Gone. His Love of Learning is Gone

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Gone.  His love of learning is gone.  And I am now struck with the realization he may not get it back.

After reading this delightful post, “How to Destroy a Child’s Love of Learning in 15 Easy Steps”, I had to chuckle at the flawless use of sarcasm, humor and snark to let the readers know, quite truthfully, how our children’s love of learning can be so easily flushed down the toilet.  After enjoying the humor and happily nodding my head in agreement with all that was written, reality then flooded my brain and tears welled up in my eyes.  Too many of those fifteen things had happened to my son when he sat within the walls of brick and mortar schools.

I allowed myself a moment of sadness and let the tears fall, and then quickly bucked up, telling myself that I WILL help my son regain his love of learning.  I immediately repeated the same pep talk I give myself every morning as I am faced with the sobering responsibility of having to reverse the damage caused by educators who did not understand my son’s giftedness.  I pushed all negative thoughts out of my brain and refused to cave to the despair.  Succeeding was my only choice.  My monumental task – to resurrect his once-voracious need for knowledge, for creating, for problem-solving, for making music and for inventing.

Crushing reality struck again, but this time I was slammed with a feeling of total despair, dizzying grief as if from a horrible loss.  As I read yet another poignant article that portrayed how our traditional educational system can extinguish a child’s natural desire to learn, to explore, to discover and to follow their passion, I knew.  I knew his love of learning was undeniably gone, and I may not be capable of helping him get it back.  The reality that my child has lost a part of himself that at one time so brilliantly defined him – his energy, his curiosity, his enthusiasm for learning.  Gone.

Even his wit, his contagious sense of humor, his ability to spontaneously craft clever jokes – gone.

Gone and replaced by a paralyzing fear of failure.

His love of learning was crushed by educators who said things no child should hear.

“I’m tired of this crap!  You need to start paying attention in Math class!”  He had a 100% average in the class he wasn’t paying attention in.

“I know your mom thinks you are gifted, but you have to prove to me just how smart you are!”  Proving his intelligence was his teacher’s criteria for allowing him in her Advanced Math class.

“Mr. Zero”  A name his last English teacher called him in front of his classmates after she gave him a zero on an essay he was writing because he was talking out loud to himself.

“If you are so smart, then why aren’t you making better grades?”  He heard this more than once his last month in traditional school.

My driving desire is to see that all of our gifted children receive the understanding, education and support they need in our educational systems and by society.  That is their inherent right.  As I’ve told many people, I want to make sure that what happened to my son does not happen to any other gifted child – “no child should have to suffer simply because they were born gifted.”  This is what drives me to write, to advocate and immerse myself in the cause of advocating for all of our gifted children.

I will continue to advocate and fight for all gifted children, but I have another seemingly insurmountable fight for my own gifted child.  And for this fight, I’m truly scared.

 

**A few months have passed since this article was posted and I am happy to say that things have turned around in that time.  I have written two articles about this wonderful turn towards learning:

The Spark That Changed Everything: Homeschooling a Gifted Teen

 It Just Takes Time

Comments

  1. Maybe it is juste his love and faith in teacher that is gone. he will take his curiosity inside, where it is safe, and let it grow there. And some day, when he grows up and feels more powerful, he can face the world again. Broken hearts can heal, he just needs time to feel safe.

    I would have murdered those teachers, B-<

  2. It will take time, but I promise it WILL return. A few years back, I took my son out of preschool for the same reasons you list above. He’d only been there a year, but it took him a full *six months* to want to learn again and to get back to the boy I remembered. Give it time, and give him lots of space. Look up “strewing” – that’s what helped us the most.

  3. The most important gift you can give him now is time. Take him to all the museums in your area, paint, draw, work with clay, go to movies, take walks outside. Show him mystifying things that make you wonder why. It will come back but it will take time. This is not time wasted, you will gain more as he de-compresses.
    We did the same with one of our sons. It took two years before I felt that I could grade any work. We chose a couple of tutors that would be experts in their fields (math and writing). The right tutors that finding teaching pure joy took our son at his speed through the material he needed to cover. He (18 and graduating this year) is headed to college and is excited about learning again. He has gained some experience about how to deal with teachers that he doesn’t mix well with.
    Your son will do great just give him the down time and rebuild his confidence in himself.

  4. ANITA BROWN says:

    My heart goes out to you and your son. I’m watching with a cautious eye that my daughter doesn’t lose her love of learning over the stress in her classroom. When I read this, I immediately thought de-schooling and unschooling for a bit. Breathe there Mom….you will find a way back to him and learning.

