What an excellent question! Thanks for the opportunity to offer up my thoughts!
Let me first begin by congratulating any parent who recognizes that a child in the homeschool may be having difficulty. Children do not always say what they mean, thus discovering a problem isn’t always that easy to spot. Test scores and incorrect responses are obvious – clues such as children complaining of being bored, hating subjects, and trying to stall or wiggle-out of doing school are much more difficult to sleuth. And still, with all of that said, though keen observation skills usually work well, sometimes just listening to one’s heart or gut can be the best method of all.
So, how to motivate and support children who struggle? It really depends on the child – your child – the one only you know best. Some ideas, however, include spending extra time with the child, providing a constant stream of love and encouragement, and expressing an understanding of what the student may be going through. Additional help in the subject area might also be needed, to include special time with mom, dad, or even an older sibling who is able to help with the work, as well.
When these avenues have been tried and exhausted, a change of scenery may be needed. Many parents do not realize the importance of classroom climate to successful learning, so looking at when and where schooling takes place may provide additional clues. Children who are tired or hungry cannot possibly perform as well as those who are well-rested or have recently eaten a nutritious meal or snack. Classroom location counts, too, as outdoor distractions, indoor noises, room temperature and many other factors can affect performance. Most everyone will admit to being distracted by a chilly window, a pencil-tapping family member or the sound of the garbage truck at one time or another.
And finally, a change in curriculum, method or style may be in order. The very same child may actually flourish by having the right set of tools – whatever those may be – surprising everyone including himself! Exploring other options for teaching the same subject could be just the ticket to taking that child from struggler in an area – to becoming his or her favorite subject!