Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Abby and Brian,
My son, whom I’ll refer to as “Sean,” is heading off to college next fall (if, God willing, colleges are open), and I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t think he knows how to organize his work or complete assignments on his own. He’s a decent student, but for as long as I can remember, he’s been handing in assignments late, or asking for extensions, or staying up until the early hours of the morning to complete them. And the truth is that, with the possible exception of a term paper or tricky new math concept, his work in high school hasn’t been particularly difficult! I’ve been the one to push and prod him along, and now that he’s likely going to be on his own next year, I’m starting to get scared that he’ll flunk out when he doesn’t have my guidance. For his sake and mine, I don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day of his schoolwork when he’s 19 years old.
You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Sean is fortunate to have a parent who is present enough to help him through school but who understands the benefits—for you both—of his being autonomous when college starts. A student’s transition from high school to college provokes a variety of emotions in every member of the family: nostalgia, terror, and, hopefully, plenty of excitement. But in this moment of transition, we agree that now is the time for Sean to gain academic independence. The key is to replace your pushing and prodding with a system of routines and checklists that Sean can use to stay on top of his work. Routines and checklists might not be able to parent, but with them, Sean won’t need you anymore—at least, not for completing his schoolwork.