Most back-to-school advice works for kids who like school. What about kids who don't like school? Not liking school doesn't mean a child is going to fail at life. Traditional classrooms and teaching styles are not for everyone. Adults have a wide variety of work environments from which to choose based on our personal preferences. Consistency across classrooms may improve overall educational standards, but consistency also fosters educating one kind of student. There are many reasons kids dislike school and their parents may need to take an unconventional approach to getting them back in the classroom.
Kids who don't like school may have unidentified learning problems. Individual children learn differently. Kids can have learning differences and still be smart. If a child learns differently, the amount of work it takes to keep up with peers can cause them to not like school. Look for areas they avoid, such as reading out loud in class, as clues to help identify learning differences. Let teachers know your suspicions and let them help!
Highly gifted students who are not challenged can become kids who don't like school. Gifted students usually love to learn. If the work is "babyish" they may shut down or exhibit negative behavior. Gifted students who have trouble socially may also seem bossy. A smart person has a lot of ideas about how things should be done, but other kids won't always agree. If peers react negatively, it causes even gifted students to dislike going to school. A child "not working up to potential" is one sign gifted status should be ruled out. Adequate gifted services will help a bright student who complains they don't like school.
Kids with social or emotional concerns often don't like school. Bullying is a serious problem, and has received much needed attention. Many children suffer in silence at school with other emotional concerns. School puts some children on sensory overload. Chaos, loud noises, and just being touched can cause anxiety for some kids. If a child only associates school with being anxious, they won't want to go. If just getting in the school door everyday is difficult, seek professional help.
Traditional back-to-school advice may need to be modified or completely changed for kids who don't like school. One traditional way of preparing a child to go back to school is to start waking them up and putting them to bed just as though school were in session. By starting early, most kids adapt to their back-to-school schedules before starting school.
Parents are also encouraged to talk about school before it starts to get kids ready to go back to class. Common suggestions include: mark the first day of school on the calendar, count down the days until school starts, and discussions about special teachers and friends. Great ideas if your child can't wait to go back to school. Alternative methods may help minimize dread for kids who talk negatively about school. Expect a week or two of adjustment no matter how children prepare for a new school year.
Changing sleep schedules early can be torture for some kids and their parents. The cost of two extra weeks with kids complaining and melting down might not be worth the benefit practicing may or may not produce. Change and transition are often difficult for a kid who doesn't like school. Changing schedules early may cause more disruption than going cold turkey by starting the night-before-school routine the night before the actual first day of school.
Discussing school too far in advance increases anxiety levels for some kids. For kids who say they don't like school, talk about going back only if they bring it up in a positive way. The fun about going back to school is getting new school supplies and maybe a few school clothes. There's nothing like a superhero backpack to get a kid in the mood for school. Older kids who don't like school will say they don't care about the stuff, but they do. Let the process of getting physically prepared mentally prepare a student who doesn't like school without all the talking.
Don't take it personally if your child doesn't like school. Keep a positive school attitude as a parent, even if a child says they hate school. The same family may contain school lovers and school dislikers. Stubborn kids will dislike school even more if pushed. Find an extracurricular activity they like and don't withhold anything they do like about school for discipline purposes. Keeping a positive parental attitude about school and education over all 13 years before college, makes it more likely that a kid who doesn't like school will go to college. My school-hater starts college in one week, and he can't wait!