Answers to Questions About Learning and School
Parents send their children to school and trust that the "magic" of learning happens. Parents often think they know about school because they went to school. People who have worked in school know it is quite different from what they remember from childhood.
When children have no problems in school, parents don't think to ask questions. When children have difficulties, parents often don't understand the situation and try to deal with the consequences of the problems. This page attempts to simply answer common questions that many parents have about school and how their children learn.
- Why don't my child's teachers teach what my child needs to know?
- Who decides what my child will learn?
- What is taught in each level of school?
- What does it mean that my child's school is in crisis?
- Is this a good system of grading schools?
- What are educators doing?
- What is the difference between remediation and intervention?
- School Safety
- Cognitive Development
- School Readiness
About learning problems at school...
- What can go wrong when we learn?
- What causes the learning problems?
Often the reason is developmental readiness. A child may grow differently from most other children his/her age. When the child's birth date is earlier or later than the "average" child, the child has had more or less time to learn what the "average" child is expected to have learned. If the child is slightly older, most likely he will excel in school or be in the general mainstream of his class. Boys normally love being active, especially with large objects and movements, and exploring their physical worlds. They will excel at PE and recess skills. Boys' abilities to focus and remain seated, skills required even in kindergarten, may be a bit slower to develop. Girls tend to sit, stay focused in smaller places, manipulate small objects and emphasize talking and social play. They are better at pencil and paper tasks such as reading, writing, using scissors and coloring.
Another common cause is exposure to concepts and skills. A deprived child does not have experience with objects, environmental stimuli or activities. The child does not know how to respond and has to "explore" and investigate to learn what others may have already learned. This is typical of children who learn a second language, had few toys, have periods of hospitalization or limited social contacts. A "rich" environment helps children improve their skills. It may take several years to make up for lengthy deprivation.
A third reason for readiness difficulties is neurological damage. Birth trauma, head injuries, critical hospitalization, or genetic abnormalities often cause neurological damage. Other causes include viral diseases, drug effects, high fevers, and physical abuse. Usually parents suspect the child's problems early in his life and consult doctors. These children usually receive special services before or within a few years of entering school. Children with neurological damage typically need different methods and pace of instruction for them to learn to their capacity.
A fourth reason for learning problems is emotional trauma. The causes of emotional trauma differ from child to child. What is an emotional traumatic event to one child may not be so for another child. The child's perception of trauma is what is important. Usually children who have experienced severe and/or repeated emotionally impacting events tend to be at-risk for learning problems. Children with histories of emotional trauma are usually "needy" children. They fear failure or rejection and need lots of support and attention. Because they tend to be hesitant learners, their rate of learning may be slower than their peers.
A fifth reason for learning difficulties is less frequent and often misunderstood: manipulation. The child may manipulate adults and/or peers for attention. Inappropriate attention-seeking in school or other social situations usually means an adult removes the child from the situation. That way others can continue to learn. When this happens too often, the child develops instructional gaps because he missed instruction. Rarely a child pretends to not know how to do something so an adult gives one-on-one attention. When this happens, the adult actually reinforces the attention-seeking behavior.
Click here to listen to recordings of Dr. Jennifer Little discussing various topics relating to education.