My kid hates online learning!


Episode 71 – Help! My kid hates online learning!

Dear Torie,   I have four kids that are now online schooling: a 7th grader, two 5th graders and one kindergartener. My older kids are successfully working with their teachers and getting the work done for the most part.  My kindergartener struggles with the online format. He doesn’t like to participate much on the Zoom calls. I have to keep an eye on him because he has started to mute the audio and video and run off to play during the calls. They also post instructional videos for the daily worksheet and a story. If I turn my back he forwards through parts of the instruction. To try to get out of doing work he has even started experimenting with lying for the first time, “Mom, I watched that video last night while you were sleeping,” and “Mom, I already did that worksheet and then recycled it.”  When I ask him why he isn’t wanting to do the work he says he doesn’t enjoy it (especially the writing). I sit with him during instruction and work with him on the worksheets. He is resistant to my help. I am not trained or gifted in teaching academics. I’ve tried to motivate him in different ways, but he just isn’t into it. The firmer I get the more resistant he becomes. He would rather play with the microscope, play board games, help with cooking projects, water the garden, or build something.  Please help! Demmari  

Parent Educator Answer – Multiple Intelligence Theory. 

  When most people think about intelligence, they think of high test scores, good grades and IQ. We generalize intelligence into one category however, in 1983, Howard Gardener, a developmental psychologist at Harvard, outlined eight major types of intelligence.   In his book, Frames of Mind, Gardener proposed, “We have this myth that the only way to learn something is to read it in a textbook or hear a lecture on it. And the only way to show that we’ve understood something is to take a short-answer test with an essay question thrown in. But that’s nonsense. Everything can be taught in more than one way,”    This theory became very popular with educators and parents because it reflected the reality of what we see everyday. One child isn’t “smarter” than the other, they are just smarter in different ways.    The eight different kinds of intelligence are:
  1. Visual-spatial intelligence (puzzles, art, diorama)
  2. Linguistic-verbal intelligence (reading, big vocabulary, accents and languages, verbal humor)
  3. Mathematical intelligence (intangible math inside the head, logic puzzles)
  4. Kinesthetic intelligence 
  5. Musical intelligence
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (empathy, charm, manipulation)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (self awareness, quiet confidence)
  8. Naturalistic intelligence (keenly aware of patterns in the environment, high empathy with animals)
  When it comes to your kindergartener’s disinterest in online learning, Demmari, I would propose that he has strong kinesthetic intelligence or is too young and developmentally not ready for online learning or both.  Young children gravitate towards things that naturally help them learn. If these Zoom calls were a good way for him to learn, he would enjoy them.  I’m primarily an interpersonal learner. I learn best by talking and collaborating with others. If I had a strong personal relationship with my teacher, seeing her on Zoom would be highly motivating for me. But put me in front of a computer or text book alone, and I will struggle to understand the lessons being taught. FOR SURE I would lie and say I read the chapter just so I could go to a study group and learn alongside my friends. My husband could not learn his multiplication tables until his mom put them to music. The numbers didn’t mean anything to him until they were associated with a note on the piano.  As a kid, would my husband have lied to get out of doing math worksheets? He still does!  It’s May and I’m still waiting for him to finish his portion of our taxes.  Everyone lies to avoid doing things they don’t want to do. How many times have you said that you had plans in order to avoid an unappealing social invitation?  I hear myself say that I’m too tired to exercise, even though I know exercise boosts my energy. I suggest viewing the lying as his way of communicating how much he dislikes Zoom and worksheets.  At school, teachers try to have lessons that appeal to all learners, but it’s difficult to meet everyone’s needs. At home, it’s much easier to cater to the individual learning style of your kiddo.  There are many ways to accomplish the SKILL the teacher wants him to develop.
  • If the teacher wants him to write so he can practice the skill of communicating ideas, your son can dictate his thoughts to you or tell a story on video. 
  • If the skill is to practice the fine motor formation of letters, he can draw in mud, shaving cream, sand, Play-doh, sidewalk chalk, or mustard on a sandwich. 
  • To practice phonetics and word sounds, he can jump rope while you sing a rhyming song, or play a rhyming game. He can bounce a ball for every letter in a word and practice sounding it out. 
There are many ways to teach the skills needed and your son is showing you what he likes and how he learns best. Without the social elements of school to motivate him, keep it easy on yourself and try to incorporate skills into the things he already enjoys doing. It’s more important that he ENJOYS learning. Follow his lead, keep it playful and fun, and remember that everything he’s doing naturally is growing his brain and capacity for learning.   

Life Coaching Answer: Your inner people pleasing rule follower. 

