Today marked the start of the last term of the school year. Personally, I was pretty excited about it. It's the summer term. Sports days, school plays, fetes and leavers ceremonies to look forward too, not to mention walking to school in sunshine, rather than blizzards. And only one more term before son 2 goes to big school and I can stop paying
for childcare. Hooray!
But the enthusiasm was not shared by son 1. He reluctantly ate breakfast and even more reluctantly read his school book that he should have read over half term but didn't. (Note for parents of boys: according to child psychologist Nigel Latta, boys don't leave things till the last minute because they are lazy. They do it because, well, you never know. They could get stabbed to death by a pirate or kidnapped by aliens before the due date of whatever the task is. So why bother wasting valuable time doing something that might end up being pointless?)
Anyway, after an excrutiatingly slow rendition of Chip and Biff's latest adventure, it was time to get dressed. It was round about this time that he started complaining of 'not feeling very well'. When I enquired after the nature of his illness, he indicated a general malaise - sore head, sore tummy, cough and possible cold. He definitely felt that he had a temperature.
He looked fine to me, other than a slightly red eye but that was probably due to excess swimming over the weekend.
I made him a deal. I said that if he had a temperature over 39C, he could stay home. If not, he had to go to school. His temperature was 36.5C.
This didn't go down well.
So emphatic were his protestations that I felt that perhaps he really did feel unwell, and how would I feel if someone forced me off somewhere when I genuinely felt rubbish. So I called the childminder and asked her how she'd feel about having him, and she said that there was something going around that caused this general malaise. Feeling like a bad mother, I said that he could go to the childminder for the day. Instantly he seemed to be on the mend.
When I picked him up I asked the childminder how he had been. Fit as a fiddle apparently. She feels he is suffering from stress about going to school.
So I googled 'child not wanting to go to school' and instantly (God bless the internet) found a very useful article that said children who don't want to go to school usually fall into one of three problems:
1. They have social issues (no friends, being picked on, thinking they're not liked etc)
2. They have issues with the schoolwork (find it too hard, feel like they're stupid, can't keep up etc)
3. They have ants in their pants issues (can't sit still and find school a bore)
Now I know that my child is good academically. I'm not saying he's going to be one of the world's top brainiacs, but he can read, and write, and spell (mostly) and is good with maths. In fact I've been told that he's very good at maths. But this seems to be slipping of late. So is it a work related thing?
I know he has had friends issues, but he hasn't mentioned this for some time. And he's definitely not the ants in pants variety.
I attempted to talk to him about this. Gently, calmly, hopefully being caring and understanding. He simply said that he doesn't want to talk about it, but he hates school and doesn't want to go anymore. Apparently, the reason he hates school is he hates 'doing work'. Hmm, could the prognosis be that he's bone idle? But it seems that he falls into category 2.
But once I managed to dig slightly deeper, I discovered that the teachers don't read out the questions to them, they have to read them themselves and then answer them. And because he says he doesn't understand the questions, he doesn't know how to answer them. And if there's one thing my son cannot stand, it's being wrong. Is it wrong for 6 year olds to be expected to read through the questions and answer them on their own? I don't know. They don't teach you this stuff when you give birth do they?
The other issue is that they have to write in linked up writing. His print writing looks fine. His linked up writing looks like a drunk spider has vomited across a page. And because of this, he hates doing any work that requires him to write, not because he doesn't have the ideas, but because he finds the job of putting pen to paper way too hard.
But I still feel that these are surface issues. And that there is more to discover, but he won't (or possibly can't) express what it is. I'm going to have to chat to the teacher about it. I recall at the parent teacher evening, they said that it was a fine line to push children who could do more and not push them too much that they feel overwhelmed by it all. Perhaps there's been too much of the latter.
Sigh. I wish I'd studied child psychology so I could figure out what is going on in his small boy head. But if anyone has any top tips on how to get a reluctant school goer to go to school, please share. Because I'm not sure I can manage another 12-odd years of this.