I’m one of those mums teachers hate. I request meetings all the time. I ask about homework on a weekly basis. I send emails begging for test results, spelling quizzes, maths questions.
I’m annoying and I know it. Why? Because I have an eight-year-old son who has given up on himself, who has lost confidence in his ability to learn, who is falling further and further behind in school.
And I refuse to let it get any worse.
We all want our kids to succeed. And all kids do at certain things. Some kids are great at music. Others at sport. Some are crazy fast at reading, or maths, or running. Some kids are all of the above. And more.
My son is amazing at so many things. But school isn’t one of his strong points. It never has been. And, truth be told, it never will be. As a mum who also happens to be a writer, watching him struggle with writing is ironic.
School isn’t easy for everyone
I know he’s not the only one. I know there are heaps of mums out there who have a child struggling in school. Who watch their little ones try so hard, but give up because they simply don’t understand.
So, to the mums, like me, whose kids are falling behind or are classified as ‘slow learners’, here’s how we can help them.
1. Accept that your child’s schooling is your responsibility
My son has a teacher. From the hours of 9 to 3 (give or take) she is required to be responsible for him (and 25 other kids). It is her job to teach him the basics (if he choses to listen, which, he most often does not).
But for the rest of the time, it is my job. And not just to help him with his homework. It is my job to help him find the confidence to try again, to believe that he can figure it out, to understand that school is hard, but it’s worth the extra effort.
It’s so easy to pass off schooling to the teacher. But it’s also not fair to them or to your child. Every child learns at a different rate and some kids need a little more help. This help starts at home.
2. Embrace the inner pushy school mum
Sure, my child’s teacher should hate me. I’m annoying AF. But, the thing is, she doesn’t. She welcomes my meetings, my questions, my extra homework books.
We work together to go over what we need to do to make sure he doesn’t fall any further behind. We write to-do-lists. We make schedules. Then she teaches him during school. And I work with him at home.
3. Don’t half-ass the whole homework thing
It’s easy to give up and let homework slip. But I owe it to my son to give it my all. I need to give him the best chance to succeed. If he’s going to do his best in school, I have to do my best at home to help him.
So every afternoon I stand behind him as he complains about doing homework. I give him a push when he’s losing focus. I give him a compliment when he’s starting to give up. I remind him why he needs to learn. And I bribe him, I mean, reward him. A lot.
4. Organise the shit outta it
Having a plan also seems to help, especially as my son does have quite a few areas where he does need extra help.
So I made a schedule (and I’m not much of a scheduler to be honest). Every day we either do spelling, maths or writing. Every night we read. I have exercise books that are labelled with different activities. And stickers. And different coloured pens. Hell, I’ve even laminated a few things.
I’ve never been so organised with anything in my entire life. But, you know what, if I’m gonna be a crazy homework mum, I’m going to be the best damned crazy homework mum there ever was.
5. Don’t give up on yourself. Or your child
Some homework sessions are harder than others. Truth be told, most are tricky and involve 15 excuses why he doesn’t need to do it.
Most also end in him feeling frustrated. He wants to understand but he has lost all faith in his ability to figure it out. He assumes he’s going to fail, so he doesn’t even try.
It’s hard to watch.
Honestly, some days I have to walk away because I don’t want to let him see my tears. Other days I have to walk away because I am so frustrated that he doesn’t seem to give a shit.
But some days he does get it. And we high five and he walks away smiling, proud, excited that he’s learned a new skill.
One day, he will get it every single time. We will end every session with smiles and high fives. It’s not going to happen overnight but one day, he will use the right “there” and understand what a fraction is.
One day he will be able to write a book review without help. And one day, he may just thank me for helping him through this. Maybe even through a perfectly-spelled letter.
If your little one is struggling in school, don’t think you’re alone. Every child learns at a different pace and some kids do need a little bit of a push in the right direction.
So, to the mums with a child struggling in school, you’re not failing because your child is a bit slow at learning. You’re winning because you care enough to do something about it.
Have a little one starting school soon? Have a read of To the Little Ones (and Their Mums) Starting School, This is For You.