Keeping My Son Motivated During Remote Learning

Photo Credit: Jochen Tack/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

My oldest son is the stereotypical type A, overachieving first-born child. He pushes himself to work toward perfection in all aspects of his life and generally earns great grades in school. Being the oldest of three, he usually doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding when it comes to getting things like schoolwork done, which I’m thankful for as a working mom with two other children — one with special needs and a toddler who takes a significant amount of my time.

I assumed remote learning would be the same. I thought that my son would get the work done that was assigned and come to me with any questions. I figured I didn’t really have to micromanage him because he was in middle school and had shown over his years of schooling that he did well on his own.

Things went well at first, but then, a couple weeks into remote learning, his teachers shared with the students that no grades would be documented during the period they were doing online learning. They told my son and his classmates that any work done (or not done) would not impact grades.

So my son basically heard that, regardless of whether he did the work or not, his grades wouldn’t change. All those A’s that he had earned that trimester would stay A’s, so he lost all motivation to work hard and maintain the excellent grades he had earned up until that point. He started racking up missing assignments — even though he had plenty of time to complete them and the know-how to do so.

I didn’t know at the time, but it turns out that my preteen wasn’t alone in slacking and giving up on the 2019-2020 school year once everything went to e-learning.

I was shocked when I realized what was happening. Out of all the difficulties we had to overcome during remote learning, my son losing motivation was the biggest, most unexpected challenge we had to face. I didn’t know at the time, but it turns out that my preteen wasn’t alone in slacking and giving up on the 2019-2020 school year once everything went to e-learning. Months later, I heard from the principal of his school that about 40% of the students in the junior high had stopped doing work completely once they announced that no grades would be given for work completed and that all students would earn passing grades, regardless of whether work was completed or not.

Schoolwork Before Video Games

I made my son make up all the work he had missed, but I heard from friends that their older children had the same difficulties, so I thought I’d share what I was doing this school year to avoid letting my child make the same mistakes.

First of all, things are a bit different this year because grades will be recorded, so I don’t expect the same problems we had in the spring. But I still made my expectations for schoolwork clear to my son. I told him that all work was to be turned in on time and then shared that there would be a consequence of losing time on electronics if any work was not handed in.

There would be a consequence of losing time on electronics if any work was not handed in.

After explaining what I expected and what would happen if the work wasn’t completed, I thought it was important to help set my son up for success. I gathered all the supplies he would need to complete the work and set up a homework area in his room so he has a nice, organized space to work at when he is doing homework. I also plan to help him schedule his day so that schoolwork is done before he starts playing video games or going outside to play basketball.

Spring was full of chaos trying to figure out how to balance everything and I was overwhelmed with it all, as I’m sure many parents were. I feel more prepared for the new school year and all of the challenges it will bring, and plan to be more involved with his online schooling. I will be there for support and will be checking on his schoolwork daily, but I think his motivation has returned and he is ready to rock this school year!


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