  5. God bless you and your son. I took my son out last year in the middle of his 4th grade year. After K, I noticed how his love for learning was dying year after year. He was becoming a robot. He was already naturally perfectionistic, but it worsened as he got older and school stopped being fun. His teachers required children to be quit for 7 hours, even discouraging natural discourse on class material! WHAT?
    It may take time, but know that you did the right thing. I would give your son some free time to decompress. Speak positively. Point out his natural strengths and talents. Allow him to be creative and inquisitive. And please do not try to recreate school at home. Good luck!

    • Thank you so very much for your sweet words of encouragement! And being quiet for the entire school day for five days every week was always my pet peeve! That is the kind of socializing (or nonverbal socializing) homeschool kids are luckily missing out on!

  6. This is so sad and I can relate to so much of what he went through because it was my story too. School was a nightmare for me, and I retreated to books. Through books and writing, I found myself again and now write published novels. Perhaps encourage him in something creative like writing, music or art where HE can have the control. It’s a long fight but with a loving mother by his side he can do it. I was lucky to have my parents support. He is clearly similarly blessed and CAN recover from this and find himself again.

  7. Hi,

    I feel the need to chime-in. I began homeschooling my youngest daughter after her kindergarten year. Her confidence in herself and her ability had been severely eroded due to her natural curiosity being discouraged in a strict classroom. I found my efforts to do formal school work with her met with resistance and her plunging feelings of “can’t do it.”

    So, I let her be. I didn’t try to read to her. I didn’t make her read. I let her play, and play, and play. I let her follow me around. I let her walk with her dog. I let her be out in our big yard for hours. I let her swim. I let her be in a play when she asked. I let her join a dance camp when she asked for that. I bought her Scooby Doo books when she asked for them at a yard sale.

    I gave her freedom back to her.

    For more than a year.

    And, she came back.

    Her love of herself and her love of asking questions and jumping into everything that interests her… came back. Her smile came back. Her confidence came back. She came home.

    I don’t plan to lose her again!

    She is moving to thriving academically, intellectually, socially, physically, emotionally and personally.

    Do not lose faith. The healing love and protection you offer as his Mother can work miracles.

  8. Treehouse Mom says:

    I am terribly sad for you and your son reading this. In my own experience it’s all about the teacher and always the teacher who can make or break the classroom setting. I don’t know where you are located but I would highly recommend the Stetson University Hatterdays program (perhaps a similar program in your area) for an incredible teaching and learning experience for your son. My own gifted son comes out of these Saturday classes literally dancing with sheer delight. The teachers are all not just incredible- but they are actually gifted advocates. They “get” kids like ours. You are a good mom. Never give up. I hope you find something to help your son find his way. He will be forever grateful to you. Xo

    • Thank you! I will look into the Stetson University Hatterdays program. We have since moved from where my son had his traumatic school experience and are now located in a wonderful city with many great, forward-thinking programs and opportunities! We are actively looking for the right activity or program where he will feel respected and accepted – we will get there! Thanks for your wonderful words of encouragement – you have no idea how much hope and energy they give me! Made my day!

  9. Thanks for this very timely post. My high schooler has lost that spark and light. His father refused to let him home school — the constant drumbeat from family was to make him conform. We tried everything: arts school, parochial school, regular school, another arts school… The bright light that blazed in his eyes was extinguished by the years grueling in mental coal mines. A lot of kids developed and soared in these environments; my guy just kept getting his wings broken. Yesterday, a counselor admonished me for not forcing him to do school work. Yes, I agree learning is good for a developing mind, but we are going to do this on OUR terms now. Just the word “school” traumatizes him. We are “exploring” “going on adventures” “inventing” and “having fun”

    • Yes! “We are “exploring” “going on adventures” “inventing” and “having fun”. This is what they need for now until they find their passion and love for learning again! It brings to mind that homeschool saying, “The world is my classroom!” Thanks for sharing!

  10. I could have written that article word for word about my daughter with the exception of changing the mean, cruel comments made by teachers. I would add these teacher comments:

    1. I gave her math work she didn’t know how to do on purpose and when she asked for help, I told her to figure it out. She started to cry and I left her so that she would understand how other kids feel when they don’t understand things. (2nd grade).
    2. I just can’t warm up to her (3rd grade)
    3. After winning the spelling bee every week, the teacher gave her a hard word that wasn’t on the study list and when she got it wrong, the whole class laughed at her. Then when she started getting the hard words right, she wasn’t allowed to participate in the spelling bee because it “made the other kids feel bad about themselves”.(2nd grade).
    4. If you our school had a gifted program, you wouldn’t be in it (IQ 148, straight A’s through 4th grade).
    5. Because the school (Rochester MI) did not have a gifted program and wouldn’t accelerate her due to “policy”, she was drawing a picture during a lesson due to boredom and the teacher walked up and ripped it up in front of the class
    6. Let’s face it. she is socially awkward. (4th grade)

    I could go on and on. She is a quiet, reflective, respectful girl. No one ever complained of her behavior or being disruptive, they just didn’t like that she was smart and didn’t fit into their planned curriculum

    The part that really touched me about your story was the part describing your son.
    Even his wit, his contagious sense of humor, his ability to spontaneously craft clever jokes – gone.
    Gone and replaced by a paralyzing fear of failure.

