Posted by: malibulearning | September 21, 2011

Are MORE Students Struggling With School? YES! Part 3 of 3

Article by Jill Greenberg

In part 1 I discussed how “pushing” curriculum down into lower grades has caused students who previously didn’t struggle, to begin finding the work harder and excessive.  In part 2  I looked at the fact that we will always have 30% of students with average or above average IQs who struggle in school.

There is a third factor that is creating more struggling students.  It is a little more subtle than the other two.  It is the fact that more and more families are over programmed.

Families and kids are involved in sports ( almost all sports now have year round seasons), music, dance, cheerleading, church, volunteer activities, gymnastics, swimming, water polo, diving, surfing, drama and karate…the possibilities are endless.

Often students are participating in multiple activities.

Because of the increased workload, many students are enrolled in tutoring just to keep up wioth daily homework.

The falling dominoes – The combination of over programming and an increase in both the amount and difficulty of school work puts kids on a fast moving treadmill that that leaves them little time for being ,well, a kid.  Her are a few of the things that are being lost:

  • Play – We forget how important play is for all of us, but especially for kids.  When I was the director of the play therapy program at the Great Ormand Street Hospital in London, I used to tell the medical students that “play is a child’s work”.  Going out in the back yard and finding something to do is a very valuable experience.  Playing with the dog, building things, inventing games with the neighbor kids, are all part of the mental and emotional growth process.  Yes, even for teenagers.
  • Nutrition – more time away from home means more fast food which is the opposite of good brain nutrition.  Parents have less time to go to the store to buy food and less time to prepare it.  Energy drinks ( sugar and caffeine) are rampant among kids,  A trip to Starbucks insures that kids will have their sugar and caffeine at a younger age.
  • Downtime – There is less and less recovery time for kids to deal with th realities of life.  There is also no time to be disengaged and deal with setbacks.  “Hey, the team, the drama cast, the yearbook staff are all depending on you.”  It’s a lot of pressure that seems to keep going on and on and on without a break.
  • Sleep – There comes a point where homework is done late at night.  Getting an adequate night’s sleep may not happen even on weekends because there are so many activities.
  • Priorities – As more and more commitments are made, it is very easy to lose a sense of which things are truly important.   It seems like a marathon each and every day with the biggest priority just to get through all the activities.  Yes, parents often “help.”

Now factor in the 30% of kids who have average or above average IQs but struggle with school due to weak or missing learning skills.  They need more time to get the extra  assigned work done, but they have less time to devote to it.

The breaking point will come because of the student’s learning issues and the family will go into crisis.  We know that schools are not trained, budgeted or staffed to repair or teach those learning skills.  So the new family task is to figure out how to add more time to the schedule to fix the learning issues.

The good news – The learning issues can be fixed!  Families who will make the time to devote to the process will find that learning can be easy, which makes the entire school experience much  different.

We are living in different times.  As a professional, you see it.  There is more school work for kids and it is harder than it used to be.  The 70% of students who have no barriers to learning have to work hard just to keep up.  The other 30% (still with average or above average IQs) struggle in earlier grades and earlier in the year.  With so many families “over programmed” we see that lots of rich maturing experiences are being replaced by a “busyness” that may not be best for kids despite the best intentions of parents.

Jill Greenberg is the owner of the Malibu Learning Center where struggling students are trained to become comfortable, independent students.

Visit us at or call (310) 457-3707


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