When Your Child Is Too Anxious For School

The constant anxiety, stress and battles surrounding simply going to school were significant factors in our decision to homeschool. This is what it’s like when your child is too anxious for school.

When my now seventeen year old son was eight, he attended public school.

Every single day of his second grade year began with a battle of wills and meltdowns. Getting out of bed, getting dressed, putting on socks, eating breakfast, putting on shoes, leaving the house, getting into the car, getting out of the car and walking into school all created stress and resistance.

(I have many memories of actually chasing him down the block, his younger brother running after us, because he bolted when it was time to get into the car.)

School refusal is real and it is serious.

The Reality For Parents

It wasn’t until we began homeschooling and then subsequently discovered his learning differences, that I understood why he was so intensely anxious that year.

He was bored, testing three grade levels ahead in reading.

He was overwhelmed with the sensory experience. In fact, he still talks about the smell of bleach in the cafeteria when he was trying to eat and the sound of 31 pencils all scratching paper at the same time.

He was being bullied, every single day, at recess and PE.

I remember thinking to myself that he was acting like a scared animal every morning. I had no idea at the time how appropriate that description would prove to be.

School Refusal

As I have learned more and more about my sons’ learning differences and special needs, I have also learned that our experience is not uncommon.

In fact, the term “school refusal” is actually used to help diagnose certain neurological and psychiatric disorders.

School refusal occurs when a student will not go to school or frequently experiences severe distress related to school attendance. Comprehensive treatment of school refusal, including psychiatric and medical evaluation when appropriate, is important since studies show that psychiatric disorders are the cause for a large percentage of students who fail to complete high school in the United States. Parents can do several things to help their child who refuses to attend school, and medicinal treatment may be necessary. With treatment, the rate of remission is excellent. A majority of children with school refusal who were treated with cognitive therapy were attending school at a one-year follow-up. School refusal is considered more of a symptom than a disorder and can have various causes. –  John Mersch, MD, FAAP

I wish someone would’ve told me this eight years ago.

When Your Child Is Too Anxious For School

The constant anxiety, stress and battles surrounding simply going to school were significant factors in our decision to homeschool.

Not only that, I honestly thought I was the only one. I didn’t know another child who struggled as mine did. I didn’t know another mom who was fighting the same heart breaking, frustrating battle every single day. The school made me feel like a criminal when I was not able to get him in the classroom.

It was one of the worst seasons in my life.

If you are in the same situation, I am writing this today to assure you that you are not alone. Please know,there is no shame in asking for help with this, from a qualified professional you trust. Use the term “school refusal” and discuss it as an actual symptom of a potentially larger diagnosis.

My First Year Homeschooling Children With Learning Differences Not The Former Things, Shawna Wingert

When we made the decision to homeschool, my son’s anxiety decreased significantly.

But, I am also sorry to say, both of my children are still too anxious for any sort of school.

Outside history classes, art, even skateboarding class all cause the same intense resistance from time to time. The difference?

We treat it as a work in progress, not something to be defeated. We have the luxury that homeschool provides. We can simply say, “No classes today. Let’s find some activities to help you calm down.”

When Your Child Resists Learning


Resistance has been a big reality in our homeschool for the past decade.

I have learned that it is often a part of homeschooling children with learning differences and additional needs.

Because it is such a constant for many of us, I have but together a new free parent resource – 10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Help A Resistant Learner.

This is a compilation of all my best tips and tricks to help you immediately tackle resistance in your home and in your homeschool.

You can get your free downloadable copy of this guide HERE. 

More Childhood Anxiety Resources:

Too Anxious To Really Learn Anyway

Homeschooling A Child With Anxiety

Separation Anxiety And Older Kids

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