Want to learn how to get your child interested in school instead of dreading every minute of it? Here are 6 surprising ways to teach the value and importance of school.
It’s bad enough that school days outnumber non-school days, but to deal with your child’s resistance makes your mornings even worse.
School drop offs and homework battles become epic power struggles that leave you doubly exhausted. His lack of effort in academics feel disappointing, and volunteering in the classroom doesn’t seem to make an impact on his attitude, either. Video games have become a daily distraction from what he should be doing for school.
You wonder how he simply isn’t interested in anything to do with school.
How to get your child interested in school
Perhaps your goal is to stop his defiant behavior and at least go along with what he needs to do for school, from getting ready to finishing schoolwork.
But if I had to guess, you’d rather that he not just tolerate school, but actually feel excited about it. To get good grades in the school year and understand the value of education. And to take that enthusiasm and use what he has learned to contribute to the world in adulthood.
Except getting him to wake up early in the morning or correct his homework aren’t exactly showing signs of promise.
No worries, friend. You can turn things around with his school success and learning process, even if it feels like you’ve tried everything else. As you’ll see, the tips below are less about forcing kids to enjoy school, and more on how we view and value its importance in our lives.
Take a look at these simple—and doable—guidelines on how to get your child interested in school:
1. Fill your home with books
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I was shocked—but later not surprised—to learn that homes filled with books extend a child’s educational level by an average of 3.2 years. Simply by owning books at home (50 is ideal) is enough to set the tone of the importance of reading.
Here’s the thing: borrowing books from the library—however valuable that is—may not be enough. The fact that parents prioritize books enough to make space for them in their homes is what helps kids excel and enjoy school.
So, what can you do?
You likely won’t buy 50 books in one swipe, but begin planning for your very own library at home. If you have shelves, clear out a section dedicated to children’s books. If not, add a simple children’s shelf to their room to fill like these:
Then, make it a treat to buy a book over time, letting him choose which ones to buy (paperback books can be as affordable as $2 -$4 each). Use these to stock your new library at home and read together throughout the day.
Tip: Look for your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook and ask if anyone has children’s books they’d like to part with. I’ve given away many of our own books to my fellow neighbors who wanted to build their home library.
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2. Watch how you talk about school
I cringe when I hear people—kids, parents, school staff—let out a whoop of cheer when they announce that school is on a break. You hear it the last few days before summer or winter break or even before a three-day weekend.
And I get it: We all need a break from routine. Teachers look forward to weeks-long time away from school, and parents don’t have to scramble with the morning hustle.
But whenever I hear people cheering that there won’t be school for a while, it makes me wonder:
What message does that send to our kids?
So, ask yourself: How do you talk to your child about school?
Does she hear you say, “Yay, no school tomorrow!” more often than not? Do you take her out of school for the day as a “treat”? Is she dropped off on time and given a healthy breakfast so she’s alert all day? Do you say you were bad at a particular subject when you were in school?
These little decisions decide whether school is important to your family, or a hassle to get through. Weekends are fun, of course, because we get to hang out with one another all day and wake up late. But be mindful of how you talk about school as well, and make sure you don’t paint it as negative.
3. Continue to learn during school breaks
Whether a few weeks of winter break or a long stretch in the summer, encourage some sort of “curriculum” when your child isn’t in school.
In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, author Malcolm Gladwell argues that the educational gap between wealthy and poor children is the time spent away from school:
“Virtually all of the advantage that wealthy students have over poor students is the result of the differences in the way privileged kids learn while they are not in school. … For its poorest students, America doesn’t have a school problem. It has a summer vacation problem…”
Of course, kids are learning practically all the time, from each moment of play to reading to enjoying some downtime. Still, I remember many summers of mine watching television in the afternoons, whittling my time away when I could have been more engaged.
Nowadays, when my kids are on a long break, I make sure we don’t drop our regular reading routine. I also give them worksheets, and follow their teachers’ advice on school activities to do during the break.
