By Jaimi Erickson
It felt like a personal failure. Looking at my daughter’s academic assessment at the end of the year made me feel like I had failed as a parent. I want my children to find and use their strengths, but there is so much that they have to learn in the school years. Although it is challenging, we have to get creative to make sure our children do not get so far behind that catching up becomes overwhelming.
With military moves, you don’t always get to pick the best school for your children. We are limited in our school choice by base and location. Military families have to make the best of each duty station. That sometimes means our kids do not get the best school experience.
As proactive parents, there is a lot we can do to support our children through challenging times when they begin falling behind in school. There are interventions we can take to support our children through tough academic seasons. The most important goal for our children is to focus on doing their best. We can help them find their strengths and thrive because of them.
6 Steps You Can Take to Help Your Child If They Fall Behind in School
The following 6 action steps will help you support your children’s success if they are struggling in school.
1. Communicate with the Teacher
Maintain communication with your child’s teacher. This is an important first step every school year. If your child is in middle or high school, then communicating with multiple teachers is an essential part of your role as the parent.
You need to know what work is being assigned. This is the only way to assess how your child is handling it. Communicating with the teacher regularly will help you stay aware of your child’s successes and weaknesses.
“When parents become involved at school by, for example, attending events such as open houses or volunteering in the classroom, they build social networks that can provide useful information, connections to school personnel (e.g., teachers), or strategies for enhancing children’s achievement,” an APA research review said.
If you know what is expected of your children and you are helping them to stay on track, they will be less likely to fall behind.
2. Contact Your School or School Liaison
School liaisons are attached to each base in all branches of the military. They are a first point of contact at each new duty station. School liaisons help military families get acquainted with the school options in the local area. They serve all military families, whether you send your child to school, or you homeschool.
The school liaison at your duty station can help you locate school services, find outside support, or direct you to base organizations with tools that will help support your student. They are a great resource to give you a checklist of places to contact when your child needs academic support.
3. Ask Homeschool Friends for Tips
Homeschool parents are educating their children with individualized instruction, based on the way they learn. In the public schools, we call these IEPs (short for Individualized Education Program). You may know a homeschool parent who can share curriculum resources you can use to supplement learning at home or who knows the local resources for academic support and intervention.
Don’t be afraid to ask a homeschool parent how they would approach your child’s learning challenges. They just may have first-hand knowledge to share.
4. Use a Curriculum Assessment
As a parent, you can administer a free online curriculum assessment to assess grade level or learning gaps. You can even give your child a standardized test. Once you have assessed your child’s skills based on a curriculum assessment, you can supplement their learning at home. Or, you can work with their teacher to intervene where the learning gaps are occurring.
As a homeschool parent, I administer a standardized test to each of my children once per year. The results always help me better understand what my child has learned and what they still need to learn.
5. Supplement at Home
I think proactive parenting can help catch kids before they fall behind in school. When we are present and aware of how our children are doing on their school work, and we communicate with the teacher, everyone is on the same page. This creates a team approach to each child’s learning goals.
I felt like I was in a collaborative teaching situation when my older two were attending a hybrid school program. The same curriculum was used at school and home. This allowed me to see where my children were succeeding and where they were struggling. The teacher and I could share ideas and work together to help my children improve.
All parent-teacher relationships should take a team approach. Even setting up learning activities at home can help your child work on skills. If your involvement in the school or classroom is being dismissed or discouraged, that school may not be the right one for your child.
6. Change Schools
A last step, but one that may be necessary if your child is not in a supportive school environment, is to find another school. This can seem daunting and nearly impossible. There is a lot of misinformation out there about the school choice parents do have. We have more choice than we may know. From private schools, hybrid schools, virtual schools, homeschools and non-traditional group schools and co-ops, there is a school option to help each child thrive.
Set Up Your Child for Success
Ultimately, knowing your child, working with the teachers at school, supplementing at home, reaching out for academic support, and making the best school choice for your child are steps to take when your child is falling behind in school. You may not need to walk through each step detailed above. But, this is a guide you can use as a parent to advocate for your child.
Every military child can learn, has skills, and can succeed. We just need to be aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and work with them as a team to help support their academic success. The more involvement we have in our children’s academic life, the better success they will achieve.