Feb 092014

Are You Making One of These Homeschooling Mistakes with Your Learning Abled Kid?

Learn three common homeschooling mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

If you’re making one of these common homeschooling mistakes, you can help your child (and yourself) by changing how you handle your child’s education.

Homeschooling 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 homeschooling 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.

Homeschooling 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 softwarehomeschooling mistakes 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 homeschooling 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.

Homeschooling 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 homeschooling 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

If you want to receive more tips and great insights about how to homeschool your Learning Abled Kid effectively, then be sure to sign up for the Learning Abled Kids’ Tips newsletter.

It only goes out a few times per month, but contains great insights for helping your child succeed academically and in life.

Sign up now to help your Learning Abled Kid.

As always, Do your best and Happy Homeschooling!
Sandy, Your Learning Abled Kids Can-Do Cheerleader

  2 Responses to “Become A Better Teacher by Avoiding 3 Common Homeschooling Mistakes”

  1. Hi, this site was recommended to me, but I clearly don’t know how to use it. There is just so much here! 🙂 We have dyslexic symptoms, and problems paying attention. I completely disagree with your above article. Sometimes children won’t even look at the page, therefore, “can’t” read it. Obviously, I’d be a fool to “encourage” this. We’ve tried brain gym, but it seems kind of silly, when we’re already doing tons of outside exercising. My experience with curriculum of any kind has been a waste of money, so I will not spend $300 on a program. The safari game is clearly to difficult for my 9 yr old. Is there anything here can help us, or are we just barking up the wrong tree?

    • I think you must have mis-read something in the article above. Encouraging a child to not even look at the page would be foolish indeed! The point the article makes is that you have to determine WHY your child won’t even look at the page. You can’t assume it’s just defiance. That is the mistake most parents make. Behaviors that manifest from learning disabilities can look like defiance, but it is often an avoidance issue in regard to something the child can’t actually do.

      Your child may be able to look at the page, but that doesn’t mean it does any good for him/her to do so if your child has dyslexia, ADHD, executive dysfunction, and/or other LDs. The key is to figure out what makes it so difficult to look at the page that your child won’t do it, and then you have to fix the problem that is causing the issue.

      Brain Gym is a neurological, cross-body patterning program where the individual exercises can be used as learning breaks. A child may be highly active outside of doing school work, but his brain needs the additional oxygen during school work. Therefore, whenever you’re transitioning from one learning activity to another, the Brain Gym exercises are beneficial as both an activity that boosts oxygen levels and as a neurologically targeted activity.

      Your experience of every kind of curriculum being “a waste of money” would indicate the programs either aren’t the right fit for your child’s specific needs and/or you may not have comprehensive evaluation results to help you focus on the specific needs and strengths of your child. There are many great programs out there, but they each only work for kids who are a good fit for that particular program. In other cases, parents don’t spend enough time with a program to realize the results, so they think the program is “bad.” However, the specific needs of their individual child may dictate that results will take longer to show than the parent would have thought.

      Most surely there is something that can help your child, but whether you can find it will depend upon the quality of the data you’re working from in choosing your child’s programs. It could very well be that you are barking up the wrong tree, but telling you which tree is the right tree would be impossible for me without a comprehensive evaluation and/or much more detailed insight into your child’s needs.

      May I suggest you start by reading what you can using the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon for The Dyslexia Help Handbook? Doing so will help you understand more about those “dyslexic symptoms” you are seeing in your child. It may help you understand more about all of the different trees you could be barking up.

      You’d have to read the whole book to understand more about how to deal with the different possibilities for reading disabilities, but using the Look Inside feature will at least give you an overall idea about why it’s so difficult to find what works. 😉

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