Homeschooling for Adults who are Struggling

Covid-19 has turned our world upside down and for adults struggling with a hidden learning difficulty home-schooling their children is proving particularly challenging.

Adults with learning difficulties are, in my opinion, some of the smartest people on this planet. I know that sounds like a bit of a contradiction but it’s true. They are masters at disguising their difficulties and that that takes a lot of intelligence.

At Hummingbird Learning Centre, our initial main interaction is with adults who either have learning issues themselves or who are parents of children who need our help.

The adults that we work with have different, unique and at times heart-breaking stories but there is always one common thread that links each story together. It is the lifetime spent disguising their literacy and numeracy difficulties and the huge amounts of energy that goes into hiding them. They feel like frauds, expecting every day to be caught out and exposed. By the time they contact me, they are usually physically & mentally exhausted.

Now, they feel that home-schooling will expose them and potentially diminish them in the eyes of their children. I have had calls about this & I’ve said the same thing to each – your kids love you and that won’t change, very often they won’t even notice once you frame things differently to how the school does things.

I am not a Teacher

Remind your kids that you are not a schoolteacher and that school has changed a lot since your day. We didn’t do science – a nature table was about the height of it. Phonics was a distant concept and how we did subtraction was completely different! So, if there is something that is new to you, turn the lesson into a collaborative event and work it out together. Doing some preparation before starting will give you a head start. You will see in advance if there are areas that you’re not sure of or words that you don’t know.

If you are unsure of a word, then google ‘How to Pronounce’ and add the word.  I find that people tend to understand the spoken word, they are just unfamiliar with the written version of it. If you still don’t know then use to find out other words that have the same meaning. Generally, you will know one or more of them.

Making a Mistake

In my experience, adults with hidden learning difficulties would prefer to say that they don’t know something rather than answer & perhaps get it wrong. When I delve further, we usually find that they may well know the answer but are so afraid of making a mistake that they would rather pretend that they don’t know. Kids are very forgiving but also a little selfish – if mum or dad gets it wrong & they get it right, they will focus on their triumph rather than the parent’s mistake.


One lovely gentleman that came to us at Hummingbird Learning Centre and told me that he didn’t like the person he was at work. He was in a management position and was so terrified of being caught out in his literacy skills that he had created this bad-tempered persona which kept people away from him. Our kids know all the buttons to press and with everyone’s movements being restricted now, it is easy to get frustrated.

If you find that you are getting frustrated with the kids because you are struggling to help them with schoolwork, then pack away the books for an hour or two and so something else. Have a water fight in the back garden, go looking for insects, take photos of them and then go onto google to identify them (While writing this, I did just that to find the name the HUGE spider on the floor beside me). Education is SO much more than getting through textbooks!

Use Technology

I find that most people with learning difficulties find visual learning much easier. Thankfully, this pandemic has happened when most of us have decent internet access.  Google and YouTube like a teenager!

Secondary School

Leave the secondary teaching to the teachers. By now classes are up and running online so leave your teenagers to it. Every parent will feel inadequate with secondary school subjects.  Focus on how you can support them in other ways at this time. Encourage them to ask their teachers questions. Even though they may not want to ask during class – now they can email their questions to the teacher. This is a learning experience for teachers too and they need feedback on how they are doing.


When the pandemic subsides, we will return to a new normal. Schools will have devised ways to get children back on track and there will have to be a period of catch up and getting everyone on level pegging. Your relationship with your children is far more important. Just do the best that you can. Even a little will help them, but more importantly, it may help you too.

For more on what we do and how we help adults and children with their literacy & learning skills during the shutdown (we’ve been doing sessions on Zoom for over a year!)  contact Elaine Sparling on 087 2996054 or

1 Comment

  1. Deirdre O Connell says:

    Thanks Elaine ,

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