Classical Curriculum Trials – How to Teach a “difficult” Child

How to teach a struggling learner at home

I put “difficult” in quotes because I don’t like to label children as “difficult.” I don’t think they are difficult in their core or in their being–I think we have just not found out what is the best way to school them and they are letting us know by being very honest!

So here we are with our children, trying to give them this beautiful education, and you are experiencing kickback. Perhaps it is in the form of “wiggly willies.” A child who just can’t sit still. Or maybe it’s the child who declares how bored he or she is. Or perhaps it is a struggling child. Certain subjects (or maybe all of them) seem difficult and it’s a challenge to keep up. As a mom of 7, I’ll share what I’ve learned from my own children on these 3 common trials.

1) The Wiggly Willie Child

A child that just can’t sit still or focus is often our wiggly willie. I have several in my more than half dozen children! Some things I have found effective are:

  • take a outside 15 min break (sunshine is key for helping to mellow a kid out! )
  • having a snack break
  • starting early
  • finishing early
  • making school effective and FAST
  • keep subjects interesting, short, and changing frequently

By just following the last 4 I have eliminated the need for breaks (which aren’t my favorite since they make it hard to get back into school). Breaks can cause a real disturbance and stop the “flow”.

So to eliminate this we only school for 4 hours. 8am-12pm. As they got into 7th grade+ we sometimes go for an hour after lunch but I that’s it. Keep it short and sweet. How is this even possible!??! You might be shaking your head in disbelief. Well read on! There is a way!

2. The Bored Child

Now there is a fine line to tow. There is a child who has had no discipline and is utterly spoiled and wants to do only what pleases himself all the day long…and then there is a child who is legitimately not being stimulated. The latter child will express their boredom or they will create their own excitement by acting up and making disturbances. I have had a share of both!

I say all this to let you be the detective for your house and to do what is best and correct for you. But to make you aware that it could be one or the other…or both!

How do you know?

Too Much Busy Work

If you are new to homeschooling, or still in the first few years it can be hard to know. You remember how much classwork and homework you had growing up. If you were like me you got college scholarships and did well. We don’t want to cheat our children out of an excellent education–but how much is too much?

Again, be the detective. Eliminate all that is unnecessary. And not that the curriculum you are using isn’t truly amazing – I love Memoria Press it’s some of the best on the market – but it is designed to cover all the bases. It doesn’t know that you just did an extensive study on England and so to have your child do it all over again is going to be boring and redundant.

Know Your Child and What they need

I love the literature guides that Memoria Press puts out. But there is a lot of fill in the blank writing in them. Because I know my children and how much writing they are already getting, and where they are in writing, I simply let them verbally narrate for me what they read. If they miss something I use the teacher answers for the literature guides to prompt them and make sure they fully understood. They almost always do. By not requiring them to write everything out that shaves off 45 min of school and eliminates unnecessary redundancy that would inevitably result in boredom.

You’ll find there are a lot of areas that you can trim off to keep things interesting and the flow of school moving along. This is one of the blessings of homeschool! You can create a perfectly curtailed education for your child!

release the FOMO! (Fear of Missing Out!)

Release the fear of missing something! You are not missing out by not having them do every single thing in the curriculum guides! As long as you are seeing them demonstrate mastery do not over burden them. Release the type A-ness inside you! Release the feeling that you paid money for the curriculum and need to get your money’s worth! (I counter this by reminding myself that I paid $____ for the curriculum to educate my children and as long as it is educating my child who cares if I use 1 page or all 100! Curriculum is merely a tool. Do not let it own you!

3. The Struggling Child

One of my youngest had a bit of a learning disability for awhile. She couldn’t remember anything. By 6 years old she struggled to count to 10 (this was after a year of “kindergarten”). She couldn’t remember any of her letters. I’d teach her the sound that A makes and she would forget overnight. The curriculum kept moving ahead with the turn of each page and she was lost and I was frustrated and felt like I was failing her.

A more veteran homeschooling mom described it as a “memory block” and that she just needed to break through. Once she said that I realized she was exactly right (thank the Lord for homeschooling friends and their mama wisdom!) I stopped all curriculum and just focused on one thing. Simple Phonics.

Let’s just learn a simple letter: “A says a like apple”. Keep it simple, slow way down, do nothing else but this. We incorporated some games to make remembering fun. And with lots of repetition through the games she eventually started to remember. It took another year. She needed TWO full years for kindergarten. Would she have been better just starting kindergarten at 6? Possibly. But the point was it wasn’t her fault, it also wasn’t the curriculum’s fault. I just needed to identify that she needed a slower pace. The curriculum needed to be my servant and so I had to take the upper hand and make it work for me.

A different instance where it was the fault of the child was with my older son (my “Huckleberry Finn child” as I affectionately call him) was really struggling with latin. Turns out he hadn’t been following my directions and he kept progressing though Henle but wasn’t doing any of the recitations or any of the flashcard review. He was at old enough of an age where he certainly can do those thing daily independently (which frees me up to work with youngers) but he just wanted to blow through his day quickly so he could get done (in our house finishing school means playtime/work on your businesses–we are an entrepreneur minded household!)

But school must be done well. So because he didn’t know any of his vocabulary nor how to decline his nouns nor how to conjugate verbs (he didn’t know his forms) latin was very slow and difficult. He’d have to look up every single word. So I made him stop all latin, and for a week he had to memorize everything he already should have learned. Boy, did that make a difference! Once he did that he as a super champ at latin! It became a source of joy and confidence! But it was noticing where there was disconnect. Mastery is key in so many subjects. It is pointless to continue with division if multiplication tables aren’t memorized. It will be slow and frustrating and mistakes will abound! These are the advantages we have as homeschooling families.

Did I miss any other difficulties? Do you have tips for some of these situations that have worked well for you? Share in the comments below!

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