We don’t have a strict schedule—home isn’t school, after all. But I still want them to get in the habit of reading and learning despite being on a break from school. Not only will they avoid having to relearn everything before the break, they’ll also understand that school is part of life.
4. Establish rules and routines in the home about school
Do you think twice about brushing your teeth? Probably not. You have it in your head to brush your teeth every morning and night, to wash your hands after using the bathroom, and to turn off the lights before bed.
This is the power of habits and routines, and the same can be applied to school.
For instance, you can create an after-school routine that includes a snack and a few minutes of homework assignments. Make sure your child keeps her desk and learning areas clutter-free. Encourage her to insert folders and library books into her backpacks as needed.
These routines make your daily life set for learning, setting the expectation that school is important.
5. Expect your child to attend college
“When I go to college, can I still show you my weekly work?” my son asked me.
He was talking about our Friday review of the worksheets he did during preschool. In his innocence, he assumed we’d continue to review his worksheets well into his college years.
Aside from the cuteness of this scenario, what pleased me most was his assumption of going to college. There was no question—after high school, he was going to college.
I know folks who grew up without that expectation and felt that getting themselves into and through college was more difficult. They had to navigate through the enrollment process alone, or their parents didn’t understand why they even needed a degree.
Not everyone who goes to college finds success, just as not everyone who doesn’t go to college are struggling. But college offers plenty of opportunities in the long term. Higher income and less unemployment and developing lifelong passions are a few.
It’s not a bad place to be.
In fact, the next time you take a trip to a place with a nearby college, take a few hours to visit the campus. Make it a habit to include college visits during your vacations (many offer campus tours).
Do you live near a college? Take advantage of your proximity and bring your child for a visit. Explain where you are and expose her early on to college life. And if you’re able to, contribute to her college fund and talk about the advantage of saving for her years in college.
6. Show how school will impact your child’s future
People can scoff at school, wondering how sentence syntax and the Pythagorean theorem would help them in adulthood.
Granted, we don’t always apply topics we learn in school to everyday life. The details we learn in history and the homework lessons we pored through might not matter.
But more often than we realize, they do.
To this day, I still use many of the math applications I learned in elementary school to find percentages. Decades later, multiplication tables have helped me in daily life (and I never thought I was a person who “loved math”).
Talk about how you’re using what you had learned in school now as an adult. Maybe that’s writing a proposal for work, using skills you learned in English class. Discuss current politics based on interesting facts you read in history books.
Beyond directly using what you had learned in school, you can also stress the person you were able to become because of school. You’re able to think critically, to observe, to question. You learned how to infer, to argue, and to research. To feel delighted in having learned something new.
And most importantly, highlight the opportunities you get from having gone to school. You have more opportunities that might not be there had you not gone to school or done well. The more we value school, the more chances and choices we can make in adulthood.
This is especially useful if your child already has aspirations of how she wants to contribute to the world. She might want to be a teacher, a farmer, or the person to create solar-powered cars. Or she might want to own a restaurant, a bookstore, or create recipes.
If she sees the opportunities from going to school, she’s more likely to see it as a benefit, not another obstacle to get through.
I truly believe that we can do simple changes to get kids interested in school. Start by filling your home with books to show that you value reading and learning. Have a positive attitude about school and avoid making it seem like something to dread.
Continue to learn during long school breaks, and create rules and routines around school in your home. Set your eyes on higher education, and discuss how school impacts your child’s future, including things he’s excited to do.
School does not have to be the drudgery we often see or hear about. Even with exciting weekend plans or a fun summer break, your child can still have the motivation for school just as much.
Get more tips:
- What to Do when Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to School
- 6 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine for School Run Smoothly
- Preschool Pros and Cons: Should You Send Your Child to Preschool?
- 6 Useful Back to School Tips for Parents and Kids
- 13 Children’s Books about Going to School
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