I homeschooled a struggling learner for many years before she went to middle school. Because of R’s dyslexia and dysgraphia, she struggles to learn certain things. In fact, teaching her certain things is downright difficult for both of us! With the transition to a traditional school setting, I had to step back and be more of a help than her primary teacher. I am going to share a few tips with you on how to help a struggling learner to thrive.
Tips for Teaching a Struggling Learner
Acknowledge the child’s weaknesses.
Children who have learning difficulties have certain weaknesses. If you are able to list these out and acknowledge your life will be easier. If you know that your child is weak in a certain area this gives you the opportunity to plan for difficulties. It can also help to spend some time researching different learning difficulties. Spending that time researching the learning difficulties your child might have can equip you to better help your struggling learner.
- Struggles children with dyslexia might have. (I wrote this as I learned how to work with my daughter. I hope it can help someone out a bit.)
Acknowledge your weaknesses.
Could some of your weaknesses be making things harder? For me, I am not a very patient person. This means that when I am asking you to do something for the 100th time my level of grace may have diminished. Figure out where your weaknesses are so that you can either overcome them or ask for help. Spending some time looking at your weaknesses can help you to either work around them or learn how to help them learn in a different way.
If tutoring is available to you and can fit in the budget accept it. Sometimes that extra help will relieve some of the stress of teaching. The tutor may even give you tips to educate your child with less stress. Accepting tutoring help for your child does not mean that you are not a good enough parent. Instead, it means that you care enough for your child that you are willing to let someone step in and help where needed.
My daughter spent an entire year in Speech Therapy. She speaks quite well but the speech therapist was able to bring her up to standard in areas where I struggled to work with her. If you have the ability to work with a certain kind of therapy that will make learning easier on your child, jump on it. Speak with the school your child attends or with your pediatrician about therapies that may help your child to thrive.
Teaching a child with learning difficulties demands flexibility. Whether that means approaching learning a different way, rescheduling your day, or using incentives to prompt learning, be open to these options. There is an old quote, “Be flexible so that when you are bent, you won’t break.” I find that flexibility in teaching a child with learning difficulties can make a world of difference.
Incentives are a great way to encourage a struggling learner. I do not mean candy for each completed problem or chuck e cheese for each week of completed work. However, if you have a struggling reader, let them watch the movie when they finish the book. If you have someone struggling with Math offer them comic book time when they are done with Math. There are healthy incentives that help a person to do what needs to be done.
Check for Learning Gaps
Sometimes a learning difficulty can be the result of a learning gap in their earlier education. Take some time to backtrack a bit and see if there is a concept that your child is struggling with earlier on. For instance, a child struggling in upper math might need additional work in multiplication facts to better thrive with more advanced concepts. It can help to use an online assessment or classroom assessment to see where learning gaps are.
Take Advantage of Online Resources
There are some fantastic online learning resources that are free or low cost. Take advantage of some of these online resources to help you better help a struggling learner. I highly recommend Khan Academy if you have a child struggling with math concepts. With reading issues, going back to the basics of phonics with something like Starfall can be a game-changer. Utilize these online resources to supplement any learning gaps.
Ask Your Child What They Think They Need
Kids can be very intuitive sometimes. Ask your child what they think they need. While some kids may get frustrated and say there isn’t anything you can do, others may have suggestions of how you can help. Some children want your presence more than they want your actual help. Other children want you to get them a specific resource or learning tool.