Ground Control Parenting – Carol Sutton Lewis

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Academics

Checking In on the School Front

The school year is in full swing now. Children have settled into the work, and there are still a few solid weeks left before the holidays hit. In case you’ve been on autopilot, it is time to check in and see how things are going at school. Here are some tips and advice on how to check in:

Connect with the Teachers: Have you had any exchanges with any teachers since curriculum (or open school) night? If you have an elementary or middle schooler, it is a good idea to check in with the teachers (especially teachers of any of your child’s more challenging classes) to make sure that things are on track. If your child is a high schooler, connect with his or her advisor.

Check Homework Habits: Does your child have good homework habits? Does he have a designated work area, which is device free (except for a computer, if he needs it)? It is really important to make sure he is not distracted by devices while doing work. And note that this means that you can’t watch tv nearby either, as this will surely distract him. Set a good example and reward him with screen time only when he is done.

Homework Help–How Much?: Does your son or daughter need help with homework? How much should you be helping? Parents.com offers suggestions for how to help without doing it for them here. One of the suggestions is to focus on monitoring, not correcting the work. Resist the temptation to make (or encourage) corrections so that your child always turns in a perfect paper. While you want to encourage your child to make his or her best effort, the teacher needs to see his work product, not yours, in order to make sure he understands the lessons.

I learned this lesson from my eldest years ago when I was helping her edit a middle school paper with which she was struggling on a tight deadline. While reading through the paper I found myself frequently asking “Did you mean to say…?” and basically ended up restructuring (and rewriting chunks of) the paper. The ideas were hers, I just “smoothed them out a little”, and helped her end up with a paper that more accurately reflected her thinking.

Or so I thought. When she got home from school the next day I eagerly asked her how things went with turning in her paper “we” worked on. “I didn’t turn that in” she answered. “That was more your work than mine. I turned in my own version.” Good for her to shut down her well-meaning but over-reaching mother. (I don’t recall what happened with the paper, but she survived the class and went on to become an English major in college.) I’d love to say I learned my lesson and backed off completely for the rest of her school days, but that would not be true. I definitely appreciated the need to back off, though, and tried much harder to do so after that.

But Don’t Rush to Help: Another Parent.com suggestion: If your child has a habit of asking for a lot of help with homework, consider telling her you’ll come help when you are finished doing something, and take your time in getting there, rather than rushing over. This will give her more of a chance to reread the instructions and try to figure it out on her own.

Khan Academy: Is your child struggling with concepts and needs additional help? Together you can go online to Khan Academy, where you will find free instructional videos on a wide variety of topics, including mathematics for grades K-12. Khan Academy, whose mission is “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere” is a great site to visit under any circumstances. Parents can sign up with their children and monitor their progress, and take video courses themselves. Definitely worth checking out.

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