Back to School: Why a Seven-Year-Old Is Sad to Return

Lego robot

This is a journey into the mind of my seven-year-old grandson, who builds amazing Lego inventions like the above robot creation and is interested in many things. Just not what he’s learning in school. In fact, when I asked him if he was looking forward to starting second grade next week, his response was a resounding NO. School is so boring, he claims.

My husband and I had the pleasure of having our grandson all to ourselves as we drove him from his home in Indiana to ours in Evanston, Illinois. The ride took a little over three hours and he shared so many ideas with us that I can’t remember all of them. All I know is he has a lot going on in his head.

This was an old-fashioned trip for him – no headphones or iPad. We started by playing the classic “I spy with my little eye” game. He noticed so many interesting details in what is usually a boring ride across a flat and empty landscape. Of course, he always stumped us so we never got a turn.

Next, he shared details about various Pokemon characters, his latest obsession. He has a vision for how to blend this interest with his other passion, Legos. He is truly a master builder and can construct elaborate kits by himself as well as create his own inventions. So he outlined his plans for new Lego sets that incorporate Pokemon and force fields. Most likely, these already exist, but we were not about to dampen his enthusiasm. Nor did we suggest he reconsider his plan to make his sets not cost too much so all kids could buy them.

From there, we looked at bridges and overpasses. He explained why they were strong and how he would build them even better. When we came to a wind farm, his imagination and surprising knowledge of science took flight. Yes, this was a better way to get electrical power, he explained. This and using power from the sun. He earnestly explained that we need energy for running everything, even force fields. When we passed through Gary, Indiana and he saw the smoke and smelled the aroma of sulfur, he declared someone should tell them to clean up their air and use better sources of power.

It was a beautiful evening and we shifted to looking at cloud formations. My husband shared that the clouds looked like mountains to him. No way. My grandson stated firmly that clouds were heaven. We braced ourselves for an awkward conversation about religion and hoped we wouldn’t say anything that contradicted what he had been taught. But we need not have worried. He had worked out his own theology.

There were very tiny spirits that lived in the clouds. That’s where anyone who had died went. The spirits were way too small for anyone to see, but if the people had been good and kind, their spirits would be able to make friends with other spirits and be happy there. Also, his two recently departed dogs lived there, where they could once again play together.

As we approached the Chicago skyline, he was delighted to see the Willis tower. Once again, we were talking about engineering and how these tall buildings stayed upright. He had his own theories about how to make them even stronger. I have no doubt that someday he will.

Unless school gets in his way. Yes, school is rather boring for my creative and imaginative grandson. I asked him why. I know he loves math. Also recess, PE, and lunch. He explained that it’s the worksheets that are part of the language arts curriculum that are so boring. He confessed he misses the directions sometimes because he is not always listening. I’m sure that’s true. Our car ride revealed that he’s thinking about a lot of important things. His reading skills are not yet good enough to read the directions and figure out what he is supposed to do on his own.

Can’t you raise your hand and ask the teacher for help, I asked. Not allowed, according to him. He just has to do them, and he gets a lot wrong. Much of his day in school is consumed by these dreaded worksheets that he finds boring and meaningless, and they frustrate him at home too because that is what most of his homework is. He has had to do worksheet packets for homework since kindergarten, and he HATES them, and homework as well.

Yes, he should listen better. Eventually, he will be able to read more fluently and parse out the directions for himself. It just makes me sad that he sees school as a place that bores him rather than a place that builds on his considerable imagination, wide-ranging interests, and knowledge about things that matter to him.

This essay was originally posted in ChicagoNow on August 10, 2016.

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