A mom of a five year old recently emailed to ask why her son complains about school. Why would he be frustrated and sometimes hate the experience? The problem wasn’t separation anxiety, even though, in my experience, that’s a common reason young kids complain about school. Many don’t like being away from their moms and dads. But that wasn’t the problem.
This mom also said that her son loved his summer camp program, where he did “acting, playing, painting, building, and yoga.” That was key. Look at all those active words ending in “ing.” Ask yourself… Does your youngster get those “ing” activities during his or her day at school? And yoga is controlled movement. What a healthy and fun way for youngsters to learn about and exercise their developing muscles.
These activities won’t frustrate kids. These fuse learning with changing position, moving, navigating in different spaces, and engaging larger motor (vs. fine/small motor) parts of the body. Why do we frustrate youngsters by mostly focusing on finger/hand movements (to draw and write) while the rest of their body is stuck in a chair and aching to join in? In fact, most parents – and many teachers – are surprised to learn that young brains are wired to learn better when there’s movement, not while being penned up and sedentary.
But over the years, I’ve witnessed the opposite trend.
Classrooms today, despite all the new technologies, are as traditional as ever. More sitting, listening, waiting turn, and having to attend to tasks that are delivered through lecture and language. This approach frustrates younger minds… and if your child is frustrated, he or she won’t process the information or want to participate fully. The young mind starts to drift. That’s when teachers and parents start thinking there’s a learning problem or ADHD, when in fact, it’s often a problem with lack of movement and a curriculum that isn’t weaving movement into learning opportunities.
While I typically don’t endorse specific programs and schools, check out the Drumlin Farms program. It’s a great model for how to teach youngsters (particularly boys) who need more action in their education day. In this program, kids are outdoors everyday, and not just for a few minutes. They’re hiking, collecting, touching, smelling, seeing and experiencing the world in three-dimensions. Very few schools are fortunate enough to be on the grounds of a working farm, but all schools can adopt better practices. They can get kids outside more to investigate and explore their surroundings. They can match lessons to objects and places that require the full body – and brain – to be engaged. At the very least, schools can insist on short breaks between lessons to stretch and move so students (boys in particular) don’t start feeling frustration building from prolonged sitting.
Follow this mind-plus-body approach to education and there will be fewer kids complaining they hate school.