Start Saving Now.
I love saving money. Over the years there were times when money seemed scarce, allusive, or desirable. I take great pride, in my ability to spot a good deal. Sure, companies help me with this by announcing how much I’d be saving if I buy now instead of later, but as a business owner I’d fallen into the trap of enrollment season looking like a marketplace in Southern Nigeria. Everyone wants to barter, but unlike a true marketplace, no one though to bring their best goods to the market. Below I’m giving my 5 best tips for saving money on online kid’s activities without having to trade your prize goat.
Tip #1 Use Your FSA
Does your employer offer a Flex Spending Account? If so, talk to your accountant about whether your child’s online educational activities are tax-deductible. Every year around tax season I get love letters from parents trying to sort their receipts and hoping that I’ll have record of how much they spent on classes. Because Choreography by Rae offers a variety of movement classes most parents can submit their receipts to the FSA for reimbursement. If your FSA is employer-funded, then you could be looking at a sizeable reimbursement.
Tip #2 Look for State Funding
Are you a family fully committed to Homeschooling? Many states offer educational funding for homeschoolers. If your child is enrolled in a Home School Charter School talk to your school about applying homeschool funding to their online classes. Even if your child isn’t enrolled in a Home School Charter School, it’s still worthwhile to look into your state’s requirements and incentives for homeschooling. According to The Mom Trotter, the state of California provided families with more than $1,000 towards home school educational expenses. For some families, this funding means more opportunities for their children to explore different interests or even get academic support.
Tip #3 Look for Hidden Deals
Sure 50% off sales are appealing, but fire sales can be unpredictable. Instead, look for hidden deals or perks. At Choreography by Rae students get more than the classes they paid for. Families have access to free exclusive events including dance parties, chess tournaments, and the occasional complimentary class. Parents don’t have to worry about paying more money for activities when schools are closed. This can be a big help for parents who don’t get to finish work early due to a teacher planning day. These parents know that our special event is available for their kiddo and there’s no extra fee. Does your kid’s new hobby require dance shoes, special computer software, what about a uniform? Look at what’s included. Chances are if your online program is offering a tasting menu, it will be far cheaper than purchasing à la carte.
Tip # 4 Pay More. Save More!
Stop looking for Cash discounts! While some businesses offer a discount for cash payments, Choreography by Rae simply doesn’t. Sure, we like cash, but we don’t believe that a cash discount is in the best interest of our families. There’s the back and forth negotiating price, and back when we offered only in-person lessons, there was that nervous walk from the bank to the studio as parents hoped they were bringing the correct amount.
If you have the cash to make the payment, then make that money work for you. Some studios offer a discount for payment in full upfront. Do you have a credit card with 0% APR or a low APR? Putting the tuition payment on a credit card that offers cashback and a low-interest rate can be a game-changer. Tuition is paid and if you pay off the credit card balance by the end of the month you aren’t paying interest on your child’s activities. Remember you used a card that offers cashback rewards. Now, you have the cashback from your purchase which can be anywhere from 1% to 5%, and you just did something nice for your credit report. Another bonus is you didn’t miss out on getting your kid signed up for classes because you were waiting on a holiday sale.
If your credit card has a high-interest rate and you know you won’t pay off the balance right away, then you’ll want to speak with a financial advisor before putting anything on those credit cards.
Tip #5 Plan Ahead
Does your family take a vacation at the same time every year? Do you know school closure dates months in advance? Look at programming that will allow your child to develop their skills while still being flexible enough for your changing schedule. Online classes can travel with you on that vacation. Commit to in-person activities that compliment your child’s online learning schedule. If the soccer season is only 3 months, it makes more sense to find a soccer program that doesn’t conflict with your 6 month or 1-year online program. Some online programs also make class recordings available when your kid misses class. It’s rare to get a class recording for in-person activities and if you are allowed to do a makeup day, sometimes trying to fit that into your child’s schedule ends up being a big headache
The best way to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to online learning is to plan ahead. It might take a little time in the beginning, but in the long run it will save you both time and money. By using resources already available to you like an FSA, checking into resources you are eligible for (state Funding), calculating what’s included in your child’s tuition (hidden deals), using cashback rewards, and signing up for activities that require fewer reenrollment periods are great ways to save money– no bartering skills required.
