Homeschool Hints: Help Your Struggling Student

What to do when nothing seems to work

A funny thing seems to happen when homeschooling. You and your student(s) hit a groove and for a little while things seem to be sailing along smoothly.

Then, suddenly, it all comes to a screeching halt.

One day you realize one of your kids is slipping behind. A couple of errors here and there have all at once become lessons full of red marks and tears. Your kid is frustrated. You’re frustrated. You begin to feel like a failure and your kid feels dumb. So, what do you do? How do you convince them they’re not “behind”.

We currently have 3 kids we’re homeschooling and they are all so different. Our youngest daughter had a few hiccups in learning this year and we wrung our hands a great deal trying to figure out how to best help her. Here are some things we tried that seem to be working. I hesitate to share them… I don’t want to jinx us!

Throw Out The Schedule

I’m far from super organized…like, really far. But one thing I’ve done along the way – to make things easier on myself – is keep the kids on the same number math lesson in their respective math books. It makes for easier record keeping. One thing we did to help our daughter is toss out the schedule. I quickly figured out she was stressing out too much about “keeping up”. I finally had to remind myself that flexibility in scheduling and progression through textbooks were some major perks of homeschooling.

Change Curriculum

I’m a very frugal mom. So once I spend money on curriculum, I tend to dig my heels in and try to force it. With our daughter, I have to let go of that idea and just suck it up and try something new. There are so many online resources, I really haven’t spent much extra. The key to this step, though, is not switching curriculum too often. Give the new stuff time to work. Every student no matter the school environment learns differently and sometimes it takes a bit to find the best-fit materials. For instance, we noticed our daughter was falling behind with reading a little and we finally found All About Spelling. It’s amazing and has helped her a bunch. Sight words and memorization didn’t help her, but this curriculum resonates with her. Now, we’re all a little less frustrated.

Our oldest also hit some speed bumps with her math curriculum last year. At the time we had been using this curriculum happily for 7 years, but when we changed course it made all the difference.

(Hint: Switching curriculum doesn’t have to break the bank. There are TONS of places to buy used curriculum including Facebook groups, online classifieds and used curriculum stores).

Take a Break and Just Read Books

So often, I feel like getting on board with the idea of unschooling. We have a pretty vast library in our home and always have a good assortment of materials from our local library. Some days, when I feel we’ve had several tough days in a row, we stop our normal work and just read together. It always helps soothe everyone and it’s not wasted time. It’s still schoolwork, but it allows them a break from their norm. Field trips are also a great option to break up monotony.

Spend Time Doing Things They’re Good At

When your child is feeling low and frustrated, switch gears and concentrate on building them back up. Our struggling student is excellent at jigsaw puzzles. And counting money… and telling time… and drawing. So, when we’re hitting our heads against a wall, it helps to stop and find an activity she’s good at. My daughter struggles with math, so we bring out the Wrap Ups and remind her how much she really does know. She sits with the tools and zips right through them, building her confidence more and more as she goes.

These steps are working for our family. I love hearing from you, too! Tell me about some things you tried that worked– comment below with your stories!

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