Explore Nature This Summer

Explore Nature This Summer

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

It’s summer! That means it’s time to get outside for many families! In summer, more than any other season we think of all the exotic places, interesting historical sites and beautiful beach destinations we can sightsee! We plan for transportation, we make lists and we schedule special tours to explore new sites! It was Richard Louv, the author of Last Child In The Woods and Vitamin-N, that helped me realize, that like many of you, I’m drawn to time in the natural world. This summer, I encourage you to extend your learning at our online school beyond the walls of your home-based classroom into nature!

You may have picked up on my love of nature through several of my previous blog posts where I discuss hanging out in natural surroundings while completing your online school work whether it’s in a hammock, on a bike or at the beach! In fact, having an outdoor classroom or meeting with community group are both wonderful ideas for incorporating Mother Nature into your daily online school routine. I have an outdoor classroom with a picnic table under a pecan tree with an extended range on my home Wi-Fi so that I can teach from the lush setting of my yard with a magnolia tree as the background for my video. I dare you to connect with your environment by setting up an outdoor classroom today.

Travel during the summer is another great way to incorporate nature into your learning experiences and can usually be broken into two categories: local/regional and “the big vacation!” Indeed, both can incorporate nature exploration that extends learning.

I must say, even though we think of summer as travel time–my students tend to travel throughout the entire school year because our program lends itself to the flexibility to extend learning to destinations found in our courses! Whether you travel during the summer or throughout the year, I want you to think about how you can extend learning from your home-based classroom into nature the next time you take a trip with your family.

Locally and regionally, there are usually hundreds of green spaces that are ready for you! Many local parks now offer Wi-Fi; or, you can turn your phone into a hotspot and take your books and a computer along–who knows you may get to go to a battle field, fort or museum that is found in your history course. Try going to http://findyourpark.com/ to find a place near you. Or take a science experiment into the natural world—see if you find rocks while on a hike, then come home and identify them using your science course material under your microscope. Our English courses are filled with authors who have written all over the world—find a story or poem that is set in a natural landscape and read it there to get a better understanding of the authors perspective. Write your next essay while at a local park bench. If the local outdoors are not for you, try going to an art museum and read the location/date of every landscape then place it in a timeline using your art or history course as a guide. You can find ways to be amongst flora, fauna and wildlife while learning at our school!

When planning our “big vacation” trips, we scour the internet for the “perfect destination” that is offered world-wide. This year the US National Park Service is having its centennial celebration this year and has tons of opportunities to engage your family beyond the classroom and it’s open to travelers from all over the world! There is a list below (not exhaustive) of some other countries that have awesome national park systems and are worth exploring.

I encourage you to find some nature, near you or far away that offers your family a chance to look beyond the science, math or history textbook into a world of learning. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for visiting places that offer places to swim, wade and stroll through pristine bodies of undeveloped waters. My personal experiences while working with K12 International Academy have taken me to the Grand Canyon to explore hydrology, Death Valley where I studied dry lake beds and to Yellowstone where I took an in-depth look at geysers.

The nature-classroom connections are boundless–I challenge you to explore! Where are you headed this summer? What sites have you discovered that extend your online classroom to the natural world?

United Nations World Heritage Sites http://whc.unesco.org/

National Parks of Australia http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/national-parks

National Parks of the Amazon in Brazil http://www.brazil.org.za/national-parks-of-the-amazon.html

Canadian National Parks http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/index.aspx

National Parks of Japan: https://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/

Korea National Park Service: http://english.knps.or.kr/

South African Nation Parks https://www.sanparks.org/

Swiss National Park Service: http://www.nationalpark.ch/en/

Thai National Parks https://www.thainationalparks.com/

UAE Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve http://www.ddcr.org/en/index.aspx

United Kingdom Parks: http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/

United States National Parks http://findyourpark.com/

How Online Students Celebrate Bike Month

DIY-Bike Desk for Online School Students, Teachers and Learning Coaches

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

First of all, it’s National Bike Month; and better yet, May 20th is the bike to work day. So, what do you do if your work (or school) is in your home? The answer is totally simple: make a stationary bike desk!

