As you approach middle school, your student’s areas of strengths and weaknesses will become more pronounced. Although strengths and weaknesses are normal, your student may seem a bit behind compared to peers or to what you remember from your education. The first step to intervention is to identify gaps by using a placement or achievement test like Well Planned Start. These tests will show exactly which areas need improvement. Sometimes the results indicate that the student is average or just below for a grade level, but sometimes they indicate that a student needs to repeat a subject or grade. What do you do? How will you get your student caught up?
Tips for Helping Your Child
- Identify underlying causes that might require treatment or therapy. If your student has a reading, writing, calculating, and general learning disability, no amount of review will help until your student receives proper therapy. A specialist will help you recognize, treat, and accommodate the issue.
- Decide how many subjects need remediation. Do not feel that you must repeat an entire grade for the sake of one or two subjects. Simply repeat a year in the problem areas.
- Eliminate the social stigma of being “held back.” Keep your academic and social grades different. Tell your student that if anyone asks, he is in 7th grade with other kids his age even though he might be repeating most of 6th grade. No one needs to know.
- Use the summer to do a crash course. Find an intermediate course, a self-paced course, or an easily-condensed course and complete it over the summer.
- Condense courses into semester courses and complete two in a school year. Do every other lesson. Skip chapters that your student understands. Give the chapter review as a pretest; if he can pass it, skip the chapter.
- Get a tutor or watch some online videos. Sometimes all the pieces suddenly fall into place after one mental snag gets untangled.
- Recognize that your student may not reach advanced classes in some subjects. Check your state requirements and only stress if your student does not meet minimum requirements.
- Emphasize areas of strength. Encourage your student to pursue classes that he or she finds enjoyable. A graduate with a lot of trade school preparation rather than university preparation has just as much opportunity to lead a successful life.
- Do not neglect other areas of study. Think of knowledge as a whole. Continue studying other subjects, including fine arts, and you will be
surprised how they help in the weakest subject.
- Devote some extra time each day for the weak subject. Add an extra fifteen to thirty minutes of work to that subject to make good headway.
- Opt out of some extracurricular activities so that you can devote more time to school. Do not feel the need to abandon all extracurricular activities, but if they leave no time for solid book learning, you need to rethink your schedule.
- Don’t overload your student. Exhausted brains are no good, so work on a subject for about forty-five minutes and then switch to something else. Return to the previous subject with a fresh perspective.
- Address self-discipline issues. Is your student behind because of difficulty learning or difficulty focusing on the task at hand?
- Call in reinforcements. Some teachers motivate students better than others. Reach out to friends, family, or online tutorials to give your student some fresh information.
- Don’t wear yourself out trying to make everything fun. Students will have to put forth more effort to get work done correctly. Even disliked subjects must be completed in accordance with state laws.
- Find alternative forms to earn credit by asking what the end goal should be. Consider art appreciation instead of painting classes. Meet PE credits with ballroom dancing or fencing. Require a slideshow presentation rather than a research paper. If your student has learned the material and has something physical to show, consider the goal met.
- Decide if you want to die on this hill. So what if your child never reads The Red Badge of Courage? Does he know about the Civil War? Does he read other novels? Then give it a rest. Don’t foist someone else’s tastes on your student.
- Watch Jeopardy. Seriously. One must have a well-rounded education to compete. Let your student feel good by answering some of the questions. Your student might also see gaps and decide to fill them independently.
- Do not fracture a relationship over someone else’s expectations. If your state does not require a subject, ignore everyone else’s opinions on why every student must learn it. Which would you rather have? A good relationship with a student eager to learn? Or a singing, tap dancing family like the one on the latest issue of the homeschool magazine?
You and your child will figure this out together, and the gaps will be closed one day. Just keep making progress in all areas, and you will be just fine.