Today I was working on the Canadian Online Homeschool Conference. It’s on from Feb 3-9, 2021. Anyways, my topic is on Developing independence in your students. I was putting together my worksheet and thought hey! I’ve never done a post on what to do when your student is stuck in learning.
I see it over and over on the homeschooling facebook groups. The posts often read something like “help, my _________ can’t figure out ________. How do I help them grasp this concept so we can move forward?” Let’s talk today about some of the steps you can take to help your students move forward when they are stuck in learning something new or difficult.s
Much of the things we learn in life are linear. You learn how to do this, before you learn to do this next thing. Ergo, when you are stuck on a concept it’s difficult to imagine moving forward until that key concept in learned.
I know that with my lad we ran into a few roadblocks along the way. Different steps that we took let us move through difficult learning moments. That’s part of the beauty of homeschooling isn’t it? We can take the steps we need to help our children achieve their long-term goals through short-term adjustments in our learning strategies. 🙂
Seven steps to Take when Stuck in Learning
It’s an option right? To simply keep doing what you are doing until finally it clicks. It’s a method a lot of people use quite successfully. It’s not a method that works for everyone, but it does work. My son has used this with the odd math problem, working it and reworking it until he finally figures out how to get to the answer. Through that process he cements the mathematical formula and totally owns it.
Take a step back
Sometimes you just need to take a step back. To put away the books and do something different. When you do that a couple of things happen. You take off the pressure and you allow your brain to work it out. Not a fool-proof thing, and sometimes it requires the next action, but often if you remove the pressure and just let the brain work, marvellous things happen.
Look at the concept from a different perspective
We often find this is the best way for my son when a concept is difficult, especially if he combines it with the action above. There are SO many ways to learn concepts. Look at all the ways to learn to read. Or how to learn scientific concepts. So if one method doesn’t work, why not check out a different method? It might click right away, such as when my lad was trying to figure out long-division, or it might require you to sleep on it.
Doing the stages out of order
Sometimes, just sometimes, learning things out of order works. Kids do it all the time. Little ones listening in on lessons for their siblings. Learning about archaeology before Youngsters listening in on church sermons and learning big concepts they don’t hear in Sunday School. Hearing big words read (and explained) during story time increasing their vocabulary. So many ways that we can learn things outside of our age/study range.
So your daughter doesn’t get fractions, but she can figure out how to build a birdhouse and understands how to put the ratios together to make that all happen. It might not be book work, but she’s had to understand the fractions on the measuring tape. She’s had to double-check that her math is all good. Perhaps that’s all your daughter needs RIGHT NOW. Later on, when she’s mastered some other concepts, or relooked at how puzzles and pizzas are put together, or discovered all the measurements she’s done add up to inches, feet, and yards, it will all click for her.
Not ready yet
You know there are grade and age level things we’re expected to know? These are arbitrary decisions made by generalities. So MOST of the population at that age/grade is able to learn that concept. Occasionally you get children who can learn that concepts quicker, and sometimes you meet children who just aren’t ready for it. AND THAT’S OKAY. It really is. Just because Johnny isn’t ready to read at age 7 doesn’t mean he won’t ever read. Just because Sally can’t figure out nouns and adjective by grade 10 doesn’t mean she never will. Some concepts are just harder for different people to master. So give it time. It’ll come, or that knowledge will simply become something that person needs help with.
For instance, I am directionally challenged. I think I always will be. BUT I have a hubby AND a son who generally know what direction we going in. So I don’t have to fret about one bit! Amazing isn’t it? Could I be deemed a failure in map reading? Probably…but it doesn’t really affect me much as an adult. I manage just fine. If you don’t learn something, there’s always a way to work around it.
Back up when you are Stuck in Learning
When running into new material that is too hard to learn, the best decision to make simply might be backing up. Figuring out what it was that you missed that was a needed precursor. If you don’t understand place value before doing multi-digit addition and subtraction it makes the learning more difficult. If you don’t know how to draw a straight line or haven’t learned how to draw perspective, doing good art is harder to do.
Sometimes that’s all people need. Time. Time to step away, time to consider other options, time to come back and revisit an old problem. As I frequently tell my son,” it doesn’t matter if there are things we missed in your education, it’s not like you can’t learn them later!” Once you know how to learn, the world of knowledge is waiting for you.
The more you help your students figure out what to do when they are stuck in learning a new or difficult concept, the more you help them on the road to independence. Help your students cultivate these skills so necessary to living an independent life.