Parents as Learning Coaches: What is Your Role in Your Kids’ Schooling?
Making the switch from traditional schooling to online schooling at home is a big decision that not only shapes a child’s education, but also shapes integral aspects of their development. Given the magnitude of this decision, parents need to do their research to figure out what’s best for their families.
If you’re still weighing this choice, you might be wondering what your role in your child’s education would look like. In a recent On Learning podcast, Carrie Munson, an experienced Learning Coach, described how she tackled this role and offered some tips for parents considering making the switch.
What is best for your family?
Corrie Munson has been the Learning Coach for all of her four children. She has four children, and the three oldest all graduated from Idaho Virtual Academy. She first decided to school her first daughter at home after noticing some gaps in her daughter’s learning. “We brought her home, and I homeschooled for a couple of years,” she said. “During that time, I found K12’s history and science curriculum, and we loved it.”
After learning about Idaho Virtual Academy opening up in her area, Munson’s research began in earnest: “I was familiar with the curriculum for those two programs, so I learned more about [K12’s] philosophy and did my research. I talked to teachers, looked at the curriculum, and decided that was something we really wanted to try.” She’s glad she decided to enroll her daughter, but making the change was daunting at first. The shift was disruptive to a detailed five-year plan she’d created before, which included her return to higher education. However, this choice ended up being the best choice for her family since she was able to take advantage of the opportunity to both educate her kids and educate herself. She also began a family business selling books online, which helped her to teach her kids about entrepreneurship, alongside learning traditional school subjects.
You’ve decided that your children will school at home. Now what?
There are no universal guidelines for being a successful Learning Coach since each family is different, and each student has different learning needs. One aspect that all successful Learning Coaches share, though, is the drive to be involved in their child’s education. In traditional schooling, the student goes to school in the morning and comes back in the afternoon, and their parents gain little insight into what happens in the several hours in between drop-off and pickup.
This isn’t the case for those who decide to school at home. Munson explained that one of the joys of schooling at home is watching your child in the actual process of learning. Describing a particularly meaningful, though small moment, she said, “I was in the kitchen, and my son was sitting on the couch with his laptop, and he was in a class connect. I could hear the teacher, and it was so engaging. It was just like this moment frozen in time. This is what parents want; they want their kids to be engaged in learning.”
While there are many opportunities for these joyful moments when parents serve as Learning Coaches, this added level of family engagement also poses challenges. For example, Munson explained that there was one period of time where she assumed that her son was doing all of his homework, but learned from his teacher that he had not completed any of his math assignments. This was both concerning and embarrassing at the time, but it taught her an important lesson: Learning Coaches need to be actively involved in their child’s schooling. Rather than asking her children yes or no questions, she now asks her youngest, who is attending a Stride K12- powered virtual high school, which lesson he is on or what he’s specifically learning.
In addition to education, she and her husband are also the ones responsible for creating socialization opportunities for their children. She became the leader of a 4-H club, which is a nonprofit organization aimed at creating positive change in young people’s communities. Her kids volunteer at a hospital and meet friends through their church’s youth group as well.
When learning at home, a greater degree of flexibility also means there are more opportunities to socialize as a family. For example, snowstorms are rare where Munson lives, so when it does snow, she tells her kids to all go enjoy playing in the snow, and then they get to their schoolwork afterward. She also realized that they didn’t necessarily need to wake up when they would if they were attending a traditional school. So, she let her kids get more sleep so that they would be well-rested before getting to their studies.
Successful Learning Coaching leads to successful students.
Eighteen years ago, Munson was first considering enrolling her daughter in an online school, she wished she knew what she knows now. This form of education works. Her two eldest daughters have graduated from college and are now nurses. Her third child is now a year-and-a-half into college, and her youngest son is doing well in his high school studies.
In addition to their growth as students, the Munsons have also grown as a family. They have worked through challenges, whether those took the form of difficult math lessons or adjustments to new schedules, and celebrated their accomplishments. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it. When asked whether or not she would recommend this type of schooling to others, her oldest daughter said, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.