December 09, 2009

My first post @ The Homeschool Classroom

This post was originally written for and posted @The Homeschool Classroom.

What Happens When Simple Things Aren’t So Simple (Homeschooling a Struggling Learner)

When our children excel in their studies, we feel confident and proud. Chances are we find someone (anyone) to share this wonderful news with. In some small way it feels like we are validated in our homeschooling decision. We hear of new research that finds “Homeschooling kids achieve higher scores on testing,” and we spread the news far and wide as proof that our decision was the right one, sharing those wonderful high marks of our own children. Sometimes this wonderful news can even sway a skeptic to our side.

But what happens when a child doesn’t excel above his peers? What if he falls behind? What happens when simple things aren’t so simple?

Here are some treasured nuggets I’ve found along our journey that may be of help to someone else:

  • Make TIME work for you instead of against you. If your child has hit the proverbial brick wall, consider taking a break from that concept for a bit. Many concepts are developmentally or sequentially related. Return to the previous activity of success, take time to enjoy that and then return to the challenging task a few days, weeks or even months later. You can spend months, even years struggling through a difficult task which in turn can create bad feelings and frustrations while making very little progress. I’ve found when given some time, the offending concept is often mastered much quicker with that later attempt. That impossible seeming task often ends up being a stepping stone instead of a stumbling block. Each child is unique as is their timeframe for learning.
  • Find out what your child’s learning style is. This makes your teaching effective and meaningful for your child. If your child is a visual or kinesthetic learner, a lecture on anything could end up a frustration and waste of time for you and your child. If you address material in his own learning style, the material will be picked up quicker and retention will be far better than going another route. I’ve also found better cooperation, and happier kids. Realize that you can adapt ANY thing, ask your child for help with this. You’ll probably be surprised at his response. It’s a huge benefit to teach with a mixture of learning styles in mind, so you can involve multiple learning pathways. You can take one concept and sing or talk about it, paint about it, build a model of it, read about it and so on.
  • Give up grade levels if you can. If you don’t have requirements prohibiting this in your state, I recommend putting your child on a truly individualized plan of study for his schooling based on the theme “work as fast or slow as you want to go”. I’ve heard conversations between children like this: Child: “What grade are you in?” HS Child: “Well, I’m in different grades for different things. I get to move ahead as fast as I want, I don’t have to stay in one grade.” This feels much better than saying “I’m 8, but I’m in 1st grade” Or “I’m supposed to be in 2nd grade” Or even one of my favorites “Mom, what grade am I in?”
  • Let strengths and talents shine. Your child has some talent or ability that he can really excel in. Watch for these things. Encourage them. Use them in other subjects. If your child is a LEGO genius, find some way to use that in Science, Math, or Writing. Bringing something already attached to success can offer hope and even determination to try again with something more challenging.
  • Try, try again- differently. Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it is impossible. Try new things and ways to work through those tough concepts. Ask others for ideas and tips that they found successful for their children. They may or may not work for you, but they may inspire you to be able to reach your child.
  • Get help for your child if he needs it. Learning disabilities, neurological or developmental challenges, physical limitations etc. can hinder your child’s learning. If you feel there is more to your child’s struggles, seek some help. Our family has benefitted from Vision, Speech, Language, Occupational, and Physical Therapies. Sometimes, you may need some help opening a learning path for your child.
Above all realize that learning doesn’t come easy all the time for anyone. Keep learning fun and full of love so you safeguard the desire to learn in your child.

What treasured nuggets have you found on your journey with your struggling learner?

photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom


  1. I'm also a new writer at the HS Classroom! Loved your post...I also have a child or two that hasn't learned as easy or fast as their peers. I've learned to be patient, trust God and measure success differently for each child. Looking forward to getting to know you! Blessings!:)

  2. Your post was really fabulous! :) We're glad to have you. I know there are many homeschoolers out there with a special needs child (or two or three or four...) who will appreciate your take on things.


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