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Patience

School Troubles

Posted by Patience on January 22, 2010 at 10:13 AM in Kid problemsSchool
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jack waiting room

I have a confession. I really, really don't like school and I'm afraid even against my best efforts, I am passing this on to my children. I have always loved to learn, but school settings weren't exactly my first choice. Here's the kicker, I am a former teacher.

After a half hour of crying and trying to sort out what our current school troubles are I finally asked Josiah, "Do you like to learn buddy?"
"No! I hate it, I hate it so much!" he replied. I know this isn't exactly true as he is constantly asking me to show him how to do things, but I winced as the words left his mouth. Should he push through or do we have a real issue here?

Once again I found myself trying to reframe things for him so he can continue for the next 6-8 weeks when it happens again. I go over in my mind what the factors might be:

Third grade is a notorious year for things getting more serious and kids starting to struggle.
Our public school is lovely; it's one of the best in the city, still in a city very much struggling with their education system.
His teacher is nice but hard, I get the impression she is just doing her best to prepare them for the state testing.
As parents, we aren't super focused on grades, achievements and the like, not really our style.

I don't really blame the system as I understood what I signed up for. I know the teachers and administrators hands are tied to a certain structure and the standards of learning. I also see their effort to bring some creative and alternative learning into the classroom, but what happens when it just isn't enough? What do you do when your kid is losing his love for learning? I know every kid dislikes school at some point but what do you do when it seems like it is coming up more frequently?

Private education? This is when I become incredibly aware that I have four children. While the option isn't completely out, it is an incredible reach.

Homeschool? It always sounds great in theory to me, but if I'm totally honest, I just don't want the total responsibility for his education. My homeschool friends tell me it is complete crisis of imagination on my part and there are all kinds of ways to get support. I'm realizing the root of my resistance might be deeper as it would also alter my life dramatically (insert selfish feelings here). It is still an option.

Extracurricular activities? Supplemental learning has seemed to help alleviate the drudgery of the everyday. Extra art classes, tree climbing courses, even long park days help. It might be just the dead of winter blues?

So super people, what do you say? Have you ever had this type of education dilemma? Do you have a kid that dislikes school and is struggling to stay engaged? What do you do? Give your advice in the comments.

13 Comments

Jen writes...

I could have written this exact post, word for word, and have screamed similar sentiments on my own site. My 3rd grade boy is also struggling, for the reasons you mention here. He doesn't like school, they teach to the general group and not in the way he best learns, and he has to overcome his various challenges to keep up with the way they teach. Kicker is that he's gifted as well. Yes, gifted with learning challenges: twice-exceptional. I finally sent a HELP US ALREADY email to anyone at the school who comes into contact with him and we're having a meeting of minds in the next week or so to plan out how to best help him. I've looked into private school and have found one that would be great for him, but with two kids, the tuition is breathtaking. I'm working to bring a charter school to the area, but it's caught up in red tape right now. So we do the best we can right now, demand help from the school, and hope and plan for a better situation next fall. I can see we're losing him and his thirst for learning, and that's terrifying.
Oh, and I thought about homeschooling too, and am about 99% certain I won't...we'd kill each other, I'm afraid. ;)

I, too, could have written this post. With the exception that my twins are in KINDERGARTEN and are already feeling pressured by the work and testing. It is insane, in my opinion. They get very little time to play, which is so important for their development. Critical, really. Because that is how kids learn. Not by doing worksheets and taking tests. I am very worried for the years to come. I, too, feel like I have little choice. I have 3 kids and not enough income for private schooling. I love, love, love the homeschooling idea....as an idea. But I am not a trained teacher and I worry that it would be worse. Maybe I would be really hard on them. Oh, and I have my own work to do too! It is very tough....I guess I feel like the best I can do it to work with my public, neighborhood school to try to make things better.

Karen writes...

I, too, could've written this exact post! I am a former spec ed and first grade teacher, and I do not buy into much of what "schooling" is. Now learning? Yeah. I am into that. But both my girls (ages 8 and 11) don't like school and beg to be homeschooled. I think homeschooling sounds great. Learn by living your life. Maybe join a homeschool coop and share ideas. Be my child's educational broker. I have no problem with 4H and scouts and community service and cooking and cleaning and art and music being valid ways to "learn." The fly in the proverbial ointment is me. I have a home-based business and like the time alone to work on it that my girls going to school affords me. How sad is that? They are very self-sufficient and I don't think having them at home would be all that stressful, but then again, I love my downtime and my ability to really focus on my biz. So I feel caught. Thank you for writing this awesome post. I'll work through my mom guilt about this (after all, that's what I do for a living--help other moms ditch the mom guilt).

Ellen writes...

I've never had kids in school (we homeschool) and it always baffles me when parents talk about ALL the hassles of having a child in school, but won't believe that homeschooling can be easier.
The best comparison I can come up with is cooking at home vs. going to a restaurant. Restaurants can be great, but if you just want a peanut butter sandwich, it's a whole lot easier to walk into your own kitchen and make it yourself (no offense to teachers, but elementary school is NOT brain surgery when you're only dealing with your own kids). And long term, it can be easier to learn to make your favorite dish than to have to depend on the place down the street for it. And learning to cook is a whole lot better than forcing your kid to go to a restaurant they hate.

Rachel writes...

Another homeschooler here; my kids have never gone to school. It is a lot easier than people think. Really. Yes, we have days when nothing seems to get done. Yes, I have worried about whether we are covering everything we need to cover. My kids complain sometimes. Sometimes I desperately need a break. But overall, I love it. Not just the idea of it or that fact that I'm doing what I feel is best for my kids, but the day-to-day reality of it.

