Lesson #1: Assist as needed. Don’t take over.
You’ve got to understand . . . I’m in an earshot distance of my son’s school learning environment throughout most of the day. And, I’ve never been in that position before — a position where I’m so close to his school action but having to remain somewhat distanced. As a matter of fact, the last time he had school from home, I was actually the one delivering a lot of the instruction he was receiving. So, this virtual school experience is a whole new animal. I’m here while Little Man is learning, but I’m not the one teaching him. I should be hands-off for the most part — until I’m needed, anyway.
Do you know how hard it is to keep myself from butting in from time to time? I call myself just checking on him to make sure the technology is functioning smoothly. But sometimes, I dawdle just a bit too long, until Little Man tells me to vacate the premises — basically he shoos me away. Then, I find myself listening outside his door to hear if he’s participating in class and answering questions that are directly addressed to him with correct responses. On his practice work, I even ask to see it before he goes over it with his teacher — just to make sure he’s on track.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I have things I do around the house that keep me pretty busy. I’m not just sitting in the living room, listening intently to all of his lessons that come through the mic from the home office where Little Man is situated for his school day. Seriously. I have things I’m aspiring to do, which is why I was so thankful that Little Man could have his fifth-grade teacher from his magnet school teach him the fifth-grade curriculum and which is why I’m not about to be that parent who tries to help my child with every assignment. He’s got to learn to take instruction from his teacher and ask questions if he doesn’t understand those instructions. But, it doesn’t hurt for me to go in and give my two cents if it’ll help him complete an assignment, does it?
I mean I’m not trying to do the boy’s work for him. I’m just assisting him a little, so he doesn’t miss a beat. No harm, no foul. It’s like me helping him last year with homework assignments that he might not have understood the directions for or was struggling with when he brought them home from school to work on. What would be the difference in me helping him now verses helping him back then? Oh, but there’s a difference.
Also, if I just happen to be walking by (not eavesdropping by) his desk and see him struggling with something, why not help him out (even before he has a chance to ask me for help)? Sure, his teacher is absolutely wonderful and has years of education and experience in instructing children. But, if I’m present, why have him unmute his mic and bother her with a question when maybe (just maybe) I can explain things in a way that he can understand and avoid having to disrupt his teacher’s work flow.
Actually, as I’m typing up this post, I don’t think I sound too overbearing as a mom who wants to make sure that this virtual school set-up is a successful learning environment in which my child can thrive. In all honesty, I sound like a parent, trying to assist her child in performing to the best of his academic ability.
But wait a minute. When my good intentions actually hinder or confuse the flow of learning, then I’ve veered over on to the side of taking over instead of staying a neutral party until my involvement has been requested by Little Man. And here’s where lesson #1 has been a reminder to me in letting my son grow as organically in his learning abilities as I can. After that, there’s absolutely nothing amiss about coming in as needed to make sure that he’s successfully progressing in his mastery of foundational building blocks, concepts, and principles and is able to apply them appropriately.
Essentially, my job is to reinforce the instruction he’s receiving, not teach my son a totally different curriculum based on the way I was taught decades ago or the way I think Little Man should be learning information based on an adult perspective. I’ve been through fifth grade, now it’s time to let my son have the opportunity to do the same. And it’s important for me to let him learn according to the methods in which fifth graders are learning their school material these days. (I just need to make sure that I understand the methods as they’re taught today (not in my day), so I can make sure I’m reinforcing concepts in my son’s understanding.) He will continue to build upon these learning methods in each grade level that succeeds the one before it.
So, I’m quickly understanding that I don’t always know better when it comes to assisting Little Man with his school work and interjecting my thoughts and opinions when they’ve not be requested by him. Here’s what happens when mom tries to take over:
- My son may have missed some instruction that his teacher was trying to give because I had him focus on some instruction I was trying to give him at the same time she was talking. Because we can mute his mic so that his teacher can’t hear me in the background, it’s easy for me to come in and start interrupting him from something that he should be paying attention to. I don’t do it to be disruptive. I’m thinking I’m helping him, but I’m actually hindering the work flow of his teacher, providing instruction to him. And consequently, Little Man misses some instruction he would have received from his teacher if I hadn’t been butting in.
- I’ve tried to come to the aid of my son a time or two (without him asking for the assistance). Really, this is a recipe for disaster. I need to let Little Man make sure he is getting the instruction needed from his teacher and asking her questions if there’s something he doesn’t understand. Coming to his rescue before he even requests it is teaching Little Man to come to me for help instead of his teacher and that’s not what should be happening. I need to remember what school life was like for Little Man last year when he was going to brick-and-mortar school. When my son was away to school, I wasn’t there and he had to rely on his teacher. So, I need to remember that scenario when I think I need to be available to help him every minute of his school day. My philosophy should be to let him be a big boy and learn from his virtual school setting for the most part and only present myself when I’m not taking away from his teacher’s time and assistance to him.
- I may have confused my son a time or two, when I’ve tried to provide instruction according to my way of understanding concepts instead of how the concepts are being taught to the children today. And I wasn’t doing this to make things harder for him. I, actually, thought I was helping make things easier for him by showing him my way of solving a problem or coming to a conclusion. (I still think some of the ways in which students learn math today are so much more complicated than when I was taught math concepts in elementary school.) But, no matter. I need to get with the program and learn the new way, so I can effectively help my son this school year and beyond.
So, there you have it folks. Lesson #1 is out and I’ve got more to come. I’d love to hear if you’ve come across this lesson in your own home.