Back to School = Back to Stress?!

This past month, mainstream media has cranked up its ‘Back to School’ reporting, as per usual, concentrating for the most part on trite issues promoting consumerism. This is mainly a vehicle to sell advertising for B2S features. I suppose this exercise makes media editors and producers feel they are providing meaningful content but I think we are very poorly served by such superficial treatment of this event.
As part of this year’s treatment of B2S in mainstream media, something I found most objectionable were several articles in which health-care professionals were urging readers (in this case, parents) to discount stress that kids may be feeling about returning to school and over-ride it with other guidance. In one case, it was basically advised that parents just need to ensure that kids go to school no matter what; in the other a doctor opined that such stress was normal.
“One of the most helpful things you can do is reassure your children what they’re feeling is normal.” a doctor is quoted as saying in another one.
I’m sorry, these are incredibly facile responses and doubly questionable to come from alleged health-care practitioners.
As a parent and career-educator I trust kids, and especially my own, around their sensibilities about schooling. To some, schooling is indeed a delight and a helpful oasis; to others, it is justifiably the opposite: punitive, mind and body-numbing, and potentially traumatizing. For kids for whom school is the latter, to suggest to them that this is “normal” is tantamount to doubling the fear and ill-health that may arise of long or short-term immersion in a harmful environment.
Accordingly, my advice to parents about this would be to carefully observe your children leading up to ‘first day back’, and while participating in school throughout September, and the year for that matter. If they are reflecting back to you that school is neither a satisfying nor a healthy place for them, then get them the heck out of there. There’s nothing to be gained, and possibly much to lose, by coercing your kids into such a situation.
Indeed you may have to re-jig your life a little, you may have to advocate for more home-learning options, and you may have to do some research about this, but these options are viable. I know, I’ve been working on the front lines of home-oriented learning for 20 years. And I remember what that stress felt like.

For information on my new book: Learn Your Way! SelfDesigning the Life You Really Want, Starting Now and to order a copy, go here.   

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