How to Help a Child Who is Frustrated With Learning

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We’ve all been there and we’ve tried lots of things. Our child is stuck in frustration with math or handwriting or learning to read. 

Early on in my family’s homeschooling journey, I figured out that my kids much preferred hands on learning to sitting down and filling out worksheets. 

Later I figured out that it wasn’t just hands on activities that helped them retain and process information, but moving their whole bodies helped too:  stomping, jumping, running. 

frustrated learners 2

When my son was frustrated with learning multiplication tables, even after we’d slowed the pace of learning, taken a break for a couple of months, then come back to it, I knew it was time to get him moving. We literally jumped out of the math workbook and created games where he could learn multiplication by running up and down the stairs or by using a fly swatter and some sidewalk chalk on our front steps. 

We’ve always learned about history with a lot of movement because history involves interesting characters and events that can be acted out. When we studied ancient history, we made a small version of the Nile River in our yard. My daughter has learned about many time periods by reading the American Girl historical doll series with me and acting out scenes with her dolls. 

I began to use the term Whole Body Learning for these activities because they were so much more than just hands on.  

Multi-sensory activities were effective, too. I found that frustration eased whenever my kids could experience something with several of their senses.  Practicing handwriting or spelling with the salt tray engaged their sense of touch and smell (it’s easy to add scent to the salt). Building the continents out of dough wasn’t just fun, it really cemented learning. 

Sensory and movement learning methods are often commonplace for very young children but research supports these methods of learning for kids of all ages. In one experiment, high school physics students who had the opportunity to touch and experience physical objects demonstrating the concepts they were learning about, performed better on tests than students who learned the same concept with traditional textbook and lecture methods. 

Coming up with the activities does not have to be a consuming task though it may seem so at first. I have found with my own kids that the opportunities will present themselves.  

My 8-year-old daughter has been not quite getting money math for some time. She’s not super frustrated but it’s just not clicking. We pulled out real dollars and coins, but still, it wasn’t clicking. Last week, her workbook pages for the day were once again about money math. I tossed the workbook back on the shelf and grabbed a piece of paper. We were planning to shop for some party supplies for her birthday later that day. I gave her a budget, she made  a list of what she wanted to buy. We went to the store with a calculator and comparison shopped. She came in under budget and was not only delighted with herself for that, but exclaimed, “I did a great job with math today!” 

So simple, but I wondered why I hadn’t thought to do something like that with her before. Then we did a little dance in the parking lot of the store. Yes, we did. 

Use your curricula as a guide. I have five different math curricula for early elementary school on my shelf.  And I only have three kids. It finally dawned on me that there was no magical math curriculum out there and that I could adapt what I had. 

This works with science, history, math, reading, spelling, handwriting, you name it. It works for special needs kids, too (I have two of my own). 

I’ve shopped for the perfect piece of curricula, researching, asking friends for recommendations. Finally, I found it. “This is it,” I said to myself, “This is what we’ve needed all along.”  The problem felt solved. I checked off that box, only to find that my child was still frustrated with that subject.

Buying books/texts/workbooks/programs is often just the beginning to helping our kids learn. We open that fresh new book or that gorgeous box of curriculum only to find we have a frustrated learner. Moving them from there to an engaged, fascinated student is the next step.

I’ll be talking in depth about specific ways you can incorporate Whole Body Learning into your homeschool and many more ideas about how to help frustrated learners at the Well Trained Mind Online Conference in June. 

We’ll also talk about:

  • How to stop handwriting battles.
  • How to make history more exciting.
  • How to get kids to like math.
  • And much more.

You can join me, in your pjs from your couch. Three Thursdays from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $20 for 270 minutes. 

Find out more here:

 Online Homeschool Conference


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