Homeschooling A Struggling Student: One Simple Tip

Are you homeschooling a struggling student?  Oftentimes, when a child resists school work, they display their hesitation by shutting down, melting down or worse.

Parents can easily confuse this outward behavior as a willful act of disobedience or “laziness.” If you are familiar with the mission at A Heart For All Students, you know that I have a different perspective.

I believe firmly that a child’s outward “negative” behaviors are a symptom of an internal problem.

visual discrimination, homeschooling struggling students

A Pattern of Being A Struggling Student?

When a child repeatedly resists learning, this is an indication that you’ve got a bona fide struggling student in your homeschool. Kids need us to equip them with what they need in order to learn.

Taking the time to seek the root cause of “poor” behavior is crucial. Finding the real issue allows us to equip our kids with what they need to succeed.

Visual Clutter, Stress & Your Struggling Student

At one point my 14 year-old daughter and I were working through some Algebra word problems. We’d just been introduced to a new concept and were slowly putting the pieces together.

As we began to tackle the problems, she and I both began to feel frustrated and overwhelmed.  And you know what was making it worse?!!  The screen (online math) full of text.

Clutter: A Barrier For Struggling Students

Learning a new concept or skill is not as simple as it may appear on the surface.  During that math lesson, my girl and I were:

  1. Processing a new concept specific to algebraic functions,
  2. We had to visually read through text from a screen (don’t get me started about screens) and
  3. Then correctly integrate the new math concept with reading comprehension.

For more information about how to identify root issues behind reading, writing and relationship-based struggles, read this related post:  HOW TO HELP A STRUGGLING READER: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE.


Post-it notes & Learning?

Enter in… a HUGE Post-it note.  Many children and adults struggle with visual discrimination. 

In layman’s terms, visual discrimination is the ability of the brain to tease through all of the input that it receives through the eyes.  

In any given moment, the brain has to process through and zoom in on that which is most important in the particular scenario.

Decisions Use Limited Cognitive Fuel

This one simple instrucutional strategy made all the difference.  By removing the unnecessary text from sight, both struggling students were set up to succeed. 

Struggling Students: Always FOCUS ON THE GOAL

Why? We didn’t have to tease through unnecessary visual information in order to focus on what was crucial to the goal. The goal at that time was to learn the new math concept. In order to do so, we needed to set ourselves up for success.


homeschool math, struggling student, visual discrimination, learning differences, adhd, reading

[box] In this picture, you see the accommodation that my 14-year-old and I made when having to process and learn a new algebraic concept.[/box]

Homeschooling a Struggling Student Requires Flexible Thinking

When my girl and I became frustrated (and snippy) at one another, I took that as my cue that we both were struggling students. 

I had to make the decision to use my adult executive functioning skills in order to get us on track so we could move forward.  Ultimately, I knew we needed to pivot quickly or things could go south fast.

Post-Its, Learning & Deep Breaths

I grabbed a large post-it and covered the entire screen except for the first line of the first word problem.

“Read it aloud and let’s process what it is saying,”


I took a deep breath and offered this suggestion to my girl. Game changer!!!


Visual Discrimination in Learning

How many blog posts, books and TV shows cater to this concept of minimalism? Decluttering? Organization? The answer? Too many to count!

Why are these concepts so popular with adults, particularly adult women and more specifically moms?

Remove Visual Clutter & Open Doors To Learning

Because by simply removing visual clutter, we find ourselves more peaceful and less anxious.  Clutter increases the need to tease through all of the information our brain receives from the environment.

This is an exercise that requires mental capacity. Every mom knows that mental capacity is a limited resource that must be used wisely.  This is true for overwhelmed homeschool moms and for struggling students. 

We must transfer this understanding over to how we equip and support our struggling students.

Effective Learning: Less Is More

When a child is overwhelmed or feeling even slightly anxious about having to focus on a new or harder concept or skill, the last thing we want is to do is add barriers to learning.  In the case of a child learning a new math concept or skill, lots of text or math problems on a page can be a huge barrier to the goal of learning.

What do we do to help our kids improve their skills, acquire and learn new information? How do we help struggling learners to progress academically?

adhd homeschooling the distracted child, adhd, autism, homeschool training

Another Simple Tip to Help Struggling Students

Instead of an entire sheet of 25 math problems, grab a blank piece of paper and write out one math problem in large text.

That one math problem on a clean sheet of paper is less threatening and now more accessible to your child. Anxiety lessens and the brain is then more available to learn.  I would rather a child do five math problems and learn for the long-term, than have a student fight through tears and stress to finish twenty-five.

Small chunks of intentional teaching over time yield fruit.

Homeschooling Your Struggling Student

The next time your child starts to melt down at the thought of reading or doing math, think:

‘Remove the barriers.’  

  1. Grab a sticky note and cover up the majority of text on a page and read line by line.
  2. Write multiplication problems one at a time on a small whiteboard in LARGE text. 

Open The Doors To Learning By Removing Visual Clutter

Remove the barrier and don’t drain your child’s mental capacity by forcing his brain to wade through a bunch of visual clutter before he masters a new concept.   Your child’s innate fight or flight response will be lessened. Her ability to receive and process new information will be freed up to actually learn and receive the concept.

Before a child can ever do hundreds of math problems they must be given the opportunity to succeed at a few.

Slowly over time, you can increase the workload if necessary.

Goals for our Struggling Student

In the end, always remember: What is my goal? What is the most efficient and peaceful way to hequip my child to learn and move onto the next level?

Do you have a struggling student? A child with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia or other learning difference?  Your child can succeed when equipped based on his or her God-given wiring. 

Check out all the homeschool teacher trainings available in A Heart For All Students Store.  

These include:

  1. The Unregulated Child: Sensory Systems & Self-Regulation In Your Home & Homeschool
  2. Homeschooling The Distracted Child: Harnessing The Power of The ADHD Brain
  3. Huh? How Speech & Language Processing Impacts Reading, Writing & Relationships

Each one hour in-depth training will equip you to change the trajectory of your entire homeschool.

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4 thoughts on “Homeschooling A Struggling Student: One Simple Tip”

  1. Oh wow I wish I would have done this while my son was struggling at math. You are so right, it is the overwhelm looking at so many problems to solve that you give up before you even start.
    Great advice. Thank you

  2. Lindsay these are such great tips! As a homeschooling mom (which I guess all of us are now) these are the PERFECT tips that set both parents and students up for success! You’ve certainly mastered the art of speaking a child’s language. And knowing that they each speak different languages (through their behaviors) it’s easier to understand what they need, especially when they can’t say it! Thanks for being such a bright light in the mass of darkness our world is going through right now!


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