Photo Credit: Daiga Ellaby

7 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed This School Year

Don’t lose track of education in the midst of the school-closing chaos

Paul Alan Aspen
5 min readJul 15, 2020


With schools closing this Fall, it’s easy to be frustrated about everything you are suddenly responsible for as a parent. Take heart though: Without the status quo and the daily grind dulling their sense, your child will really be paying attention to you, their first and most impactful teacher. Properly used, this disruption can be a galvanizing, transformational time to get back to the most important elements critical to your child’s success.

Here are seven focal points as you make your plans to accommodate this crisis’ disruption:

1. Focus on education, not “school”

School’s point is education, but you aren’t sunk if they’re closed. Even before compulsory public education, there is a long legacy of responsible parents succeeding at producing not only responsible adults out of their children but educated citizens.

To be sure they didn’t learn calculus, but they knew how to communicate, navigate the world of business and law, and interpret their surrounding situations accurately. Education isn’t about facts, and “book learning” often runs over into factoids. Make sure you’re focused on the results instead of trying to jump through artificial hoops — your children will thank you and it’ll be a lot easier for you to accomplish

2. Play music in your house

Music has an absurd number of benefits, not only to the player but also the listener. Particularly, it helps us de-stress and process difficult emotions that might otherwise be hard to express, feel, or deal with in a healthy manner. Can you think of a better way to use this cabin-fevered time than to connect with music again?

Have a dance party with your toddlers, listen to some of your teenager’s music with them, put on some of your favorites. The message that there are transcendent, powerful, beautiful moments in the world will do much to keep you all sane and healthy — and your children developing soundly both mentally and spiritually.

3: Put Facts into Action

Traditional schools and curriculum are long on facts and drill, but surprisingly short on actual skills. The more you can focus on synthesizing what your children have already absorbed and put it into play, challenging it with real-world application, the better their foundation will be.

Schools breed a sort of short-term memory in children, where they get good at parroting things back, saying the “right” thing instead of actually thinking and applying the facts they learn. Give them the opportunity to stretch that underused mental muscle and it will put them ahead of their peers and give them an edge.

Maybe it’s as simple as bringing a little of your work home with you — don’t think it has to be complicated and monolithic to be good for them.

4: Give Permission to Fail

If failure isn’t acceptable, no risks will be taken. In this life we have a million safety nets, from charity to government programs to mandated insurance and beyond. There has never been a better time to take bold risks as a member of the human race, to forge ahead and experiment.

But those first few years of adventure are perilous. Provide an atmosphere of forgiveness, guidance, and support to encourage your child to not fear taking up the reins of his or her life. Permission to fail is really permission to learn, so long as the stakes are not crippling.

They’ll need to at some point, if they want to be happy instead of anxious.

5: Cultivate Curiosity Through Humility

Curiosity sponsors all learning. Being interested in the world around them comes naturally to children, but by hammering them with facts in every field and leaving little or no energy, focus, or time for exploration on their own we send the message that we already have all the answers. All has been explored, no point in wondering if you can just google the answer.

It’s pride — the dangerous, “mother-of-all-sins” sort of pride. Your average student prefers to goof off than do anything productive, challenging, or hard by the time they hit early high school because this lesson is so ingrained. They’re already looking at school more like a prison, an “end” of education instead of a place to receive enlightenment.

Use this time to find the chinks, the gaps in the net that can spark that wonder again and incite investigation and exploration and experience. The best part? The most effective way is also the easiest: Model curiosity yourself, and get caught learning something new by your kids.

6: Look at Options Other Than College

College entrance isn’t the real goal, not for a lot of people. It might be socially expected and it might be helpful, but it’s a huge investment of time and money — not to mention overshadowing the last two years of high school when your child’s attention is split between hard courses, a demanding social calendar, extracurricular involvement like sports and clubs, hobbies and performances and competitions, and dipping their toes into the job market for the first time as well.

Take a serious look at if the tens of thousands of dollars and years of time will actually pay off for your child. Each case is different, but about 1-in-4 degrees never pay off and if you don’t have all the cash up front you might well be encouraging your child to take on debt that will “overshadow them for most of their lives.

Do the math, and be a little jaded: Costs are rising everywhere and returns continue to look worse and worse. A monthly debt payment means they’re “locked in” once they find a job, married to the regular income and at the mercy of layoffs, downsizing, economic downturns, and agreeing to suspend all other investments for years to come by borrowing all that money forward.

7: Take Ownership of the Future

Help your child to make plans and set goals for their own life. Hold them accountable and encourage them toward it. Nobody hands you (or them!) the life you want, so teaching them to look to the future and work instead of complaining is a key lesson that will make them happy and successful.

In traditional schools, all the goals are assigned. There is very little self-directed executive function, and little opportunity for true leadership or self-discipline in the face of long rulebooks and constant monitoring and managed time. A child must be taught how to chase their dreams in order to stand a chance of catching them.

Bonus 8: Discover and Use Alternative Resources

Sign up for the summit I’m hosting where speakers cover all these topics and more. Rest assured, this isn’t just a group of talkers: All are parents and they come from all walks of life. No echo chamber here!

Come make a plan that fits your family’s needs. No need to go it alone, reinvent the wheel, or depend on the System. I guarantee you’ll find something you can use.



Paul Alan Aspen - I help visual designers get recognized by telling stories of their skills in a way clients will understand - courses & writing services for hire