Just think of the hours you spend sitting when you could be riding on a stationary bike desk that you DIY! You can attend classes or meetings while on a bike. I’m writing this blogpost while peddling away! Go to any fitness club and you will see dozens of people riding and reading. Oh, and what about talking to your teachers on the phone or through video conference—again, that can totally happen on a bike!

Let’s face it, all sorts of daily tasks can easily be completed while gently biking into better health. Yes, I said, “gently.” We don’t have to win a competition or even sweat. We all simply need to move more and what a better time to start than today?

I truly hope you are now grinning from ear to ear because you are about to embark on a fun journey of in home health and fitness DIY to make your schooling experience even more awesome than it already is!

I created my desk in January–it was a bit of a New Year’s goal to move more. I love it! My favorite time of the day is my “ride to work” before my household wakes—during that time, I’m checking my email and grading assignments while calmly peddling to a healthier lifestyle in my home-based virtual classroom.

Here’s what you need to do to create your very own stationary bike desk.

1. Find a stationary bike. I bet there is one laying around your garage or a neighbors garage gathering dust! Many times you can even find “gently used” bikes at thrift stores like Goodwill or free ones by checking out sites like Craiglist. I picked mine up at a bigbox store that was going out of business for a mere $50.

2. Take a few measurements.

How big is your computer that you need to fit on the desk?

With the help of a friend, place a book at a comfy reading level. Using a protractor printout tool -mark the interior angle between the bottom of the book and the top of the stationary bike handle bars.

3. Head down to the hardware store and buy a few materials and tools for the DIY desk. (You can also gather old items in your garage like I did.)

a. Materials

i. Two Pine Shelf Brackets LOWES

ii. Ten Nails or screws LOWES

iii. One (small) Plywood sheet 1/2 inch thick cut to the size of your computer. They are sold in 2×2 foot sheets. LOWES Mine is made out of an old shelf from an Ikea bookshelf that broke. Lowe’s and Home Depot will both make two cuts in the small plywood sheet for you at the store–just tell them the size you want.

iv. 1×2 Firing Strip LOWES and ask them to cut it for you to the size of your computer.

b. Tools

i. A mini hacksaw LOWES.

ii. A hammer (or drill if using screws) LOWES

4. Now that you’ve gathered the materials and tools, let’s cut and assemble. First, using the shelf brackets, translate your desired angle measurement to the underside of the brackets. Then cut off the excess wood and your notch out a place for your desk to rest securely on your handle bars at the pre-measured angle. Next, attach your plywood desk top to the cut and notched brackets using at least 4 nails. Lastly, attach the 1×2 firing strip to the front of the desk creating a lip for so your computer can’t slide off.

5. Lastly, personalize your new desk with some artistic drawings or paint.

Here is an idea for how to construct a bike desk for a recumbent (reclining) bike.

And finally, if you’ve read this post—and you just want a more simple solution to a bike desk for your K12 International Academy schooling experience…then check out this $30 bike on Amazon that you can pop under your existing desk.

Please share your ideas for modifications to make your DIY stationary bike desk even more personal. Also, send in your pictures of you “riding to school!”

Can Blocking Be Your New Normal?

Can “Blocking” be your new normal?

By Jessica Sullivan

In an online school environment, independence and responsibility are two big factors that you need to have in order to be successful. But how do you learn how to be those two things if you’ve never had the opportunity (or necessity) to do so?

In each course, the school provides you with a 90 Day Calendar. This gives you the official run down of the course and what you should be completing daily (or weekly in some cases). Besides this calendar, there is typically nothing else provided for you and it is your responsibility to keep up with your calendar as well as look ahead to see what is coming up.

Why is this so hard? I’ll tell you why! Because many students have never had the opportunity or needed to have the opportunity to set their own schedule! If they are coming from a regular brick and mortar school, then schedules have always been set for them. If they have tricky every day schedules, it may be hard for them to sit down and work on every single class, every single day of the school week. Being responsible for your own schedule and completing all courses each day can be an overwhelming task for anyone…but do not fret, there may be a solution!

Blocking could just change your life! The essence of blocking is that you work on a few select courses each day, and then repeat, in order to hit every class and all assignments each week.

