3 Cures for Your Gifted Middle Schooler’s Academic Boredom

Are your son’s middle school classes uninspiring? Is his homework just so much drudgery through which to suffer?

When classwork is too easy, many gifted students disengage. They coast on their natural abilities, acing their exams but failing to develop the intellectual habits that will sustain them when they reach the greater academic challenges of high school and college.

If you’re worried your son is bored in middle school, here are a few symptoms to look for. If you’re looking for ways to help him rediscover his passion for learning, read on.

1. Reach out to his teachers.

When your son is bored at school, you may be tempted to think his teachers are the problem, but his teachers may not see the full extent of your son’s boredom until you share your perspective.

“Boredom can manifest itself in a classroom in many ways. For example, it can show up as behavior problems,” explains Lulu Kellogg, Middle School Head at The Fessenden School. “Teachers may not always be aware it’s boredom—especially at schools where teachers have a large load of students.”

Once they know your son is bored in class, his teachers may have several tools they can use to pique his interest.

“There might be a special math club that he’s not doing or there might be special enrichment activities that he isn’t picking up on,” Lulu points out.

Instead of critiquing your son’s teachers and their curriculum, Lulu advises, become a participant in it.

2. ‘Spice up’ the material yourself.

Boys learn best through hands-on experience, and academically gifted boys are no different. So whatever your son is learning in the classroom, give him the chance to put it to practical use at home.

If he’s studying simple machines in science class, for example, make a part of your basement or garage into a makerspace, Lulu suggests.“Get a lot of recycled materials in there and let your son have at it,” she says. “Give him a giant refrigerator box. Get whatever will get him excited about the lesson.”

If your son is studying nutrition, head into the kitchen with him. Have him help with the cooking, baking, and choosing products in the grocery store.

There are plenty of other at-home projects that can tie into almost any part of the middle school curriculum. Just because he isn’t being graded on it doesn’t mean your son won’t have a great time—and get excited about learning in the process.

Here are a couple exhaustive lists of at-home learning projects you can do with your middle schooler.

3. Find a new school experienced at engaging gifted boys.

Not every parent will have the time, the space, or know-how to supplement their child’s classroom learning with hands-on projects at home. There are independent middle schools, however, with a curriculum designed to generate intellectual excitement in boys. The Fessenden School is one of them.

“Being a single-sex school gives us a huge advantage in overcoming boredom in a student’s life,” Lulu says. “In a lot of middle schools, the curriculum is geared in ways that girls do very well: sitting, talking. Boys learn very differently.”

At an all-boys independent school like Fessenden, teachers can “pepper their day” with classroom time, time outside to explore the world, collaborative projects, and even a brisk walk around campus to burn off energy. So as you search for a school for your bored middle schooler, pay special attention to how physically active the students are in their learning, Lulu advises.

“How much passion and excitement are you seeing as you walk through the school on a tour? Is the curriculum truly becoming alive?”

How do you prevent academic boredom in your middle schooler? Share your tips with other parents in the comments section below.

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