Due to the pandemic, virtual learning, and a transition back to in-person classes, more students are behind than ever. Millions of students have fallen behind the expectations for their grade level in both math and reading. How do you know if your child is one of these students?
Signs your child is falling behind:
If your child avoids school or complains of physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches before school, it might be a sign that they are anxious to go to school because they are behind. Especially in younger children, who tend to associate emotions with physical feelings, consistent physical symptoms might be a sign your child is trying to avoid going to school.
A child who comes home from school and doesn’t ever want to talk about their day might also be falling behind. This unwillingness to talk about what they learned could stem from the fact that they didn’t understand their lessons, and are embarrassed about it.
A change in attitude or acting out at school could be a sign that your child is behind. Being frustrated with the topics, the teacher, or their own feelings of confusion can result in a child being angry and uncooperative at school.
Big changes in your child’s homework routine or the time they spend doing homework also indicates that they are struggling. If a child who spends 20 minutes a day doing homework is suddenly spending 50 minutes each night on the same amount of work is probably falling behind. Spending much more time than the teacher says it should take also means they aren’t fully grasping the subject.
Complaining about being bored at school can mean your child isn’t understanding what they should. Nobody likes listening to a topic that they don’t understand, and children are the same way. Being bored can come from continuing to learn a topic they already know, but it can also mean they have no understanding of the topic. If your child tells you they are bored at school, ask them questions to figure out if it’s because the work is something they understand or something they don’t know.
The most obvious sign a child isn’t where they should be academically is poor grades or feedback from teachers.
Why do kids fall behind?
There are plenty of reasons why a student may be falling behind. The most obvious is academic issues; If a student missed the explanation of a concept that was built on later, that lack of knowledge will follow them into the next topics.
Social changes like switching schools, moving to a new grade, or being bullied by another student can also impact academic performance. When a child is using their energy trying to make friends, fit in, or avoid potential problems, they aren’t able to put that energy into their schoolwork.
Physical or emotional struggles can have a huge effect on if a student is learning or not. If your child is unable to hear the teacher or see the board, it will be impossible for them to learn at the same rate as the students around them. Even something as common as anxiety can be a huge distraction to a student’s learning.
An undiagnosed condition like ADHD (trouble regulating focus), dyslexia (struggling to read words), or dyscalculia (struggling to read numbers) can cause students to fall behind. Talking to your child’s teacher and doctor about these possibilities can help determine if this is a factor in your student’s academic struggles.
A child may also fall behind because of a bad relationship with their teacher. If they feel their teacher dislikes them or is targeting them, a student will be unmotivated to pay attention, participate in class, and do classwork or homework. If your child seems to be falling behind, consider asking them how they feel about their teacher.
No matter what the reason is that your child is behind, it’s never too late to help them get back up to speed.
What you can do to help them catch up:
Make a list of things to catch up on. Whether it’s missing homework assignments, projects, or reviewing for an exam, start a list of things that need to get done. Not only will this keep you and your child organized, but crossing things off the list will help them see how much progress they have made so far.
Prepare a homework schedule. This schedule may change depending on your child’s age, and can be as simple as sitting down for twenty minutes after school to start their homework. Getting into the routine of doing homework at the same time every day can encourage a student to get their work done.
Keep papers organized. Using folders, binders, and labels can stop your child’s backpack from overflowing with papers. Keeping track of homework, projects, and class worksheets means that a student can reference their old work to help figure out anything they might not understand.
Check in with your child’s teacher. Ask if there are any specific topics or subjects your child is struggling with, and see if there are suggestions the teacher has on how to catch them up. Know how long homework is supposed to take each night to gauge if your child is on the right track.
Try tutoring. A tutor will be able to invest more focus in your child’s learning process than a teacher who is working with 30 students at the same time. Small group tutoring means your child is getting the benefits of individual attention, and has more opportunities to focus on filling in any gaps. Encourage them to ask all the questions they have.