Problem-Solving The Struggling Learner: Finding Out The ‘Why’

Dear Homeschooler, image

We all have those days. You know which ones I’m talking about. Those school days where it seems like it’s a constant struggle to get our student to learn anything. Our kids have off days just like we do. It’s normal. I don’t worry too much about those days.

Then there are those other struggles: the ones that happen at a specific time or during a specific activity. These ones have happened enough that you have noticed a pattern. It’s time to intercede, but how?

Finding Out The ‘Why’

Before you can fix the situation, you have to know why the behavior is happening. Start by trying to answer these questions:

Is your student struggling with the concepts and lesson material?

Sometimes, kids will refuse to concentrate because the work is too hard for them. Watch how much independence your student shows during lecture time. If you need some help brainstorming teaching strategies to help support your struggling learner, feel free to contact me at Dear Jennifer.

Is your student bored with the lesson material?

Kids learn at different rates. I would even say that each one can learn different information at different rates. Try to notice if your student catches on to the new material quickly. You may need to increase the amount of work they do, do less reviewing, move quicker through the concepts, etc.

Is what is expected of your student clear?

Make sure your student understands the instructions. It may be as easy as reading all the directions or assuring them that their best effort is the most important thing. Some students won’t even attempt an assignment unless they can do it perfectly the first time. For example, if they are working on a writing assignment, explain that all first drafts have mistakes.

Are there environmental distractions?

Take a look around your work space. Is there something that may be distracting your student? Is there a younger sibling on a tablet sitting within view? How’s the noise level? Some student can work with music, and others need silence. Try to pinpoint any potential distractions and watch how your student responds to them.

Does your student have an optimal learning time?

Some students can concentrate better at specific times of the day, and thus they learn better at those times. Some learn better in the morning when they are fresh, and others in the afternoon after they’ve had ample time to wake up. Some work better after a meal or snack or after exercising and moving around. Try to notice the times when your student is learning at his best.

Does your student need a short break? Or sensory input?

Some students need help regulating their sensory input. A short run in the backyard, some deep pressure, etc. can really help get their bodies on track, allowing them to be able to focus on their work.

Is there too much work?

Some students can get overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do. Try covering up part of the work or breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces. I, sometimes, only make ZooKid do half of his work, then I put the rest of it in his Independent Work Box to finish later.

Is it just a case of the bad-attitudes?

All kids have things they don’t like to do. Instead of buckling down and getting it over with, some poke around and waste 5x the time just sitting there. If this is the case with your student, try positively reinforcing focused work during this activity.


This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should get you asking questions, and get you started in the right direction to finding answers to those questions.

Till Next Time,