My oldest son started kindergarten this year. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer over here, but it hasn’t been the most amazing experience ever. We started off the year in a Hybrid Learning model. He went to school two days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) and then was home for distance learning the rest of the week. As expected, schools went full distance learning once cold weather settled in and COVID cases spiked. Distance learning started off well enough… that is, until it crashed and burned. My son would scowl at me with crossed arms and feet firmly planted while saying, “I’m not doing it!!”
Initially, my response was to try to convince him to do his school work. I reasoned with him. Over and over we discussed how this year is different, how his school could look in the future, but “We just need to get through this tough part.” To be honest, we didn’t complete 100% of the school work assigned to him. We eventually got to the place where we had to prioritize what lessons we did. If we can only manage one or two topics today, what should they be? Realistically, what activities will he sit and do without causing a huge stink? This was as much for my sanity as it was for his.
I asked myself many, many times, “How do homeschooling moms do this?!” At one point, it got so bad that he was refusing to do school work altogether. I reached out to his teacher for some advice. As a new-to-school parent, I felt like I was in it up to my eyeballs. We were surviving, but barely. His teacher suggested using some kind of reward system. That seemed to work for a while, but eventually even that wasn’t enough motivation for him to sit down and get his classwork done.
One day, I caught myself going through his iPad thinking about how much easier it would be for me to do some of his activities for him. “I could get these done so quickly and then there wouldn’t be any arguing or bribing him to get it done,” I thought. That was my low point. I quickly realized how problematic the thought was that had just run through my mind. And just as quickly, it hit me that I already completed kindergarten. If I am taking all the responsibility upon myself to help him get his school work done, how will he ever learn that his education is actually his load to carry?
That day, my parenting approach changed. When he argued about doing his school work, I no longer reminded him how important it was, or explained why he should do it. Instead I simply replied, “It’s okay if you don’t want to do it. But if you don’t learn the material, you might need to repeat this grade next year. This is your school work, not mine.” He paused and looked at me for a minute and then said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”
I’m not going to sit here and claim that everyday in distance learning is sunshine and roses now that I’ve let myself off the hook. But if nothing else, I feel ten pounds lighter. I no longer feel solely responsible for my son’s school work. I continue to offer encouragement and read the directions on his assignments, but I have decided that he will either get his work done or he won’t. I will forever praise him for doing his best. I will remind him that we don’t expect perfection. And I will reassure him that we will love him no matter what. But this year, I am taking a step back. This is his year for kindergarten, not mine.