We’re making some creative, innovative choices for how our kids are learning this year. We’re on alert to pivot as schools react to increases and declines in the number of COVID-19 cases by opening or closing at a moment’s notice. Having supervised our kids’ learning for six months, we’re asking what role we should play as the professional educators take over once again.
We didn’t anticipate taking on the role of primary educator for our kids last spring, but we stepped in. It felt overwhelming. Yes, there were technology glitches and there’s no doubt not every student’s experience was positive. Distance learning pointed out inequities in a stark light. Dozens of surveys of teachers, students, and parents that were taken this summer indicate that kids in under-resourced communities and those who receive in-school special education services were not appropriately served. But for a country thrown into an untested experiment in home-based learning, we chalked up some wins.
- We got a glimpse into how our kids learn.
- We forged partnerships with our kid’s teachers.
- We discovered what sparks our kid’s curiosity.
- We learned to co-exist while working and learning side-by-side.
As parents already know, kids benefit when we are involved
The truth is that we are so often judged whether we do (“helicopter parent”), or we don’t (so many terms, so much judgement). Irrespective of how much time we spend with our kids, kids have positive outcomes when they know they matter - better attendance at school, more self-confidence, resilience, and the ability to adapt to changes.
So, how can we be effective teachers during the school day, while being loving parents at ALL times? Here are five ways parents can participate in their kid’s education that will benefit the student and the learning.
Champion your kid’s educational leader
Educators are doing heroic work right now. In addition to the full-time teachers who are flexing their muscles with remote learning, hybrid learning, or in-classroom learning, there are college and graduate students leading learning pods and parents directing home-based learning within social bubbles. Many retirees are stepping into educator roles, too, to provide enrichment for remote learning. No matter who’s leading your kid’s learning, take time to make a connection with them.
- Let them know you’re in their corner
- Support them through the challenges ahead by checking in frequently and asking how you can help.
- Introduce them to your kid with the parent-to-teacher letter that details what you’ve observed about how your kid learns, what they’re passionate about, and where they may need to grow.
Confirm your kid’s sense of belonging
Kids may feel a little wobbly right now. The start of any new school year brings its own excitement and nerves, but this fall giving kids a sense of belonging may be even more important. Belonging is a mindset that research shows can be changed. Confirm to them that your kid matters. A kid who recognizes their value to their community, will develop a sense of belonging. With the confidence that builds they can focus their attention to learning and not worry about whether they fit in or not.
Make a plan to encourage self-direction
Take a few moments to meet together with your kid and make a plan.This is an opportunity for you to be a mirror and point out what you’ve noticed in their development and then ask what they’d like to work on during the new school year.
Focus on how they’ve grown through their home-school experience and let them know your observations about what you’ve noticed they’ve enjoyed learning and what has captured their interest.
Ask your kid:
- What are you curious about?
- What do you want to continue to explore?
- How can I support you?
To stay on track, help them set goals. List priorities and develop a strategy. Let your kid set the pace, but help them break the bigger tasks into smaller chunks. The science of learning tells us almost any student can master material, but they do so at their own speed and using different processes.
Respond to their curiosity
Don’t feel pressure to replicate what happens in the classroom, but do find ways to nurture your kid’s curiosity. Psychologists view curiosity as a life force, vital to happiness, intellectual growth and wellbeing. It is satisfied when their questions are answered because when we enable our kid to ask questions they get better at learning. It becomes a virtuous cycle because everything a kid learns makes it easier to learn more. They’re building on what they already know. In other words, knowledge builds on knowledge.
Celebrate and reflect on what your kid’s accomplishing. This will spur them on to keep learning. Research shows that reflection boosts productivity. Use these prompts to encourage your kid to evaluate what they’ve done and how their efforts can propel them forward.
- What worked to get me into learning mode?
- How did I keep going when it felt too hard?
- How did I shift my strategy when my approach didn’t work?
- How did I stretch myself?
- How can I use this to push through learning challenges?
School will look different for a while, but your role in your kid’s education will remain the same as you support and encourage them through their different cycles of learning.