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My son did his first day of kindergarten last Friday.

On his first day of school he came home and said, "I had to write my name lots of times on sheets of paper. I didn't like that."

My son is perfectly capable of writing his name. (Two years of preschool and 4 years of childcare gave him a pretty good idea).

He came back from his second day of kindergarten today, and that was his first comment.

"How was school".

"I had to write my name a lot".

Now as a parent you have to rein in your paranoia a bit, and try and use good judgment. (This is a particularly small sample size). The challenge is that you want your kids to have a great time at school and drink it all in.

On the other side, this might be a normal experience for boys in infants school where writing is hard work. (I recall years of pain doing cursive writing). It might be that sitting still all day is hard work as well.

(I'll note that my daughter two years older loved kindergarten).

The thought still lingers. Do I need to help my son get better at writing his name? Can I encourage him to delight in it? Is there a way I can make it fun? Should I just get over myself and not worry about it?

My question is: My son started kindergarten and doesn't like writing his name. How should I think about this?

EDIT: I wanted to thank everyone for their comments. His sister was at a friends place yesterday so I took him out for a milkshake. He confessed he'd made a mistake the first time he wrote it and didn't like that very much. He also hangs out with his best buddy from preschool, and he said his buddy likes to complain about having to write his name. We're all good! A rambunctious, slightly self-conscious five year old boy living life with his mates.

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    I think the idea of doing something repetitive without having a way to opt out of it is new to a kindergarten child. This might not be about writing or writing his name, but doing it over and over again without knowing why this would be useful. – skymningen Feb 6 '17 at 15:08
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    @skymningen One of the things I've long lobbied against is busy work in primary grades. I don't care whether it's in the form of homework or in-class activity. No one benefits from 40 simple arithmetic questions. I understand why it happens -- too many students, no time to prepare for the next activity, kids at widely different levels, too many kids in classes and worst of all -- no such thing as failure. Education needs to change -- and how we do it, most of all. – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 18:18
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    He said he didn't like writing his name lots (emphasis mine), but your question is about not liking writing his name. Could it be that he has no problem with writing his name but just finds it boring to have to sit down and write it out many times. – David Richerby Feb 6 '17 at 20:34
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    Just to second what Willow Rex said, this happens because teachers drill the students. Gee, little kids don't letting getting drilled, surprise surprise. Once I was working on a teaching a young child to do a technical task and we were going over it multiple times. The boy asked "Why are we doing this?" Kids don't like busy work any more than adults do. – Dr. Spock Feb 6 '17 at 21:37
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    Consider the opposite: something would be wrong if he liked writing his name over and over again. – Erno Feb 7 '17 at 12:43

11 Answers 11

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First, I would ask him about why he doesn't like writing his name. Is it boring? Is it too hard? Is it too repetitive? Etc. Once you know why he doesn't like it, you can work on helping him, either by working with the teacher/school to make adjustments or by helping him practice or otherwise addressing the issue.

If I were to hazard a guess, it sounds like he might be bored. You stated he already knows how to write his name. And now he's getting a lot of practice he probably doesn't need, so it feels mindlessly dull to be force to do it over and over. And over. And over. And...

Kindergarten is unfortunately where a teacher gets a group of kids with a wide range of abilities. Some kids are pretty far along because of preschool, very involved parents, etc. Others may not have had any of that. Most are probably somewhere in the middle. But your son's teacher has to teach to the lowest common denominator. He/she can't skip teaching how to write names just because your son already knows it because there are others who don't. So he's going to have to learn to deal with it somehow. You can work with him to give him tools to combat the boredom (which will serve him well throughout his life as this will certainly happen again). You can also try asking the school to give him something a little more challenging so things aren't so dull and he can learn something.

Again, before you try anything, ask him what's going on. He's old enough he can express some of his feelings. You may need to help or dig if/when his emotional vocabulary is lacking. But he should be able to tell you. And if all else fails, see if you can observe class one day. It might give you some insights into where the problem lies.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Feb 8 '17 at 22:56
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    For the record, if it's that he's bored, I'd recommend a combination of talking to the school and teaching him to deal with it. While little kids generally aren't the best at dealing with boredom, completely solving the problem will miss out on teaching him a valuable lesson I wish I'd learned that young. Maybe then I'd be doing something cool with my life, instead of throwing my two cents in when I'm not even a parent (I have been a child, though) – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Feb 9 '17 at 2:54
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    @QPaysTaxes Kids aren't really worse in dealing with problems in general. They aren't stupid, just ignorant (in the original neutral sense). Let the kid suggest what solutions he would find acceptable (or even better, including ones he has objections to), discuss them with him and his teacher as needed. The last thing I want to teach my kid is that he has to do utterly worthless tasks "just because". If the teacher isn't trying to blindly assert his authority, he will likely not have a problem with letting the kid do something else, as long as it isn't disruptive. – Luaan Feb 9 '17 at 11:43
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    @Luaan I was referring to lack of experience, not stupidity. From my own experience, it takes practice to get good at dealing with boredom; little kids don't have that practice. You raise a good point, though. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Feb 9 '17 at 13:06
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If my son came back from school two days in a row telling me that he had to "write his name a lot", I'd ask him the following:

