If the child is placed at the right sort of school by his parents, he should go back with interest and pleasurable anticipation to his work. When this is not the case, discover the reason why. Find out if it is the fault of the school, or due to some quality of ill-health, mental or physical, in the child. It sometimes happens, as many doctors know, that a child is being mentally over-strained all the time, because he is placed in a class beyond his ability and knowledge. From the health point of view, every parent should make stringent inquiries regarding the child's lessons, how he gets through them, and whether he is tired and listless at the end of a school day. One secret of making a child like school life is to take an interest in it, and to see that he is treating his work with understanding and common-sense.
The next health point is to see that the child at school has a liberal allowance of food of the right kind. The school child is giving out a good deal of energy in lessons, and requires more fat in the dietary than the adult. So that butter, cream, suet-puddings, etc., are particularly suitable in the school-room menu. Careful inquiry should be made, if a child goes to a boarding-school, regarding the food.
Although things are better than they used to be in this respect, there is no doubt that in some schools the fare provided is insufficient for nourishing growing children. Without undue fussing, also, the wise mother knows the hygienic conditions which prevail at school. She finds out if her boy or girl has the daily tepid bath so essential to health, uses the tooth-brush regularly, and sleeps in a properly aired dormitory.
Up to the age of ten years, at least, there should be no question of sending a child to a boarding-school, if it can be arranged in any way for him to receive school education in a day-school. For the child of six or seven, Kindergarten work is certainly the best; but after seven years the healthy boy or girl is able to tackle lessons of the ordinary type, provided they are taught in an interesting way, suitable to their intelligence and age. Until eight years of age, only two and a half or three hours in the morning should be devoted to school work. To avoid hurry in getting to school, the child should be up sufficiently early to have his breakfast quietly and leave for school without rush. A sensitive child suffers severely from any sense of flurry or rush in the morning, and a scramble at breakfast-time is the worst possible beginning for the day.
The next point is to guard against the risk of the children carrying heavy school-bags to school before the muscles of their spines are sufficiently strong to stand the strain. The mere fact of carrying a bag full of books over one shoulder continually may induce lateral curvature in a young child. If it is necessary to carry a school-bag, the child should be taught to sling it on alternate shoulders each morning.
When the slightest sign of physical deformity appears, it should never be ignored, as it is generally quite curable in the early stages, but permanent harm will result from neglect. When the school child limps, find out the reason. It may be due to flat foot, or some mischief in the hip, which should be treated immediately. If one shoulder is observed to be lower than the other, have the child examined by a doctor at once, to ascertain if a lateral curvature is present.
It is during the school age that little muscular and nervous habits are apt to appear, which should not be neglected. The boy who pokes his chin forwards requires to have special exercises for strengthening the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back. The little twitching of the face or head, the spasmodic movements of the hands, should be noted and attended to, as they may develop into St. Vitus' dance, which will take months to cure. A great many nervous spasms are the result of bad habits which have been allowed to pass without correction.
Another cause of physical deformities during the school age is badly constructed desks.
Many mothers complain that, whenever the holidays are over, the children get infected with colds at school. It is impossible to keep a child who has to go to school away from infection. The best way is to keep the general health in good condition, so that he is able to resist catarrhs, chills, and infective ailments generally. In the first place, attend to the food, sleep, accommodation, exercise, and rest. See that the children are dressed suitably, especially if they are subject to rheumatism or colds in the head. Protect them as far as possible from damp. Supply two or three pairs of strong, thick-soled boots, so that the same pair of boots is never worn on two successive days. Make the children wear woollen underclothing, because this is porous, and allows the perspiration to pass off from the skin.
A mother ought regularly to observe the physical and mental condition of the school-children, so as to provide them with the opportunity of deriving full benefit and happiness from this period of their lives. The school-child requires just as much attention as the baby, and care of the health during this age will affect considerably the strength and vitality of the adult man or woman.
Let a mother realise that delicate children reflect upon herself, especially if there is no hereditary weakness of constitution in the family. The child who has always been delicate is often suffering from mismanagement in his early years. The hysterical, nervous girl is often the product of too heavy lessons and the school dyspepsia which is the result of improper feeding. The child who has nothing the matter organically - in the way of adenoids, for example - ought to be healthy and happy during his school life. When physical defect exists, the mother should take a doctor's advice immediately.