A history department instructor, Ms. Kristine Hawk, introduced the idea at a recent Staff Meeting, and I must say that it has taken off! She has used this concept in her classes with several students. Here’s what she had to say:

“What I believe [blocking] does is allow for student to learn organizational skills. They have to look at their calendars each week to set up. It also allows them to work on time management skills. They have two hours to complete the two days of assignments, if they finish early then can do Wednesday’s assignment or do a makeup assignment or, start working on a writing assignment that might be in the future (like Thursday).

It also allows students to focus on three subjects a day, which many students could use.

Those who are at partner schools and who only have two computer block times a day, can now focus on one particular class and complete the assignments to the best of their ability in the morning lab, then in the afternoon lab can focus again. And then after school (if they don’t complete it all during the two lab times). Many of my partner athletes are ahead because of this schedule. It allows them to go to a tournament and not have to worry.”

Responses to Blocking have been great!

“As this semester winds down for student, I just want to let you know that the block scheduling you set up for student completely saved us. Before you took the time to help student set this up, she was struggling terribly. Once you set up her individual plan, and she worked the plan, she was able to stay on track much better.”

“The block schedule that Mrs. Hawk showed me has helped my time management, and also my academics. I have had a few slip ups, where I just go back to a normal schedule, and do my work in traditional form, but I am getting used to catching myself and restarting. I have talked to a few other students about the schedule, and how it has helped me. Overall I have found the block schedule to be a great tool in my schooling, and hope that I will be able to continue using it for as long as I can.”

I’ve provided examples below of how YOU can use Blocking for yourself. Try it out – see if it works! It just might change your life!

Possible Schedule Option 1:


Monday-Math (2 hrs), Science (2 hrs), Language (2 hrs)

Monday and Tuesday’s work

Tuesday- History (2 hrs), English (2 hrs), Elective (2 hrs)

Monday and Tuesday’s work

Wednesday- Math (2 hrs), Science (2 hrs), Language (2 hrs)

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s work

Thursday- History (2 hrs), English (2 hrs), Elective (2 hrs)

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s work

Friday- Math (1 hr), Science (1 hr), Language (1 hr) History (1 hr), English (1 hr), Elective (1 hr)

Possible Schedule Option 2:

(This modified schedule can be made to suit those scenarios in which you have classes you need or want to do each day and some that you don’t.)

Modified Block Schedule

Monday-Math (1 hr), Language (1 hr)


Science (2 hrs), Elective (2 hrs)

Monday and Tuesday’s work

Tuesday- Math (1 hr), Language (1 hr)


History (2 hrs), English (2 hrs)

Monday and Tuesday’s work

Wednesday- Math (1 hr), Language (1 hr)


Science (2 hrs), Language (2 hrs)

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s work

Thursday- Math (1 hr), Language (1 hr)


History (2 hrs), English (2 hrs), Elective (2 hrs)

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s work

Friday- Math (1 hr), Language (1 hr), History (1 hr), English (1 hr), Elective (1 hr) Science (1 hr)

7 Reasons Gratitude Matters


By Our Positive Living and Wellness Club

If you attended our club meeting this month (click here to access), you saw firsthand the impact that a grateful attitude has on so many aspects of life.  From the smile on your face to the length of your life, gratitude matters!

Click HERE to read all the ways that appreciating the good in your life matters.

Thanksgiving Around the World


By Jessica Sullivan

The eating season….errrr…holiday season is upon us and to really “kick it off” in the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving. Many people celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways. In my family, every other year we go to my uncle’s farm and spend the day eating, catching up with family, and watching sports. The smell of pumpkin pie fills the air!

Within the United States, Thanksgiving can be attributed to several different events. The first “Thanksgiving” is considered the first harvest celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621. There was a mixture of Pilgrims as well as Native Americans in attendance, and the purpose was to celebrate a productive growing season. However, Thanksgiving was not a national holiday until 1863. President Abraham Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving and prayer on the last Thursday in November, and it has been celebrated by the United States ever since.

Many may not know, however, that Thanksgiving is not something that is just celebrated in the United States. Many other countries and cultures celebrate their own version of Thanksgiving in various ways. It is important that we take a look at other countries celebrations in order to learn more about them and grow a sense of respect and understanding.

