Tips to help new families navigate the school’s unique virtual structure.
Samantha Hannah understands that, at Commonwealth Charter Academy, she’s part of something large and meaningful.
“I love being a small part of helping our families and students succeed and continue to be successful,” Hannah said.
As the family involvement coordinator for the Southeast region of Pennsylvania for the past three years, Hannah is tasked with ensuring that any new family who comes to CCA knows how to navigate the school’s unique virtual structure. Hannah oversees 26 family mentors within 11 regions.
“We’re there as support,” she said. “We want [parents] to know they’re not alone in the day-to-day interactions with their kids.”
Hannah finds a range of feelings from families who are coming to the cyber school from a brick-and-mortar school when they meet with a family mentor for the first time.
“Many families are excited to come to CCA because of the technology offered,” Hannah said. “Others are nervous because of that … but our mentoring program is a huge help for them because we’re able to calm any fears they might have.”
Oftentimes, with these emotions come questions. Hannah shared some of the most frequently asked questions from new cyber school families and the advice she provides.
Q: What does the schedule look like, and how should our kids manage their time?
Managing time is all about flexibility. “We encourage parents to try and set a schedule with a daily routine,” Hannah said. “It’s highly recommended that time is structured around when teachers are available [7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.].”
Tips for successful time management:
Take breaks as needed. “Make sure students are pacing themselves to prevent them from being overwhelmed,” she said.
Use the planner provided within the learning management system. “The planner is there to help students complete their courses on time,” Hannah said.
Q: What resources are available for families?
The primary academic resource is the CCA teachers. “The teachers are always available,” Hannah said. “Their phone numbers are posted on their pages. Parents can contact them to schedule meetings with them inside a classroom setting.” Additionally, CCA has guidance counselors and a wide range of after-school programs.
Each new family is assigned a family mentor, “and families are contacted on a biweekly basis. Mentors also set up face-to-face visits,” she said. Family mentors schedule meetups throughout the year, so families can connect with one another.
Community resources include hosted field trips within the family’s county and across the state. Each field trip aligns with the CCA curriculum. “This is a great way for families to meet and spend time with teachers,” Hannah said.
Q: Are there clubs and after-school programs?
CCA offers learners and families a wide range of clubs and after-school programs. “Academics are important, but you want students to have fun and enjoy the experience,” Hannah said. CCA clubs and activities include clubs for students interested in the arts, science and technology, and many other activities.
Q: What courses do you offer?
CCA offers students a number of courses, including science, math and foreign languages. The difference is that certain courses aren’t just about teaching a lesson, Hannah said, but having a discussion about the lesson. “This way, the teacher is able to check for an accurate understanding of the lesson.”
The teacher also can identify students who are more advanced, and a program can be created for these students to “appeal to them,” Hannah said.
Q: What’s the difference between CCA and brick-and-mortar schools?
The differences between CCA and traditional schools come down to several things:
• Individualized attention for every student. “Teachers have the ability to get to know the students and their individual needs,” Hannah said.
• A more advanced program. “CCA teaches kids to become independent thinkers. Instead of having instructors tell students what the problem is, they guide them to the answer and have the students problem-solve. In a brick-and-mortar school, students are told, ‘This is the problem, and here is the solution.’”
• The creation of events and opportunities. “Parents can go to the directory and locate other students within their community and then create an environment where their students can engage with others,” she said. “When students go on field trips, they go with older and younger students, so they — and their families — can see different experiences.”
Thinking about enrolling your child in CCA? Sign up today to learn more about what our cyber school can do you for you and your family.