Power-Ups for a Struggling Learner

by Sara Jones


You know what homeschooling needs? Power-Ups.


By “power-ups,” I mean the cool little bonuses you get in video games. If a level is too hard, the power-up smashes through obstacles and gets you to your goal faster.

(In my favorite Match-3 game, my preferred power-up is the ice-breaker lightning hammer.)


What homeschooling family hasn’t needed a power-up? Just one or two. At least once. A week. Maybe two on Mondays.


Life isn’t as simple as a video game, unfortunately. We know our objectives, but getting there takes a lot of thought, trial-and-error, and working with each child as an individual. But! I’ve got good news! There is such a thing as power-ups.


The most powerful one is God’s grace. My husband and I rely heavily on it. It’s not a mystical shining light that clears away all our clouds. Instead, knowing his grace gives us confidence to make decisions, because God can bring good even out of our mistakes.


Another big bonus for HSLDA members is their Special Needs Department. Sometimes when our children are struggling, the problem is more than just a temporary mental roadblock. This department provides resources, information, and help. Visit the Special Needs Department to see what is available.

And that’s great for us adults. But some days are just hard for kids, and they need more concrete “power-ups” to get through the challenge.


Here are some of the tangible power-ups that can help a struggling learner:

(Most of us would probably go for an ice-breaker lightning hammer, but sorry, that’s not what I mean.)


APPROACH IT CREATIVELY. Last week, I completely failed to help Ranger understand how to “regroup” in a subtraction problem. So Darren grabbed coins to demonstrate. Since Ranger has been playing a board game recently that involved “breaking” 5000-coins into 1000-coins, he quickly made the connection. That board game, although it had nothing to do with the math lesson, illuminated the concept for Ranger.


PUT IT ASIDE. Is Sparkler simply not getting the 7 times tables? We’ll stop the lesson and move onto something less demanding. We might not even go back to times tables for the rest of the week.


EAT A SNACK. Really. Food is pretty good stuff. Sometimes it tilts the balance between tearful despair and rational problem-solving.


ASK FOR HELP. Sometimes you and a particular child simply can’t find a way to navigate your way through a particular struggle. If possible, I highly encourage you and your husband do the school planning and teaching together. If that’s not something that works, find family, friends, church, a support group, or a co-op to address the areas you’re having difficulties with. A new voice and a new perspective is often what makes the difference.


GIVE UP. Hang on, what’s that? Never give up! Keep pushing through! Victory is ahead! Well, maybe. Or maybe it’s not the right time, and all you’ll end up with is more frustration. If something is not working—if my child weeps over that workbook she hates—I don’t keep pushing through it. Give up, and…


REDIRECT. There’s no one right way to do things.

“What plus what equals 28?” Ranger asked the other day. The answer is…well, lots of things. Unlike with a Match-3 game, homeschooling has limitless options for how to approach a challenge.


EAT A SNACK. Did I already say this one? Oh, well. Eat another one. Homeschooling is a long journey, so we might as well make the most of the power-ups that God gives us.

(And I’ve put an order in for that hammer, just in case.


Used with permission. Originally published at https://blog.hslda.org/2017/01/27/power-ups-for-a-struggling-learner/


Sara Roberts Jones grew up in Mississippi and married a Canadian; they compromised and live in Virginia. In among homeschooling their four children, Sara writes, visits friends, takes long drives, and finds stuff to laugh at.



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