Still Time for a Strong Finish

The following post is from Jennifer Burke, a lifelong educator:

source: slightly everything

Most students know exactly how many days until summer vacation.  Students who are intrinsically motivated interpret this as pressure to buckle down and work even harder.

I’m guessing that none of those students live at your house. 

You’re in good company –  students like that are few and far between.  At this point, most kids just want to be done.  The problem is that there’s still a lot of learning that needs to happen.  Term papers have a looming due date.  Finals are a few weeks down the road.  SATs are scheduled in May or June.  If your son or daughter hasn’t been working hard for most of the year, the amount of material they still need to master is … well…. a lot!

As a mom, what can you do? 

Nagging hasn’t worked, paying for grades wasn’t the answer and taking away privileges often felt like you got punished as well.  Some argue that parents should simply let their teens figure it out themselves and take the consequences for their decision; I respectfully disagree.  If your middle or high schooler is still trying to get their academic act together, they don’t need to be bribed, ignored, or yelled at, what they most need is a coach.

Think of it this way:  If a soccer player isn’t scoring a goal, his coach doesn’t send him onto the field to make the same mistakes over and over again.  The coach sits him down and together they figure out where the problem lies.  Then the coach shows him ways to correct the mistakes.  Helping your teen finish the school year well is much the same.

Students’ academic struggles usually center around one or more of the following issues:

  • organization
  • time management
  • confidence
  • the complexity of the material.

Determining the root of the problem will help you know what strategies are needed:

Start by having a heart-to-heart with your teen.

Take them to their favorite restaurant and, without pressure, let them know your concerns about how they will finish the school year.  Apologize for any areas where you have let the ball drop – either in communication or support – and see if that helps them to drop their defenses.  When you admit a mistake, they’re usually more willing to admit theirs.

Tell them you are committed to their success.

Express your belief in them and specifically name several of their strengths.  Then, just like a coach, help them develop a plan for the remainder of the year.

Make a check list.

Record all assignments that are due between now and the end of the year.  Break down each project into manageable parts.  Help your teen come up with realistic dates to finish each section.

If your teen isn’t sure of the details, have them e-mail the teacher and copy you.  They don’t want you to complete the work that your son or daughter should be doing, but most teachers applaud parents who are willing to assist their students with the organizational side of learning.

Offer to help study for tests. 

Quiz them on the material or find resources online.  If you’re in a season in which you and your teen have trouble communicating without fighting, find a tutor.  Call the community college in your area for recommendations.  You might have to spend some money, but it’s an investment in your teen’s future as well as in your relationship.

Ask for weekly updates on their progress. 

Just like coaches do, encourage them when you see attempts in the right direction.  Even though it’s late in the “game,” your support can help your teen have a stronger finish to the year.  And hopefully, they’ll apply their new-found skills when school starts next year!

Are your teens counting the days? What’s happening at your home as summer looms on the horizon?

Jennifer is passionate about children and education. She homeschooled her two sons for five years, established and directed a Christian school in Maryland for 20 years, and currently teaches in a public school in a Chicago suburb. She loves investing in relationships and delights in every moment that she spends with her family.