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There’s No Such Thing as “Falling Behind” in Home Schooling

It’s summer– A time when homeschool parents often plan for a new school year, work with their students to “catch up” or “get ahead” and celebrate the completion of school work and courses. After my time spent in the public and private school world before starting Mr. D Live, I often heard these phrases used to assess a student’s progress. As I’ve developed my curriculum and virtual classrooms, I’ve veered away from these ideas and this language because it measures students compared to an arbitrary timeline of where they’re “supposed to be.” As a home educator, you have the beautiful opportunity to connect with your child where they are, support their learning style, and encourage them to love learning, and keep growing! This simple shift in language and approach provides a powerful foundation for students to thrive.

One of the most unique components of a personalized curriculum is teachers who are truly invested in the growth and success of their students; Celebrating and encouraging students when they understand is just as important as helping them understand.  

Let’s break down the two most important factors that will empower a student in their education: Supporting students current understanding and celebrating them as they progress!

Supporting Students Where They Are

Given the unexpected and difficult circumstances of COVID-19, it can be easy to feel like your student is “falling behind”.  Many are faced with the challenge of having to adjust to online classes for the first time. Seeing your student’s progress change under the current circumstances can feel overwhelming.  This is one of the unique beauties of homeschooling: there really is no such thing as “falling behind”.  

Your child is developing at their own pace and the joy of homeschooling is that their education gets to match that pace.  At Mr. D Live, our approach has always been to help the student understand where they are and support students to understand, never simply “grading” them.  Because each student is a unique individual with their own learning style and needs, the most effective approach is always an individualized approach.  While other teachers/programs (especially online programs) may place the emphasis on “catching up”, it can be much more effective to instead focus on empowering the student to truly grasp where they are and where they are headed.

Here are a few of the ways we do this in Mr. D Live’s Virtual Classroom. For students who need an extra level of support so that they feel prepared to move on to the next concept, we offer “extra help sessions” in our live classes and self-paced curriculum. Students can meet with a teacher (even several times a week) to have personalized help and support with the concepts.  This is an opportunity to have a teacher truly walking alongside your student, understanding their unique learning style, and ensuring that they are truly grasping the concepts before moving on.  If you’re not sure if your student is ready to tackle the next level in math, check out our “summer readiness” courses. In Readiness, we review the concepts in the previous level of math to ensure the student is equipped with the skills and knowledge to confidently move on to the next level.

Encouragement and celebrating success!

Encouraging students when they’re excelling and understanding is equally as important as supporting students where they are and helping them move forward.  Similarly to how different students need different types of support, different students also need different types of encouragement. 

Let’s talk about a few ways to empower your student when they are excelling:

Celebrating Past Accomplishments

Acknowledging and celebrating past accomplishments is one of the most accessible forms of encouragement.  Telling your student things like, “It’s incredible how far you’ve come since last year” can help give them a big picture perspective on their learning journey and a chance to truly celebrate all the effort they’ve put in to get to where they are now.  This is a great one to keep in mind also for students who are struggling or in the midst of a tough patch.

Giving Specific Encouragement

Think of a small child creating a drawing they are very proud of.  They proudly bring it to their parent to show their work and the parent says, “Wow! It’s amazing. I love it.”  While the encouragement is no doubt received by the child, imagine the difference if the parent were to say, “Wow. I love the way you used different colors and lines in the trees. It shows your imagination!” Whether or not it is conscious on the part of the child, this type of response will continue to generate higher levels of imagination and creativity than simply general praise. This same concept is very easily applied to us as adults and even to a high school-aged student working on math. If you highlight specific details while giving encouragement, it can often inspire the student to continue to expand themselves as learners, not just study hard and do well on tests.  This leads us to the final form of encouragement…

Highlighting Increased Independence as a Learner

As parents of homeschoolers, one of our ultimate goals is for our students to become self-sufficient in their learning.  If you continue to highlight and encourage the ways in which they are demonstrating increased independence (even if very small ways), they may, in turn, be more motivated to expand in their independence and self-motivation.  One way to do this is to pay attention to and point out when you notice your student taking initiative (whether it is completing additional practice tests or starting on new concepts on their own).

We encourage you to take a look at what types of strategies may be most helpful for your unique learner and the place they are in on their learning journey.  Does your child need a bit of additional support on concepts they are having trouble grasping?  Or perhaps they could use some extra encouragement to truly appreciate how they are excelling.  Wherever they are in their journey, our team is here for support.  Check out our Summer Readiness classes to consider getting a jump-start for the fall, or reach out to one of our team members for personalized support if your student is struggling. 

We’d like to leave you with some words shared by one of our student’s mothers, celebrating her daughter’s accomplishments in the face of learning challenges:

“I cannot thank you enough for your help! And if it’s alright, please allow me to gush a little bit about what this offer means to my daughter and her future. She is eleven years old and has always “gotten” math but I’ve never pushed her very hard. We’ve operated at a “comfortable + 1” pace using, first, RightStart Math, then, Khan Academy. When I won the drawing for a Mr. D Math course, I didn’t want to waste it just because she was too young to go into PreAlgebra. But, with no expectation, only hope, I set her on a sort of “pre-pre-algebra” path this past school year in hopes she would be able to take the PreAlgebra course here for the 2020 school year. She is now completely ready for Algebra 1 though she is only a rising 6th grader. She will be getting high school credit for the course. That would be exciting for any 11 year old but it has sent this particular 11 year over the moon because she is dyslexic. She didn’t read at all until she was 9. She mostly reads on grade level now but it’s still more of a struggle for her than for her peers and her spelling may always be atrocious. She spent the first several years of her schooling feeling dumb, always feeling like she came up short compared to her peers. This idea of getting ahead in high school credits at her age, for a person who felt so, so behind in other areas, will change not only her confidence and belief in herself but her whole future. This course could be the beginning of letting her graduate ahead of schedule. This offer from Mr. D’s Math is maybe insignificant to the organization; it’s only one class after all, but the impact on my daughter and our family is immense, immeasurable.”