The Role of Parent vs. That of Online Learning Coach
How do you answer “Mom, please just solve this one math problem for me”? As a parent, you might really want to just relieve your child’s stress and anxiety by providing the answer, but as a Learning Coach, you know the math problem must be solved by the student. So, what are the keys to smoothly shifting from a parent-child relationship to a Learning Coach-student relationship? Throughout my years of homeschooling and virtual schooling, I have found that discipline and communication are critical. It’s so important to set clear rules and boundaries in order to establish a cooperative and joyful household.
Create and discuss your rules at the beginning of school and review them periodically throughout the year to keep students focused on completing schoolwork successfully at home.
Here are some rules that have worked for me and that might help you with establishing a winning school-at-home routine too:
- Consistently be the Learning Coach during the school day.
Let your students know that besides being their mom or dad, you are also the Learning Coach and that you will answer any questions and help the best you can while they are working on their virtual school lessons. However, be careful to not give away answers or solve entire problems for them. Instead, help your child become an autonomous online learner.
- Be clear about rules and consequences.
If your child previously attended a different school, ask him or her to tell you some of the rules, and then determine for yourself whether or not those would work well at home. Then add more rules specifically for your own student. Consequences are an essential tool, especially after a warning or two. Children do well and know they are loved if there are boundaries. Consistent consequences will help them learn what is expected of them. If you have a bad day, and you probably will, take time at the end of the day to reflect and think about the changes and modifications you need to make. It may also help you to note these types of insights in your own “Learning Coach journal,” for future reference and reflection.
- Set goals and celebrate successes.
In the beginning of the year, sit down as a family and make a list of positive reasons for using an online school. List how it will enhance your child’s education and well-being, as well as the role you can play in his or her character formation. During the year as you achieve successes, write them down in your journal so if you are ever ready to pull your hair out, you can reflect upon why you chose to educate at home, your student’s academic milestones, and the many cherished moments you shared together as a family. That always got me back on track.
- Ask for respect.
Being a parent and Learning Coach can be challenging. Keep in mind that your child is probably going to test you, especially in the beginning. I always asked my children to give me the same respect that they would give to their absolute favorite teacher. This type of clear communication, and setting proper expectations, is key.
- Allow time for breaks.
I didn’t stick to any certain amount of time or frequency. I usually went by how my children were doing—and, if they were mentally worn out, I let them take a much needed break.
- Rewards are great so long as the lessons are complete.
There will probably be times when your student requests a break because he or she doesn’t like the task at hand. Incentives to work toward, like rewards or breaks, really motivated my children in the long run.
- Don’t procrastinate.
If a lesson proves to be too difficult one day, don’t push it off further than the next day so your student doesn’t fall too far behind.
- No schoolwork without a good breakfast.
Sticking to a morning routine was important for me and we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So if your student has chosen to get up and start school early, make sure he or she has eaten a good breakfast first.
- No phone calls during lessons, unless they are with the teacher.
- Keep your cool.
As a parent, you probably have an emotional investment in your child’s education, but you may not have the professional distance that a teacher would have. Keeping your cool can involve counting to ten, changing to a different lesson, or simply putting off a lesson until the next day. Remember that you have your student’s teachers to back you up. If your student doesn’t want to do an activity, ask him or her to call the teacher to express these feelings. That usually puts things in perspective.
Share any questions you might have, or any approaches you have taken to establish a clear boundary line between being a parent and filling the role of an online Learning Coach!