to online education. They often have questions about how they are supposed to get started: How do we find the right school? How do we enroll? What do we need to do to prepare our students? We know that thousands of other parents are out there with the exact same questions, so we wanted to put together a small guide on what you can do to begin the process. Take a look below, and be sure to reach out to us if you have any questions!
Finding an Online School
According to schoolchoiceweek.com, there are online public schools offered in 35 states in the U.S. and private online schools offered in all 50 states. The big benefit of attending a public school is that it is completely free — and not just the tuition. Most states require public online schools to provide each student with a laptop so they can complete their course work. “Each student” means if more than one of your children is attending an online school, each of them receives an individual laptop from doing their work.
States that Do Not Offer Full-time Public Online Schools:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Finding an online school that services your area is as simple as heading to Google or another search engine; the trickier part is determining which school is right for you.
At Uplift Michigan, there are three things we tell all of our parents and students to consider when choosing a school:
- Courses and Curriculum: Unless you want to figure out special travel arrangements to and from school for your student when it comes to brick and mortar schools, you are kind of stuck with what you get. The courses offered are the courses offered. But when it comes to online school, you might have options. Talk to your student about the subjects they are interested in and see if any of the public online schools in your state offer more value than others. When your student reaches high school, the courses offered will likely be a big deal to them, from electives to AP classes.
- Success and Approval Ratings: Looking at success and approval ratings is a great way to determine if your child will not only be happy at their new school but if they will perform at their best. Most schools should be able to tell you what percent of parents and students are happy with the school’s performance, and they might be able to share improvement and graduation rates as well. At Uplift Michigan, we have a whole page on our website dedicated to informing our visitors about our satisfaction rate. You can take a look here.
- Acceptance and Diversity: We get a lot of students who came to us because they did not feel welcome at their old schools. Some were victims of bullying and harassment, and some felt ostracised. We welcome students of all backgrounds here at Uplift and have made it our priority to create a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQIA+ students and other marginalized groups. If your student has had trouble fitting in in the past or has been made to feel lesser because of who they are, we highly recommend researching diversity and inclusion while looking for your student’s new school.
Enrolling in an Online School
Enrolling in an online public school is actually very easy. Most schools have a big enrollment button present on their website.
We can’t speak for every school out there, but our process is simple and straightforward.
- Click enroll.
- Submit a form with your contact information and some baseline information about your student.
- Receive a call from Uplift Michigan.
- Fill out any other necessary documents (supplied by Uplift).
- Your student is enrolled!
It really is that simple! If you have any trouble, you should be able to contact the school to help walk you through the process — we always have staff members on hand to provide any necessary guidance.
After this, all that’s left is to withdraw your student from their current school. If your student is currently enrolled at a public or private brick-and-mortar school, you’ll want to send a withdrawal letter to your district if applicable. In some states, online public schools are run through districts — in these cases; you would still want to remain enrolled in your district.
Creating an at-home “Classroom”
Now that your student is enrolled, where do you go from here? Well, regardless of your student’s age, the next step is to prepare your student for their transition from a physical school to an online school. That transition is made easier by creating an at-home classroom or workspace that your student can physically associate with school work.
How do you create an at-home workspace?
- If possible, choose an area of your home that your student doesn’t associate with another activity. Your student will not be as productive as they could be if their work desk is also their gaming desk.
- Remove any unnecessary clutter and household items from the workspace that may be distracting — toys, knickknacks, etc.
- Make sure your student has a good WiFi connection in this area of your home.
- If you are around during the school day, try to create the workspace in an area you will naturally be walking through so you can quickly check up on them and make sure they are on task.
- That being said, you should also try to eliminate the amount of traffic throughout the area. Make sure pets and siblings won’t constantly be walking in and out of the room, distracting your student.
- If the space can be used as a permanent workspace, allow your student to house all of their school items there, such as their school laptop, textbooks, folders, calendars, planners, pencils, pens, etc., and allow them to decorate the area. If you do not have an area of your home that you can convert into a permanent workspace for your child, instead have them set up and take down their workspace at the beginning and end of each school day.
Creating a Schedule
Since your student may not have a physical location to travel to and may not have an authority figure making sure they are “attending” class, it is incredibly important to create a consistent daily and weekly schedule for your student to follow. We recommend dedicating at least 6.5 hours of each day to school.
Your schedule does not have to be the same or even resemble the typical schedule followed by brick and mortar schools. Consider the following while
- When does your child learn the best? Are they an early riser, or do they do better in the afternoon or evening?
- What is the best work-to-break ratio for your student? The ideal work to break ratio is said to be 52 minutes on, and 17 minutes off. But this can vary between age groups, and everyone has different preferences, so don’t be afraid to branch away from this based on your child’s learning habits. If they are a quick learner and would prefer to power through a few lessons at a time, that is perfectly fine. If they have a hard time maintaining focus and need more frequent breaks to get some of their energy, that is also okay. The important part is that a schedule is formed and followed.
- What other commitments does your student have? If your student has a job, participates in a sport or hobby, or has other responsibilities they need to attend to, make sure you build in time not just for them to take care of these things but for them to transition from one task to the next. It may only take one minute for your student to get from the piano downstairs to their desk upstairs, but mentally transitioning from piano lessons to geometry may take a little longer.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is building a schedule that supports how your student learns. Whether that is six hours of back-to-back lessons or 20 minutes on five minutes off doesn’t matter. What matters is building a schedule and sticking to it.
Ready to Get Started?
Now that you know how to get your child started at online school, it is time to follow through! If you are a Michigan resident, you can head over to our Enroll Page right now to get started.