When Should You Remediate a Skill?

Remediation. Such a scary word. It conjures up pictures in our minds of students being carted off to “special” classes. Poorly-preforming students with no desire to learn. Scary.

Having recently come across this need in our schooling, I want to clear up a few misconceptions about remediation.

red clock when your child doesn't get itRemediation does not mean that your child isn’t smart.

Remediation does not mean that you didn’t do a good job teaching.

Remediation does not mean that you need to take your child back on every subject.

Remediation does not mean that your child will be “behind” forever.

So, what does remediation mean?

It simply means that while your child may have appeared to master a skill or should have mastered a skill, it becomes apparent that they need to go back and start from the top in order to build better comprehension, usage, and fluency with the skill.

In our case it has been multiplication.

One of my daughters is in the 4th grade. We are using the Math-U-See curriculum which means that all last year was spent on multiplication. She got straight A’s. She passed every test, got most of the answers right. She can even do extended multiplication.

However, as she began to apply the understanding to division like the curriculum calls for in the 4th grade, she kept getting stuck. She was getting frustrated. She would take for-ev-er to do her math pages for the day. I mean, simple stuff folks.

We tried reviewing with her while she continued to press forward.

It got worse. Much worse.

She started hiding her math under her bed.

“Houston we have a problem!”

Sometime between last year and her straight A’s and this year and her “I hate math” her understanding of the concept of multiplication diminished.

From the mighty Wikepediathe defining trait is simply that they have reached a point of underpreparedness, regardless of why”

Now, in a traditional school setting this might mean sending the student out for extra help, having an IEP, or a million other responses. I’m not saying any of those is a bad response. (I’m NOT an all-public-schools-and-teachers-are-evil kind of homeschooler.)

However, in a home schooling environment, the response is a lot different. 

When you notice:
Your student has developed a strong dislike for a subject.
Your student is taking a longer time than “normal” to finish assignments. 
Your student doesn’t seem to understand concepts that they may have learned in the past. 
Your student is hiding their schoolwork. *cough**cough*

Take action!

Don’t get angry, frustrated, upset, or whatever negative reaction you can think of. 

Take some time and pinpoint the skill that is causing the struggle. Set aside the curricula and find some new materials to practice that skill. 
multiplication spin and graph free printable practice page
I didn’t have another copy of her math book from last year, so I looked online for some resources. I made some things to complement those resources like this free set of Multiplication Spin & Graph sheets.

I did not drill her with flash cards. However, I did start from the beginning of the concept.

Because she is struggling with multiplication, we went all the way back to arrays and repeated addition to make sure that she understood the underlying concept. Turns out, she didn’t fully comprehend it. Which is why she was having a problem visualizing the reverse problems of division. 

She was able to memorize numbers, but the concept behind it was lacking. 

Now, we are working through the memorization of the facts again, making sure that there are no gaps. 

She is smiling when it’s math time. She’s not hiding her work. In fact, she rushes to work on it at the beginning of her school day. 


That’s a good sign!


Let me encourage you to go back and pinpoint the concept that your student may be struggling to understand. By remediating now, your student will be much more confident to face those skills going forward. You are not losing time.

Have you ever had to take a student back through skills that they seemed to master previously? Take a moment and share in the comments why and how you did it, so that we can all be better educators!

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