My previous post shares ways the learning, growth, and development of children can actually be better while they are being held home than what it was while attending school every day . At the heart of that process is having the children identify what they need to learn, how they will demonstrate their desired level of mastery, and the ways they will develop that mastery.
One thing I discuss in the post is incorporating the requirements they have from their schools or that are part of state requirements. I’ve seen more and more postings in Facebook from parents who are struggling to figure out how to get their children to meet the requirements that are now being directed by school districts. In addition to not having teaching experience and not being trained to help children through the education process, many parents are trying to work from home themselves. They have job responsibilities and expectations to meet while also trying to ensure their children meet the school’s expectations and requirements.
One other interesting dynamic was in a news article noting how some districts want their teachers who are going to be directing student instruction from home to do so without the distraction of caring for their own children. The districts are telling the teachers to get child care for their own children so they can focus on their students. Which is to say, they are faced with the same challenge as other folks working from home.
GIVING POWER TO YOUR CHILDREN TO GIVE YOU SPACE
The earlier post on unleashing children’s power can also relieve pressure on parents to be in charge of the children’s education and to feel the need to continually monitor what they’re doing. Many parents will still want to do this, but that will be counter-productive. Instead, parents can do periodic check-ins to see the progress being made toward mastery of the learning goals their children have established.
This is where the open, honest conversations become so important. By discussing the schools’ expectations and requirements with your children, you can help them take ownership of fulfilling them. The traditional approach would be to tell your children the requirements or look over them together and then either direct them to get them done or set up a schedule or plan for doing so. Unfortunately, this will only be as successful as their willingness to comply. In many cases, parents will end up creating rewards and/or consequences to increase compliance.
Instead, have conversations such as recommended in the previous post helping your children come to terms with the need to meet these expectations, even if they can’t see the actual value of the activities being required. And be honest when you see activities that don’t seem to have significant (or maybe any) value for your children. Point out that we all face these situations, often in our jobs and even in relationships and other situations. If you are working from home, draw parallels with what you are expected to do to meet your business’ expectations and requirements.
HELPING CHILDREN FIND VALUE IN SCHOOLS’ VIRTUAL REQUIREMENTS
The aspect of being honest with your children in these efforts includes admitting when you don’t see or understand the rationale behind some school requirements. Use that to have a real, meaningful conversation with your children. Work together to come up with reasons for the requirement that seem possible to you, but then also reach out to the teachers to ask for explanations. Don’t reach out in an accusatory manner, but rather say that by understanding the reasons, the children will be more willing to take ownership of the activities. You could even point them toward my posts and tell them I’m the trouble-maker who suggested doing this. If you want to make this more powerful, have your child be the one who does the asking. In this supplemental post, I’ll be sharing some examples of having done this with my own children.
One caveat—schools and teachers vary a great deal in their understanding and acceptance of having students who are willing to challenge the learning goals and activities. Many will be thrilled students are taking this ownership; others will want students to just accept it and do the work. This is another place for having honest conversations with your children, including when it’s appropriate to push back and when it’s best to bite the bullet and get past this teacher. For me, as much as I want to sometimes, I will not fight my son’s battles in these instances; I will back him up if needed, but he has to raise the concerns and issues with the teacher if he feels it is necessary.
You may find that some teachers are willing to accept student developed alternative learning activities and mastery demonstrations rather than those the teacher developed, if they are sufficiently related to the respective classes. They should realize, or you or your children could point out to them, that the students will learn and retain a great deal more if they establish the learning plan than if they are just going through the motions of someone else’s plan. So, it pays to also discuss with your children their ideas for how to achieve the teachers’ intents for each class rather than just accept what is directed.
THE STRANGE, NEW PARENT-CHILD DYNAMIC
As noted in the earlier post, one of the keys to all this working is that the adults must relinquish power to their children, and I suggest reading the book The Self-Driven Child for more guidance on doing this. There is no question this changes the parent-child dynamic and is sort of the opposite of helicopter or snow-plow parenting.
One of the greatest benefits of this approach is preparing children to be both independent and interdependent. They gain confidence in their ability to be in charge of themselves, to navigate new situations, and to make their own decisions on matters of substance. This is independence. They also learn that they can take risks, fail, and have those who care about them ready to provide support when needed; this is interdependence.
This is also hard on parents who never want to see their children suffer or feel any sort of pain or disappointment. Yet it is occasional suffering, pain, and disappointment that bring the greatest joy and pleasure to our successes. My experience is that the rewards of seeing my children make their own choices, plan their own course in life, rebound from mistakes and stumbles, and bask in the successes for which they were responsible is spine-tingling. It is without a doubt worth any discomfort, pain, or sadness I felt watching them battle challenges. Most importantly, I have absolute confidence that they will be ready for anything life throws at them. That means I will be able to enjoy my later years doing things I enjoy without worrying that I have to watch over my adult children. This is your opportunity to prepare your children in such a way as well. I hope you’ll take advantage of it.