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Parents. Start by taking a deep breath. Now hold it… hold it… now count to 1,000 and exhale. 

Are you feeling any better? No? Well, take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Anxiety levels are spiking after schools began announcing their fall plans, and most parents feel under-supported. Some are simply crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are several simple strategies that ANY parent can use to lower their anxiety and radically help their kids as well. Here’s a wonderful email I received from a grateful parent yesterday: 

“Thank you for building my confidence and suggesting tools and strategies to achieve my goal for my kids: to make the most of this time at home, develop curious kids, do some learning as a family, and have some fun along the way. Honestly, for the first time in a long time (ever?), I feel like juggling 3 elementary kids’ virtual learning + a toddler is doable.”

Stacy A.

You can do this! 

This is the moment where all parents must cultivate and embrace a new educational paradigm… one that requires a new set of disciplines. 

Instead of crossing your fingers, or groping through the dark, I suggest developing a plan. Not just a plan that gets you ready for the fall, but an approach that insulates your child from whatever happens with your child’s school, now or in the future. A strategy that takes full advantage of the learning tools available while more fully readying your child for the demands of the 21st Century. 

Over the next 6-weeks, I will provide a week-by-week framework to develop a personalized educational plan that looks far beyond COVID. 

Old Questions, New Answers

Albert Einstein, one day gave his students a final exam that was a year old. It was the same final exam he gave out the year before. Einstein’s assistant noticed the “error,” and timidly made Einstein aware of his mistake. Einstein looked closer at the newly distributed sheet and answered: “You’re right; these are the same questions as last year – but the answers have changed.”

The situation facing schools, parents, and kids this fall is not a new problem. Yes, schools going virtual is new, but the fundamental problem is the same. For millennia parents have wrestled with the question of “how do I prepare my child for their adult lives?” Over the last 100 years, the answer to that question has been, “put them in school.” 

Now, however, parents realize that there are new answers to this age-old question. New answers include virtual school, hybrid school, online courses in any subject you can imagine, private tutors, and home learning “pods,” traditional classrooms, and mash-ups, including all of the above. 

COVID hasn’t changed the core problem. COVID has accelerated new answers to that problem.

Me

What Should I Do?

For the last several weeks, I’ve been speaking with many dozens of parents who, in their own way, ask me the same question: “What should I do?” 

Working as a parent coach, coupled with my experience schooling our kids at home, virtually, in a hybrid model, and in public schools over the last 13 years, I believe that “What should I do?”  is the wrong question. The first questions parents should ask are “WHY” and “WHO?” 

Week #1 of 6: Develop your WHY and WHO

The Playbook for Highly Engaged parents begins by defining your “WHY” and your “WHO” (also known as your “VISION.”) 

About 7-years ago, I made a discovery that changed how I think about education. I discovered many dozens of parents whose children achieved amazing educational results despite being surrounded by families and communities of social decay and educational failure. Their behavior is known as “Positive Deviance” (PD). 

After meeting with many of these families, I noticed two key differences. 

  • First, each parent was crystal clear on their “WHY.” They had clarity about the role they were to play in their child’s life and WHY that mattered. 
  • Secondly, these PD parents had a clear VISION of their child as an adult. Their vision focused on WHO their child would be not what the child may do. Character was of greater importance than academic or career achievement. 

Let’s Pause to Reflect on Character: 

Think, for a moment, about your child’s educational experience. Which of the following were emphasized in your child’s school: 1) Your child’s grades/test scores, 2) your child’s future career, or 3) your child’s character? Most parents would answer grades or career. But I ask you, which is most important to you? 

In his book, “The Educated Child,” William Bennett states that character education is not just the formation of good habits but also having high standards for students’ academic success. He writes, “When [students] are challenged to work up a mental sweat, they learn about virtues such as industry and persistence. When students rarely get homework, when they aren’t held accountable for mistakes in spelling or grammar or arithmetic, when they can put forth little effort but still earn high grades, schools foster laziness, carelessness, and irresponsibility.”

In Week 5, I’ll describe how grade inflation (more accurately described as “grade compression”) has permeated the entire educational system, k-12 through university. This common practice socially promotes students who are not ready to advance and rewards low student effort with high grades. My opposition to this practice is that it undermines efforts to build character in a child. More on that later.

Do you Have a Clear WHY and VISION? 

Parents who had clarity in their WHY and a clear VISION maintained two key strengths. These provided internal motivation while giving them a “north star” by which they could always stay on course. They used these two elements to build and execute their educational plans. 

Most parents have skipped this important step. Perhaps you have some generalities around both, or maybe you have never thought of this before. Either way, before preparing for virtual school (or whatever model you’re exploring), getting crystal clear about your WHY and VISION will be an essential long-term component of your child’s education. So let’s build your WHY and your VISION.

