What Are Your Options When Your Child is Struggling in School?
Education problems can be difficult for children and parents. Many parents are confused and frustrated when their child is struggling in school and may not know where to turn for help. The good news is that there are many things a parent can do to help their child be successful academically.
Private Tutoring Services
One of the best ways to help a struggling student is to get them some one-on-one professional support outside of school. There are many options for this depending on what is provided in a given area, but parents can assess all the offered services with the same criteria.
The most important aspect of a tutor is their level of professionalism and knowledge. Free tutoring services are often offered by local libraries or organizations, and these are great for parents who can’t afford professional help, but they are also not as effective. These services are often staffed by volunteer high school students. It is important to choose a tutor who has some professional background in education or teaching. They may not be a professional teacher, but they should have some teaching experience and have worked with students in the past. Finding a true professional, such as a retired teacher, is a gem.
It is also important that a tutor works with students individually. The difference between one-on-one support and even a small group of two or three is dramatic. Many tutoring services work with students in groups because it is more cost-effective. Only choose a tutor or service that works with students individually.
Sometimes a child’s struggles can be traced back to their poor relationship with a teacher. As awesome as many teachers are, they are still human, and their personalities may simply not work well with certain students. A teacher may also not teach in a style that is effective for certain students. Many teachers are open to meeting with parents and discussing informal changes in the classroom that may help a student. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t help, a parent may pursue a change in classroom for the student.
It is important to keep in mind that barring a serious problem or misconduct, a school is not required to provide a student with a different teacher just because the parent requests it. At smaller schools, there may not even be another classroom option. A parent’s best bet is to request a meeting with the principal. Come prepared with evidence of the child’s lack of progress in a class and politely request the principal consider a switch. It is easier to do this at the beginning of the year, and principals will be reluctant to make such changes toward the middle or end of the year because of the disruption it causes to teachers and classes.
IEP and Specialized Services
A common reason for struggles in school is an underlying learning disability or condition. In this circumstance, a more formal level of intervention may be best for a student. This is accomplished with an IEP, or a slightly less formal 504 Plan. It is important for parents to understand the sometimes complex legality associated with these documents. Simply struggling in school or failing is not qualification for an IEP. A student must be diagnosed with a real learning disability by a professional.
If a student does qualify for an IEP, it opens up many possibilities and supports for parents and students. It also holds teachers more accountable for the student’s progress, goals and accommodations. A student may be able to work with specialists, and all the teachers who work with the students will have to create, report on and follow specific learning goals for the students. Most IEP teams meet once or twice a year for updates, and parents have a strong influence on goals and what services are provided.
Online and Homeschool
Sometimes traditional public school or even charter schools don’t work for a student. In this case, there are options outside the traditional system a parent may choose. One of the best options are homeschool options supported by professional services and providers. A parent cannot simply pull a child out of school and start homeschool without following specific state requirements because they would be breaking compulsory education laws.
Another great option is online elementary school, which is one way to accommodate a home school environment with real professional support. Some of these options are even provided for free as part of public school services depending on the situation and eligibility for enrollment. A student will do most of their work at home and may work with a teacher through online chat or videos. They may then meet the teacher in person a few times a week for certain activities, assessment and help.
This option can work very well for students who benefit from a less structured learning environment and work at their own pace. It is important for a homeschool or online learner to be self-motivated and disciplined about their work. Online learning is really great for those who have a strong academic focus and work ethic.
Many of these options can be confusing or intimidating at first glance. It is important to do thorough research on a program and carefully consider if a child is a good fit for that option. It is important not to lose heart because students who fail in one environment often excel in another. School problems rarely fix themselves. A parent should take action quickly if their student is struggling or failing. Sometimes a minor change makes the difference, and sometimes a major change is necessary for success.
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