the Difficulties Children Face with Self-Instructional Material
doesn't matter what curriculum you use, there will always be some problems.
Below you will find some of the problems I have encountered in the past thirty
years and the remedies. You will find almost every problem is due to human
to read instructions
is the most common problem of all. Children look at the writing, decide there
is too much, and it looks too hard, and tell you they don't understand it. Make
them read it aloud to you. Or, they read the first few words and jumped to a
conclusion on what they were supposed to do.
they still do not understand go through it point by point with them, making
them read it and try to explain it to you. This will show you if they do not
understand and teach them how to approach the problem. Where possible, always
train yourself out of a job.
to learn rules
there are rules in your children's books, the chances are they will ignore
them. The best way to ensure that they have learnt the rule is to hear them
repeat it to you after they have finished work in that book for the day. Listen
again to the rule after a few days. It is also useful to keep a notebook
containing the rules so you can refer back to them. (The English Handbook
contains the rules of spelling and grammar as well of examples of how to write
various genres. It is a helpful reference book.
a child does not want to do a subject, learn material or understand it, they
won't. If this is the case ignore it for a time. It never ceases to amaze me
how quickly a child can do something, once it is lunch time and everyone but
them is eating. (Be sure it is an attitude problem and not a problem in understanding.)
a child has to repeat tables in a set time, be tested for spelling etc. they
can sometimes panic and not be able to even though they know it. We found that
our eldest son could complete a page of mental maths quicker by writing it than
saying it. If this is the case allow the child an extra 30 seconds longer to
write the answers. If a spelling test is a problem try approaching it a
different way. Use phonics cards or scrabble letters and have the child lay out
the word in front of them. Since this appears a game there is no pressure. Some
children are visually orientated and need time to look at a word to check they
have spelt it correctly.
some ways this is similar to the previous problem. Smaller children can become
overwhelmed by what they see as the magnitude of the work you expect them to
do. Sometimes it is because they have had too much work set for them. Never set
more than three or four pages in a book. (If the child wants to work more pages
consider it a bonus.)
the number of books seem too much to a young child. The easiest solution with
small children is to halve the number of books and double the amount of work in
each. You know it is the same amount. The child doesn't. Make sure in this case
you alternate books. This does not work so well for most older children as
there are more complex concepts to master.
if the child is autistic, tear the pages out of the book and present it to them
a sheet or two at a time.
is a problem I have found common with older children. When a child gets to year
eight to ten, if they have been working at home for several years, the work
becomes more complex. Rather than working a set number of pages it may be
better to divide the book into sections so that the child masters sections at a
time. If my children have difficulty we take time to learn the concept properly
before continuing. The aim is to learn not complete books.
have personally found, that when children begin homeschooling it is better if
you set less rather than more goals. If they finish well within the time for a
week increase the goals. Never increase the goals straight away otherwise there
is no incentive in finishing. Always increase the goals over a weekend and they
wonít notice it. After a few months you will have an excellent idea of your
childrenís abilities and will be easily able to set goals or help them to set
children want to do something else and so rush through their work. Even though
the work may be completed it will be messy. Make it clear that doing a job
properly is just as important as completing it and that it is quicker to take a
little bit longer and do it properly the first time than have to re-do it.
to learn material properly
who have used self- instructional material for a while benefit from occasional
oral tests to ensure they learn the material properly and are not rushing
through the work without reading properly. Another way is to ask the children
if they learnt anything interesting and discuss it with them. You will probably
learn something too. One of my children loves to share obscure history facts
with me and sometimes he comes up with things I donít know.
to Understand HOW to learn
is similar to the last problem, and is very prevalent among children being
withdrawn at secondary school level. It requires a parent to sit down with the
child and help him assess what the main points in the books were, and how to
discover them. I encourage my children to take notes or write a paragraph
summarizing each section.
children are prone to this and parents need to constantly redirect them to
their work. Often the simplest way is to sit with a child and encourage them
through it. I have often sat and written down the numbers in maths for my seven
year old as he added them. It has meant that over a period of time he
discovered the work didn't take as long as he thought. If you persevere for a few
years the problem is eventually trained out. Day-dreaming is not bad in itself,
it is only day-dreaming at a time when you should be working that needs
this problem persists consider if it would be better to shorten the time the
child works, e.g. have breaks every fifteen minutes instead of every half an
hour. Alternatively check the childís books and make sure the child is working
at the right level and that they are not too hard.
sickness or bad eating habits
works at their best when they are tired. Make sure your children get enough
sleep and that they eat properly. Both these effect their learning capacity.
The rule in our house with sickness is if you are ill you stay in bed. A child
who is genuinely ill is glad to, a child who is faking, soon gets bored and is
glad to get up and get their work completed.
are only guides to where your child should be placed. Ultimately the final
judge is the parent. If the child is struggling and can not understand the
material, study the curriculum guide and place him further back. Alternatively,
if he is having trouble with one concept make sure you progress through it
slowly and reinforce before going on.
THE AIM IS FOR THE CHILD TO LEARN, NOT TO PASS
TESTS OR COMPLETE SCHOOL IN A SET PERIOD OF TIME.
from outside the family to perform
may come from book sellers, other people using different curriculum who think
you should use the same books, inspectors with fixed views etc. Children should
have minimum goals set which are to be completed by the end of the year.
However, these goals may have to be altered due to sickness, pregnancy, a
child's failure to grasp concepts etc. Ultimately the parents can be the only
judge of whether or not the child completed enough material for the year as
only they know the family situation. IT IS THE PARENTS WHO ARE ANSWERABLE FOR
Failure to check and correct books
will only get the standard you are willing to accept from your children.
Everyone needs to be accountable, particularly children.
of child to visualize a concept
children find it hard to understand unless they can have it illustrated for
them. This is particularly true of small children. It may be easier for a child
to add up for a while using counters or buttons. Some children will need MAB
blocks. It is easier for older children to understand scientific principles if
they carry out many simple experiments. Sometimes a simple picture, no matter
how badly drawn, can make the difference to understanding and not
understanding. Children do however sometimes have to realise that there are
things we can not see and have to accept by faith. There are times when
understanding comes later. No-one worried if the generation prior to the 1970ís
understood, for example, why 2 + 2 =4 or 9 x 7 = 63. We just learnt it off by
heart. However, the majority of the people prior to 1970ís can add, subtract,
multiply, divide etc. without thinking about it.