In China, Thanksgiving can be equated with the August Moon Festival. This is considered the time when the moon is the roundest and brightest, and people use this time to celebrate the way they feel about one another. The virtues of warmth and compassion, commonly associated with women, are honored at this time.

Cerelia is a festival in Rome that takes place on October 4th. This honors the Goddess of Ceres who was the goddess of corn. As is tradition, fruits, grains and animals are gifted to the goddess and celebrations take place in forms of music, parades, and sporting events.

On August 15th, Korea celebrates Chu-Sok which means “fall evening.” This event continues for three days and includes a traditional meal called Songpyon. As is customary, before the food is consumed, the family gathers to remember those gone before them.

Though this definitely does not encompass all of the Thanksgiving customs around the world, this allows you to get a glimpse of other cultures traditions. Isn’t it interesting that each culture tends to have a day of thanks and giving back?

How do you celebrate Thanksgiving? We all have different customs and traditions, but that’s what makes us all unique.

Hopefully for all of you, Thanksgiving will kick off a wonderful holiday season!

“Thanksgiving Around The World.” Around The World Thanksgiving. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

“Thanksgiving (United States).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Planning Your Novel during National Novel Writing Month

Planning Your Novel for National Novel Writing Month
by Lucas Humphrey

Okay, so you’ve chosen a genre for your novel. Now what? How do you plan to effectively use your time? (We’re two weeks in so hopefully you have some ideas by now!) Here are some suggestions:

1. Commit yourself. Dedicate to spend a specific amount of hours working on your novel each day no matter what! Determine when you’ll have free time in your schedule, and what is realistic. Also, decide how long your novel will be—or at least have a general idea.

2. Develop your characters and backstory. What makes them interesting? How will you introduce their past and make them complex? Which characters will be static, and which ones will be dynamic? What major changes will these dynamic characters undergo in the story?

3. Establish your setting, and build your world around it. Will your story take place in a real setting? If so, what do you know about it, and how can you be sure you portray it accurately? How can you provide vivid imagery around your setting as well, and how can you make it believable and unique?

4. Have a solid idea of your plot and conflict. Write an outline or develop a detailed plot triangle. What will the rising action be? The climax? The falling action? Will there be a clear resolution to the story? Will there be a twist? How will it all fit together? How does the conflict build and resolve? These are all questions to consider at this stage of novel writing.

Best of luck with your novel.

We will check in on progress next week. Here’s to happy writing!

National Novel Writing Month Week 1

National Novel Writing Month: Week 1 – Choosing a Genre

By Lucas Humphrey

Welcome to NaNoWriMo! By the end of this month, your goal is to have a complete novel written and ready to share out to the world after a few finishing touches. Let’s get started!

The first step you’ll want to take is to choose a genre, or category in which you’d like to write. Will it be nonfiction, such as a memoir or personal narrative? Or will you choose fiction—and write a fantasy novel, mystery novel, children’s book, a scary story, etc.? It’s completely up to you.

You’ll want to write what you love. What genres do you enjoy reading? What ideas have been floating around in your head that you finally want to get out on paper? Given the fact that you only have a month to write this novel, you’ll want to choose a genre that hooks you and doesn’t let go.

You’ll also want to understand the style and characteristics of the genre you choose. Examine some common examples of other books within this genre. What do they all seem to have in common in terms of their archetypes, motifs, mood, tone and style? Take note of these—you can, of course, be nontraditional and break from these conventions, but you should be aware of them so that you have a template in which to work.

Lastly, make a commitment! This week, go ahead and set some time aside each day to write—whether it’s brainstorming, planning, or drafting. Get your ideas out on paper! Stick to it, and come back every day to add something to your novel.

Good luck! Now that you’ve chosen a genre, we’ll talk more about planning your novel next week.

5 Reasons To Be Thankful

5 Reasons To Be Thankful For Online Private K12 Schools

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

This is the season to be thankful. Truthfully, we have so much to be thankful for as stakeholders in the virtual education community. This platform is just so forward….so amazing….so brilliant. I’m so thankful to be a part of online education.

