Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why is School so Stressful? Part 1 of Many

The other day, after doing a page of Singapore Math with me, Younger Daughter remarked:  "When I was in school, I never raised my hand during math, because I never knew what they were talking about."   This is confirmed by her teacher's report:  "She can add 7 and 2, but she can't tell you how she did it!"

One way that school is stressful for kids is that it makes demands that the kids don't understand and can't possibly meet.

The most common demand is for an answer that will make the teacher happy.  A child has to be extremely verbal, socially adept, eager to please, and adult-oriented to figure this out.  A child like Younger Daughter, who has language delays, along with a volcanically intense love-hate relationship with authority, doesn't have a chance.

Of course, it isn't just math.  We've already seen the reading "comprehension" problem.   The teacher asks, "what do you think will happen next?"  If the child answers with a perfectly sensible, and truthful, "I don't know", she's at risk of intervention for inadequate "comprehension." 

I was worried that the trip we're taking now would be difficult, because we don't have backup care for Younger Daughter.  I've been pleasantly surprised at how well we're getting along, even though we're together 24/7.  One reason is that we're all a lot less stressed out in the absence of school.  Am I turning into an unschooler?


  1. From PsychMom:

    Looks good on ya!

  2. "Am I turning into an unschooler?"

    Why not? You have two choices before you. You can either do school which at best is okay and at worst worse or you can embark on an adventure that is unknown, exhilarating, terrifying and intoxicating. Don't you wish all of life presented you with such easy decisions? :).

  3. Ack! Everybody's getting ahead of me! I'm actually not ready to just take Younger Daughter out of school. I do need the daycare aspects, if nothing else. And she really needs other kids to run around with for much of the day. She's very high-energy.

    Maybe what I want is a summer-camp school, and we'll deal with the academics later?

  4. PsychMom says:

    That's what I want school to be....perpetual camp, only slightly more sophisticated. The kids and parents meet with the staff and devise a learning plan. Then, based on the interests of the child and the parental priorities, the teaching staff offer an individualized program. It's not pie in the sky....it just requires a little more thought and creativity.

    I'm reading Ken Robinson's updated book,"Out of our Minds" right now. It's a great read.

    I don't know if this is an original thought or not, but I'm beginning to conceptualize human educational development within the context of Darwinian principles. Our current system of education is taking all the diversity out of our collective intelligence. Just like we're losing species from the rain forest every year, we're losing our capacity for problem solving by the way we're educating people around the globe. We need to diversify, not line them all up and march them into school.

    Now how did I end up on that train of thought?

  5. It's funny -- sometimes people will derogatorily describe a school or a classroom as being "just day care," which usually means that they think the teachers aren't doing enough to the kids. But I wish my kids' school were more like day care, if it would mean allowing the kids more time to explore what they're interested in and less time being told what to do by a teacher. I know I'm a broken record, but I just don't buy the idea that there's any set body of knowledge and skills (other than the ability to read) that every sixth grader must have or be impaired for life. Summer-camp school sounds just right to me.