Part of my foray into blogging about homeschooling is learning the rules for building traffic on this blog. So I'm playing around with SEO. To be honest, I hate SEO and I think it's the territory of teenage boys in clothes they never change, charging companies thousands of dollars from their parents' basement.
Not that I don't like those kids. I admire them. I just can't compete with them.
But one thing you learn if you focus on SEO is how mainstream America thinks about homeschooling. So I searched to figure out what headlines do well with homeschooling parents, and this one came up a lot: "Teaching difficult child". So I used it.
But I think the title is BS. Kids are not born difficult. Difficult environments make kids difficult.
1. Forced curricula makes kids difficult.
Forced curricula is inherently disrespectful of a kid's innate curiosity. And it's been proven over and over again that people do better if you cater to their strengths instead of forcing them to push through their weaknesses. Yet forced curricula does the opposite—telling kids to learn topics they wouldn't choose for themselves.
2. Locking kids up makes kids difficult.
In a scathing article about high school, Jennifer Senior writes in New York Magazine that teenagers are much more capable of managing themselves than we give them credit for. Treating them like incapable numskulls in school actually makes them behave poorly and then makes us feel good about locking them up. Kids would develop much more even-keeled if we let them operate autonomously, outside the school environment, according to psychologists Joseph and Claudia Allen in their book Escaping the Endless Adolescence.
3. Medicating kids makes them difficult.
To be clear, my older son is medicated for anxiety. So it's not that I think kids are born without problems. But I think the idea of a difficult child comes after the idea that kids are there to accommodate the lives of parents. My kids are never difficult unless I ask them to do stuff that is boring to them. School is incredibly boring to most boys. Which is why so many boys are medicated for ADHD.
Don't tell me boring is acceptable, expected, part of adult life. There is no model for adult life where we think boring is good. No adults want to be bored. So why tell kids they need to learn to accept being bored? As adults, we decide what we want from our days and we put up with things we don't like in order to get what we want. Kids don't need to learn to be bored. Kids need to learn to identify what they want so much that they'd be willing to be bored to get it.
So the difficult child is the child who is being asked to do things that aren't right for that child. Maybe the child needs medication. You know how you can tell? If medication improves the child's ability to cope. The Week reports that 40% of kids medicated for ADHD don't stop showing signs of it in the classroom, and then they get categorized and difficult and unmanageable.
But if you take a kid out of school then there is little chance that they will need medicine in order to cope with playing all day. Some kids will. Those are the ones who need medication. The New York Times quotes Dr. Michael Anderson attacking the issue head on: "We've decided as a society that it's too expensive to modify the environment so we are modifying the kid."
So if you have a child who is difficult, take the kid out of school. Let the kid do whatever he or she wants, and watch what happens. It's much easier for parents to call a kid difficult because if you call the environment difficult, you have to remove the kid from the environment, and that means no more free babysitting.