1. My mother (and grandmother) always said, "If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all." But, let’s face it, everyone does not abide by that wonderful old saying. Indeed, bullying is a HUGE social issue students around the globe are talking about. Thankfully, K12 is taking a stand against bullying! http://www.learningliftoff.com/zero-bullying/ #zerobullying

2. The teachers rock! As a teacher, I’m a bit biased! However, there are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. We are well educated. We are from diverse backgrounds all over the states and sometimes world. Most of all, we are growing as masters in our online education profession. The training we receive is top notch and I’m always impressed with our ongoing educational opportunities. Thankfully, K12 hires the best of the best educational faculty.

3. "How do you and your students have social interaction if you are at online school?" is the number one question people ask me when they find out I’m an online educator. I’ve heard it thousands of times. Thankfully, social interaction is built into our virtual schools! First of all, we have tons of clubs. From knitting clubs to school newspapers to running clubs and even classic clubs like National Junior Honor Society. Additionally, social interaction happens daily in live interactive classes, with other students, from the awesome teachers (mentioned above). Lastly, but certainly not the end of methods of social interaction at school, many times you see your teachers face to face through a live one on one video/audio conferences.

4. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility. Thankfully, K12 offers such vast possibilities for flexibility. O’ let me count the ways. I could write an entire blogpost about the ways you can have flexibility in online education. To list just a few flexible outcomes of virtual education: Students, you can catch up or get ahead in a course or two or all of them. You can school around your daily schedule during your school year. Have a training schedule or a flight to catch? No worries. Thankfully, you can take your school with you anywhere you go.

5. Que the sweet, emotional classical music. I’m thankful for you. My students, learning coaches and fellow teachers. I know it sounds so cheesy….but I say it in almost every class, "Thanks for being willing to learn. Teachers would be nonexistent without students who are willing to learn. So, thank you for attending today." Indeed, you are willing to learn, coach and teach. You are choosing to be part of this awesome online platform for education! For you I’m am thankful to be part of virtual learning!

What else do you want to add to the list? Why are you thankful to have virtual education at K12 International Academy or any other online school?

Think Happy!

What does it take to be truly happy?  Is there a magic formula?  On days when you feel down, you may find yourself wishing that there was.  Good news though!  According to research, happier people tend to have several things in common –  items within our own lives that we can change.

If you took the quiz noted above, you’ll find more than a dozen pieces of this puzzle, and while you may not be able to sort and arrange all the pieces in the perfect order all the time, there are things you can do every day to ensure a higher happiness level.

To take the quiz and read more about how to be happy visit the International Academy  Positive Living and Wellness Club Blog HERE

5 Back To School “Life Hacks” for Virtual School


5 Back To School “Life Hacks” for Virtual School

By Anna Peacock-McLaughlin

You are awesome! You’ve decided to be part of our virtual school family! Our lives are different than those of our “brick and mortar” counterparts. We are a virtual school, and we need our very own set of back to school life hacks to make a smooth transition from summer play mode back to school.

  1. Make an “every day” schedule for yourself with alarms in your phone.

Yes, your online school will populate with your assigned tasks…but it’s up to you to make sure they are all checked off daily. Make a plan for your day. Here is an example:

  • 7am Wakeup, eat, take a bike ride.
  • 8am Math
  • 10 min break
  • 9am English
  • 10 min break
  • 11am History
  • Break for lunch/siesta
  • 1pm Science and Electives
  • 2pm afternoon activity
  • 7pm prep for tomorrow, check kmail, meet with your Learning Coach to make sure all daily tasks are complete
  1. Place your phone in the kitchen so that every time your alarm goes off, you have to get up to get it–just like you are switching classes. Change location with your laptop. Head to the living room, then to the dining room, and don’t forget your hammock outside!
  2. Set up a “school station’’.” in your home.

Ok. Let’s admit that none of us work at a desk sitting in a chair all day…but it’s nice to have a desk to keep your school books, notebooks your laptop and the oh, so important charging station for your computer, phone and other devices ;)!

  1. Place a pitcher of water and a glass by your work station. When your pitcher is gone–you’ve done well!
  2. Take breaks often to jump, dance, move, take the trash out, walk the dog, etc. Pick a song. Play it loudly in your school space. And when the song is over, get back to work.

Hope these awesome back to school life hacks for virtual school help you have an awesome start to the year! Please share your own virtual school life hacks in the comments below!