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How to Support a Struggling Homeschooled Student

If you are a parent who has decided to homeschool their children, then you have probably discovered that your kids enjoy some subjects more than others.

When your students genuinely enjoy a certain subject like mathematics, history or music, then they tend to sail through their lessons with enthusiasm.

However, what happens to those students when they encounter a subject that they don’t like? Perhaps it’s just something that doesn’t interest them or maybe they are struggling with understanding the subject itself.

Is there something you can do to perhaps spark their interest or at least help them to develop proficiency with the subject matter that might someday translate into enjoyment?

If your child is struggling in one or more subjects, then it’s never too early to take action. Help them get started right now with one or more of these strategies.

1. Encourage Additional Practice and Study

When a student dislikes a subject and is struggling to succeed, then it may help to encourage putting in some extra time. Of course, it can be distasteful to have to spend more time working on something that isn’t enjoyable, but this doesn’t have to be onerous.

Instead, try introducing your student to a few extra “chunks” of focus on whatever subject matter is giving them difficulty. A chunk of time could be as little as five or ten minutes. Basically, it’s just enough to time to let your child focus on a problem or challenge that is a particular obstacle for them. Try to work through it with the student, and see if a few days of placing heavier emphasis on problematic subject matter begins to make a difference.

Similarly, it may be helpful to encourage the student to engage in a little more independent practice and study. This can be especially valuable to music students who are learning to play an instrument, but it can work just as well for any academic subject. Encourage the student to do some independent exploration with a worksheet or an educational website to give them an opportunity to find a way to enjoy learning about this topic.

2. Take Time with Your Planning

One of the hardest parts of being an educator is the large amount of planning and preparation that goes into each school day. In fact, it’s not unusual to hear teachers say that they put in more time with planning than they do with teaching.

Actually, this is a really good thing. The better prepared you are to instruct a certain subject, the more you will understand it. This means that you can present new material with familiarity and enthusiasm. Accordingly, your students are far more likely to engage with and enjoy the subject too.

Experienced educators frequently set aside dedicated planning time at least once a week or several times per week, whichever works best for their schedule. Scheduling this dedicated time means that you are “planning to plan,” and that is a fantastic strategy.

During your planning session, sit down with pen and paper, a calendar and anything else that might help you plan like the textbooks and worksheets you plan to use. This is your opportunity to get really familiar with the material and decide what you want to highlight for your students. Give inspiration an opportunity to strike as you look for new and more engaging ways to present the material to your class.

The better your plan your lessons, the more prepared and available you are to really connect with your students. This means that you are more ready to help them when challenges arise, as they inevitably will.

3. Use a Variety of Approaches

Some students flourish with reading textbooks and writing reports. For others, this is the dullest possible way to spend their school time. They would rather be doing interactive, hands-on activities.

The reality is that students who prefer reading and writing can benefit from doing practical activities, and the reverse also is true. Basically, it just makes sense to expose students to several different ways of learning.

It is possible that a student who believes they prefer one way of doing things may discover an affinity for learning in a different manner, and that they like this new way of doing things even better.

Consider a music class as an example. Perhaps you will spend some class time reading about the great composers and writing about their lives and work. However, that’s not the only way to learn in music class.

You might try a combination of:

  • Reading;
  • Writing;
  • Listening;
  • Playing instruments; and
  • Composing.

When you use a variety of teaching and learning techniques, you keep things in the classroom interesting and fresh. Students are less likely to get bored when they know that their teacher has an interesting mix of approaches that make learning fun, informative and interactive.

Keep in mind as well that it isn’t necessary to spend hours on each learning technique. Somewhere between five and 15 minutes may be appropriate for any one technique before switching to a different approach. Of course, older kids are more likely to stick with tasks for a longer time period, and the shorter time periods can be reserved for younger kids who are still developing their attention spans.

4. Try Goal Setting

While it is true that some people just seem to be naturally more goal-oriented than others, anyone can learn to set and achieve goals. This can be especially critical when a student is struggling with one or more academic subjects.

There is definitely a technique to goal setting, and like any skill, it can be learned. It is wise to make goals quite specific. Many educators subscribe to the SMART system of creating and achieving goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Attainable;
  • Realistic; and
  • Time-bound.

Each letter of this acronym is used to help your students create well-defined and achievable goals. Accordingly, a goal must be “specific.” Rather than just having a goal of being a better reader, a more specific goal would be to learn to read at a specific grade level.

Such a goal can be measured by having the student read books that are aimed at the grade level in question. It is critical that this goal be attainable by the student. In other words, you don’t necessarily want a kindergartner to resolve to read at a college level. This also relates to making the goal “realistic.” Encourage your student to set a goal that they can envision and actually achieve. If you think that she may be overreaching, try to help her manage her expectations.

Finally, goals are always more meaningful when they are time-bound. In the above reading example, your student’s goal might be to be consistently reading at a fifth-grade level within 30 days.

Then, it’s wise to help your student achieve this goal using achievable, incremental steps. You may try introducing a couple of new vocabulary words each day and trying to read increasingly more difficult text on a daily basis.

Keep each step relatively easy to achieve, and your student is likely to make huge strides toward achieving their goal.

5. Take the Time to Identify Problems

Each student is unique, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. As a teacher, perhaps you have the sense that one of your students is struggling with a certain subject. However, it may be difficult to pinpoint the actual problem until you have done some investigating.

For instance, some students have problems with focus. This may affect them in all subjects, but perhaps it is most noticeably manifested in one academic area, like mathematics. Perhaps their inability to focus means that the student isn’t listening as carefully as he could or that he’s not fully committing to the task at hand.

Other students have problems with perseverance. Sometimes, these students are extremely intelligent. Most academic subjects come easily to them. However, they may encounter one academic subject that just doesn’t come naturally to them. They are not used to having to really work hard to understand something, so when the going gets tough, they don’t necessarily show the perseverance that’s needed to succeed.

Perhaps they are embarrassed or made uncomfortable at the thought of having to ask additional questions. What will the other students think? This may mean that they continue to struggle silently instead of asking for help.

Be on the lookout for the signs of students who may be silently struggling with a subject. Smart students can be very adept at hiding their struggles, but the problem becomes apparent when it’s time to grade a paper or take a test.

It may be wise to take that student aside to talk with them about the subject matter and why it is so challenging to them. Reassure them that sometimes learning is hard work, and that there is nothing wrong with that. Then, put in some extra time with them to make certain that they are progressing as you want them to.

Let Prodigies Provide Support

At Prodigies, we introduce kids to music in fun and interactive ways. While we love music, we know that it can seem like a particularly difficult foreign language to some educators and students. That’s why we strive to make our lessons fun and accessible to everyone.

With an emphasis on making learning fun, Prodigies Music gives students a strong foundation in music. Kids learn from colorful and interactive video lessons as well as music sheets, work sheets and playing their own musical instruments.

Thanks to a variety of learning techniques, all kids can become proficient in the language of music.

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