  • How many times is "a lot"?
  • Why did you have to write your name so much? Was everybody else writing their names too (class activity)? Or was it just you (punishment)?
  • Did you show your work to the teacher?

Then, depending on the answers, I'd maybe, maybe not talk with his teacher.

  • If "a lot" means like 5 times... "Come on, son, don't be whiny. 5 times is not a lot. Just make sure you do your best and show the teacher how well you did it!".
    • This can lead to a reply like "It's not a lot but..." which may shed some light on the actual reason why he feels down (see Beofett's answer).
    • Beware, however, that writing your name 10 or more times, when you are still learning to write (and spend like 5 seconds per letter), is a big deal. A kindergarten kid can easily spend 15 minutes or more just trying to write "Billy" 10 times. And that is a lot for them.
  • If it looked like some kind of punishment, I'd ask the teacher about how my son is doing in class, whether he's behaving fine or not, and how can I help in his development and behavior.
  • If it looked like a class activity, I'd tell the teacher that I already taught my son how to write his name, but I'd show interest in how he did it this time in class. If he did it well, I'd explain how it's frustrating to him to repeat something that he already does fine, and ask the teacher about the possibility of my son writing something else instead (like the teacher's name, or the school's name), or maybe using different colors each time, or cursive. If he can improve, then I'd thank the teacher for their work and encourage my son to improve.

The above has the benefit of you making your son rationalize about the activity, and you showing the teacher that you want to be involved in your son's learning process.

In my opinion, a good teacher / school should try to adapt the activities to each children's capabilities, as much as possible within the school's program and the general level of each classroom. They're supposed to educate humans and to instill in them the passion for learning; not to program them like drones.


EDIT Re: comments about acknowledging a child's feelings.

@AquariusTheGirl @theonlygusti Your comments are welcome.

I do not agree with the current trend of validating every single feeling a child might have. I think it leads to entitled adults who think that their feelings are above everything else, adults who think they have the right not to be hurt or offended, ever.

There's a difference between acknowledging a child's feelings ("I understand how you feel and why you feel like that"), and telling them it is OK to feel like that when it isn't.

It is OK to feel hurt when someone insulted you. It is OK to feel sad when your friend moves to another town. It is OK to feel anger when you see someone abusing somebody else.

It is not OK to feel envy of your friends' toys. It is not OK to feel rage because you didn't get cake for dessert. And it is not OK to feel apathy because you had to write your name 5 times back at school.

Sure, it's not easy for a child to discern when it is OK to feel some way, and when it isn't. That's why we parents are here: to help them learn.

  • The first week of any school year, there seems to be a lot of organisational work. We sign our names to books and folders and our coat hooks and book bag cubbies. I remember asking children to make a nameplate for their seat. It encourages them to learn to spell and print their name -- but there is a lot of it in the first little while. It also means the teacher doesn't have to do it and the teacher learns names more easily, too. I doubt it is punishment -- but I can understand why a child might complain. Some like showing off their printing skills. – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 17:21
  • I agree with @WillowRex. I'll add that although intensive drilling has value, "spaced repetition" can have value also. Intensive drilling works when the person on his own determinism wants to learn some skill. Spaced repetition can be used more easily with kids. (You probably teach your kids to wash their hands through spaced repetition, not intensive drilling.) – Wildcard Feb 7 '17 at 4:11
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    Downvoted for "Come on, son, don't be whiny. 5 times is not a lot...". See this: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/28555/… – Aquarius_Girl Feb 7 '17 at 6:24
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    @AquariusTheGirl I made a similar comment before yours, but it seems to have been removed..... however I agree completely that the first three suggested questions are all wrong. I feel as a child that the first thing the parent should try to do is emotionally connect with the child, not make them feel belittled or attacked. None of the responses to the first three questions matter either. – theonlygusti Feb 7 '17 at 7:45
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    @AquariusTheGirl great question, thanks for posting it. I "upfaved" it because I'd like to see the answers but AFAIK there's no way in SE to follow a question :( – walen Feb 7 '17 at 10:20
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A couple of things first:

  • This is definitely not a boy thing
  • It is not something you should be paranoid about

There are many reasons that children dislike doing things like this. The main one is that they were told to do it. Around that sort of age kids love doing all sorts of things, but typically if they are told to do it, especially a few times in a row, it will be much less fun for them.

