A friend of mine who has two school-aged children was mentioning the recent stress around having her children attend school at home during this pandemic. She and her husband are not ones who were ever in the homeschool camp, and I believe their children are following the on-line curriculum set forth, but something is becoming apparent the longer children are studying at home.
The fact that children not only go to school to learn and socialize, but also to gain autonomy over their selves and their lives as they move through the days and years of their school education. Parents play an important role of support to their kids during this time, but it is about recognizing how they are learning to become self-sufficient, gain confidence, and be able to navigate a world both professionally and personally that is not at home.
Now with children learning at home, parents are now a part and parcel of their kids’ education that does not take these needs into account very easily. First off, the children are at home with their parents. Whatever the patterns of interaction are set at that home base are now going to play out 24/7 with your children. Perhaps at school they have less fear and more confidence than they do at home. Now, all of a sudden, those character traits are no longer around.
Second, children are responsible for their school work and their learning, but this is aided by teachers teaching them who are not our relatives. Our kids have different relationships to their teachers than their parents. It may be that a parent discards certain subjects that a child loves and received affirmation for from his teacher. With that relationship gone, a child is now surrounded by the parent’s judgments on what they should or should not be focused on learning, which robs the child of his autonomy over his interests.
You may also notice that your children moved independently without you during school, but are more dependent on you at home. This is OK when the kids are sitting in both spaces most days, but now, at home, have they reverted to being completely dependent on Mom and Dad for everything. If so, how to encourage them to break away from this pattern, even as the parents are involved in the learning process.
Wow! a kids’ autonomy over himself and his school career can become seriously compromised during this home schooling period of time. Even noticing this tension is an excellent first step in removing one’s self from being so involved that children cannot be themselves as they learn. The parent must first see that their children are not exercising their autonomy to be able to make meaningful changes that will be helpful to their kids.
Once it is recognized, making sure to step back and build in space for them to find their way without you. Yes, you may need to solve tech challenges or answer questions that they are struggling with, but keeping distance and boundaries from your student’s on-line learning process would also be a good idea.
Also, if you are noticing a lack of independence, a reliance on you to solve their school problems, or you becoming too invested in their school work with judgment, it is time to put space in between you and your children’s learning process. Take a breath and break. Remember most of the time, you are not at school with them observing anything. Instead of trying to control what you are observing, give more space and sit back and notice what is unfolding. This is an unusual time that allows for you to observe your children in a new setting.
Noticing, observing, doing less, controlling less are all keys to helping kids hold on to and continue to develop their autonomy during this challenging time of going to school at home with Mom and Dad as central participants in the learning these days.