My kids hate school and I hate sending them there.
Don’t most kids hate school? I sure did. Every. Single. Minute.
I hated school for some of the same reasons my kids do, but they have even more reason to hate being in their high school seven and a half hours a day. While I hated school because it was not engaging, I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin and we moved frequently, I had coping skills. I had strong social skills and EQ. They served me well. I could assess a social situation, make a plan for entering, follow appropriate social etiquette, and read affect. My kids can’t.
Navigating through a day at school is exhausting for them. One is in a hyper-vigilant state all day, the other withdrawn. One has a high need for social interaction, the other does not. They are lonely. They are alone. Neither of them has a friend. It is a rare class in which either feels socially or academically confident.
The public high school they attend is average high school size, not terribly diverse. There are many extra curricular opportunities. But my kids are so exhausted and over stimulated by 3:00 there is no way they would ever choose to extend their school day. No way.
Both of my kids are bright. They like to learn. They are learning. Unfortunately, much of their learning takes place outside of school as they explore their own interests and passions independently. In their pajamas. In their rooms or at the kitchen table. While lounging on the sofa with the dogs. Yes, screens are usually involved.
Although both boys receive most of their academic instruction in smaller classes led by special education (LD) teachers, they follow the district curriculum. Their classes consist of 10-20 students, all have IEPs. Sometimes there is an extra adult in those classes to help with behavior management. My kids are not behavior problems. Well, one is problematic. He spends a lot of time trying to get the approval and attention of his peers, but he is not an acting out sort of challenge. He’s the kind of kid you feel bad for, you really like him. But man, he is hard to stay on top of. He is his own worst enemy. Take his peers out of the room and he is a great kid to work with.
Here is why they hate school. And I believe many kids hate school for the same reasons. My kids don’t feel connected to their peers, the curriculum, the school. Even though my kids are in classes led by special education teachers, there is little to no differentiation, behavior management is poor to nonexistent, worksheets are too prevalent, teachers talk too much, teaching methods are traditional. Sit and get. Read the chapter, complete the worksheet. Pay attention. Evaluation of progress is determined by end of unit paper pencil tests.
My kids hate school because the culture is not inclusive. There is no place for them. They are the outsiders, the ignored, the ones seen as less than. They are not seen as contributors, creators, valuable assets. They are just those awkward kids too difficult to engage with. They get bullied. They get ignored. They are not celebrated, invited, included.
Homeschool them, you say? No flipping way! The oldest is in the throes of teenage rebellion and won’t take direction from his really stupid parents. I don’t want home to become an even bigger battlefield. We considered e-school. Same issues. It would take minute by minute nagging (yelling) to keep them on course.
At least this way they have a place of refuge.
I suggest we stop trying to change my kids, all kids, to conform to the ways of school. The focus should be on changing school as we know it. With 1 in 68 kids being identified on the Autism spectrum, increasing numbers of kids at risk, way too many depressed, cutting themselves and considering suicide, shouldn’t we change how we do school so all kids can become fulfilled, contributing members of our world? I just bet the cure for cancer and climate change solutions are in the heads and hearts of all the kids who hate school.
As I always say, the solutions lie in stepping back, using common sense, critical thinking and compassion. It’s really not as hard as everyone is making it.