Are You Making One of These Mistakes Homeschooling Your Learning Abled Kid? Learn three common mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
If you’re making one of these common mistakes, you can help your child (and yourself) by changing how you handle your child’s education.
Mistake #1 – Assuming your child is lazy, not trying hard enough, or purposefully dawdling
When your child throws tantrums, says he hates school, and seems outright defiant about his schoolwork, it’s really easy to feel like your child is purposefully avoiding his work.
When your child has learning disabilities, it becomes really difficult to determine if your child really can’t do the work, isn’t trying hard enough, is distracted, or otherwise not doing his best with his schoolwork.
It’s difficult to decide how or whether to discipline your child. What’s a mom to do?
What to Do Instead – Acknowledge Your Child’s Struggles with Encouragement
Virtually all children want to please their parents, particularly when they are young.
Children want to learn too. So, if your child says he doesn’t know an answer–he really DOESN’T know (at that moment). No child wants to be unable to understand or complete his schoolwork.
Since you already know your child has learning challenges, you can be sure those challenges will cause struggles that are REAL for your child.
Therefore, you have to assume your child’s behaviors are driven by his frustration, fear, a feeling of defeat, his difficulties with processing, memory, or other cognitive difficulties.
The key for avoiding this big mistake is to acknowledge your child’s struggles are real and to encourage him to do his best. After all, persistence and hard work often bring good results in the long run.
Whenever your child gets angry, is working slowly, says he can’t do the work, etc., encourage him by saying, “I know this is hard for you.” Validate your child’s feelings and give him comfort in knowing you understand his frustrations.
Helping your child feel loved and validated, even when he’s struggling, will help your child feel more secure in putting forth his best effort. If your child knows you won’t get mad or frustrated with him when he is struggling, he’ll be more relaxed and able to think more clearly.
Over time, the relaxed, encouraging atmosphere in your homeschool will create an environment where your child is emotionally primed for learning.
Mistake #2 – Not using assistive technology or accommodations to enable your child’s learning across all subjects
Often parents worry that the use of assistive technology or accommodations will become a “crutch” for their child. Other parents don’t even think about using technology to enable their child’s learning.
Additionally, parents may not be aware of the many technologies or tools that can help a child learn in spite of disabilities.
What to Do Instead – Use Technology and Accommodations to Overcome Barriers to Learning
Whether your child struggles with reading, writing, spelling, or math, there are ways to help your child stay on track with his learning across knowledge-based subjects.
The most critical factor is for you to recognize the separation of academic skills (reading, handwriting, spelling, math facts) versus learning rooted in knowledge and understanding.
For example, a child must learn how to decode words to read. However, an inability to read is no reason to keep your child from learning science, social studies, literature, or anything else that usually requires reading in school.
While your child would still need remedial reading instruction to learn the skill of reading, you can use audiobooks, Hi-Low Books, audio-visual learning programs, or other types of instructional resources to enable your child to learn content-based information.
Similarly, handwriting is an entirely different skill than “written expression.” There is no reason your child can’t create compositions even if he can’t write by hand yet. Using speech-to-text software or dictation is an excellent way for a child to get his thoughts on paper while he is still learning to write by hand.
For math facts, your child can use a calculator. Often a child may have difficulty with math fact fluency, but your child may understand math reasoning well enough to work problems if he has a calculator. For spelling, your child can use a handheld speller.
The key to avoiding mistake #2 is to think outside of typical books and paper schooling. Look for different ways for your child to learn content, different ways for your child to express himself, and different ways to help your child work around basic skill deficits.
Also, consider assistive technology as a tool for your child, just like a hearing aids or cochlear implants help hearing impaired people, or a wheelchair helps someone with a physical disability. Your child’s learning struggles are no different and assistive technology can enable your child’s learning.
Mistake #3 – Focusing on academics at the expense of your child’s special interests or talents.
Your child may struggle with completing his school work so much that your school days are longer than you want them to be. It may seem as though you have little time to pursue outside interests.
Additionally, you and your child may both be drained of energy when you’ve finished your lessons for the day. You may feel like you don’t really want to go do anything else.
If your child’s world consists only of academics, which he has difficulty with, he will feel beaten down over time.
Simply put, you can’t let academic difficulties beat your child’s spirit down.
What to Do Instead - Inspire Your Child to Pursue Unique Interests or Talents
Every child needs to feel competent at something. He must feel that his interests and abilities matter or his spirit may be crushed over time.
Children who feel they’re not good at anything or who realize no enjoyment in their daily lives end up depressed and with very low self-esteem.
Therefore, building up your child and helping him discover his skills and talents can make the difference between a child who has hope and a child who is downtrodden.
A few of ways to insure your child is able to pursue extra-curricular activities of interest to him include setting aside one afternoon per week for non-academic work, listening to audiobooks on the way two and from activities, or cutting out non-essential academic studies.
What kinds of non-essential academics might I mean? A couple that come to mind are a rigorous study of grammar or the study of Latin in elementary or middle school.
GASP! Did I really just suggest you not study formal grammar? I DID! Let’s face it, unless you’re an English teacher, when have you ever had to diagram a sentence in your life? I’m not suggesting you skip any grammar instruction, but rather that you stick to practical grammar instruction involving periods, commas, etc.
Similarly, a lot of homeschooling moms of Learning Abled Kids see other parents teaching their children Latin, Spanish, or some other language, and feel compelled to “keep up.” Carefully watch for that “keep up with the Jones’” syndrome creeping into your schooling.
It pays to be mindful of your child’s academic needs versus things that would be academic niceties. When your child is struggling with the basics, focusing on the core academics and those subjects that are legally required in your state are all that is necessary while your child is still learning to master basic academic skills.
Build some fun learning into your child’s school year. Whether it is participating in First Lego League Robotics, a sport, music lessons, the arts, drama, etc., find at least one area where your child is capable, talented, and inspired.
Having even a single capABILITY can provide a great boost to your child’s confidence and self esteem. That boost in confidence can spill over into other areas, including academics, so don’t sell your child’s interests and talents short when you’re planning out your school year.
When you wonder whether you’re doing a good job homeschooling your learning abled child, noting these common mistakes and learning how to avoid them can help both you and your child feel great about homeschooling.
Tips for Improving Your Child’s Homeschooling Outcome
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As always, Do your best and Happy Homeschooling!
Sandy, Your Learning Abled Kids Can-Do Cheerleader