I love seeing the "lightbulb moment" when my kids understand a concept. I love being present for their learning. I love the conversations we have. I also love the "side benefits," such as not having to plan family vacations around school breaks, being able to go on fun outings on weekdays without crowds, sleeping late, and being able to do school out in the park or at Starbucks if we feel like it. And while they sometimes complain about having to stop playing and do schoolwork, they do love learning.

I'm not saying homeschooling is for everyone, but it's definitely worth considering. If you have ever toyed with the idea only to say, "Nah! I couldn't do it," I urge you to give it a second look.

Kelly writes...

We too have a 3rd grader who just doesn't care for school. What I try to do is give him opportunities at home that sneak in reading and math. Things that he enjoys. Usually board games that require either reading skills, math skills, or logics/deduction skills. But there are websites that offer these kinds of games free of charge. "Funbrain" is one of them. Keep up the good work Patience.

Darlene writes...

My middle son has always been the creative, playful-dreamer in the family. Sometimes he astounds me with his imagination- there is no end to it! He is an intuitive person as well; this took me awhile to figure out but understanding all of these traits helped me to understand his attitude toward school.

He resists the structured, fast-paced, atmosphere of school because it works against his natural state of creativity and imagination. The various personalities and moral choices of other students confuses and distracts him because he often processes information through emotions.

I stay close to my child and we "talk" about his feelings. A lot of what is going on with him is not that he doesn't like to learn but rather all the other "stuff" he doesn't want to deal with at school. Maybe your son is similar in one way or another?

Like you I do not want to home school. Also I have three school-age children and I don't think it's fair to put one child in private school and not my others (cannot afford to do all three!!). For me the right choice is keeping him right where he is and teaching him how to cope with others- students AND teachers. The important thing is that he will continue to learn how to do his best through developing a positive attitude, self-discipline and perseverance.

My favorite response to my children (when they complain) is that 'you can't do everything you want to do just because you want to do it'. We have to deal with things that are outside of our comfort zone- that's life. Good luck!

Darlene writes...

My middle son has always been the creative, playful-dreamer in the family. Sometimes he astounds me with his imagination- there is no end to it! He is an intuitive person as well; this took me awhile to figure out but understanding all of these traits helped me to understand his attitude toward school.

He resists the structured, fast-paced, atmosphere of school because it works against his natural state of creativity and imagination. The various personalities and moral choices of other students confuses and distracts him because he often processes information through emotions.

I stay close to my child and we "talk" about his feelings. A lot of what is going on with him is not that he doesn't like to learn but rather all the other "stuff" he doesn't want to deal with at school. Maybe your son is similar in one way or another?

Like you I do not want to home school. Also I have three school-age children and I don't think it's fair to put one child in private school and not my others (cannot afford to do all three!!). For me the right choice is keeping him right where he is and teaching him how to cope with others- students AND teachers. The important thing is that he will continue to learn how to do his best through developing a positive attitude, self-discipline and perseverance.

My favorite response to my children (when they complain) is that 'you can't do everything you want to do just because you want to do it'. We have to deal with things that are outside of our comfort zone- that's life. Good luck!

Catherine writes...

I lost my love of school when I was in 3rd grade and it was downhill from there. To make matters worse, my family moved to a different town and school system when I was in 3rd grade. This seems to be the time when testing and homework begin in ernest. By high school I was pretty depressed, having lost my zest and confidence in myself. This is the major damage done, beyond poor grades.

What I've discovered is that most schools don't teach children how to learn. Every time I didn't understand something, I was embarrassed and thought I was stupid. I was a slower learner and the timed tests really did me in.

Years later I discovered that not understanding is part of the learning process. I began to trust myself and went back to college when I was 37 and got my bachelors degree in Philosophy and Sociology. Now I love to learn. It is an engaging life-long experience. However, when we are older, we can learn what we choose to learn, and that is not the case with early learning.

Whether home schooled, public, or private, continue to reassure your children and teach them to believe in themselves no matter what. Make sure they have something that they are learning that they really enjoy. This will help motivate them to get over the hurtles of subjects they don't like. Don't add to the pressure that tests, teachers, and there own minds put on them. Make learning fun, and teach your kids to love who they are.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks Catherine for your story and such sage advice...it really helps me to read this as I try to help Josiah navigate this part of his life.

Jyn writes...

Dealing with this, today, actually.
My eldest (of 6) is entering middle school next year and we have multiple choices- what to do?
She struggles with a lot of things and I fear she is slipping through the cracks. She socially is akward which has a lot to do with the fact she has had Juvanile arthritis for 10 years and is in the 5th percentile for height and weight. Socially, children in this day and age are losing their moral values. Growing up on movies and shows that are WAY too mature- I find my daughter subjected to things that shouldn't even have entered her mind until at least high school, already.

I am looking at either homeschool or a Magnet school. Its very disconcerning to see how much our kids are losing in public school in the present day.

PatienceAuthor Profile Page writes...

Oh I worry about middle school too Jyn! I hope you guys find your way...Did you see A Girl's Life? It was a recent documentary PBS aired. It was really good...the Raising Girls section might help too. Good Luck! http://www.pbs.org/parents/raisinggirls/

jacquelyn writes...

I believe school is getting harder and harder for this age children because they have so many things to worry about other than learning. I am now raising grandchildren (act of love)and everything is different. Good luck to you. I wish I could afford to put them in a private school.

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