Dealing With Difficulties

It 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 nature.


1. Failure to read instructions

This 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.


2. Failure to understand

If 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.


3. Failure to learn rules

If 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.


4. Attitude

If 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.)


5. Panic

If 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.


6. Overwhelmed

In 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.)


Sometimes 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.


Or, if the child is autistic, tear the pages out of the book and present it to them a sheet or two at a time.


7. Unrealistic goals

This 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.


I 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 won’t notice it. After a few months you will have an excellent idea of your children’s abilities and will be easily able to set goals or help them to set them.


8. Rushing to finish

Sometimes 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.

9.Failure to learn material properly

Children 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 don’t know.


10.Failure to Understand HOW to learn

This 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.


11.Day dreaming

Some 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 attention.


If 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 child’s books and make sure the child is working at the right level and that they are not too hard.


12.Tiredness, sickness or bad eating habits

No-one 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.


13. Misplacement in testing

Tests 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.



14.Pressures from outside the family to perform

These 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 THEIR CHILDREN.


15. Mother's Failure to check and correct books

You will only get the standard you are willing to accept from your children. Everyone needs to be accountable, particularly children.


16. Failure of child to visualize a concept

Some 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 1970’s 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 1970’s can add, subtract, multiply, divide etc. without thinking about it.