Should school always be fun and engaging in order for our children to learn? Now, I’ve been a teacher for 20 years, and I love school. I love teaching children. I love it when they're engaged, and I do my very best to make learning inspiring, thoughtful, and enjoyable. However, I want to give a word of caution for moms that feel like they have to do that all the time. From my own experience in my earlier days, I too felt like I had to make everything fun. I was talking with my mom about it one time. Having taught school for 40 years, she said, “Honey, you need to be careful that you don't get caught in the rat race of trying to do a song and a dance to entertain the children in order to learn.” You know what? She was right. I had gotten caught in that rat race, and it wore me out!
Let’s be honest with ourselves and our children. Life just isn’t a song and a dance every day. There are just certain parts of life that are not fun or engaging, and we need to teach our children how to engage and work diligently and hard whether their senses are scintillated or not. They need to learn to strive to do their best without the carrot of entertainment. I’m not against making things fun and engaging. I also don't think that “fun” should be the goal.
There are certain subjects, which you will find is different for each child, that are not fascinating and appealing. Look down the road a little way. What happens when they go to college? What happens when they are required to write a paper about a topic that bores them to tears? They undoubtedly will. What happens when their boss gives them an ordinary mindless job that needs to be done? What should they do then? Give up? Walk out?
Forget the long term affects for a minute and think about the immediate repercussions. I have noticed that as humans, we always want more. We have a tendency to get caught on the chase for the next thrill, which turns into an endless hunt for more. Children are no different. We should not indulge that insatiable desire for the next thrill that never satisfies. Instead, we should teach our children to learn without doing a song and a dance and a jig at every step.
An analogy of the seasons of the year comes to mind when I am thinking about this subject. We have our summers, and we love them. We enjoy swimming, kayaking, hiking or four-wheeling. But summer is not the only season in the year for most of us. We experience fall, winter, and spring. The truth is, if you live in a place where it is summer year-round, guess what else you have? You have snakes. You have the bugs. You have animals some might not ever want to see. So, the vast majority of people on earth have seasons in life, the same is true with school. There are times when it is fun and there are times when it is just hard work, nothing scintillating, nothing to grab our attention and make us stay focused. We just have to do it.
We also need to teach our children the value of doing something whether it is fun or not. Don't let yourself get caught in thinking, “My kid doesn't like it so I can't do it!” Think about math. Some kids love math, but I’m just going to tell you, for the vast majority of children, math is not a joyous subject. For many kids it is straight up boring. I am not going to paint it over like, “Wow, our family just loves math, and so should yours.” Be thankful when they do, but don’t have unrealistic expectations if they do not. The truth is a lot of kids in this country, and probably the world, are not thrilled about math, but it has to be done.
So, I am honest with my kids. I validate their feelings of boredom on any given subject, but I also tell them that while they might not like a subject, while it might not thrill them, they have to do the hard work to get in and get it done. It is a part of life, and you want your children to face the realities of life not expecting to be entertained constantly. So, don't throw it all out and make school boring for the sake of teaching them a life lesson, but don’t get caught making everything super fun either. Sprinkle it like the seasons of the year. Make sure some of it is entertaining and fun and engaging. Some of it you don't have to make sure that it is boring. It just is! Then there are some subjects that are okay. Just like we don’t change the seasons, don't try to change things in every subject to fit the summer of fun. Accept it for what it is and teach your children to work through it no matter what.