Starting Online School: Your First Year Checklist

The start of the new academic year can bring fresh challenges for students joining an online school, but WhichSchoolAdvisor has all the advice and guidance you need to prepare for an online education.
Starting Online School: Your First Year Checklist
By Carli Allan
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Starting an online school can be an unfamiliar and new experience. As students take their first move away from a traditional school setting, they need to adjust to virtual classrooms, different modes of teaching, and new digital software.

There are several advantages of attending an online school when it comes to managing the 'back to school' stress. Catriona Olsen, Executive Head at King's InterHigh, explains why.

"The very nature of online schools is that all of the information students and parents need is available at any time. Students don’t have to wait until the first day to be handed their printed-out copy of their timetable or find out where their classroom or locker is. 

"There’s no need for new uniforms and school bags. No peer pressure about how you look or that dreaded feeling at the school gates."  

The start of the new academic year will bring fresh challenges for students joining an online school, though. As families prepare to leave behind the laid-back parenting and relaxed schedules of the long summer break, has all the advice and guidance you need to prepare your child for a happy transition to an online education. 

Morning routine

While you won't have a school bus to catch or don't need to worry about traffic jams on the school run, you'll still need to be up and on time for registration.

As Ms Olsen (King's Interhigh) says, a well-planned morning routine will set you up for the day.

"Get up, get dressed and have a healthy breakfast. As tempting as it is to lounge around in your PJs all day, getting dressed will make you feel better and then ultimately make you more productive.

"Skipping breakfast so you can have some extra time in bed may sound appealing but ensuring you have a breakfast (away from your desk) will set you up for the day."

Use the last week before the new term to transition bedtimes and wake-up times back to the school day routine. If you start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier each night towards their new bedtimes and waking up times, they’ll be ready for that early alarm call on the first day back.

Be organised

It's important to set up a dedicated study space, which needs to be a quiet and organised area where you can focus on your online studies and lessons without distractions. Also, make sure you have a reliable internet connection and all the necessary equipment, such as a computer or tablet.

Lawrence Tubb, Headmaster at Minerva online school, has this advice for parents:

"Create a workspace that your child feels comfortable in. Try to have their computer/laptop in a place that means they are in a different room for school (e.g., the kitchen, sitting room). This means that their bedroom remains their place to go and relax and switch off. 

"Try to ensure they can see out of a window so even when they can't be outside in nature, they can at least see the sky and weather as it changes over the day. It's also really good for their eyesight to look into the distance sporadically to adjust from screen time. If possible, try to use the same space so that it remains set up and your child has ownership of it."

Also, make sure that your child has all the necessary school supplies, including notebooks, pencils, pens, calculators and other stationery. 

Plan your school day

While your online school will provide you with a working timetable that includes your lessons, plan your own daily schedule to include meal and snack times, exercise, clubs and activities, and time spent outdoors.

Mr Tubb (Minerva) adds:

"When are you going to encourage your child to get outdoors, even if it's just for 10 minutes of fresh air? Maybe you need to be up early for sports practice on some days? This is a great time to sit with your child with a blank week plan and chat about when they wake up, taking breaks for lunch and snacks, and how you are going to fit everything in. This benefits both parent and child!"

Ms Olsen says it's important that your child's daily schedule includes screen breaks.

"Take regular breaks and move away from your desk and grab yourself a drink of water, move and stretch. Have lunch away from your desk and if possible, go get some fresh air (in your garden or open a window).

"Sitting in one spot all day is not great and allowing yourself to refuel away from your desk means you’ll come back with more energy."

Advice for parents

When your child joins an online school, there's no physical drop-off at the school gate, or face-to-face meet the teacher event in the classroom. Parents can (and should) still be involved in their child's education though.

Ms Olsen (King's Interhigh) shares five ways you can support your child's online learning experience.

  • Log into the school’s parent portal and access any important information and dates for the first term – take note of events and activities that you would like your child to attend.   
  • Attend any welcome or information events so that you are well informed and are able to support your child. 
  • Use the school’s official communication channels to ask any questions you may have or to give the school feedback. Parent-led social media can sometimes be misleading for new parents – the school is the best source of information.   
  • Check your child’s equipment is working and connected to a good internet connection. Ensure your child has their log-in and can access to the school environment before the start of school year.    
  • Help your child to understand their timetable and get ready for the first day. Create folders for each subject and download any course overviews or subject information that you can.   

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