How do you handle your child when they freeze up during school? You might ask them a question about what you went over yesterday and they feel so put on the spot that they simply cannot think of the answer. Or you hand them a test and they hand it back to you empty saying they don’t know what to do, when you know for a fact they know the answers.
Not all children experience fear and anxiety when it comes to schoolwork but for some, the struggle is real. Oftentimes, they are striving to do their best, either to please you or to prove to themselves that they can do it. Then, they panic when they feel that they might fail. Also, for children with academically successful siblings in the home, there is the pressure to measure up to their skills and abilities. Have you ever had the child who cries or at least expresses extreme disappointment when they did not receive a one hundred percent on their math test? Even if they only got one problem wrong and you encourage them that a score in the nineties is wonderful, they still think they have failed? Of course we want our children to be their best and do their best but sometimes we need to make sure we aren’t pushing our children too much just so we can prove to ourselves or others that we aren’t bad teachers. It can happen to the best of us, trust me!
So, how can we, as homeschooling parents, eliminate the stress of performing while still encouraging our child to do their best?
Take The Emphasis Off Testing And Back On Learning
Even if you have to test, for the child that panics over tests, I would encourage to work on building up their self-esteem for subjects that are difficult for them. If your child struggles with reading, give them a project to work on. A goal. Find a book that would be challenging yet doable and encourage them to work through it. Reward them when they read the entire book. The success will be found in finishing the book, not in answering comprehension questions or successfully passing an exam. Use this an opportunity to build confidence so when they do need to be tested, they won’t question their abilities.
If your child struggles with writing or spelling, instead of constantly testing them with the typical “spelling list,” try a lapbook or unit study that allows your child to complete a “project.” I’ve seen this work wonders in my children. An example of one that we have completed is the Helen Keller Unit Study put out by Moving Beyond The Page. One suggested project for this study was creating a scrapbook of Helen Keller’s life. They worked hard creating this book from scratch using what they learned throughout the study. Years later, they are still proud of their work and remember what they learned. I have noticed that projects like these help children put what they are learning to practical use and it helps them see why they are learning what they are learning, (spelling, grammar, etc.).
Don’t Talk About Their Academic Failures Or Struggles To Others In Front Of Your Child
You might think that you are helping out another mom by telling her, “I understand, my Johnny has a learning disability too.” or “Suzy really struggles with math…” If your child overhears you talking about them then when they go to do their work, they will have lost all confidence in themselves in being able to do well in the subject that you have been saying they are so terrible at. It’s great to encourage others moms or to talk to your spouse about your struggles with teaching your child, just be sensitive about where and when you bring up the conversation. Little ears may be listening.
Try Not To Compare
Children are going to do this anyway. They are always comparing themselves to their siblings and peers. Of course it is easy to compare our child with what we know so we need to make an extra effort to guide them along at their own pace. Not the pace of the public schools around about us or other homeschoolers we know. The beauty of homeschooling is that we are in fact home with our child to help them blossom. This means we need to cultivate, very carefully what is set before us. One child might take a bit more work than others but through God’s grace and wisdom, we can help our child through their struggles one step at a time. Then when they do make it through to the other side, they will be able to take pride in their personal victories. If the multiplication tables were stressing your child out and you help them master them over a course of time, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. If your child struggled with state capitals and then after time and patience with mom, they are now able to recite them, their self esteem levels will rise dramatically.
Remember, It’s Not Personal
When our child struggles, we often blame ourselves. It’s just what happens. But we do not need to worry. God is working something out in our child. Something beautiful. If your child needs to work harder than others to master a skill or subject, let them gain character in the process. Riding a bike might come easy to some while others need to practice, practice, practice. Handwriting, math skills, spelling and memorization are the same way. Make sure your child knows there is no shame in the struggle. No shame in the hard work and as you guide them along in the journey, they will get through. Anxiety can be eliminated from the homeschool classroom if mom is calm and your child is reassured that they can indeed succeed. It might take some time, but this type of atmosphere can be established!