My child is struggling in school. How can I help?

Every child will have the occasional school struggle, this is normal. If you notice that struggle becomes a frequent issue there are things you can do to help support your child.

First, you should talk to your child. You likely can work together to find a solution that will make things less stressful for your child. Make sure they understand that proper sleep for their age and a healthy diet can make a difference in their ability to focus during the day.

Where do I start?

If you have just moved to Ontario, the adjustment to a new home, new friends, new school system, new everything can be very overwhelming for your child. This can show up in their school work with lower grades than expected. Ask your child’s school if they have any suggestions to help with the transition; your school may even have a settlement worker that you can talk to.

You can talk to your child’s teacher with them, or separately if needed. Sometimes the teacher may miss the little things that add up and impact student learning. Most teachers will send home information at the beginning of each school year about how they will communicate with students and families. In the Ontario school system, it is appropriate and expected that parents and teachers talk about things that come up during the school year both academically and personally; think of yourself as part of the success support team for your child.

If you want help speaking to your child’s teacher, you can ask if there is a settlement worker in the school that can help you prepare for the meeting or even interpret, if you need language support. If they do not have someone that speaks your language, you can find a settlement worker that does or even ask a friend that you trust to help translate for you.

Each child will develop at a different rate, just like the early years with big milestones such as walking and talking. Especially in the early grades, children will learn at their own pace. You may want to mention school struggles to your child’s doctor, who may have suggestions on what might help or who to talk to next. They can also rule out any problems with hearing or vision.

Elementary School

You will be able to see what your child is learning when they bring homework home. The amount of homework your child will take home after school will depend on their grade level. Homework helps students learn good study habits while supporting what is learned during the school day. Even as early as Kindergarten, students bring home some type of assignment appropriate for their grade level.

In Ontario, the school will send Elementary Progress Report Cards early in each school year to update you on your child's progress and how well they are developing important learning skills and work habits. Progress Report Cards do not have letter grades or percentage marks. They include comments from your child's teacher and highlight strengths and areas for improvement. Reporting dates may be different between schools.

High School

High school is an important time in your child's education. Helping your child with time management and organization of their assignments is an important part of academic and professional development.

High schools in Ontario send home report cards that give clear information about how a student is doing; the reporting dates may be different for each school. Most students have a semester schedule and will receive a first and final report each semester.

Course Levels

Moving up to high school can be difficult for some students. It can be even more difficult moving from another country’s education system. The courses, method of instruction and workload may be different from what they are used to and they might need to select courses at a more suitable learning level.

There are four levels of courses that high school students may choose from:

  • Academic/University - these courses focus on theory and prepare students for university after graduation
  • Applied/College - these courses focus on practice and offer a practical and hands-on approach to learning, which is more suitable for college after graduation.
  • Locally Developed - these courses are recommended for students with specific learning needs, sometimes they are called Essentials for students in a special education program.
  • Open - these courses are designed for all students, an example of these are Health and Physical Education

You can talk with your child and their teachers to determine if it is necessary to change course levels.

Student Success Programs

Ontario's Ministry of Education has created Student Success programs to support high school students learning and their individual needs to meet graduation requirements.

Guidance Counsellors and Community Support

Adjusting to the new environment and culture at school takes time and they may be having difficulty with other students.

Every high school in Ontario has guidance counsellors who are there to help students with both academic struggles or personal issues. It may be helpful to ask your child to make an appointment with their guidance counsellor and talk to them openly.

You can also encourage your child to join a youth group with other newcomers who are experiencing similar challenges. Many settlement agencies and community centres have youth programs that could help your child socially and academically.

For More Information

  • Ontario Curriculum - Information on the secondary school curriculum in Ontario. From the Ministry of Education.
  • People For Education - A parent-led organization working to support public education in Ontario's English, French, and Catholic schools.
  • Newcomers' Guides to Education- A guide outlining what you need to know about schools in Ontario so your child adjusts smoothly. From Settlement.Org.
  • New Youth - Resources to help newcomers and young Canadians in high school.
Last updated: November 8, 2021 4006502