WHY Statement

In the book, “Find your Why,” by Simon Sinek, he recommends the following format to create your WHY Statement. 

TO ________________, SO THAT ___________________. 

The first blank describes the specific ways you will invest in your child’s life, while the second describes the outcome or result of your efforts. 

As an example, here is my WHY statement for my kids:

TO COACH MY CHILDREN, SO THAT THEY WILL BE FULLY PREPARED TO COACH THEIR CHILDREN TO BECOME CAPABLE, COMPETENT, AND GODLY ADULTS.  

My WHY

My WHY statement is a bit different as it looks two generations into the future. It took me years to come up with this statement, but it started with me thinking, praying, and meditating on what I REALLY wanted for them. For me, this is it. This is my “north star.” It is deeply personal and, whenever I look at it, I feel a sense of purpose and clarity in my role. I get energy when I think about it. This is how it should be with your WHY statement. It should invoke a passion that is unique to you. You should FEEL your WHY. If it doesn’t inspire you, then keep working on it. But be patient with yourself… it can take time. That’s why you should start in Week #1.

Do Not Forget This Step

Next — and this is critical — write your WHY statement down on a post-it-note, napkin, or paper piece. Even if you’re still developing the final statement, tape whatever you have to your bathroom mirror. Every time you see it — when you’re brushing your teeth or hair — pray about your WHY (and if you’re not a praying person, reflect on its meaning to you.) Doing this will keep your WHY’s higher purpose in your mind and, when times get tough, it will provide you unmatched strength. I promise!

Adding Detail with a VISION Statement(s)

The WHY statement is not supposed to give specifics on HOW. It should be short and concise—something that can be memorized and shared with your children, others, and especially yourself. But your VISION Statement(s) will have more specifics. These will specify the values and practices that you will value most in your home. 

Start by asking yourself: 

“When my child is 18 years old, what values would I like him/her to hold?” and “What behaviors would I like him/her to demonstrate?” Here’s the format you can follow: 

MY CHILD WILL _______________, AND I WILL SEE THIS WHEN S/HE ______________. 

The first blank describes the value s/he will hold, and the second blank describes specific behavior that demonstrates this value. Here’s an example of each using my VISION statements:

  1. Love Others → Happily serves others 
  2. Find Joy in Learning → Shows deep curiosity and a passion for discovering
  3. Be Peaceful and Content → Shows calm amid difficulty and contentment with his/her possessions 
  4. Show Kindness → Befriends and defends those who are isolated, weak, or lonely
  5. Have a Strong Work Ethic → Rates him/herself on their effort, not on the results 
  6. Be an Independent Learner → Desires to learn without external pressure or incentives
  7. Be Self-Controlled → Shows modesty in his/her impulses, finances, speech, and behavior
  8. Be a Lover of Literature → Often reads for pleasure and learning
  9. Find their Identity in Christ → Shows a deep love of God and others
  10. Be a Problem-solver → Proposes and develops businesses and projects that solve real-world problems

Again, these are my VISION Statements, and they are deeply personal. Yours might have fewer or more. But whatever you decide, these are the values and behaviors that you will look to develop in your child. They are getting at WHO you hope your child will be. 

Do Not Forget This Step

Lastly, involve your child in developing these VISION statements. Ask them WHO they hope to be as an adult. Gently redirect them if they answer with WHAT answers (ex: Doctor, Professional Athlete, Pop Singer, Actor, etc.). This conversation will be a great way to begin to clarify long-term home values. Write them down and, again, post them someplace public (Kitchen refrigerator is usually best) and refer to them often. You may also be surprised at how thoughtful your children can be about values… even at a very young age. 

In Conclusion

With 6-weeks until school starts, my recommendation for this week is, before you do anything else, to clarify your WHY and your VISION. Without these, you risk being unfocused, inefficient, and ineffective when it comes time to execute. 

Here’s what you can expect in the next 5 weeks: 

  • Week 1: Developing your WHY and VISION
  • Week 2: Assessment — Your child, your school, your community, and yourself
  • Week 3: Assemble and Activate Assistant Coaches 
  • Week 4: Start your Streak — a “Less but Better” approach to learning
  • Week 5: Finalizing the Structure — Coaches, seasons, technology, and Measurement
  • Week 6: Preparing for the Season Opener and Beyond

You do not have to be crippled by the anxiety caused by the educational disruption in which we are living. With a plan, the next six weeks can bring you peace and prepare your child for long-term success. And isn’t that what every parent wants?  

Call Me for Free 

As always, I invite you to schedule a one-on-one conversation to discuss and refine your educational plan. I talk to parents all over the country every day. This is a free service with no strings attached… and I promise two things:

  1. I will always honor your role as a parent,
  2. You’ll end the call with greater comfort, confidence, and clarity on how to proceed with your child.

Click here to schedule the call, and I look forward to the honor of speaking with you.