Hello, PATH parents!
Nothing brings us more joy as parents than seeing our kids thriving! We love to see smiles as our kids are doing things they love, learning and growing in multiple areas, and gaining knowledge and skills to set them up for a successful future during their college & career years.
What is NOT thrilling is watching our kids do e-learning from home when confusing, frustrating, or overwhelming for our students (and sometimes even for us as parent educators). With that in mind, we at PATH want to equip you with three helpful tips for making school from home smoother and more enjoyable for everyone!
Tip #1: Set realistic expectations about e-learning.
Much of the frustration and anxiety our students face during e-learning involves unrealistic expectations. As we help identify those areas and then set realistic expectations for our teens, things inevitably go smoother.
Some students have unrealistic expectations about e-learning itself. It should feel the same as going to a school campus (and are therefore very disappointed and discouraged when it doesn’t). We can encourage them that yes, school feels very different this year, attending Zoom classes and/or doing schoolwork at home without a teacher a few feet away for quick questions, but let’s look at how it is better!
Together you can brainstorm the ways e-learning has its perks. For example, there’s no commute to and from school, so that you can allow a little more sleep in the morning. Plus, there are longer lunch breaks and “passing periods,” which allows time for a snack or dance breaks in the kitchen instead of the pressure of hustling through crowded hallways to land in a seat before the next bell rings. You are actually teaching your teens the skill of finding the positive amid challenging circumstances. While we can’t always control the circumstances we find ourselves in, we CAN control our response to them! Remind your teens that these are historic times that they will be able to tell their children or family about in years to come. It won’t last forever, and they will get through this season!
Some of our students find e-learning difficult and have unrealistic expectations about maintaining high grades from home. As parents, we can assure them that middle school is more about learning to learn than getting straight A’s. In other words, their middle school GPA is not as crucial as learning solid study skills and habits that will serve them well once high school starts and grades matter more. In fact, online college classes are more and more common, so this season of online assignments and Zoom classes is good practice for the future.
Encourage them that becoming a strong student while earning a B has more value than refusing to try new strategies as a stressed-out, frazzled student obsessed with earning an A on every single assignment/assessment in every single subject area at ALL times! Shifting their perspective on the purpose of middle school, that learning to be a good student is the major objective, will set a realistic expectation and allow students to feel less stress in the journey.
Tip #2: Clearly communicate home systems for school.
As a high school teacher, I found that when I had solid systems in place, where students clearly understood my classroom procedures and systems, discipline issues were rare. Other teachers would tease me that I got the “good kids” every year, but I knew it was simply that my students knew exactly what was expected and how the class was run. I took the negative emotion out of it: Here are my simple classroom rules, procedures, and consequences. I believe in you and want to see you succeed; therefore, I will enforce these dynamics for all students. In seasons when I homeschooled my kids, I found the same was true. When we had clear systems for starting school, doing school, and ending school, things went smoother. It is definitely challenging to teach your own children sometimes, but the rewards are rich! Hang in there! Bottom line: the more organized you make it, the fewer the headaches.
Tip #3: Affirm your love for them while assuming the “parent-teacher” role.
For some of our students, having a parent as their home teacher is new and challenging. (Let’s be honest: for many of us parents, becoming a home educator was not our first choice either!) Early in my home-learning journey with my kids, I was given advice along these lines: Remind your student that you wear lots of hats as the “adult” in the house. You wear the hat of parent, provider, home manager, property manager, bookkeeper, etc. So when it’s time for you to wear the hat of “parent-teacher,” you love them just as much as you always have. Still, you simply expect them to take their schooling as seriously as when they are attending school with teachers on campus, honoring home procedures and expectations.
This visual of “wearing different hats” in different situations often helps our teens accept our role as parent-educator, knowing that our other roles in their lives are separate and still as healthy and strong as ever. So when you seem to “get on their case” about attending Zoom class on time or finishing the day’s work/homework, you’re just wearing your “teacher hat” and doing your job in that area. Love is always the motivation, and a good relationship together is always first priority.
I hope these tips are helpful as you tackle e-learning at home! Be sure to give one another lots of grace. Tomorrow is a new day to start fresh, and it’s okay if every day is not a 10 out of 10 success. Sometimes 7 out of 10 is still a win!
Happy e-learning with your teen!
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.