McNerney: The Home Stretch of Home Schooling

Neil McNerney, Parenting With Purpose

Let’s face it: Nobody was prepared for the academic challenges we have been facing for the past two months. The school system wasn’t prepared, parents weren’t prepared, and even families that home-school their kids weren’t prepared for this. We have done everything we can to adjust, but we are completely worn out. How do we, as parents, find the energy that was already depleted to help our children finish the school year strong? As someone who literally wrote the book on homework, let me give you some advice on this.

How your child has dealt with school for the past month will probably be how they deal with the final three weeks.If they have been diligently working on their assignments, getting up for every online Zoom/Google call, they will probably continue to do so. If, on the other hand, it’s been a slog every day to try to motivate them, it will probably continue to be hard for the remainder of the year. This isn’t intended to be cynical. As someone whose career is focused on personal change, I know that there are too many resistance factors conspiring against us right now to make significant changes.

Don’t try to instill good study habits at this point. The uncertainty of our situation, compounded by the short-term nature and the fact that fourth quarter grades are more flexible, makes it extremely hard to try to change habits at this point. Typically, many students struggle each quarter only to sprint during the last week or so to get as many assignments in to boost their grades. This quarter is different. Most students have already determined how hard they are going to work and there is little incentive to push at the end.

The relationship is more important than the performance.I sometimes hear parents say things like: “I don’t care if my kid hates me, as long as they are doing well.” I cringe inside when I hear this. I think it gives parents a free pass on dealing calmly with our kids. There is a difference between being strict and being angry. We can be strict and calm at the same time. We don’t need to lose our temper to get our point across. In fact, when we lose our temper, the point is often completely lost. When we yell at our children, other neurological pathways are activated that make it very difficulty for children to process information effectively. At all costs, try your hardest to stay calm while we are in this situation.

Consistency is over-rated, especially now.

I know. Everyone keeps talking about how important consistency is right now. We all tend to have friends that post pictures of their “daily schedule” and their perfectly organized “classroom.” I don’t know about you, but when I see these posts, my first feeling is inadequacy. Although my children are no longer in K-12, I am certain that I would not be the organized parent. I just don’t have it in me. If you are organized and consistent, good for you. Keep it up. But for the rest of us I would love to send some scissors so that you can cut yourself some slack. Your child will survive without color-coded assignment folders for the next few weeks. We can only fight our natural tendencies for so long.

Lastly: Just get through these final three weeks.Even in the best of times, our future is uncertain. Don’t dwell on the uncertainty of the summer. Don’t focus on what September will be like. We have plenty of time to deal with those issues. Trying to wrap our head around the next problem to solve is exceedingly difficult when we are still in the middle of this problem. By solving one problem at a time, we also send a good message to our children: Solve the problem in front of you, then go on to the next problem.


Neil McNerney

Neil McNerney is a licensed professional counselor and author ofHomework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out!andThe Don’t Freak Out Guide for Parenting Kids with Asperger’s. He can be reached at neil@neilmcnerney.com

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