This school year will be unlike any other. You will have the opportunity to watch your child learn in real time. You will be able to hear what a teacher says during class. And you will have a front row seat to your child’s learning style and behavior throughout a school day. But with this opportunity also comes our innate desire to help others – especially our children. As difficult as it will be, do not attempt to be an expert at all things.
When being an adult can backfire
My daughter, N, was given summer assignments this year to bridge the gap between the unique spring semester and the new school year. She had three assignments: read five chapter books and write a book report on one of them, 15 – 20 minutes of Reflex Math every day, and to complete a grammar workbook.
Seems simple enough, I thought, and created a schedule that broke her assignments down over her 12 weeks of summer vacation.
N got started on her assignments and it wasn’t long before she was asking for help. As a math teacher, I was able to guide her through her math work, offering her suggestions to improve her recall speed and encouraged her to attempt more challenging problems. As a writer and tutor, I was able to support her writing habits and assist her in developing an outline for her book report.
Then came grammar. Sure I know the difference between there, their, and they’re. And I know how to speak in past, present, and future tense.
But irregular present participle? Past progressive tense?
What in the world are we even talking about?
Recognizing when you’re in over your head
I hate to admit it, but it took three or four blow out arguments over this grammar workbook before I realized that I was not the one who should be helping her.
We battled. I was frustrated with the lack of instruction in the book. N was frustrated with my inability to explain to her how to identify an irregular plural noun.
Part of it was ego – I am a writer. I am educated. I know how to use possessive pronouns. I should know how to explain this.
And part of it was a level of helplessness that has come with quarantine and the global pandemic. COVID has taken so much from us already – so much from our kids. The least I could do was support my child’s learning and step in as her teacher to ensure some level of consistency and normalcy in her life.
Except, here’s the thing. I am not an English teacher, nor do I ever want to be. And I am also not an elementary school teacher. These two things combined should have been enough for me to immediately recognize that I shouldn’t be the one helping my child with her grammar assignments.
But it is easy to get wrapped up into the idea that you’re an adult and educated, and you should know how to teach your child the English language – or math, or writing, or whatever subject they need help with.
Don’t be the expert.
Recognize when you don’t know. Be comfortable admitting that you can’t help with the assignment.
This doesn’t mean to not help your child at all. This means being able to say, “This assignment does seem really difficult. Perhaps we can call _____?”
As an adult, you know people. You know someone who can help. A friend, a teacher friend. Me. If you reach out to me and I can’t answer your question, I can put you in touch with the person who can.
This is not the time for you to Google the topic and learn everything you need to know so you can teach your child. This is not part of your job description. You have many other things to worry about to keep your family moving forward and together during these challenging times. Learning 3rd grade grammar is not one of those things.
There’s the old adage that starts, “It takes a village …” I think it is important to remember this, especially during these times. In a normal school year, your child has teachers, support staff, friends, and extra help sessions – perhaps a tutor.
During quarantine and social distancing, families have had to rely on themselves to make it through. We’ve isolated ourselves and in turn, have assumed the burden of every aspect of life. Allow yourself a pass on this one. The beauty of advanced technology is that you have access to the world at your fingertips. Reach out to the person who can answer your child’s question. Don’t be the expert.
When was there a time when you tried to help your child with his or her homework? What was that experience like?
Read more in the Summer Series: Surviving COVID Homeschooling: