Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community
It’s Sunday night and your child starts their refrain, “I don’t want to go to back to school.” It’s a feeling that has so many potential root causes. The school year blues can be caused by social challenges, an academic mismatch, interpersonal struggles with the teacher, a poor ‘fit’ with the environment — or a combination of several of these factors.
It’s easy to assume that not wanting to go to school is an unavoidable part of childhood (especially if that’s how it was for you), but behind your child’s lack of interest might be something more complex: an undiagnosed learning disability, a problem with bullying, or an intellectual mismatch with the instructional level. Before jumping to conclusions, explore the possibilities.
Why does your child feel disinterested in school? The most logical first step is to ask them directly — but with some kids, easier said than done. High school and middle school students might be able to articulate why, but you’ll be most likely to get a helpful answer if you pick a moment in your day when you can sit and talk calmly, not when they’re elbow-deep in schoolwork and feeling edgy.
With elementary school kids you might have to be a bit more creative with your questioning. If possible, arrange a conference with the school staff to get their perspective or even visit their classroom to observe a typical school day.
The reason for their disinterest will determine what comes next. In this post, we discuss how to get your child interested in school, if they’re struggling with the learning part of the equation. (Here are our parenting tips on how to help with social-emotional issues, like building confidence and recovering from burnout.)
In his now-classic book, Drive, Daniel Pink shows that humans are motivated when they have autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In other words, they need to be able to work independently, develop their skills and know why they’re doing what they’re doing — not just to get good grades.
So, how does that translate into the experience of school-age children who may be showing a less-than-positive attitude towards their academic environment?
Sometimes all a child needs to turn from reluctant to super committed choice over the subject matter. For core strengths like reading and writing, in particular, where they’ll need practice and lots of it, the most important thing is for kids to want to spend time doing it. Whether it’s allowing them to read graphic novels or to write poetry about their favorite video game, a little enthusiasm on their part goes a long way towards fostering autonomy.
Mastery is only possible when a child is learning at the proper pace. Before being able to strike out on their own, they may need a little extra help. By the same token, if they’ve already achieved mastery in a certain subject, keeping them there will only lead to frustration. Work with their teacher to help them set appropriate, meaningful goals that allow them to stretch themselves.
Sometimes disinterest in a subject has to do with a lack of contextual understanding. Someone who doesn’t light up at a page full of fill-in-the-blank fractions might be more willing to understand numerators and denominators when their favorite baked goods depend on it. At Prisma, we’ve seen kids go from blah to excited about math when it allowed them to create a pricing model for their own bakery business. If they don’t have to ask, “When are we ever going to use this?” you’re on the right track.
These three parameters are at the heart of the philosophy of project-based schools, like Prisma, where kids learn at their own pace as they work towards personalized goals centered on real-world challenges that get them excited. If your child attends a traditional school, it might be a bit of a challenge to let them follow their interests, but sometimes you can convince your child’s teacher to let them pick their own essay topic or reading material. It can’t hurt to ask!
In kid-speak, sometimes boredom is code for tired. If sleep isn’t the issue (and here are some guidelines for recommended amounts of sleep), look at their daily schedule to see when they are having lunch and snack. Their struggle with science might have to do with a dip in blood sugar more than anything intellectual.
Research has shown the developmental benefits of play, especially for young kids. If kids are in school all day long, rushing off to extracurricular activities and then rebelling against study time, they may need an unstructured period to process before launching into their homework routine. After-school activities should be nourishing and energizing, not items on a checklist.
When we’re trying to cultivate intrinsic motivation, report cards shouldn’t be center stage. Talk with their teachers and with them to determine other ways to measure school success, like hard work. At Prisma we don’t provide traditional grades, but instead our coaches conduct individual feedback sessions with students and parents, allowing the learner to take responsibility for setting goals that are meaningful and appropriate to their level.
Dinnertime is a great opportunity for kids to answer questions about their work — but if you’re getting a simple “fine” when you ask “how was your day?” you might start by modeling the behavior yourself: Tell them about something you learned or a challenge you faced at work and how you overcame it. Not only are you reinforcing a growth mindset, you’re introducing them to the topics that get you excited — which we’ve often seen is the spark that a sets a Prisma learner off on their own intellectual adventure.
It’s easier to get involved when you know what’s going on with your child’s day. But be careful to avoid power struggles: Ask them to show you their homework assignments — so that they can talk you through their thought process, not so that you can correct or monitor them. At Prisma, we include a parent feedback form with every major project, fostering a dialogue about the learning experience within families, according to a structured set of questions. Because it’s an expectation for the learners, it doesn’t feel like parents are stepping on kids’ toes. Instead, parents get tools to engage their kids from a perspective that inspires their sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose — which goes a long way when trying to get your child interested in school.
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
Unit studies blend multiple subjects together to create real-world, interest-driven learning experiences. Steal the approach our curriculum experts use to create themes with a free downloadable unit study planner.
“The curriculum at Prisma allows learners to learn about their strengths and use their passions in an organic and interdisciplinary way. The kids have the freedom to choose by having differentiated projects, quests, enrichments, and clubs.”
You might be hearing from friends, extended family, and random strangers in the doctor’s office “there’s no way your kid will be able to get into a good college as a homeschooler.” Impolite, yes. True? Let’s figure it out.
“The amount of support and check-ins our learners have at Prisma is unparalleled compared to anywhere else I’ve ever worked.”
Each of the most popular homeschool styles has existed for a long time, and each has diehard evangelizers and fervent critics. From classical to unit studies to unschooling, this guide will help you find the form best suited to your family.
“What most drew me to Prisma was the chance to work with a fully project-based curriculum custom-designed for middle schoolers who are hungry for academic engagement.”
The best online school for your family is a question of priorities: More support or lower tuition costs? Traditional or project-based academics? Asynchronous or lots of interaction? We break it down in this post.
David Waitzer is the Founding Learning Coach for our first cohort in East Asia & Oceania. In this post, he describes how his background teaching and leading for innovative international education companies will help him accelerate the growth of Prisma learners.
Prisma has hundreds of learners across the Western Hemisphere. Along the way, we've gotten requests to launch cohorts in new time zones from families around the world who want to be part of what we’re building. Next up is East Asia & Oceania!
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
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You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
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"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.