Perceived slump at school

Teenage girl looking thoughtful about troublesApparently it is quite normal for kids to have several ‘slumps’ growing up. These may be times when their attitude becomes quite frustrating towards parents or people in authority or it is usually when they lose interest in schoolwork. Loss of passion for schoolwork is normal with it more apparent at certain growth times than others.

My Local Doctor was chatting with me about my plans to home school and whether or not that included high school (years 7-12). Her brother is an educational expert and he had recently heard another expert sprout that schools are not set up properly for students.

Educational experts recognise that there is a slump in performance and motivation for students in grades 2-4 (roughly aged 8-10 years) and then again in years 9-10, the worst being year 9 (aged approximately 14-16 years).

She then went on to explain that was why Geelong Grammar, a famous private boys (now co-ed) school in Victoria, Australia where Prince Charles spent Year 9, set up the “Timbertop” year for years 9 students. They recognised that boys had a slump and were not motivated to learn during that school year.

Thus, they took them up to the high mountains for a year to be stretched in a lot of outdoor activities like skiing, camping and cross country running. It satisfied the boys sense of adventure and they learnt in a fun way a lot of things about themselves and other people. These students live in small groups in huts with no hot water and have to learn to cook as a team and manage their food supply, heat their water, clean up after themselves. They developed resilience, independence, responsibility and team work.  A totally different approach to learning. A fantastic growth opportunity.

With our daughter, currently aged 10, I had noticed earlier in the year that she was not as eager to do schoolwork as she was the previous year. It wasn’t a huge issue, just a general reluctance to begin schoolwork of a day. (I must confess that she had always been extremely motivated, probably more so than usual, so it wasn’t really a slump!!) Maybe it was because more of my time was taken up with helping Matey as he required more intensive help. Part of it may have been that she now needed to put in some effort with her schoolwork whereas it had been easy and fun at to that point. I don’t know, but I do know that we have tried to play more board games and have more schoolwork that was relevant to her and her interests. Part of it may also have been that I wasn’t “feeding” her as many books as I had previously done. In reality, I wasn’t giving her work that inspired her.

One of the benefits of the ‘Books 4 Cambodia’ project has been that she has been motivated to write over 75 letters to schools, universities, municipal libraries etc to ask for donations of books, plus the mammoth amount of thank you letters. She has also had to calculate how many boxes we need, how to know that the combined weight of the container is under 20 tonne for the roads in Cambodia, the cost and method of shipping a container, how to organise a project such as this, how to set up an email account and facebook page, how to communicate with teachers, etc. She has also been exposed to a wider variety of books and has read a number that have looked extremely interesting.

My doctor suggested an overseas mission trip to a third world country, if finances permit, through the year 9 period would greatly assist in providing the sense of adventure and helping the child develop resilience, team work and a renewed appreciation for what they do have back home.

This would be a fantastic idea but it requires a lot of money. What a great family goal and learning opportunity to have everyone in the family saving and planning for a mission trip. In the 14 months before we went to Mozambique for 3 months, our whole family focussed on saving. The kids tended to be better savers than hubby and myself. If we were out somewhere, Matey would always ask if we really needed to buy it. When we returned home, he would get that amount of money we would have paid for the object, drink etc and put it in our saving container. Within six months we had accumulated a significant amount. One of the keys to this was that it was inspirational. It was bigger than the kids reality.

Friends of ours who also homeschool & have kids aged 10, 8, and 6 plus the mum 6 months pregnant, recently went on a trip to an orphanage they sponsor in the Philippines. They suddenly decided to go, bought tickets and left within the month. They landed in Cebu just after the earthquake and were there during the typhoon. Their kids helped in sorting bags of rice and distributing these on the streets to folk with no home, no food, no money etc. The experience and knowledge they have gained about typhoons, earthquakes, helping others has been enormous. Their mother readily admits that they learnt far more than what they would have learnt back home during this time of year. What a fantastic way to finish the school year!!

Are your children in one of these age groups, or have been, and have they experienced an apparent slump in learning? What have you done to change that around? I would love to hear.