Michigan mom and licensed therapist Erica Carulli give advice for homeschooling children during the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Erica Carulli
Michigan mom and licensed therapist Erica Carulli give advice for homeschooling children during the pandemic.

Whether your kids are “littles” or in high school, Michigan mom and therapist Erica Carulli has tips to help coach them at home this school year.

MICHIGAN — Academic coaching is not a new concept. 

In the past, we may have decided our children needed extra support in certain areas and found a study group or hired a tutor, sometimes referred to as an academic coach. We wanted to boost confidence and have our kids find success in a particular subject. 

What is brand new for everyone during COVID-19 is being the academic coach for your own children while they are remote learning. 

It’s one of the new roles we’re adapting to in order to keep ourselves and our children healthy and safe. Our main goal still remains the same and that is supporting our children’s success in the classroom—even if that happens to be at our kitchen table. 

READ MORE: Super Mom Syndrome: Setting Realistic Expectations for Parenting During a Pandemic

“Academic Coach:” Defined

An academic coach is defined with jargon about creating paths to success. But if we strip away all of the jargon, the primary grown-up supporting remote learning in your home is already doing all of these things: being supportive, encouraging, motivating, helping fix problems and create study habits and plan ahead for longer assignments. We are constantly working to support and assist our children—pandemic or not. 

We want nothing more than to see them flourish in everything they do, to see them learn and grow. So, in essence, we’ve got this academic coaching thing down pat, already. 

These tips can help you take your new academic coaching role to the next level. 

Tips for Coaching “Littles” 12 and under

Coaching young children tends to be more about meeting basic needs, both physical and emotional.  

There’s a quick list of “Do’s” I have for academic coaching young children.

Basic Needs Do’s

  • Remember recess! Kids need age-appropriate exercise and recreation between lessons. 
  • Prepare meals and healthy snacks for breaks. 
  • Help keep them organized so they feel prepared. 
  • Give affirmations: Tell your children what they are doing well—not what they are struggling with. 
  • Check in time: Loop in the teacher when you need support yourself. 

There are going to be times when we want to do things for our younger children because it would just “be easier” than watching them struggle. Remember, they are learning and struggling is a part of that process. 

They need trial and error before they can master certain concepts. Parents should create a safe space to explore, to make mistakes, and to try again. 

We can support our children when they are struggling. But, we are only going to make their jobs harder in the future if we tell them the answers every time they can’t figure it out on the first try. 

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Tips for Coaching “Bigs” 12 and older

Coaching older children, we focus a bit more on planning. The SMART goals below are a popular goal-setting system to encourage older children to take accountability and have autonomy while doing their schoolwork. 

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Limited. Older children are more likely to have longer term assignments with deadlines (in preparation for higher education). Set goals with your older children by using the SMART goal system and make sure they are involved in the decision-making process.  

Here are the do’s you need to know to get started:


  • Set SPECIFIC days on a schedule that assignments are due or parts of the assignment should be completed. 
  • Find a way to track or MEASURE progress, like a calendar or a checklist
  • Work on a goal that is possible, ATTAINABLE. 
  • Be REALISTIC with your time, capability and resources. 
  • Give yourself a timeline for finishing the assignment (TIME-LIMITED). 

Older children are beginning to deal with the struggle of time management. The exploration of the “work/life” balance is a key learning point for them. While we can all encourage and support our older children to follow their schedules, they also need to be responsible for their time and the management of it. 

Being an academic coach does not mean we are replacing our children’s teacher. In fact, we should be supporting our children’s teachers the best we can. 

As our children’s academic coach, we can implement some of these strategies to help ease the stress and worry they are feeling. 

We can be supportive, encouraging and mindful of our words and actions. We can be attentive to their needs, but not overbearing. We can provide a safe space in our homes to explore feelings, thoughts and ideas. We can give them our presence, kindness and grace, but just as we are trying to navigate a new way of learning in a pandemic, so are they. 

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