Many of us, at one point or another, have thought that our child is behind. Maybe they have not completed the curriculum by the end of the year. Possibly they missed an idea somewhere along the road and now there seems to be a gap in learning. Or they are just plain behind. All of those words stir up anxiety in parents. However, these issues are only a problem in light of traditional schooling. In homeschooling, you as the teacher must de-program your brain to think outside the standard “school” box.
A struggling child may just need to slow down. Pushing a kid to finish a curriculum only suits the parent’s need to check a box. That seems harsh. However, it is a reality brought on by a social norm to finish a grade level in the same grade or to complete a lesson per day. Let homeschooling free you from this. Learning should be enjoyable. When we give our children time to chew on new ideas, thoughts, and concepts, we allow those things to take root and give birth to independent thought.
Maybe the struggling child has gaps that are the source of the struggle. What are gaps, anyway? Learning gaps are areas where your student has missed an idea that hinders their mastery of a topic. Instead of pushing through the book to finish, take time to work through the gap. Build confidence by going back to a point your student understands. For example, a student has a meltdown every day in math. The parent notices that they are struggling with basic math facts. They pause instruction in the curriculum temporarily to strengthen those skills. Then, when the facts are fully memorized, however long it takes, they return to their program.
Too much emphasis on these learning gaps can cause your student to be frustrated and lack confidence. Everyone has learning gaps. For instance, how much do you know about the conquests of Julius Caesar? Could you trace Livingstone’s route through Africa from memory? Are you able to discuss how Galileo challenged the teachings of Aristotle? Could you (in your head) algebraically figure: thirty-four percent of what number is fifty-one? These topics, taken from exams in the Ambleside schools in England, would have been commonly known in the early 1900s. Somehow, though, I missed learning these things in school. Yet I can still progress through these topics by looking up the information I need.
We should treat our children, who are still relatively new to this world, with the same respect. If you discover a gap, spend time investigating the topic. Most likely, gaps that we must address are in math, reading, spelling, or handwriting. No one is standing at your door to ensure you finished the textbook this year. So, go back to where they last understood and work slowly.
Build confidence with your words. The last thing a child needs to hear is that they are sub-par. Announcing that they are behind is not a motivator for them to get on track (I speak from experience). But doubling back to shore up their knowledge allows them to move forward with ease, building confidence as you do. It isn’t that they won’t understand, but that they don’t understand YET.
Consider that your student may have a learning disability. You may not want to admit it or even want them to know about it. But it is possible that they already know they are different, and it would be freeing for them to know that there is a reason. Notice the word “reason,” not “excuse.” Don’t use a learning challenge to keep you from teaching what is difficult. Our disabilities are simply opportunities to build perseverance through hard work and finding alternative methods of learning.
Each child is right where they need to be. If your friends’ children excel at subjects, don’t envy them and try to meet their standards. Be happy for them and also for yourself that your kids are right where they need to be. A happy homeschool is not one in which no work is accomplished. It is one in which each child learns at a steady but challenging pace and has the confidence to say, “I did it.” Fist bump. Big hug.