What gets in the way of following your kid’s lead and trusting that the things your kid naturally wants to do are enough? Being a people pleasing rule follower.  I’m going to guess that inside this momma there is a formula for success: “Do what you are told, and all will be well.” This “rule-following” comes naturally to her and has served her well. If MOM was to disregard instructions, ignore the teacher, not turn in her assignment, this would be extremely uncomfortable for her! NOT doing what she’s told would be ignoring her inner compass. Just as worksheets and Zoom calls go against her son’s inner compass! The key here is to let mom be mom, and kid be kid. If mom wants to show the teacher she is an obedient rule follower, she can log him in everyday, but let him walk away when he gets bored. Mom can communicate with the teacher the skills he is working on like cooking, gardening, and building. Mom can create an environment conducive to her son participating in school assignments, but she can’t make him learn.  The scary part is that mom may need to advocate for her son by contradicting the teacher’s requests.  I am a rule following people pleaser and I had to do this when my daughter was in first grade and it was TERRIFYING. I had to tell this very kind teacher that I was taking my daughter off homework. She was crying everyday after school and stressing herself out. I was a reading specialist and I knew that the best way to sabotage a kid’s success in school, was to teach them hate reading. My daughter has a very strong will, so when she disliked something, everyone knew it. When I tried to read her stories before bed she would chuck the book across the room. When we’d walk into a library for my son (who loved books), she would start screaming until I took her outside. I KNEW that taking my daughter off homework was the right thing to do but it was still scary to tell the teacher I would be purposefully disobeying her.  When the teacher asked about doing homework in second grade? I said, I would deal with that when I got there. All I knew was that it was more important to me that my daughter liked school and learned to like reading. She was so exhausted trying to do everything right at school, that she needed recuperation time at home to do her own things and listen to her own ideas inside her own head. Everyone says kids are our greatest teachers. I think the best learning comes from kids that trigger us and force us to grow sides of ourselves that we didn’t know we had inside us. Raising kids who are different from ourselves gives us the opportunity to become stronger, more compassionate versions of ourselves.   

Today’s Supermom Kryptonite:  Listening to outside authority.

There’s nothing wrong with looking for answers outside of ourselves, unless we do it as a substitute for trusting our own gut. It’s easy to get stuck in a tailspin of advice: all coming from different people, all making sense, but all contradicting each other.  When you go looking outside yourself for answers, only adopt them if they align with your values and what you know to be true from your personal experience.  To help out a fellow rule follower who likes to do what is expected of her, I’ve compiled wisdom from teachers I admire and respect. I shared Demmari’s  question with them and took excerpts from their answers that aligned with my personal philosophy so she can get non-contradictory advice from more than one expert.  A word of wisdom from Ms. Twomey “His age group is not able to focus on Zoom or even understand what it is or why they have to do it. I would advise that mom take the skill highlighted in the worksheet and incorporate it through play or one of the cooking projects she does. By March, in Kinder, almost the entire curriculum has been taught and it’s just practice from here. I would completely forgo the Zoom and the worksheets, and just read, practice handwriting, do some mental math and play, play, play.” Here’s what Ms. Rodezno has to say:  Conscientious parents will try to have their kids do EVERYTHING the teacher gives because they are worried their kids will fall behind. More important than completing all the teacher’s assignments is to build and strengthen the parent/child relationship. It would be good for the parent to use this time to let the child explore other interests: cook together, dig holes in the garden, get dirty and build things. The academics will be there when he goes back to school.  Advice from Miss Young:  “Kindergarteners should not be doing more than an hour of work a day. Smaller chunks of work time would be best, 10-15 minutes at the most, followed by one of the activities he’d rather do like building or helping cook. Focus on what your son is interested in. All the activities you mentioned he gravitates towards are great for his development and learning. School is supposed to be social, focused on play and learning, not just from the teacher but their peers, too. So much of what we do in the classroom cannot be transferred to an online platform.”  

Supermom PowerBoost – Task Management

Today’s power boost comes from Mrs. Densmore-Thomas. She says, “It sounds like Demmari’s kid is looking for some control and wants to do age appropriate things. Worksheets don’t fit that bill.”  She suggests a simple project management system using sticky notes. You write the tasks on Post-It’s, and he moves them from “to-do” to “doing” to “done”.  Kinesthetically and visually he can see that he is accomplishing tasks. To-do lists aren’t very pretty. By making it physical and colorful, you are appealing to kinesthetic and visual-spatial learners.  Having a simple system to track tasks is great for any age. If you’ve got a middle schooleror high schooler who gets overwhelmed with assignments, using a visually appealing, simple system to track what they have and haven’t accomplished is super helpful.  We like a sense of accomplishment because it gives the brain a little hit of dopamine. This dopamine is the reward center of our brain and keeps us coming back for more. Which means the more dopamine your son produces from school related projects, the more he will want to DO school related projects.   

Quote of the Day:

“Until now, most schools in most cultures have stressed a certain combination of linguistic and logical intelligences. Beyond question that combination is important for mastering the agenda of school, but we have gone too far in ignoring the other intelligences. By minimizing the importance of other intelligences within and outside of schools, we consign many students who fail to exhibit the “proper” blend to the belief that they are stupid, and we do not take advantage of ways in which multiple intelligences can be exploited to further the goals of school and the broader culture.” Howard Gardner in The Unschooled Mind: How Children think and How Schools should teach.

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