Monday, January 8, 2018

For the last few days, I have been thinking about elementary age and kindergarten children. Unfortunately, not all of us have the best experience with the “right” schools or teachers. So, as concerned parents, what can we do to help our children fit into a school system that may not necessarily be the best fit for them?

If your little students run to school with a smile on their face, then congratulations! You are one of the luckiest parents on this planet. If you struggle every morning to force your child to go to school, do not worry, as you are not alone. I have heard many stories of parents begging their child to attend school. Of course, the easiest solution is to change schools. If you have an opportunity, take a tour to your local Montessori school and I guarantee you will fall in love with their educational approach. If you are looking for some recommendations in Northern California, feel free to contact me directly. Unfortunately, very often a private school is not an option due to the high tuition or the location of the school. Also, not all Montessori schools live up to their expectations and actually follow the core philosophy.  There is always an option to homeschool your children. I have friends that are successful in this. However, if you are required to work or are a mother of more than two children, it becomes more challenging to choose the homeschooling option.

Let’s say you have no other options than to send your child to your local school. Below, are tips for parents that find their child down and unhappy each and every morning and may have simply run out of ideas, to encourage them to attend:

Do not discuss your child’s school or teacher in a negative way in front of them.

Our children always watch us. They copy our style, the words we say, and many other things. Also, they watch our attitude towards other people. If we are always negative about their teacher or principle, they will be negative too. Be careful when you discuss your child’s learning environment with your spouse or friends because your son/daughter may be nearby and listening to every single word. I remember from my childhood all the comments my mother would say about my teacher. They formed in me strong opinions on many school related subjects. Thus, next time you disagree with the school’s approach about, for example, history class, do not comment about it in front of your child. Remember, in their little mind everything you say is what they will believe in (until a certain age). 
When I worked as an elementary teacher, I used to hear in my classroom many comments from the students that were their parents’ comments. For example, “ My mom says our school doesn’t provide enough breaks, that’s why I’m always tired”. I’m sure this little girl was not too tired but her mom’s words got ingrained into her head and made her feel unhappy.

My children are not of elementary age, thus do not attend an elementary school. The older goes to a home-based daycare on a part-time basis. What I always do is I keep a positive and respectful tone on behalf of his teacher and other students. My three year old knows that his mom loves his teacher, and guess what? He loves his teacher too. Of course, it could be a little different with a 9 year old. Also, it’s easy to be happy with my son’s teacher when she is truly an amazing person versus being positive when there are no obvious reasons to be so. If we put some effort, we can find something neutral to say such as, “I’ve noticed your teacher is so organized. The classroom you are in is always tidy and appealing. You are so lucky to be surrounded by such a rich environment!” The more comments such as these that your son or daughter will hear from you, the higher the chance of them remaining respectful and positive about their learning environment...And being a little happier. 

Teach your child how to make friends at school. It is equally as important for them to pick up social skills as academic knowledge.

Let’s say, you always follow the first tip but your child has formed their own opinion towards their school. Very often the reason for a student’s unhappiness are their peers. Nobody wants to be in a place where they are lonely or feel pressured/bullied. We, adults, run to our workplace if we know there are nice and polite coworkers waiting for us when we get it. On the other side, if there is a conflict or constant gossip at or around our workplace, we are discontent showing up and being there. Everyday we force ourselves to go to work, and often times the driving reason is to earn a salary. Now, imagine your little child. Socially and emotionally they are much younger than you. It is more difficult for them to focus on school subjects when they don’t have any friends around. Let’s say, this is the case of your child and their classmates simply do not invite them to the inner circle of friends and fellowship. The key in these situations is not to jump on board and try to do everything you can to solve your child’s problems. We want to teach our children from their first days to act on their own and be independent. It wouldn’t hurt to recommend different ideas to your child but in the end, they need to be the one to act. One of the ways to get closer to other students is to invite them for a play date. All kids like to be invited to someone’s house. It gives them an opportunity to get to know each other better in a non-formal way. Also, you can sign up your child to the school club where they can make new friends. It can be anything from soccer to chess club. Whatever is more interesting for your little champion.

Volunteer in your child's classroom to observe and help.

When I worked in an elementary classroom and had a parent that wanted to find out more about their child’s school life, my number one recommendation was to spend a day/half day in the class. Sign up to volunteer in your child’s classroom or attend the next field trip. By observing your child’s environment and every day routine, you might find the reasons why they are not happy. Remember, you are their parent. You know better that any other person on this planet what their needs are. Your observation will definitely give you a better idea of what is going on in the school environment.

Find out your child’s academic level. They may be in the wrong class.

If your child doesn’t have any emotional discomfort at their school, but still is not running to  class, it might be due to their academic struggles. It’s not fun to sit for hours in a room where you do not understand every new concept. Unfortunately, some of our traditional schools have “one size fits all” approaches that doesn’t help those few students grasp the concepts and catch up with the rest of the class. The other side of this issue is your child might be too bright and smart for an average curriculum and are simply bored at their school. Everything seems to be familiar and they just don’t find any opportunities for a new learning or daily discoveries. Talk to your child’s teacher and find out what they think on this behalf. Do they agree your child needs some extra help? If so, sign them up for extra classes. Help them at home during their homework hour. It can be one little thing that they missed a few months/ years ago and it keeps them from moving forward. If your child is bored because their teacher doesn’t challenge them, bring this up in your conversation with the teacher. Ask, if it’s possible to provide some extra curriculum or exercise sheets. I am sure if you will be open and positive, any teacher will be willing to support you and your child.

I know how hard it is for many of us to see our unhappy son or daughter, especially in their early years when they are just starting their educational journey. We as parents try to do our best to support them during these first school years (and many more to come). Let's be there by their side, work together with the school and teacher by helping them assist your loved ones. Do not give up on this subject with the attitude “I didn’t enjoy my school years, and so will my child”. You can make a difference in their lives! If there is anything I can do to support you and your family, feel free to reach me directly at

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