There is the possibility, especially if they have a rare name, that they may only realise this once they get to the stage of writing or saying it in class, so this may make them less keen to do so, but that is just a phase.

There are other phases you can expect where they like to write their name all the time - there is so much to do and learn that you will get both negative and positive responses to things at kindergarten and school. And to be honest, even as an adult there are things you normally like that become less fun when you have to do them.

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    upvoted for the "not a boy thing" comment. Not sure what gender has to do with this - a bored child is a bored child (no gender needed to be bored) just as a personal preference (like/dislike doing a task) has no gender attachment either. – blurfus Feb 9 '17 at 5:39
  • I was fortunate enough to have a kindergarten teacher who understood that I'd been reading for a couple years, and instead of stomping on me allowed me to read to other kids in the class. See if yr teacher might be up for having him help other kids write their letters. – Carl Witthoft Feb 9 '17 at 15:03
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The first thing to do is ask "why?".

My son had the same response when he started Kindergarten. It wasn't on his first day, and it wasn't his first piece of feedback, but it was something he complained about very early.

We made the same assumptions you did: is it just because the repetition is hard work? Is it boring? Do we need to work with him to help him enjoy it?

Well, after some digging, we found out that it was mostly because he felt that the other students were better at it than him, and that some students made comments about his handwriting being "bad". We still don't know just how those comments were phrased, but after discussion with my son, it seems like they weren't teasing him or making fun of him; he was just being sensitive because he didn't like not being as good as his peers.

In our case, we focused on how much of an improvement he had made since he had started writing his own name in pre-school, and emphasized that practice is how you get good at anything (this is a recurring lesson that we reinforce whenever possible, because my son has a history of getting frustrated when learning something that doesn't come easily to him).

Showing him his handwriting from a year earlier seemed to help, because he was really surprised at how much better he had gotten, but what really seemed to put the issue to rest was when my wife and I told him that neither of us have nice handwriting, and that I was an adult in my twenties before I realized that I had been drawing zeros backwards for over a decade (don't judge! I use a keyboard a lot....).

The situation with your son may be completely different than what we experienced, but you simply won't know until you ask more questions. Be careful to make it clear that you want to find out why so you can help, and that he's not in trouble, and won't be in trouble for what he tells you.

  • Your answer shows how, by questioning your son's feelings instead of blindly mirroring them, both of you managed to find the real reason why he was feeling like that, and deal with it in a superb way. +1. – walen Feb 7 '17 at 17:23
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I also think this is not a boy thing and that it is nothing to worry about. Printing as this age is work. I also do not like signing my name and on some days, it just feels like they want you to do a lot of it. If this is a particularly busy day of signing his name, I understand -- it isn't fun. It's work. In my case, it's arthritis. In his case I am betting, it's just not fun.

I'd be careful about making a big deal of anything you are worrying about. In our home when K came home from school, we'd have a drink at the kitchen table. I'd ask about her day and look at her work, if she brought any home. I'd ask what her day was like. I'd tell her about my day, too. It gave her an opportunity to solve her own problems (if she thought she had any), but with my gentle suggestions.

I wonder if he thinks it is a problem or if perhaps he is just trying to share the regular trials and tribulations about school. He also has peers. I remember having a student who was in the habit of saying things he repeated after hearing his older brother discuss school. "I hate school. It's too hard. I want to play." I worked with that student to change the conversational habit to a happier one. It did not happen in a day, but what he was saying was a self-fulfilling prophecy and it was something that we could change.

We are all in charge of our own happiness. We decide whether the world is wonderful or terrible. I am an optimist -- but I had to learn that. I spent years with medical issues and a mum who felt very put out because of my health issues. I was lucky to find a therapist who helped me lighten my own load.

So I'd try to gently help my child to see that sometimes we have to work but that learning new things and finishing work can give us a sense of accomplishment. (Just don't make this into a big deal. Kids will think you are being fake, and that never works.)

