Dad Daze: How to help your disorganized and unmotivated student excel while learning from a distance - Mon, 21 Sep 2020 PST

My son Milo is always playing an angle. When Milo was in the third grade, he missed a homework assignment, and

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My son Milo is always playing an angle. When Milo was in the third grade, he missed a homework assignment, and a friend slipped him a homework pass. Milo elected to not do homework since his buddies continued to provide their homework passes for him. That ended after a month since I found out about his devious maneuver and ended the passport to slackerhood. I asked the teacher how she could allow the transfer.

When the novel coronavirus altered all of our lives in mid-March, Milo, 15, like myself, thought that the pandemic would be short-lived. Milo, then a high school freshman, let his grades slide. His take was that when colleges look back at the final semester of the last school year, they’ll discount it due to the pandemic. It remains to be seen if that will be the case.

The problem for Milo and anyone who unfortunately thinks like him is that there is no end in sight of the coronavirus. So who knows how grades from March through the end of June will be viewed? The future is uncertain when it comes to education. Learning from a distance is the new normal for much of the country.

Since my 21-year-daughter Jillian posted a 4.0 GPA during her last semester while online in college, I asked her to help her little brother succeed in virtual school. Before we started, she explained that her techniques also will help when bricks and mortar is once again a permanent everyday experience.

The first step taken was reducing distractions. Milo’s iPhone is essentially another appendage, but when it’s time to learn or study, his cell, Xbox and any other device are off limits.

However, I reassured Milo that he will be able to stay in touch with his friends. The value of social connection cannot be dismissed. Xbox was a vehicle to stay connected with his pals during the early days of the pandemic. However, good grades are what will keep the controllers within his grasp when Milo can relax.

It’s wise for a student to get well ahead when it comes to assignments. What has sunk Milo over the last two years is waiting until the last minute to tackle assignments. It has often snowballed and at times made it impossible for him to complete projects. He and I are alike in many ways, but not when it comes to completing schoolwork.

About two years ago, he met my best friend from childhood. Without being prompted, my longtime buddy told Milo, “Your father never came out to play or hang out until he finished his homework.”

Milo asked me if I put him up to that, and I said that I didn’t. I noted that without fail, I did my homework right after school since I hated having anything hanging over my head.

I tried to explain to Milo it’s kind of how he eats broccoli before devouring what he enjoys at dinner since he gets the vegetable out of the way.

Extra-curricular activities, which was always an excuse for Milo handing in assignments late, are a non-factor. Thanks to the pandemic, there’s not much to do but focus on schoolwork.

It might sound simple, but organization is huge. I deferred to Jillian when it comes to keeping it together since that is not my expertise. She impressed while detailing to Milo how to make checklists and to-do lists, which are now on his phone. She expressed why he should chart everything on a calendar, which he is now doing via Google docs.

She spoke with him for a half-hour about time-management skills, which is a sore spot for Milo and many children. The big lesson for Milo is making the time and then estimating how long each task will take.

Since Milo wastes minutes finding assignments from his various subjects, Jillian introduced him to the world of color codes. His history assignments are now placed in a red folder, his math in a green folder, and English is in blue.

“The color coding really helps since I would waste so much energy looking for things, and now when I look for something, it’s automatic,” Milo said. “I never would have thought of it.”

That’s evident since Milo doesn’t usually think about school. The other bit of very helpful advice for Milo is making changes with his work space, which in the past has looked like the desk of Oscar Madison from “The Odd Couple.”

Water bottles, burrito wrappers and potato chip bags were often placed on top or beside his books and computer. Those days are over now, and it shocks Milo since his desk only features what pertains to education. A television, which was a few feet from his desk, has been removed. Milo needs distractions like Ryan Seacrest needs another gig.

Jillian’s next bit of advice was checking in with his teachers on a regular basis. “After what Milo did last year, he can’t be trusted,” Jillian said. There’s no question that my daughter is correct.

Milo blew off classes since he thought he could get away with it. So I connected with his teachers, who I discovered are more than happy to forward a daily summary for Milo. It includes what assignments are due and what he has missed.

My daughter helped considerably, but I came up with something new for Milo’s benefit. Milo’s complaint, which apparently some of his friends echo, is that school is boring. Since I always excelled in English, I’m engaging him and trying to add some spice to his work and perspective.

When I was his age, I wasn’t crazy about every subject since I had my share of instructors who were dull. Since Milo is all about working out, I asked him about what he is less than crazy about in the gym. I told him to take that approach to his subjects he’s less than excited about.

I also revealed that college is so much more stimulating since he’ll be studying subjects that interest him. I admitted that algebra was like eating lima beans for me, but I gutted through it. I also explained that the better grades he gets, the more options he’ll have when it comes time for college.

I never had to have that conversation with Jillian, who was always driven academically. But that’s how it goes. Milo thanked me and said all the tips are working for him and that the start of school is going well. Milo is passing everything so far. We’re only in mid-September, but I’ll take what I can get.
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