Why Kids Struggle to Learn (3 Common Problems), and What Parents Can Do

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A challenge for many parents is wanting to help their kids succeed in school but not always knowing how best to do that. When they see a child struggle with homework, where do they start? A math and science tutor for many years and co-founder of the online tutoring service Virtual Nerd Leo Shmuylovich, says parents can do two critical things: observe, then assess what the problem is.

“Parents are in a unique position – they can sit down with their child, one-on-one, and devote extra time at home to understanding their child’s needs.  Teachers in a busy classroom don’t always get that opportunity or it can take longer in school to identify the student’s need,” says Shmuylovich.

Shmuylovich offers these suggestions for parents to help overcome a child’s learning struggles:

  • Problem: Poor Review or Test-taking Skills
    • If your child is doing well on homework but does poorly on written exams, it could mean she has either poor review or test-taking skills.
    • Solution: Help your child develop the habit of setting aside time each day to review their work.  Parents can also create a mock “high stakes” environment each day during which the student has to solve problems without the help of a textbook or other reference tool.  Parents can usually set this up pretty easily then gradually lead the student to do this on their own.
  • Problem: Misunderstanding a Current Concept
    • When their child misunderstands a current concept it can be frustrating for parents as well.  This is the place where parents may have the most difficulty helping kids, since the concept may be new to them too.
    • Solution: Try putting your child in the role of teacher and ask them to explain the concept to you, the “student.”  If your child can explain the concept to you well enough, they should be able to handle the related work.  Parents may also want to search online for videos that explain or demonstrate the concept.  For example, Virtual Nerd offers several tutorials that explain and help reinforce math and science concepts.
  • Problem: Not Enough Practice
    • Some students don’t have enough practice with either current or previous concepts, which becomes evident when they tell you they “can’t remember how to do it.”
    • Solution: It can be tough for parents to write out new problems that practice a particular concept.  Instead Shmuylovich recommends they seek out additional practice within the text or ask the teacher for specific worksheets or other practice.  Sometimes it really is just a matter of repeated execution (the multiplication table comes to mind, but it’s the same for A + B = C).

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