Are Your Kids Behind?: What to Do When You Need More Help
By Chelsea McLeod
So you decided to Homeschool, planned your curriculum and made a classroom space in your home. Imagine; it is now January; you are well into the year and feel comfortable with the routine, and have successfully into the swing of things. However, there have been some things recently that have given you pause.
Is the level of work you are doing where it should be? Has your student completed enough for this point in the year, or are they reading at the appropriate grade level? Now, you are panicking. Your greatest fear has been realized, and you don’t know what to do or if you can fix it. Are your kids behind? What do you do when you need more help?
You’re Not Going to Panic.
Are your kids behind?
Even if that were true if your homeschooler(s) is/are behind. Here’s what you’re not going to do… You’re not going to panic. First, you must treat yourself with some grace. Yes, there is some concern if your child is behind, but you, the homeschool mom, will take it personally and view it as a personal failing, a poor reflection on her when her child gets behind.
Remember that we are our worst critics, so I promise you this is not your failure, and it will not define your homeschooling journey. With that said, the first thing you’ll need to do to approach this problem is to cut yourself some slack. There is no perfect method of schooling, no method that guarantees 100% success at every benchmark at every level and in every subject.
Kids who attend public schools need to catch up, too. Kids who attend private schools have absent days and struggle with reading. In the same way, your homeschooled child is not doomed because of the choices you made for their education. Finally, no child develops and learns at the same rate, so allow yourself to shake it off when some subjects require more focus.
Every child develops and learns at their own rate.
So now that you have taken a breath and stepped back from the ledge you have talked yourself onto, you need to understand that there are many pieces to this “realization,” not all of which are accurate. Remember that old saying: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Well, that’s just it; by what definition or standards do you feel that they are behind? What comparison are you making that brought you to this conclusion? Is your child not yet mastering skills that their peers who are attending traditional school are?
Or are your kids not reading the same chapter books you did when they were your age? Are the criteria you’re grading your child by actually arbitrary standards that society decided upon? While you are reflecting on these considerations, keep in mind that grade levels are an arbitrary marker that was created. That there is not one single age that children read by or master multiplication; or an age by which they write an eloquent essay. So first, decide in what way are they behind and is a marker that you are comfortable with. Then you can go about making changes and correcting it.
Increase your child’s achievement in several ways.
You and your child can make changes and increase their achievement in several ways. For our purposes in this blog, these can be separated into two categories when searching for answers to the question, are your kids behind?
Category one: Insourcing (You Tackle the Project) and Outsourcing (You Seek Outside Help). If you want to learn more and tackle the issue head-on, you can try some of the following things to get a start.
Insourcing (Upskilling Yourself, Keep the Learning at Home)
- We all learn in different ways, which also leads to the fact that we all understand things differently. Therefore videos can be an excellent tool. They can help you learn another approach to a topic or help your child learn a different angle of a problem.
- Books are a magnificent resource for a variety of topics. They can spark the imagination and teach concepts somewhat effortlessly. You can learn several different approaches to whatever problem you are tackling. If math is the issue, books can give you many different ways to solve the problem. One may be the key for your student to overcome their challenges.
Change up your approach.
- You may have been following a particular reading or spelling program, and now, to overcome this struggle, you may need to try another program or go from pencil/paper work to hands-on using manipulatives. So take some time to research and see what’s out there. You do not have to stick with something if there is a chance that something else may be better.
- Similar to changing your approach, make learning fun. Learning does not have to be strict or boring; it can also be fun! So create a board game to tackle the skills your child may be missing. Play match to learn sight words, or make a rhyme to remember your multiplication tables. The sky’s the limit, and sometimes fun will unlock some hidden potential.
Even in education, it takes a village.
While there is no right or wrong way to approach things, it is essential to remember that even education takes a village. We were not meant to live in isolation; you are not an island in and of yourself so getting help from an outside source is okay. Even those that are not experts have knowledge in different fields for subjects; for example, I have a brain and skill set much better served with writing, and my husband is more of a math brain, so when the kids need help, why not play to our strengths?
Similarly, even in the traditional school setting, when a student is struggling, it is never the teacher’s sole responsibility to catch them up or find the missing piece that will help them. Therefore, the following list suggests places/people seeking outside help.
“I have a brain and skill set much better served with writing, and my husband is more of a math brain, so when the kids need help, why not play to our strengths?”
Outsourcing (Seeking Help from Outside Sources)
Subscribe to an online practice site
- There are plenty of options when it comes to online sources these days. You can subscribe to a math practice website or a game-based site for spelling word practice. Sometimes all that is needed is a change of perspective or “teacher,” and a student will thrive. Do some research, and you might find something you and your child both enjoy.
Sign up for class, local or online
- Live classes are trendy now, which could be the key to unlocking your child’s potential. Whether an online course or a local group, there are opportunities to make connections and change the teacher/learner dynamic. Sometimes all it takes is to make learning fun again, and something will click to help the student overcome a challenge.
Hire a tutor
- When a student struggles in school, a teacher may suggest some tutoring help. Well, homeschooling is no different; you, too, can hire a tutor. This can take some of the pressure off of you to get everything right, and your child has the chance to learn from someone else, which can make a huge difference. There is plenty of resources when your child needs something extra or different. Tutoring centers like Sylvan are often easy to find, and online tutors have become a viable option in recent years.
See a specialist
- You can get an assessment done and get to the issue’s root. If you are worried your child is behind because of an identifiable learning concern, consider bringing it up with your pediatrician and ask for testing referrals. Often there is some hesitancy to “label” children, but understanding how and why your child experiences difficulties can only benefit both of you. Do not be intimidated by the possibility of a “label” Whatever your child is working with, at least it won’t be without awareness and resources.
Seek advice from more experienced homeschoolers
- Thankfully countless homeschooling parents had gone before us and shared their hard-earned wisdom. A whole community wants to help and can help if we ask. So check with your local homeschooling groups or other parents at your co-op (if you are part of one). Ask about their preferred strategies and materials for your child’s specific concern. You can also read blogs of homeschoolers who have encountered similar difficulties with their child and come out the other side.
Your Homeschooler May Be Behind, But Not For Long!
All is not lost! You can homeschool a child with learning disabilities. You can even homeschool when struggling with a particular subject or concept. So the next time you feel that pit in your stomach and panic about your child’s learning, remember to take a breath and approach the issue one step at a time. You know your kiddos and how they learn, and it is okay to seek help; numerous resources are available. So, the next time you wonder, “Are your kids behind?” Remember that your child will succeed sooner or later, and you will be there when they cross the finish line!