What to do when your kid loves learning but hates school

If your child loves to learn but hates school, it could be an issue of needing more challenging material or being overwhelmed with the coursework. (Photo: J-Elgaard, Getty Images)

My son’s parent-teacher conference didn’t go well. 

His teacher said she couldn’t get him to focus. That he wasn’t motivated to go his work, nor was he interested in rewards. 

“I’m not sure what to do,” the teacher told me. 

The problem isn’t that my son doesn’t want to learn. He loves learning. The issue is that he already knew what the teacher wanted him to learn in class. As far as he was concerned, doing it was a waste of time.

Instead, he went up into his head, where imagination was so much more interesting than reality, and gradually decided that he hated school.

My son’s teacher couldn’t figure out what he needed, but I knew: He needed to be challenged. So together, we created a personal learning plan that re-engaged him in his school experience.

As parent-teacher conference season approaches, I encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s life at school. If they’re not doing well, it’s so important to work with teachers to address the problem before children disengage and lose their natural love of learning.

In my 20 years as a school counselor, I heard three primary concerns from teachers, students and parents. Here they are, along with suggestions for how to address them.

1. My child fidgets and won’t stay in his seat.

It’s not unusual for children to need to move their bodies in order to focus. Parents can ask for:

All three of these options give kids more opportunity to move while they work, without disturbing others. Once their focus increases, their productivity will, too.

2. My child already knows the material. She’s bored!


Parents should insist on higher-level curriculum that will stimulate and challenge their child.

Arrange for your child to do part of the challenging work at home instead of the regular homework. Allow her to use some of her school time to tutor students who are struggling. Teaching others will cement her own learning, as well as develop leadership skills and self-confidence.

3. My child can’t keep up with the amount of work the teacher assigns.

If your child processes the material more slowly than others but is capable of mastering the skills, request that the teacher adjust assignments so your child has enough practice to demonstrate mastery without becoming overwhelmed by the workload.

You and the teacher will want to keep notes about which interventions are most effective. However, if your child continues to fall behind, request a meeting with the school psychologist to discuss special testing, which might point to the cause of the difficulty.

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