As about a month has passed since the schools were shut down in our area, most parents and students have grudgingly made the transition to digital learning. That transition has been challenging for some and downright miserable for others. In some cases, families were not equipped with the proper technology (hardware, software, or internet), or technology know-how, to make on-line learning manageable. In other cases, parents who are considered ‘essential workers’ were required to continue working outside of the home, leaving little time for them to assist their children with homework. For other parents who were traditionally ‘hands-off’ regarding their student’s academic journey, they have been forced to engage in a world that is very unfamiliar to them.
As an aside, many teachers and school districts have done an outstanding job in walking parents and students through the technology fog and in providing ‘remote hot-spots’ for internet access, etc. As our Life Tools Tutoring tutors have transitioned (temporarily at least) to on-line tutoring, we have been awed and gratified by the tireless and very personal approach that teachers and school districts have taken to this change. Their collective response was quick, professional, and, as important, robust in regard to workload and content. A shout-out to those teachers – keep up the great work!
Now that most of us have this remote learning thing more or less under control, and our students have fallen into a routine of sorts, is it possible to make this challenging time an opportunity for our students and our families? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’ if you are open to taking that journey.
At Life Tools Tutoring, we believe that all parents should be involved in their student’s academic journey. That does not mean that all students (specifically middle school and high school students) need to be micromanaged by their parents. It does mean, however, that parents be engaged in the details and walk with their student on their academic path. With the schooling taking place in your home, now is that opportunity. What, exactly, is my middle-school student learning in math class? If I see her struggling, can I find additional on-line resources to provide review or repetition of those concepts? Do I feel that my student’s teacher has gone off the ‘new-math’ deep end? Maybe take some time and investigate the new math strategies to learn how they work and what the value is to those strategies. Or, after having investigated those strategies, you feel that a more traditional approach would be more useful, reach out to your teacher or you school administration and share your thoughts. You do have a voice in your student’s curriculum. At the very least, learning the new math strategies together could be a bonding opportunity for you and your student.
If your student is asked to read an article for English / Language Arts or Social Studies, read the article along with your student to learn what your student is being exposed to. Prompt your student to investigate all sides of a particular societal issue or period in history and help him to develop a unique opinion based on facts and historical perspective, versus emotion or knee-jerk. Bring those discussions to the dinner-table (we can actually eat dinner together as a family!) and see where they go. Or ask your student what about history intrigues them; if war is the topic, there are countless documentaries available on-line that do an outstanding job of sharing the history while recounting the very personal tales of courage and sacrifice. Turn off the video games and ‘America’s Got Talent’ and sit with your child. Learning world history and/or our country’s history is time well-spent and provides our young people with a much-needed perspective. Or, better yet, find a book on the topic and read it together. Now is a perfect opportunity for your entire family to discover the joy and wonder of reading.
And your young-person’s curriculum does not need to be limited by what the school sends home. Teach your kids how to cook or bake; let them experiment with different spices or recipes; ask them to double the batch and have them work out the math on the ‘½ teaspoons’ and ‘¾ cups’. If fishing is your thing, have your student construct a home-made booklet of ‘Common Fish in Wisconsin’, complete with pictures and a short description. Prep your fishing gear for the upcoming season with your children and take the time to teach them how to tie a hook or why some baits are more effective than others depending on the time of the year. As God is no longer included in public school curriculum, maybe now is a chance to rediscover your faith, along with your children, or to pass along the beliefs and traditions that you were taught as a young person. Utilize the website of your local place of worship or connect with like-minded friends and family as resources on that journey.
Spend some time outside every day if possible. As planting season is upon us, involve your students in the planning process and let them have a say in what vegetables make the cut. Plant the seeds in a seed tray in your house so you can watch the growing process day-by-day. Your student will learn patience as well as an appreciation for the wonder of nature. Take the family on a bike ride or encourage your middle-schooler to run a mile every day and then increase the distance as they feel comfortable. Or, simply let your family know that everyone needs to spend at least one hour per day outside and let everyone use their own imagination and creativity to occupy that hour.
Education begins at home. As parents, we all know this to be true, but often the busyness of life gets in the way of that responsibility. Now is our opportunity to reclaim the role. Now is our opportunity to be truly present to our children and intentional in how we are shaping them. You may even look back at this difficult time with gratitude.
By: Beth Voet