Does learning have to be hard work?

by Sophie
(Switzerland, Europe)

I have three children, aged 4, 6 and 11. They are currently all going to a Waldorf (Rudolf Steiner) school.

Our 11 year old is having a hard time at the moment. This year, the teaching has become much more pressured, and resembles a mainstream school more and more. There are punishments if the homework isn't done properly, punishments if he doesn't get a certain percentage right in tests... and I am witnessing his growing discouragement.

His love of learning is just fading and he's begun to cry every morning before leaving for school.

This is definitely not what we want for our children, so I've started to look into the fascinating possibility of homeschooling them.

My question is this: many people tell me, about my son, that he is going through a normal phase of rebellion, and that he just "has to learn that learning is hard work and that he has to get on with it"... They say that if I take him out of school, he just won't learn to confront difficult situations or problems.

Now my instinct tells me they are wrong - I mean, people told me that if I didn't separate from my three month old baby she would never learn to be apart from me, and that is just plain rubbish... But I have a nagging doubt... what if they were right? Does learning have to be hard work sometimes?

Sorry this question is a bit long... many thanks for your reply and for your fantastic web site:-)
Sophie (living in Switzerland)

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Hi Sophie
Thank you for your interesting question. Here is my view.

I think that sometimes learning something new can be hard. And you have to make an effort. But that when you are internally motivated to do this, then it is also a joy and a pleasure.

The problem lies in that people think they have to MAKE children make this effort by external motivations - pressure, punishment etc.

In fact, children are very motivated to learn the things they WANT to learn. And by letting them dictate the pace and direction - then it is like letting them develop a muscle that gets stronger. They learn how to overcome the difficulties of learning something new - and can then apply that to other situations when they get older.

So I believe that your son WILL learn to face difficult situations and problems. How can he not?

What people are really saying is that 'he won't learn to do as he is told'. And is that something that you really want anyway?

best wishes, Julie.

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Comments for Does learning have to be hard work?

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does learning have to be hard
by: LoriD

Here is my opinion....

All he is learning is that learning is hard and that learning is NOT fun!

I agree with Julie, when he WANTS to learn something he will be motivated to learn it AND he can choose how he learns it - personally I don't think worksheets or punishments do this.

Now there are some necessary skills that we need to learn in order to learn other things....let's take basic math facts as an example. My son wants to scuba dive - that is what motivates him. In order to do this there are calculations he must make every time he dives in order to do so safely - this motivates him to learn his basic math facts - but he can choose how he wants to learn them - he chooses to have his friends "quiz" him randomly and whenever on the facts that he struggles with - this mean they can be involved in something completely unrelated and in the middle of the game his friend can say 17+26 and he has to answer correctly and quickly (it makes it a game for my son) and he is still learning.

Hard things? There will be plenty in life - but how we handle them is all about our attitude and our support systems and other intangibles that should be taught by parents (not the school system in my opinion).

Continue reading homeschooling books and Waldorf philosophy books - I'm sure you'll find that the school has simply slipped into the old standard of education (we all do sometimes). Perhaps you'll be able to help them or at least get your son back on track to making learning fun and meaningful for him.

Best of luck! LoriD

Best of Luck
by: Anonymous

I agree with both of the other comments, Julie. I think that it is very important that you trust yourself, in addition to listening to others. You seem not only very intelligent, but also caring and in tune with your older child.

Homeschooling is fascinating, and wonderful. I love the concept, and rue that I am unable to provide for my family what seems to be a totally natural and preferable choice.

My daughter is in a state school in Australia - but was homeschooled for her very early years (until 6), and although she learns very well, she does not come home inspired, like the attitude that she has when we have holidays (when I secretly take on our 'homeschool curriculum' again!). This inspiration is such a joy for a child, that it takes care of so many aspects of learning, without the need of external 'carrot or stick' methods.

Sometimes, it is important for a child to trust that what they are learning is important, even if they can't see the immediate goal, or how this will fit into the bigger picture. But also, a child navigates quite easily through the important curriculum components because they are vital to the child's own growing knowledge bank and not presented as levels of achievement to be attained just to avoid punishment.

If a child is forced to have to approach learning with a non-joyous or hard attitude, then why? Maybe there is an external pressure for the teachers, and yes, I agree, that even liberated home educators and the best of teachers can sometimes slip into the 'you must get this done and learn to a particular level' attitude, and it can be totally counter-productive.

Whether you choose to continue and maybe inspire your son's school, or change tack totally, I am sure that the major influence for your son will be the attitude that you display; this will give him the great inspiration and strength needed to grow and make wise choices about learning and happiness, discipline and freedom, as well as perseverance and knowing when to take a rest stop.

Many Blessings, and know that your son is very fortunate to have a family so caring and sensible to be part of.

Hard lessons
by: Anonymous

Hello

Just wanted to add my thoughts. I home school four sons aged 9,8,5 and 2. Life throws up lots of hard lessons for us, irrespective of any educational goals or outcomes we can think up. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans - so sang John Lennon in the song Beautiful boy. I agree totally.

In spite of writing articles inspiring others to go with the flow and allow their children to unfold naturally, I am also prone to episodes of doubt, of feeling pressured by my elders, by my neigbours, friends, society at large and my own internal ideas and expectations of what the children ought to be doing at this stage or that.

The children teach me never to get too cosy in any one philosophy or idea and are constantly forcing me to evolve my thinking and tactics with respect to how best to teach them. What is true for one child may be utterly wrong for the next. What was true last month may be irrelevant now - the kids have moved on already!!! The trick is to keep moving with them.

You have to live in the moment and do what feels best right now. You don't have tommorow. You've only got today. If you respond according to what feels best for now, then you will always be doing the best thing. No decision has to be permanent. Really listen to what your son wants out of life and see if you can help him get towards that goal. There will be problems and set-backs. But if you focus your energy and faith and have good people around you, a healthy mixture of good elder role models, it will all come off alright - even if the end result is not what you imagined in the beginning! If your default setting as a family is generally to be positive, loving and responsive to each others needs, then even if you have rough patches or wobbles it will all come good in the end. You need to put out a lot of positive energy towards your goal to attract a positive outcome.
Good luck!!!
Best wishes,
Paula Cleary.

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