5 Common Reasons Why Children Struggle to Retain Concepts in School


According to the British Council, a child’s maximum attention span is roughly two to three times their age. For instance, if your child is 8, their attention span will be anywhere between 16 and 24 minutes. If they’re 9, their attention span will be between 18 and 27 minutes, and so on. The older children get, the more attention they pay.

Unfortunately, young children are at a greater risk of getting distracted. This can negatively impact their schooling experience. If your child frequently zones out in class, they could miss out on a significant portion of their lesson, perhaps even most of it.

Children who aren’t reeled back into the lesson by their teachers struggle to learn as well as their peers. Since they fail to absorb a significant amount of the lesson, they retain less. Consequently, they perform poorly on tests and exams. They also struggle to participate in class, stay on track during class activities, and achieve consistent academic growth.

If your child has been having trouble with concept recollection, make sure you address the root problems to help them get back on track. In this blog, we’ll offer a closer look at some common reasons why younger students have difficulty retaining concepts in school. Take notes, keep your child’s unique learning traits in mind, and implement the right changes to undo the damage.

1. Inability to Concentrate

As highlighted earlier, many young students struggle to concentrate in class. This is because of no fault of their own. Young children are in an active developmental and learning stage. They’re immensely curious and eager to learn.

Oftentimes, their curiosity compels them to fixate on a number of things within a short span. For instance, if a child is working on their Math homework, they could easily lose focus and fixate on a superhero figurine placed on their desk. Two minutes later, their attention may divert to an oddly shaped cloud that’s peeking through the window.

Children are thirsty for newness. It excites them and, most importantly, piques their interest. As they struggle to concentrate in class, children retain less, which affects their schooling experience.

As a parent, you can take several measures to undo the damage. We recommend taking a closer look at the mode of learning you’ve chosen for your child. Have you selected conventional (in-person), online, or flexible schooling? Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of online and flexible schooling have become more evident.

As children were required to spend over a year-and-a-half attending online school during the pandemic, many parents worried that their personal growth and social development would be affected, and rightfully so. When examined from the surface, online schooling sounds questionable as there’s a lack of in-person interaction. However, once students switch to online learning and acclimatise to it, ample personal growth and social development opportunities become apparent.

At Cambridge Home School, our students are taught by a team of experienced, committed, and passionate MA/PhD qualified subject specialist teachers. Moreover, we keep the classroom size extremely low. Each classroom comprises between 8–10 students. This helps our teachers provide individualised attention to every student. Children who get distracted mid-class are promptly reeled back into the lesson. This approach prevents them from remaining distracted and failing to retain their lesson in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Unfortunately, most conventional schools don’t utilise the same approach. Their student-teacher ratio is fairly high. Oftentimes, as many as 30 (or even more) students are taught in one classroom. Needless to say, teachers struggle to provide one-on-one attention to every student. They are unable to help distracted students regain an interest in the lesson; there are simply too many students in class for teachers to manage this task.

Unfortunately, many students zone out and are unable to concentrate on the lesson. This risk is significantly reduced when the online or flexible schooling model is used. As children are taught in smaller groups by experienced, qualified, and attentive teachers, they are consistently kept on track.

2. Boring, Tedious, and Unengaging Lessons

As a parent, you may think that something is wrong with your child if they’re struggling to retain concepts in school. This isn’t necessarily true. In many cases, students are unable to effectively absorb and retain knowledge because they’re made to sit through boring, tedious, and unengaging lessons. Many schools aren’t focused on making lessons more interactive, stimulating, and fun for students.

As highlighted earlier, younger students have a short attention span. If something doesn’t appeal to them or excite them, they’ll zone out and fixate on something else that does offer the novelty they’re seeking. As a teacher, understanding this is imperative.

At Cambridge Home School, we leverage advanced audio-visual technology to make our online lessons fun, engaging, exciting, and appealing for younger students. Our MA/PhD qualified subject specialist teachers use an individualised teaching approach to help young students take a greater interest in their lessons. From incorporating fun activities into lessons to planning skill-building games, we pull out all the stops to a) help students learn better, and b) reduce the chances of students getting bored.

If, however, young students do get distracted, our teachers are able to promptly help them get back on track. Since our student-teacher ratio is low, we can easily pick up on instances of students zoning out. As a parent, make sure you select an esteemed institution that has these measures in place.

Our teachers help children develop a genuine and healthy interest in their lessons. As they complete their homework or revise after school hours, they look forward to it instead of dreading it.

You can take similar measures to help your child perceive their education as something that’s fun, not complex and boring. Once your child completes their classes for the day, plan activities that reinforce the concepts they learned in school in an engaging and stimulating manner. For instance, if they learned about magnets in Science class, plan a fun project that excites them. Click here for some inspiration!

We utilise the same approach at Cambridge Home School. Once we’ve covered the theoretical aspect of a certain topic or sub-topic, we follow it up with an activity to ensure that students a) understand the concept, and b) are able to effectively apply it. This approach increases knowledge retention among students. It also helps them perform better in school. From actively participating in class to securing excellent grades, our students progress exceptionally well in school.

