For any parent, discovering your child is struggling with their academic performance is never an easy thing to hear. But the important thing is to approach the situation with an open heart and mind. It’s only too easy to take your child’s failures as a personal insult or a signal that your parenting skills are not up to par.

However, there are so many reasons that a learner may be battling to keep up. And if we are able to work together as a team with the school to support our children, then it’s a recipe for student success and academic progress.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

When it becomes apparent that children need academic support, the best course of action is to get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible and this can be a challenging process. There are a variety of factors that can impact a learner’s ability to cope with mainstream education.

Here are some factors you can consider:

  • Is your youngster getting enough sleep?
  • Is there an issue with their ability to focus at school?
  • Have they been absent from school and fallen behind?
  • Are there family issues at home that are weighing on your child’s mind?
  • Is your child being targeted by bullying?
little boy asleep in bed
Sometimes the reason for academic struggles can be something as simple as lack of sleep - Unsplash
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Pinpoint the problem and then form a plan to resolve the issues

Schedule an appointment with your child’s teacher to gain a better understanding of your child’s weaknesses in school and ask them for advice on how you can assist with the problem.

It’s important to have an open and supportive discussion with your youngster too. Ask them what you can do to help and check in with their feelings about the situation. It can be difficult for both parent and child to face the emotional side of the situation and it may help to make an appointment to see a counselor if need be.

Once you have a clearer idea of the situation at large it’s time to make arrangements for extra tutoring to bring about academic development. Providing positive academic mentoring  and learning support will also help to boost a learner’s confidence and this is so important.

The key is to keep checking in with both the educators and your child and ensure that you are seeing progress while at the same time not putting unnecessary pressure on your youngster.

What are the academic support options out there?

Academic support is blanket term that covers a variety of  supplementary approaches that have been developed in an effort to assist learners to achieve academic success. The main objective with any of these methods is to ensure that learners are able to reach their full potential.

There are numerous options to choose from whether it’s tutoring and mentoring or coaching for more effective study skills or merely homework help for particular subjects.

A basic outline of the options

  • Classroom Support

This will often mean some form of peer mentoring where a stronger student is paired with a learner that is having academic challenges in an effort to support them with their coursework.

Usually the school will arrange a peer tutor program but if this isn’t something that seems to be in motion at your child’s school then there’s no reason you can’t contact their teachers (during office-hours) and discuss the possibility of initiating peer mentorship or tutoring programs.

  • In School Support

Sometimes it helps just to have a study buddy. A small-group gathering of learners who can help each other with writing assignments, exams, test-prep and catching up on work that’s fallen behind is a great way to provide academic support.

Kids can learn new study habits from one another and help to reinforce the concepts they’re tackling in their syllabus by discussing school work with each other.

three students reading at desk
Youngsters thrive on the support of their peers - Unsplash
  • Before and Afterschool Support

Getting to school on time is tricky enough for most of us, but there are sometimes perks to getting to school early and one of them is that some schools provide academic support by arranging study groups before the school day begins. However, after school support is more popular and you may discover that there are plenty of extra classes (especially for math and science) that are offered as academic support by the school.

  • Outside School Support

There are probably more academic support options out there than you may think. You can find various non-profit organisations in South Africa such as SAEP who provide free tutoring assistance to learners who need help with their academics.

Sometimes local libraries also provide holiday programs that provide developmental enrichment to kids. And you may discover an after care facility that is focused providing support services for learners that require extra assistance with their homework and exam preparation.

The benefits of private tutoring

The nice thing about arranging your own academic tutoring program or strategy is that you can plan it to fit into your child’s schedule. An individualised plan also means that your child will be receiving exactly the kind of enrichment that they need.

It’s not uncommon to discover that a lack of confidence is the underlying cause for students who struggle with their academics. For this reason, one-on-one tutoring creates a safe learning environment as there is no reason for a learner to feel intimidated or embarrassed for asking questions in the way they may feel if they were to ask in front of a classroom full of peers.

school children seated on mat in class
Many children are just too shy to ask questions in class - Unsplash

As your youngster begins to connect with their tutor they are also likely to see their tutor as a mentor, which is so beneficial for a child whose self-confidence has taken a knock. And in time as learners’ academic skills improve they will automatically feel better about themselves too.

More reasons to find a tutor:

  • Private tutors are driven to ensure their students achieve excellent academic achievement.
  • Hiring a private tutor means you are able to tailor the tutoring to fit into your child’s schedule in a way that is most convenient for both you and your child.
  • Private tutoring is offered in a variety of ways, such as online tutoring, at-home tutoring or even group tutoring sessions.
  • By making use of home tutors, students with learning disabilities, behavioural challenges or even ESL students are given the opportunity to excel just as much a chance as their peers.
  • Tutors are thoroughly screened and can therefore be trusted.
  • Apart from having specialised knowledge in particular subjects, the best tutors will also have great general knowledge and be able to provide academic advising about matters such as college applications and bursaries etc.
  • Professional tutoring can help to reinforce the coursework covered by the school syllabus as well as providing additional knowledge and skills.
  • Working with a personal tutor can teach learners new social and communication skills while at the same time teaching them how to work with other people.
  • Students also learn to take on more responsibility for their education as many home tutors hold learners (and not their parents) accountable for their studies.
  • Tutors help children to learn valuable study skills and learning strategies.
  • Making use of tutoring services often results in learners approaching their studies with far more enthusiasm and positivity.
  • Individual tutoring has the wonderful side-effect of addressing mental health issues by decreasing anxiety and increasing self-esteem.

Finding the right tutor

When you find yourself at the tutoring crossroads the biggest challenge can be deciding who to select as a tutor for your child. This person will, after all, play a very significant role in your youngster’s life.

A good place to start is by asking other parents for a referral or even contacting the school and enquiring about recommended tutors in your area. However if you still don’t seem to making any headway like this then you may have to do a little digging around online.

Three fundamental qualities to look out for in a tutor

  1. Safety – Ensure that your tutor has been thoroughly screened and doesn’t have a criminal record.
  2. Knowledge – double check that the tutor you plan to hire has the correct qualifications to assist with the subjects that your child needs assistance with. You have every right to request a copy of their education certificate.
  3. Communication – Ensure that you feel a good rapport with the tutor you plan to hire. It will be vital that you find it easy to communicate with them and that they understand the outcomes you desire to be achieved through the tutoring process.

What is the best age to begin providing supplemental instruction for my youngster?

You can begin during the preschool schooling phase, as early as the age of two. Early childhood development is crucial in the academic process. Children should be assessed on these main areas of development:

  • Physical development
  • Verbal communication
  • Social and emotional development
  • Creativity and self-expression
  • Basic literacy and maths

If a problem is picked up at this age it provides ample time and opportunity to redirect your child’s development and help them to quickly catch up with their peers. Tutored students will usually be stronger, more confident children.

teacher teaching young boy to write with crayons
It's never too soon to seek academic support - Unsplash

There are plenty of tutors who specialise in early childhood development. In tutoring sessions for little ones there will be a major emphasis on play, cognitive and behavioural therapy.

It's crucial for parents to be reminded that seeking tutoring services and extra academic support is nothing to be ashamed of. This is by no means a poor reflection of parenting skills, if anything it's the sign of attentive an nurturing parents that only want the best for their kids.

Don’t put pressure on either yourself or your children and remember that everyone works at a different pace. You may discover hidden talents when children are given the privilege of one-on-one instruction.

The truth is that most children will need, and certainly thrive, on personalised academic support at some point in their school career.

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Kyla

Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.