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When Your Bright Children Resists School: What You Can Do

School is not the same experience for every child. Some thrive and some absolutely do not thrive. Some learn well in classrooms and some struggle with the environment. Either way, your child needs and deserves a high quality education in order to live their life with purpose and joy. What if your bright and eager learner resists going to school? Read and be encouraged!

The question comes up with startling regularity. "What do you remember about your favorite teacher?" Typically, I avoid giving an answer when this topic comes up, because my truthful answer is pretty sad.

I had no favorite teacher. In my entire thirteen years of public schooling I never once experienced that delightful connection described by so many others: the teacher who inspires and the student who admires. None of my teachers communicated that they cared about me or my unhappy home life or, frankly, whether or not I was learning. Which I was, but not with any joy or sense of accomplishment.

This has created in me a strong desire to help children and parents find fulfillment in the education process. Children are hard wired to learn constantly. The human brain learns more in the first five years than at any other time of life. That super sonic learning capacity stays around for many years. Childhood and adolescence is a time of enormous learning.

Since this is so, it is important that this learning should be exciting or, at least, interesting. The child should be treated as a fully vested partner in the process of their own education. Far too often education is something we do to our children as opposed to something we do with them. Worksheets and workbooks take the place of hands on learning tools. Micro management of students' time replaces their ability for deep exploration of a subject. Enthusiasm is squelched in order to keep noise levels at a minimum.

Instead of using real life mathematical experiences such as cooking, building, measuring slopes, designing spaces and inventions they are sitting with worksheets. I understand how difficult the planning and execution of hands on lessons is. I really do. In a pinch, a teacher has to have worksheets to keep the class occupied. There are good reasons for this. Worksheet practice fills a roll in the classroom. But it is not synonymous with learning.

Classrooms are places that are unlike any other space we ever encounter. It is no wonder that intelligent children who have been able to learn naturally through their environment are suddenly faced with school and find it deeply disappointing. Their learning slows to a comparative snail's pace in order to make way for all the drills, crowd management, and housekeeping that comes with a classroom and school environment. This is an education?

No wonder your bright child may suddenly decide that school is just not for them. Thanks for the offer, Mom, but it isn't working out. I don't think I'll go back to school. Then reality sets in. The day in day out routine produces very little in the way of stimulation for many children. The incentive for enthusiastic learning is very limited. The "good" children trudge on. The "bad" children act up.

There is a segment of bright children who really do learn well in the classroom environment. Let's not miss this fact. A couple of my grandchildren are in this category. I remember having some peers that enjoyed classrooms. I know a few adults that say that classroom learning went well.

Great classroom experiences are almost always created by remarkable and gifted teachers. Not every teacher is like this. Many teachers heroically manage to push children through an arbitrary sequence of skills in an environment designed to be more orderly than inspiring. No one is having fun in these classrooms. These hero teachers are doing all they can with the resources they have, but children are being left uninspired. Parents can help.

So what can a concerned parent do? Your child is presenting with stomach aches, head aches, and a general resistance to attending school. As a conscientious parent you coax them along and insist that they go. But don't you wish that they were excited about school? Children all want to learn, but many have no interest in school. What is going on in school that makes young humans, who are literally incapable of stopping their brains from rapid fire development, long for something else?

What can you do if your child dislikes school to a disturbing degree? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Be honest with the school officials. Using a pleasant tone and polite words, explain to the guidance counselor, principal, teacher, or whoever that your child is unhappy. Ask if they can shed any light on why that may be. Express your desire to help make school a place that your child wants to go each day. See what kind of response you receive. Work with any school official that is willing to work with you and your child.

  2. Ask your child what they wish school was like. Get your child to imagine a place where they could learn all the stuff they want to learn. Is there an mean kid intimidating your child? Is your child struggling with material and needs help? What does your child need to facilitate learning? Start by asking your child. They may give you some insights into what is going on. Perhaps some small change will help.

  3. Help them have a role. Is there a club or a group at the school that your child may enjoy so much that it makes the rest of school more palatable? A sports team? Lego Club? Safety Monitor? Library assistant? Help them find their niche.

  4. Consider an alternate. The University Model is an educational model in which children attend in a classroom three days a week and learn at home for two. It allows for families to have more time together and parents to have more input in their children's education. Children have more time to explore other interests. Look into schools in your area that offer such a program. Many of them are private schools which can be expensive. But this is an alternative to forcing your child to spend 35 hours a week in a place where they are unhappy and not learning. Some charter schools or magnet schools have non traditional learning environments that may serve your child better. These are public schools. Look around for alternatives.

  5. Homeschool is not just for weirdos anymore. Homeschooling has come a long, long way in the past few decades. Curriculum options are incredible and flexible and affordable. Many classroom teachers are leaving the classroom to teach their own children at home if that tells you anything. But you don't have to be a certified teacher to homeschool. You are your child's first and most influential teacher and you may be just the teacher they need. Maybe this sounds like a full on nightmare to you, and is certainly not for everyone, but it is a viable option for a high quality education for your child. And please don't say "what about socialization?" Homeschooled children are beautifully, frequently, and more naturally socialized than their conventionally schooled peers. I am not going to cite all the studies that prove this. That argument has been set to rest many years ago. Homeschooling works really well for a lot more families than you may realize.

Your child's education is so important. It is too important and is too long a process to waste it being unhappy or disengaged. A frustrating time in school is not the best way for your child to spend this time of their life, and this will not fix itself. Step up, lean in and help your child love to learn again. This is their natural state.

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