    That is exactly what happened to my daughter and I don’t know if it will ever be fixed. I homeschooled her in 5th grade and found a wonderful private school whose motto is “smart is cool”. They celebrate and encourage success. It has been a good year but to say baby steps would be an understatement.

    My little girl whose favorite saying as a child was “have fun” is gone. She rarely laughs and is filled with insecurity and extreme social anxiety.

    She wasn’t bullied in school by kids but by adults. Heartbreaking.

    I pray that you find a avenue to bring your son back into the beautiful world that he used to see.

    • Since I’ve started this blog and read the stories everyone has been sharing, there seems to be a pattern of teachers bullying gifted children. I’ve read a few professional studies that claim it is common for teachers, out of jealousy or defensiveness, to bully a gifted child. I just never thought it could be possible. And the comments directed at your daughter by the very adults whose job is to teach children are horrid. I can’t get past the teacher purposely giving her Spelling words to make sure she would fail…how cruel! My sincerest hope is that your daughter grows and becomes a stronger person from having successfully overcoming the mistreatment by her teachers! Thanks for sharing your story!

  11. Tardis_blue says:

    Look. His love of learning and curiosity are not gone. They’re just hiding. Relax, let him de-school, and it will come back. And encourage him to make mistakes. Compliment him on things like perseverance and hard work, and having learned new skills. Show him Mythbusters, who screw up frequently and on grand scale, and laugh and try again. Point out yourself making mistakes and dealing with it reasonably, and learning from it. Talk about the scientific method, and how many scientific advances have come from utter failures of what the scientist was trying to accomplish, like penicillin. Talk up mistakes and failures as positives–the only real way to make progress and learn. I took up knitting, and it has been challenging to say the least, and I talk about my mistakes, and let him see me ripping out large chunks of work to try again, and continue to talk about how much I love to knit, and find the easy stuff boring, and how I am always looking for new, challenging projects, and the ones that seem hardest are the ones that are most interesting and that I learn the most from. Point being, let him see YOU learning a new skill and struggling and persevering. Kids really, really do what you do, and they watch everything you do. Maybe get yourself AND him involved in a new skill. My son and I recently took up sewing together, and have been having a terribly difficult and fun time at it! It’s super hard, but we are both making progress. Together. :)

  12. Tracy Peirano says:

    It’s heart wrenching to watch my child’s love of life, learning and being a healthy part of society decompose before my eyes. Since he started school like situations….Just started online school…Wish society supported kids learning from where they are instead of having them repeat tngs they already know to tears and punishing them in the areas of weakness while expecting them to just know….or somehow magically catch up with others… ‘Twice exceptional’ get a double dose of these toxic practices….Would a gymnastics, diving, swimming be taught by age only… sorry: Nadia,…only forward rolls…next year everyone learns flips and balance beam; Greg, other’s are still kneeling to dive in. On the other hand , and if you don’t know how to float sorry you have to do butterfly or tread water for 20 minutes…cause that’s what everyone else is able …oh you might drown..oops….At this age everyone needs to spell enviromental…you still can’t spell two or fire oh well this is where you should be…and this is how everyone else learns….Ugh…

    • Yes, unfortunately the majority of traditional school classrooms teach to the middle leaving the lower end to fight to catch up and the higher end bored to tears waiting for the rest to catch up. I hear many people call our current educational philosophy the “race to the middle.”

  13. Thank you for writing from your heart and giving voice to what many are going through. Your article was linked in the March Parenting Gifted Children link-up Party and is now on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/gruenerconsults/parenting-gifted-pin-parties/.

    Thank you,
    ~Catherine
    Gruener Consulting LLC

Trackbacks

  1. […] in my Feedly feed, I was struck with three different blogs that spoke to me in different ways: Gone, his Love of Learning is Gone,  Why so many Teachers don’t “get it” about Gifted Education, and What Students […]

  2. […] that it could be a problem. This is an interesting article about the potential problem, “Gone. His Love of Learning is Gone” by Celi […]

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