3. Hectic Scheduling

Young children are active, enthusiastic, and always ready for a new adventure. However, this doesn’t mean that their schedule should be so hectic that they feel drained, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the end of the day. Many conventional schools have this effect on young students. As they shuffle in and out of classes for hours, they’re worn out by the time they return home.

Tiredness has a negative effect on learning. As the brain is deprived of sleep and the body is utilised beyond its capacity, it becomes harder for children to concentrate and remember things. Children who feel physically and mentally drained by the end of the day are at a greater risk of developing behavioural problems, suffering from poor academic growth, and experiencing anxiety. Their alertness levels are also reduced, which results in poor knowledge absorption and retention.

If your child performs a task that requires logical reasoning, they’ll struggle to complete it. As their brain development is affected, their neurons will be overworked to the point that optimal or even regular performance cannot be achieved. Children begin to lack in one aspect or another: mentally, emotionally, physically, academically, athletically, personally, or socially, and so on.

As a parent, take this seriously. If your child feels extremely tired by the end of the day, they’re being overworked. Switching from conventional to online schooling is a great way to undo the damage. Since online schooling is more focused, students aren’t required to sit through protracted lessons. They retain a lot of energy that is otherwise wasted in a conventional schooling environment. This energy can instead be utilised for skill-building games and activities, sports, arts and crafts, excursions, explorations, socialisation, and personal enrichment after school. Students can explore new hobbies, interests, and activities.

18-year-old Emma Raducanu recently bagged the US Open championship and attributed her success to her consistency, hard work, and ability to concentrate on the game. The young British athlete mastered the art of balancing athletics and academics, which can be tricky if students are overburdened with tasks. Emma followed a balanced and healthy schedule. Taking a page from her book, students should start developing this habit from a young age. In fact, parents should encourage it.

Start by ensuring that your child’s school doesn’t solely focus on academic growth, but also doubles down on athletic, personal, and social development. Holistic learning is imperative for all students, especially young children. Unfortunately, many schools place an unhealthy pressure on children, which affects their mental health. A wholesome, balanced, and well-paced online learning environment will help your child understand and recall their lessons better. They’ll also perform exceptionally well in other non-academic facets of their life.

4. Lack of Empathetic Guidance and Coaching

While students need strong academic support from their teachers, they also need empathetic guidance and coaching. This is imperative for young students who are still actively developing, learning, and growing. Owing to their age, they’re more vulnerable to everyday stressors and triggers. Children can easily get upset and feel frustrated. If they aren’t provided the support they need, they may act out in class, zone out, or feel neglected.

At Cambridge Home School, we provide one-on-one success coaching and pastoral support to all students, especially younger children. By creating an individualised guidance plan for each student, our teachers help them feel excited and content about their classes. Every child has a unique learning persona. They have some strengths and weaknesses. They also have some quirks that need to be understood by their teachers.

By getting a good grasp on each student’s unique learning persona, we help them become better learners. It’s possible that your child performs exceptionally well in class but still struggles to retain their lessons. In this case, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Children have memory issues when they feel stressed, don’t get enough sleep, or feel hungry. They may also be developing at a slower rate than the rest of the class. We use audio-visual cues, create mind maps, teach concept-related rhymes and songs, break information into smaller bites, and build important connections. These are just a handful of strategies that are utilised to boost children’s memory.

By focusing on numerous other weaknesses for each child, we help them perform better and feel more content about their educational journey. Happy learners are successful learners. This is something we’ve been prioritising since our inception in 2002. By helping children feel happy and excited about their lessons, we are able to increase their interest in academics. This, in turn, helps them stay on track and perform exceptionally well.

If you’re considering making the switch to online schooling for your child, take a closer look at our homeschooling programs: Primary Prep/Key Stage 2 (ages 8 to 10), Lower School/Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 13), Upper School/IGCSEs (ages 14 to 16), and Sixth Form/AS & A-Levels (ages 17 to 19). You can also explore the following resources:

We provide a quality British online education to students living in the UK, Europe (including Western Russia), Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. As one of the leading international online schools, we’re committed to helping your child excel. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. Our team is always happy to help!


What determines a child’s attention span according to the British Council?

The British Council suggests that a child’s attention span can be calculated as roughly two to three times their age. For example, an 8-year-old child would have an attention span ranging between 16 and 24 minutes.

Why do young children often struggle in class?

Young children are particularly susceptible to distractions, which can adversely affect their educational experience. They might miss out on important parts of the lesson if they frequently lose focus in class. This results in poorer performance on tests and a general struggle to keep pace with academic growth.

How does classroom size affect a child’s ability to focus?

Smaller classrooms, typically comprising between 8-10 students, allow for individualised attention from teachers. This can be particularly beneficial for children who tend to get distracted, as teachers can more easily reel them back into the lesson. In contrast, larger classrooms with upwards of 30 students make it difficult for teachers to give individual attention.

What role does lesson engagement play in a child’s learning?

Interactive, stimulating, and fun lessons can make a significant difference in retaining a child’s attention. Boring or tedious lessons are likely to make students zone out, which impacts their ability to absorb and retain the material being taught.

How does a hectic schedule impact a child’s academic performance?

A demanding schedule can leave children feeling drained and overwhelmed, negatively impacting their ability to focus and retain knowledge. It can also contribute to behavioural problems and hinder their performance in various aspects of life including academics and athletics.