The majority of local families are in “living-without-school” mode for the foreseeable future: only a small percentage of local elementary students are returning to school, and high schools remain closed.
But it’s not easy: parents are reaching out to me for help with family power struggles, children’s screen overuse, and parents’ own feelings of failure with homeschooling. Here’s some of what we talk about as we turn things around.
Schoolwork-related Power Struggles
Is schoolwork causing power struggles in your house? Then let it go. Just.let.schoolwork.go.
Your connection with your child, and your family’s well-being are more important. It is absolutely fine for your child to not do any academic work for these months.
Many parents are concerned that their child will forget what they have learned, or fall behind their peers, or get rusty in certain academic skills. If so, this will be the case for many children, and teachers will adjust accordingly. And remember also that no new material is currently being taught in Quebec schools, so there is actually nothing behind which to fall!
Filling the Space
When we let something go, we create space for something else to come in. What might it be for your child? A self-initiated workout routine? Doodling? Getting a boating licence? Free play? Reading? Writing a story? Daydreaming? Baking? Making music? Connecting with their sibling? Getting bored ... and then coming up with an idea?
All great ways of spending time, and all more beneficial than schoolwork done under duress.
It’s easy to get stuck in the ‘didn'ts’: “We didn’t get any schoolwork done.”
Instead, it is helpful to make a practice of asking yourself “what did we do?” Successes then start to show themselves, and this time of no schoolwork can be recognized as a valuable time of individualized, self-directed learning.
I know! If your child spends time on a screen, you are probably thinking, “This is all great, but if I let schoolwork go, they are just going to spend that time on their phone.” Or, “We are going to spend all day arguing about their screen time.”
Screens definitely make things more complicated. Here are some ideas to consider:
When children are young, and for as long as possible, it is easiest and clearest to simply not give them access to a screen. Of course, online grandparent time may be a needed exception these days.
Once the screen enters their life, the simplest routines work best. Consider “No screen use during what would have been school time.” Parental control apps can be great at reducing screen use arguments: discuss and set the parameters with your child for best results.
For teens: recognize that their phones may currently be their only means of connection with their peers and try to be as flexible as you can. Consider how their screen use is affecting them. Are they learning, inspired and happy? Or are they sullen and non-communicative? As always, your connection with your child, and your family’s well-being are key: you and your teen can work together to find practices that honour everyone’s needs.
Children are natural learners: this time without school is an opportunity for them to find and follow their intrinsic motivation. With that happening, they will be engaged in their education and development in a whole new way: a way that will support their ability to live in this new world.