LINK to how to teach positivity

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Try a little psychology. Get him to do some artwork. He probably won't sign his name. Then "Wonder who drew this nice picture?" Then get him to put his name on it.

Mail some pictures to Grandmas and aunts and be sure his name is on it. Be sure to have them write back and tell him thank you and they'll always know who it is from him because his name is on it.

Sooner or later he'll get something with a grade - hopefully a good one. Who made this "A"? Well you did Matt, you name is right here!!

  • This is a sweet idea. I'd be surprised if you could get relatives to say something naturally, but you could always point out the drawing on Granny's fridge and say, "Look -- you drew this and Granny loves it." You simply point to his name. – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 19:22
  • Obviously Mom calls relatives and asks for some help... – MaxW Feb 6 '17 at 19:32
  • hey Max, I upvoted you. I think you misunderstood, 'naturally', but to be clear, I was agreeing with you. – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 20:19
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Would this not be a perfect opportunity to help him learn his very first lesson in, "well, sometimes we have to do things we don't like, but that's also part of life?"

Life is going to be full of boring, uninteresting, repetitive things, like taking out trash, doing laundry, paying taxes, paying bills, cleaning house....to me, this is a great opportunity to make this a non-issue by simply saying "yeah, doing the same thing like that isn't always fun, but that's okay sometimes." Validate his dislike for the tedium by making an issue of it rationalizes the idea that everything should always be enjoyable, and that's simply a false life lesson.

  • I'd be interested in hearing reasons for downvote here – L.B. Feb 8 '17 at 14:15
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    LOL most likely from someone who really isn't OK with doing things that aren't always fun. That's contemporary society, unfortunately - EVERYTHING should be fun. Alas. – David W Feb 8 '17 at 14:16
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    I'll give you a vote up. I think this is ridiculous... Second day in the kindergarten, seriously ? If the parents can't extract a lesson, telling the kid that surely he may improve his handwriting by practice, that chores aren't always fun, etc. – roetnig Feb 8 '17 at 14:57
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    @CarlWitthoft Maybe that's your take on life, but it isn't mine. I'm all for teaching a child balance - that's how I raised mine. Some things aren't fun, but that's OK. We do them anyway. The truly fun stuff is still plenty of fun. If, for you, that means "life sucks," well, that sucks for you. – David W Feb 9 '17 at 15:21
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    My Dad used to tell me that even though he owned the company, he still had jobs to do that he did not enjoy. Life is like that. Most of us do things we don't like so that we can do things we do like. I like having a clean bathroom. I don't like cleaning the toilet. I still do clean it though, because it gives me what I truly want, -- that clean and comfortable environment. I think educators need to try to make it fun and not pile on the same task for long periods of time, but David W has a very good and completely valid point. – WRX Feb 10 '17 at 16:34
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It is definitely a "boy thing". Contrary to other answers' claims, research results are well-known about early development of girls in many skills. One quote: "Once in school, girls are one to one-and-a-half years ahead of boys in reading and writing. Boys are twice as likely to have a language or reading problem and three to four times more likely to stutter. Girls do better on tests of verbal memory, spelling and verbal fluency."

Source: http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/archive/2012/09/boy-and-girl-brains-whats-the.html

There is nothing to worry about it. Anyway, each kid is a bit different in their development spurts.

And don't you also think repetitive tasks are boring?

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    How long have you been teaching? I find this interesting because I don't think of printing as equal to writing and don't think that is what the stats mean. I see printing as almost an art activity at that age -- it's a fine motor activity. Yes, the letters have meaning, but this is prereading and prewriting -- or was in kindergarten during the first weeks in my school district in Canada. Education is so different and it all depends on where you are. I guess I see it differently -- and I am not saying you are wrong. I am asking how it is where you are. – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 17:27
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    Those are generalities, and it is a mistake to imply that any boy who doesn't like handwriting just doesn't like it because girls learn it faster than boys. This answer dismisses the possibility of any other issue, including peer pressure, vision problems, or using writing his name as a general complaint for being in kindergarten in general. – user420 Feb 6 '17 at 20:19
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    Statistics are a great way to make decisions affecting a group - because you know that, within a certain margin of error, your decision is the best one for a known percentage of the group - but a terrible way to reason about an individual. Yes, there are definite trends - the bell curve for boys and the bell curve for girls are centered in different places for different activities - but for the most part, the curves for each gender overlap pretty heavily. – Tin Man Feb 7 '17 at 0:50
  • What I mean to the OP is that, he should expect significant differences in the attitudes of his son and his elder sister when she was his age. There are significant differences. I personally did not do research in this area. But I don't find it hard to believe such findings because of what I have been observing all my life. Another collection of citations about gender differences: singlesexschools.org/research-learning.htm. (I suspect, they may omit counter research since they are an advocacy group. You can do you own research.) – Ozgur Ozturk Feb 7 '17 at 4:48
  • I am not saying there is no difference between boys and girls and the way they learn. I just did not agree with you equating printing -- which is a fine motor activity and writing, which is a language activity. There is no evidence that says boys aren't good at fine motor. Plenty of artists and architects and so on are men/boys. I'd say it's more like children don't think printing their name X number of times is fun or important. Some kids do like it, but most probably don't like repetitious work. – WRX Feb 7 '17 at 13:06
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My kids often had troubles like these, and they were almost always low-blood-sugar/hugs problems. 4 butter-crackers, two hugs, and they wouldn't even remember that they had a problem.

