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Kid having a tough time at school? These 7 movies could help!



Paul Asay - published on 09/08/18

These films, all streaming now, show that even kids with special challenges or difficulties can make it through.

Across the country, school is in session again. Time to crack the books, break open the new crayon box, and pound your head on the desk when you forget the capital of Montana. Some kids can’t wait to start learning again. Others … not so much.

Granted, it’s the rare child or teen who doesn’t complain about school to some extent: The tests. The homework. The need to set a morning alarm. But for many youth, classes may be the least of their problems. From bullying and peer pressure, from trying to fit into a new school to suffering an unimaginable tragedy at an old one, the school year can be a nine-month trial.

No movie is going to cure serious school-based problems, of course. What kids and teens need most of all is the love and support of their parents, along with some timely care and advocacy from teachers and administrators. But films can give youth an understanding that they’re not alone: They’re not the first kid to deal with bullies, peer pressure, or hardships, and these problems can be overcome with persistence, love and maybe even a sense of humor.

Here are seven films that may bring a smile to the face of your frustrated son or daughter — movies that might just suggest brighter days ahead …

A Wrinkle in Time (2018, PG)

This Disney take on Madeleine L’Engle’s immortal children’s book isn’t perfect. I really didn’t like, for instance, how the movie stripped away the book’s inherently Christian underpinnings. But while it falls short in some respects, the movie succeeds in others — especially in giving us a charismatic and compelling heroine in young Meg Murry, a smart-but-troubled student who can’t stay out of the principal’s office. Through her amazing adventures, the awkward-feeling Meg comes to understand that she’s pretty great just as she is, and that love can overcome the very worst of difficulties. (A Wrinkle in Time is playing on Netflix now.)

Atsushi Nishijima | Disney Enterprises, Inc. | Fair Use

Anne of Green Gables (1986, G)

Forget Netflix’s sweet, problematic revisionist version of this classic story (Anne with an “E”). Go with this mid 1980s classic — actually a two-part Canadian miniseries. Young, enthusiastic orphan Anne Shirley moves in with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (an elderly brother and sister who were actually expecting a boy who could help out on the farm). Initially, the red-haired Anne deals with all sorts of difficulties in fitting in at school, and she actually smashes a slate over the head of her academic rival, Gilbert Blythe (who calls her “Carrots”). But slowly, she finds her place at both school and home, learning to embrace her own special, and sometimes unusual, talents. It’s a great reminder that being yourself can be difficult, but it’s leagues better than pretending to be somebody else. (The two-part miniseries is available for free with an Amazon Prime membership.)

Anne of Green Gables Productions

Chicken Little (2005, G)

The sky doesn’t actually fall in this Disney rendition of the famous fable, but the confidence level of Ace Cluck, a.k.a. Chicken Little, sure does. Between his (not-so-false) alarm that something strange is in the air and his bullying at the hands of Foxy Loxy, life is pretty rough for Ace for a time. But through some solid friendships, an ultimately redemptive father-son relationship and some creative re-shaping of Foxy’s thinking, Ace goes from goat to hero. (Chicken Little is available on Netflix even as you read.)

Walt Disney Productions | Fair Use

Freedom Writers (2007, PG-13)

We could do a dozen lists like this about inspirational teacher movies, but Erin Gruwell is a class standout all the same. The new high school educator lands in the halls of Long Beach, California’s, Wilson High — a campus with sharp race and class divisions. It’s not the easiest first job fresh out of college, but Erin takes to it with gusto, buying books for her students from her own pocket and treating them like people — not just losers filling desks ’til the next season of dropouts come. She helps change her students’ lives — but the movie makes it clear that it’s the students themselves that must do the real work of change. While the profanity can be troubling, this based-on-a-true-story inspirational feature might be well worth your and your older children’s time. (You can stream this movie via several outlets starting at $2.99.)

Paramount Pictures | Fair use

High School Musical (2006, TV-G)

This was a bona fide sensation when it came out, charming an estimated 225 million viewers worldwide with its blend of song, dance and charismatic young stars. But at its core sits a simple Romeo-and-Juliet story, about two kids from separate cliques who fall in love and … um, want to be in a school play together. While the movie’s light, airy and very, very Disney, it’s also surprisingly, almost infectiously entertaining. And the themes behind it — peer pressure, catty classmates and breaking out of your comfort zone — feel both serious and universal. (You can stream it on YouTube and Google Play for $5.49, or buy it on iTunes for $7.99.)


The Miracle Season (2018, PG)

When high school volleyball player and all-around great person Caroline “Line” Found dies in a tragic accident, her grieving friends and father must find a way to push through. It isn’t easy: The film makes no secret as to how difficult it is to move past a tragedy of this magnitude, and Line’s deeply faithful father even walks away from the Church for a time. But in the midst of death, the movie’s characters (based on real ones) find new life. Kelley, Line’s best friend, becomes the volleyball team’s new, understated leader and helps take them to a state championship. Coach Kathy Bresnahan discovers that life is more than just the sport’s Xs and Os. And Line’s dad, Ernie, finds a new, extended family in Line’s friends. In an age where tragedies are not uncommon on high school campuses, The Miracle Season suggests that after grief, we can still find hope. (Hulu will be streaming The Miracle Season through its service this month, according to Variety.)

Cate Cameron | LD Entertainment

Wonder (2017, PG)

No kid on this list has a harder time at school than Auggie Pullman. Born with disfiguring birth defects, Auggie enters fifth grade with a justifiable sense of terror. He doesn’t look like other kids and he knows it. Sure enough, he’s subject to stares, laughter, and plenty of wince-worthy bullying, and he feels utterly alone when his one and only friend seems to betray him. But Auggie pushes on, gradually earning the respect and even admiration of his classmates — winning a prestigious award and a standing ovation. Wonder is a lovely movie, made to pull heartstrings and jerk tears. But it has some important lessons to convey to kids who, like Auggie, sometimes feel like outcasts. This one is not to be missed.


Nope, school isn’t easy. And sometimes, it feels like it’s getting more difficult — both in and out of the classroom — by the year. But kids, even kids with extra-special challenges or difficulties, can make it through. And these movies can give them a hint as to how it’s done.


Read more:
A brilliant and gentle strategy to combat bullying

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