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Why I’m Not Helping My High School Teens with Online Learning

Here we are: it’s week four of social distancing where I live and we have become pros at our new lifestyle. I’m certain my teens could earn gold medals if “Eating all of the quarantine snacks like it’s their job” were an Olympic sport.

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In the first few weeks of social distancing, I didn’t push my teens to do anything remotely educational. Our school district has never built a true spring break into our yearly calendar so when our governor announced that schools would close to aid with social distancing, I figured there was no time like the present to let my teens indulge in some good old-fashioned laziness.

As event after event was canceled before our eyes, my teens got down to the business of bingeing—both on Netflix and every conceivable morsel in our pantry.

By week two, we’d developed some semblance of a schedule that looked vaguely like our summer life, albeit without the chaos of summer jobs, social outings with friends, and day trips to the beach. My husband and I adjusted to the realities of working from home indefinitely and our kids quickly adjusted to living like blobs on the couch for hours on end.

To my amazement, while they did do their fair share of TV watching, they also seemed to pick up their favorite books without prompting. My daughter broke out her paints for the first time in months. My son changed the oil on his car. Sometimes, they’d just sit and chat in the family room about nothing and everything.

For the first time ever, my teens were learning what it meant to just “be.”

We did puzzles.

We played rounds and rounds of very bad basketball in our driveway.

We cried our eyes out as a family while watching Onward.

We never mentioned schoolwork, grades, or online learning until our district administrators came up with a distance learning curriculum.

Week three brought a new kind of first day of school: online classes would be their norm for the foreseeable future. Both teens smiled grudgingly from their desk chairs as I documented the moment for Facebook.

They dove into their work and I haven’t brought online learning up since. I mean, I’m assuming they are doing their assignments as evidenced by the fact that I hear howls of annoyance coming from their bedrooms when Schoology is temporarily down.

But as far as checking in with them to make sure they’ve turned in their assignments? Nope. Have I asked them what they’ve learned so far? Also, nope.

I know, Parent of the Year over here, right?

The simple fact is this: I have no idea how to help them with their homework and assignments.

I have a junior who is taking Calculus at the moment. I am by no means qualified to help him navigate numbers on imaginary graphs I don’t understand. I firmly subscribe to the “Go ask your father” method when it comes to math homeschooling, thank you very much.

You need help with your graphic design class? Sorry, kiddo, I learned to type on an actual typewriter.

You can’t translate your French homework? Lo siento, pero hablo Espanol solamente.

Hey, kids? Unless it involves copy editing an English essay or assistance with an anatomy dissection (which we are not doing during remote learning, thanks very much), you are on your own during this very weird time in your education.

Basically, I’m letting everyone off the hook around here. This time is stressful enough without having a mother breathing down your neck about a history assignment and I am not going to be that mom to my kids. It is enough work to make sure that our family stays safe and secure during uncertain times. Wasting energy on whether my kid makes it to every school Zoom call is not how I need to spend my time.

I know my kids are trying their hardest during a crisis that no one ever thought would be a part of our history. They are doing the hard work of simply showing up and trying to wade through a confusing time.

And I’m letting the teachers off the hook, too. I see my teacher friends posting “We miss you” videos to their students and I know that we are all at our virtual limits with Zoom calls, online assignments, and virtual projects.

I’ve been a parent long enough to know that book learning will only take kids so far.

The lessons my kids are learning about patience and compassion for their community will serve them much longer than memorizing history dates. They are now a part of a generation of kids who have watched a pandemic unfold, so I’m feeling pretty confident that their biology and epidemiology course requirements are more than fulfilled.

The kids will be okay. And we will be too, parents.

When my kids look back on the time we spent at home because of the novel coronavirus, I want them to remember that their small actions made a big impact on the world around them. I want them to remember that sheltering in place wasn’t a punishment so much as a reset. I want them to remember the moment they understood what it means to hope.

And I want them to do better for the rest of their lives, based on what they are learning during these few short months.

I’d also like them to remember that we used a hell of a lot less toilet paper than we expected, too.

Christine Burke started the popular parenting blog, Keeper of The Fruit Loops six years ago on a whim. Since then, her work has been featured on the Today Show, Scary Mommy, Grown and Flown and other parenting websites. In her spare time, she runs marathons, collects thrift shop finds and eats ice cream like it’s her job.

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