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5 Tips for Online Learning Success in Kids Classes
In 2020 when parents were thrust into online learning, the news cycle and social media were flooded with accounts of how online learning didn’t work. It was common to see headlines like “Remote Learning is a Disaster, and Terrible for Children” (NY Post, Sept. 16th, 2020). For Homeschoolers and Unschoolers who have been using online learning long before the pandemic reshaped what education looks like, these inflammatory headlines were met with an eye-roll. I’m an educator who has worked in public schools, charter schools, private schools, homeschool pods, and online schools. I have extensive experience creating curriculum for ages 2-18 including working with special needs students, trauma survivors, and students with socio-emotional issues. No matter the learning environment, the success of student learning all comes back to planning. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” If you’re struggling with online learning or just looking to refine your game plan, then these 5 tips will put your kid on the road to online learning success.
Tip # 1: Create a Dedicated Learning Space
The typical American kindergarten classroom has the alphabet on display, a reading corner, writing utensils on or in the desks, desks are either facing the teacher or grouped to face peers, and all personal belongings have their own place. While not everyone can dedicate an entire room to learning, parents who find a little wall space to hang maps, photos, and charts are planting a seed that learning is accessible regardless of location. I’ve seen parents set up kids for dance class in their kitchen. While this might seem unorthodox, it sends the message, “you can dance anywhere.” These kids are the ones more likely to bust out into a groove at a party of strangers instead of standing around awkwardly because they aren’t in a dance studio.
I’ve also had writing students join class while sitting in bed. Though comfort is important, the body isn’t seated in a position that allows for fast writing. My acting students who attend class seated at a desk or table can change activities faster than those who are seated on their beds or laying on the floor. A table isn’t crucial for learning, the key is making sure the learning space will allow for maximum results. I know that my response time engaging with my students– whether it involves physical movement or just typing, would be a lot slower if I taught class from my bed. The same works for taking a class. The family who helps their child plan for optimal learning is setting their child up for success.
Tip # 2: Reduce Distractions
In 2020 many families struggled with sharing space. I’ve seen kids struggle in class as they battle with crying babies, parent business meetings, overexcited pets, social media notifications, and the call of the internet. These normal everyday activities are a distraction for online learning. When I was a kid, writing notes, daydreaming, and doodling all served as wonderful distractions in the classroom. While the desire to do as we please can be overwhelming, especially when a kid is at home surrounded by games and toys, helping your child reduce distractions supports their development of self-discipline. Headphones can make a huge difference for learning in online kids classes. Noise-canceling headphones can be purchased for around $30 and will allow your child to focus on what they hear in class. Don’t have $30 for noise-canceling headphones? If you have any earbuds, air pods, or headphones laying around put them to use. Even $5 headphones from the Dollar store can make a difference. It doesn’t take a lot to make a big change.
Noise of course isn’t the only distraction for kids. Scheduling cellphone time during the day and having a dedicated place to leave phones during “class time” is a great way to remind kids that school time isn’t the time to go on social media. We keep a $1 basket in the kitchen that allows for inserting charging cables and our phones stay there when not in use.
While I’m not a fan of internet time limit apps, website restriction apps like KidLogger and Spyrix Free Keylogger can allow parents to block sites that shouldn’t be used during class time. I’ve had students in class engage poorly in activities because they are busy playing Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, or watching YouTube and they don’t think I notice. Using a website restriction app can help your child with impulse control and can open up a conversation with kids about the responsibility of not visiting sites unrelated to class. Best of all these apps are free.
Tip # 3: Prepare to Learn
I remember a parent got mad at me because I told her 9-year-old daughter to come to class with her charger if the battery is low. Yes, family members share devices and I’ve had kids tell me their parents won’t give them the charger. Coming to class prepared doesn’t mean the student has to have the charger. It means if you know the battery is low, then think about what you will do in case the battery doesn’t make it through the class. I informed that parent that online preparedness is no different from in-person preparedness. If a kid shows up to class without a pencil for a test, they have many options. Telling the teacher, borrowing a pencil from someone, and in some cases keeping a spare pencil in the classroom. I worked at a school where students often didn’t have pencils and were ashamed of this. The school set up a system where kids could get a pencil from the main office. This showed them they weren’t in trouble for not having a pencil and that the office team wanted them to succeed. Asking that 9-year-old to be prepared was my invitation for that student to look for a solution and to look at establishing responsibility. I’ve had 6-year-olds tell me, “My battery is about to die so I might have to go get the charger.” Those 6-year-olds have communicated that there might be a problem and they are prepared to solve it. I’ve also had 10-year-olds tell me, “My battery might die.” With this information as the adult in the room I can walk them through their options: is there a charger you can use or is there another device that you can borrow in the house? The idea that you can miss class or get out of class early, because of a dead battery is not an option. If it is more important to you for your child to be able to leave class whenever they want then, you’re wasting your money on group classes and should stick to private lessons or tutoring. Kids often look for ways to demonstrate independence and preparedness is a great opportunity for this.