Your stakes are low. For years, my daughter had a personal way of counting to 20 that did not include 16-- 16 just wasn't part of her way. Now she is 13, and 16 has been accepted. Life impact for me was zero.

Standard grownup caveats: check that no one is being mean to him, that he isn't injured. Repeat back his complaints, so he knows you were listening.

Then give him a cookie/hug. The first day of Kindergarten is scary.

AFTER the cookie/hug, ask him whether he just wants to legally change his name to "POW" or "Awesome Rocket Dragon Monster". You can do that, you know.

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I'd just deflect his annoyance by saying "Sure, most of you don't need to practice writing their names, but what if there's a kid called Christopher or Elizabeth who still needs practice because they sometimes make mistakes?"

As to:

"How was school".

"I had to write my name a lot".

I'd redirect it to "What were the fun things you did today?" "Which kids do you like?" "What do they do at break?" "What is the teacher like?" No need to get hung up on something minor.

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Who doesn't dislike writing their name? Who doesn't dislike repetitive writing? Since ancient times a carved wooden block and ink tray sufficed. Problem solved.

Nobody should be FORCED to do anything. If the value is realized then the skill becomes. By threat coerced compliance the least spectacular result is solicited.

"had to" == "must" == "forced"

Without coercion; by babies the native language is learned. Because communication value was realized the skill was learned. Force is not required. Force is detrimental. When value is realized the skill becomes.

Does concern not exist regarding indoctrination by a system which solicits results through disrespectful methods such as deprivation, humiliation, threats?

For a 5 year old person, if education is not amusing then a bright academic future seems precluded.

Perhaps a school where students rave about happy fun learning would achieve better academic results in one month than an entire year in an abysmal school?

With regard to learning in the long run; an attitude towards academics and schools and learning are insignificant. For the less enthralled individual by school many youthful hours are wasted. By sitting approximately 6 hours opportunity for strength, agility, and physical skill development is sacrificed.

Regardless, young people learn what seems amusing and useful. By age 12 I was already an 8086 assembly language computer programmer. That was a not a junior high school class. Back then IBM PCs and Tandy 1000 were top of the line computers. I learned how to program mine. Until that time 6-7 years of abysmal education at many schools was endured, due to my father's military occupation and constant relocation.

Good schools, yet never experienced, might have helped. Fortunately, the realization that education is one's own responsibility can surmount the detriment imparted by a plethora of pathetic professors.

No person should endure abysmal education. Grant pity, please. With a good school each weekday morning begins with excited anticipation rather than apprehension. By some states private education is fully subsidized. By private rather than public school attendance; additional cost might not be incurred. Tutors, online education, and private instructors might also be possible.

Public school can be like a 12 year sentence for the crime of being born ignorant. Academic daytime penitentiaries? State provided child care and one or two meals at best? From abysmal academic experiences, those sort of perceptions can become.

  • I think forced is over-the-top. Have you never had to work to accomplish anything? Have you always made the best choices throughout your life without some encouragement? Perhaps you have had choices that others have not because of advantages that not everyone can enjoy. Many families have no choice but to send children to school -- if only so that they can work. I think that at some point you learned things that were not as interesting as other things, but they helped you write articulately and use grammar and spell and fill in your tax forms and so on. I agree it should not be abysmal. – WRX Feb 8 '17 at 20:23
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    "If education is not amusing then a bright academic future seems precluded" What nonsense. Sometimes, learning/education is the very hardest work of all. If we can construct ways to make learning enjoyable, great, but the reality is we can't make that an arbitrary goal. – David W Feb 9 '17 at 15:27

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