07 Aug 2020

An Opportunity to Foster Independence

I recently attended a seminar for high school juniors on addressing college readiness. The moderator stressed the importance of keeping your own schedule and setting your own alarm each day. Several of the students admitted that their moms wake them up and remind them to do everything. They now need to begin to take control.
Looking towards the upcoming school year, will moms and dads really be able to function well at their own jobs if they are constantly reminding their children of their appointments and commitments? Our children will no longer have live teachers to keep their schedules moving along. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach them to take control of their lives, their schedules, and their assignments, no matter what age they are. Imagine your second grader checking off a to-do list. Imagine your fourth grader waking up with an alarm, making her own favorite breakfast, and jumping online all by herself. Imagine your sixth grader contacting his teacher about a question without involving mom or dad. Imagine your high school student being completely independent all day long.
Remember that all this is a process. Of course, the kids will still need support. A consistent schedule is a good start. To keep track of assignments and schedules, students can use large calendars or online calendars. Try having a nightly 20-minute meeting with each of your children at a specified time. During this time, you can review what went well and didn’t during the day and set a schedule for the next day. Make clear what the responsibilities of your child will be and what the parent will do to support them. While the online classes need to be at scheduled times, independent work could be at time ranges or just “after math class” or “after lunch.” All schedules should include breaks for exercise or free choice.
Waking up: For some children, especially young ones, being lovingly woken up by a parent puts them in a wonderful mood for the day. But eventually, children should take responsibility to wake themselves up, using several alarm clocks ten minutes apart if necessary. This task should ideally be much earlier than high school. One incentive to wake up may be a breakfast date with mom or dad, to eat and discuss the upcoming day.
Breakfast: Many children love to make their favorite breakfasts, but others will not eat breakfast unless it is provided. Without eating, they may be cranky and unproductive. You can make your child breakfast or provide ready-to-go meals such as a cereal bar, banana, or trail mix. Breakfast can even be heating up leftovers. So, depending on what you agree, breakfast will be the child or parent’s responsibility.
School subjects: Students will be provided schedules by their schools which include classroom time online and time to complete assignments independently. When going over the schedule, you and your child can work out which subjects he is totally confident doing independently and which ones will need assistance. He should learn to be proficient going online and participating in classes at the appropriate times. He can learn to keep track of his schedule by setting up alarms on the computer or phone. It is helpful to set up warning alarms to ring a few minutes before class is to begin. You can even set up each alarm to be a tune that matches the subject, such as a patriotic song for history. For independent work, you can plan a time to help with the more difficult subjects.
Needing help: It would be a favor to the parents for students to refrain from asking for help frequently. How about trying to work independently for ten minutes first? If your child needs help during a non-agreed-upon time, how about texting the parent to ask when would be a good time? Meanwhile, the student can keep a notebook with a list of items that need help for later.
Staying on task: This is difficult for many children. You will have to find a happy medium of checking on your child too often or not enough. When you see your child on task, encourage her with praise: “I’m so impressed to see you working independently!” If your child is not on task, try to get her back on track in a positive way. You know that nagging will not work.
Remote learning could be an opportunity to help students manage their own time rather than having a teacher manage it for them. Maybe this will give children more confidence and sense of control over their lives. Students who struggle with executive function challenges, which includes planning, organization, and time management, will certainly need more assistance, but even they can learn to be more self sufficient in small steps.
If you need help, Tutoring For Success has academic coaches available, both in person and online, to help students manage their schedules and work loads and become more independent as time goes on.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President

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