With schools closed, students have to re-examine the parameters of learning. From the classroom to the home, students have to reacclimate and reframe the learning environment. This is a fantastic opportunity for young learners to reconnect with their interests and passions and quietly contemplate who they are and what they want to learn. If they embrace this time period then many will shift from a current state of passive learning to a more active self-initiated state of learning

My recommendation is not to force the conversation and not to force your agenda. What you can enforce is the expectation around quiet contemplation and meaningful engagement. This might mean structured screen time, downtime, unplugged time, and quiet time. It is within this time zone that young minds can be still long enough to think, reflect, contemplate, and ponder future possibilities.

At this point, young adults and teenagers should be taking inventory of their passions and interests. They should be reading and writing and thinking. This personal inventory should connect the dots towards future growth and development. When the school does open, I hope that all students re-engage with a stronger identity and a more explicit purpose. In the meantime, we are home trying to teach our young kids skills and engage them in learning, whether they are ready for it or not.

Some would say that typical schools squelch creativity and diminish curiosity. This is why many parents choose to home-school their child. Learning stops being fun and engaging. Some would say this is because the school does not embrace unique differences and individual learning styles that cannot be cultivated within the confines of a typical school system. Many twice exceptional (2e) children, who tend to struggle with the typical school environment, discover that learning at home allows innate gifts and curiosity to flourish. If what these people say is true, then I would say we are blessed with this opportunity to see what is possible when the institution of school is removed from the schedule. Given the right guidance and support can young teenagers and young adults find their strengths and cultivate a curiosity that breeds exploration and discovery, learning, and growth.

Maybe it starts with finding a good book to read, picking up that old guitar, or playing Dad in a game of chess. There are endless starting points and possibilities. The point is we have to start somewhere. We have to start by carving out the time and attention to open the doors to metacognitive processing and self-exploration, and to truly take stock in personal interests, strengths, and characteristics.

Whether it’s baking brownies, frying pancakes, making dinner for 4, taking a walk with Mom or Dad, or dusting off an old board game or puzzle, we are blessed with this opportunity and should do whatever we can to seize it.  We can take this opportunity to play board games and engage in meaningful family-focused activities that build executive function skills and a connection to a core family unit. This connection has been lost in the overscheduled life of many families. Reconnecting with the family will create profound social and emotional growth. Two games that I talk about in this video are Mancala and Chinese checkers. Both are fun and engaging and competitive. In a family of three or more, you can find yourself enjoying a tournament-like atmosphere and playing all week.

As you help your child through this transition, my recommendation is not to force the conversation and to not force your agenda. What you can enforce is the expectation around quiet contemplation and meaningful engagement. This might mean structured screen time, downtime, unplugged time, and quiet time. It is within this time zone that young minds can be still long enough to think, regulate, and contemplate.

From Inaction to Action

The good news is that public schools are now ramping up to provide online access to learning for their students. Public schools are a step behind private schools like BC High. BC High wasted no time in getting students enrolled in Zoom classes. Many public school teachers will be connecting with their students with lessons, lectures, and assignments. Students will need to embrace this corona-cation and do what they can to learn and stay virtually connected to their teachers and the school community. Whether it’s participating in a Zoom meeting or working on a project to be passed in at the end of a week, students will have to decide how to organize and prioritize their day and embrace the truth. They can’t wait for school to open.

Some students innately understand what to do and how to organize their time and attention to manage the school work that will be assigned. They’ll have to plan to attend Zoom meetings they will be invited too. They will have to put down their gaming console and pick up a book. Honestly, I was on a Zoom call with some students the other day, and two students were playing on their Xbox while signed in to a class.

So how do you get ready? The most important thing to do is make a schedule that helps you balance your virtual learning time and free time. The second most important thing to do is have a plan to check in with your learning management platform and email. If you take these recommendations seriously, then you will find success working through whatever challenges present themselves as you embark on a brand new ‘unschooling’ adventure. This video will show you how to create a college-like schedule. This is the link to the interactive PDF.

Some parents are watching their high schoolers thrive in this environment demonstrating a level of maturity and college readiness skills. Other parents are watching their child struggle with sleep habits, eating habits, and gaming habits, and intentionally avoiding age-appropriate responsibilities. Seeing this makes it evident that there are some real deficits in maturity and college readiness.

From a coaching perspective, we continue to work virtually with our clients on developing academic habits, scheduling, and planning, explore personal interests and strengths, and also how these innate skills align with future goals and careers. What we know is that young adults can have all the academic qualifications in the world, but if they don’t know where they’re going, then they will never know how to use these skills to get there. This video will highlight the virtual coaching model and how it can help to build academic skills and executive function skills within the home.

Dr. David Murphy
Effective Effort Consulting