Being prepared for my kids online dance class means having water on hand, and for our little kids, it means bringing their toy for show and tell instead of waiting for the class to start and then their toy. Help your kids plan for success by helping them plan on learning.
Tip # 4 Pick a High Engagement Program
My studio had created a new writing program. The teacher for this class she planned to use in class and my first thought was “boring.” Kids have adults talking at them all day and for students struggling to understand a subject, a slideshow– especially one without pictures, is boring. A slideshow might seem to benefit someone who isn’t an auditory learner, but all students benefit from an opportunity for interaction. One of the things that I stress to parents is that Choreography by Rae’s afterschool enrichment is a high engagement program. Our dance classes aren’t just a live stream of an in-person class. Unlike free YouTube tutorials, games like Just Dance, or apps like Steezy our students will be able to see the instructor, ask questions, get feedback, and engage with their peers. I’ve worked for in-person dance studios that didn’t prioritize engagement and students who attended weekly or even daily classes didn’t know the names of their peers. Do your research. Look for a program that will nurture the whole learner, has a reasonable class size, and minimize parental involvement. While there is a benefit to having dedicated time to experiencing something new with your child, scheduling several courses that require parental assistance reduces your child’s ability to learn independently. I attended a business meeting where a speaker shared having 60 kids in an online class and those parents were responsible for making sure the project goes right. While that studios’ bottom-line was intact, that class setup doesn’t allow for independence, learning from mistakes, and for making friends. That business was missing an opportunity to help their online students succeed in the same manner they would in an in-person setting.
Tip # 5: Set Goals and Expectations
Regardless of whether your child can choose what online classes they take, set goals and expectations. Every year kids attending a brick-and-mortar school start the school year hoping they’ll have a nice teacher, and online school is no exception. But nice doesn’t just mean, “I hope the teacher won’t yell at me” or “I hope we don’t get a lot of homework.” Nice also means, “ I hope I get a teacher that will listen to me and understand me.” If your child’s previous online educational experience included a teacher who hates teaching online or constantly seemed overwhelmed, this translates to a stressful classroom experience. One way to help your child manage that stress is by helping them manage what’s in their control. If changing classes isn’t an option, then focus on what can be done to make the overall experience positive. Working with your child to set goals for a class they hate will help your child understand the importance of seeing things through to the end and an understanding that life won’t always give them what they want. I once had a parent ask me to incorporate Pokémon references in my Kids Hip Hop dance class. My online dance class was his first dance class and though he loved to dance outside of class she was worried her 7-year-old wasn’t enjoying the class. Since Pokémon would not benefit my other students, I choose not to incorporate this in my lesson but made some other recommendations to the parent. This child had picked a class and it did not give him exactly what he wanted. By creating a reward system at home, then that parent is allowing their child to navigate how to handle things that turn out differently than we had hoped. A great reward system for this student would be tying his interest into the goal instead of the activity.
“I can’t wait to see what dance moves you learned this week. Can you show me on Friday? If you practice, then we’ll be able to visit the Pokémon store on the weekend.”
Older students of course will benefit from something a little less frequent, which is where long-term goal-setting works.
“I know your English teacher is pretty tough this year. Why don’t you finish your essay by Thursday, and I’ll take a look at it so you can work on it some more on Friday. Once you get your English grades up this semester, I think we’ll be able to talk about getting that new phone you wanted.”
In the last example, the parent has encouraged the child to set a schedule, stated their expectations, and set a goal with a reward. The idea isn’t to bribe your kids. The idea is to help them manage what’s in their control. After all, if your child becomes a lawyer and seems to be losing a case, are they going to leave in the middle of the case because the other side has an advantage? If so, they won’t be in that job for long.
Online learning can be a great part of your child’s educational plan whether it’s replacing in-person learning or is used in conjunction with in-person learning. By creating an environment designed for learning, reducing distractions, being prepared for class, seeking a high engagement learning environment when possible, managing expectations, and creating goals your child will have a successful online learning experience.
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