In an increasingly digital age, it is no wonder education is relying on technology more and more. During the height of the pandemic, many families were thrust into cyber schooling to keep kids learning. Now, cyber schooling is becoming an increasingly popular option for a variety of reasons.

While there are many benefits to online schooling, one of the notable concerns is how to make an inherently solitary mode of learning more social.

Corissa Hennessey of Connections Academy notes, the important thing to remember is that “a high-quality online school ensures that school socialization and the development of social skills is a key component in every student’s experience.” If students are enrolled in a high-quality program and intentional about socialization, they can thrive. Here are some ways to keep your child connected:

Get Dressed

This may sound like a simple task, but getting dressed for the day is an important part of social connection online. When kids come to virtual school in their pajamas while sitting in bed, they are less likely to turn on their cameras or participate in discussions. Being ready for the day goes a long way toward encouraging social connection.

Attend Live Classes

Some schools offer self-paced programming to complete independently while others offer a program with live classes via video feed. Many programs offer a hybrid of the two. When given the option of live virtual classes, encourage your child to attend as doing so increases human connection. The time a child spends in a live online class gives them the chance to interact with people in real-time, which offers opportunities they would not have if they worked completely independently. There are important things conveyed in body language, interpretation, class interactions, and more. Being present for these things helps your child develop and practice social skills.

Utilize Virtual Office Hours

Many teachers in cyber schools offer online office hours. This is a time during which students can video conference with the teacher one-on-one. Taking advantage of this helps students connect with their teacher, provides opportunities to ask questions, and improves understanding academically and socially.

Frequent Check-Ins

Because cyber schooling is done online, it is easy for parents to miss opportunities to connect. Understanding what your kids are learning as well as their progress is essential. Talking about their learning is a way for them to utilize social skills in conjunction with their knowledge. Planning regular check-ins to be aware of your child’s work is helpful.

Go Beyond School

Connecting with other kids from their cyber school in real life can be challenging. That is why it is important to be intentional about connecting with age-level peers outside of the school environment. This can be done through clubs, sports, library programs, or even your neighborhood. The interaction does not need to be structured to be beneficial. It only needs to be consistent.

“Maintaining friendships has been so important for my kids,” says Summer Johnson of Roswell. “We started homeschooling during the pandemic and ended up wanting to stick with it. I planned regular play dates with neighbors or friends my kids had met at school to keep those relationships active and give them much-needed interactions with peers and not just their siblings.”

Try Learning Groups

Within the school framework, creating a learning group or study group is a great way for kids to interact with one another. These can be set up through the online school or created independently. Kids can use the school platform if available or set up times to meet with classmates using Zoom or other video conferencing software.

It is helpful to safeguard everyone involved by having a teacher facilitate the group or having your child participate in a public space in your home. This allows you to monitor what is being said to make sure everyone is safe and behaving appropriately.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

In a traditional school day, there are times for fun. Passing in the halls, joking around when a teacher is busy, or just waving to a friend. Cyber school may not have these opportunities so think about how you can create them. Encourage your child to take breaks in their day, get up and move around, and talk to you or others during these times. “I created scheduled breaks for my three,” says Johnson. “When the weather is nice, it’s outdoor time for the kids to run around in the backyard and get out their energy. If it’s raining, we will play board games or I’ll let them each have some independent play time.” This helps make the learning day more fun and social for everyone.

-Rebecca Hastings

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