Monday, September 12, 2011

When Your Child Hates School UPDATE

My one son hated school for Kindergarten and 1st Grade(we homeschool). The night before we started 2nd Grade he cried. However, once he started school, he loved it. Here I wrote a post about some things that helped us through the last two years. Looking back I realize what I think the problem was and how I could have avoided it.  Also, I added some general lessons I learned from all my children that have helped us all to love school.

  • I should have used a curriculum that required mastery in 1st grade (not Kindergarten). Like Suzuki music lessons, the child can move at their own pace. They do not feel bored or lost.  They do not move on until they master the lesson, and when they do move on, they continue to review what they mastered.
  • Kindergarten and 1st Grade uses a lot of repetitive busy work. Some kids need it, and it is good for kids. However, it bored my son to death and I was not in tuned to that fact.  Bored kids will sometimes act like they do not know the answer, when they no all along.  No longer do I make him do boring work.  
  • While I require them to do hard work and have discipline, I no longer do it at the sake of their love of learning.  There are always exceptions to any rule, but in general, I find this approach actually results in them learning more not less.  Also, the learning that does occur is not forced, but out of genuine interest.  
For example, my son hated writing the numbers 1 to 100.  His curriculum had him do it 6 times, I had him do it twice - once to show me he knew it and once for a test.  Truth be told, I should have only done it once.  He knows it, I know he knows it.  Why would I want to risk his love for math ( he begs to do math ), for the "character" he would get from doing something he hated 6 times.  There are lots of other opportunities for him to learn that lesson, such as saying, "yes mommy," when he doesn't want to.  He will learn discipline from those areas.  People make the argument that when he gets a job he will have to do tasks he finds boring, but he will have to do them.  However, I say, how is he even going to get to that professional job if he hates school.  Instead I want to show him flexibility, reason and thinking outside the box, all of those things are applied in my examples above.    Those are useful lessons as well, and there are plenty of opportunities to show him he needs to do undesirable tasks. 

  • Just as I found not to give him tasks that were too easy for him, I also found not to give tasks that were beyond what he is capable at the moment.  If writing is very hard for him, I will have him narrate his notebook page to me instead of writing out by hand.  He will do some written work, but not to the point it over loads him.  Also, sometimes it seems like they are not paying attention or being rebellious, but they may just have a delay.  Remember, delays can be emotional or be in communication as well as scholastic delays.  If this is the case, I may need to find a new way to teach them while being patient with my expectations.  This was really hard to except because I had to see they were not being bad, but wanted to be good, and just did not have the tools to do it.  Also, I had to learn to relax.  They will learn to do it.  I had the most frustrating time teaching him to use scissors to no avail, and I should have just waited because it cuts great now.  
  • Lastly, setting boundaries helps make the school day more enjoyable in the long run.  If he knows he will have to finish his work at night with his Dad instead of playing with his Dad, he learns to finish his work on time.  If he interrupts our read aloud with his shenanigans, and I start over at the beginning of the page or paragraph, he realizes goofing off makes school longer.  He learns school is more fun in the boundaries.   This last part only works if I adhere to what I learned above.  
One good question in all of this is how do you know if it is boredom, a delay or laziness?  If it is a delay, it will show up when the child wants to do tasks, like remembering lines in a play they want to participate in, but cannot.  Remember our struggle with scissors, my son could not use scissors when I asked him to for school, nor when he badly wanted to himself.  This is clearly a delay.  Always rule out the delay first. If it is not a delay, boredom is easily defined by their constant, consistent lack of interest/focus, silly answers, and whining.  While with laziness, it will be the same reactions, but periodically, not every time the task is required.   Boredom and laziness can happen for several reasons, neither will change unless you find the reason - too hard, too easy, not enough sleep, not a good breakfast, etc.  

What have you done that has made school more lovable?  One thing for sure, the answer will not be the same for all of us, and the answer will keep changing for each of us!

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