Learning Needs of Homeless & Migrant Children

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  • 0:03 Homeless & Migrant Students
  • 0:34 Homeless Characteristics
  • 1:41 Migrant Characteristics
  • 3:03 Learning Needs
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Homeless and migrant children have unique needs. This lesson explores the characteristics of homeless and migrant children and discusses the effects that these situations may have on learning and education.

Homeless & Migrant Students

Angela and Juan are third grade students in Ms. Wilson's classroom…sometimes. Ms. Wilson has observed that Angela and Juan both miss a lot of school and struggle when they're there. Concerned about her students, Ms. Wilson does some checking and discovers that Angela is homeless and Juan is a migrant.

Ms. Wilson wants to find out how she can help Angela and Juan. She decides to start by learning more about homeless and migrant children and their unique learning needs.

Homeless Characteristics

Ms. Wilson has observed Angela for a few weeks. Angela wears dirty clothes and is often hungry in class. Because she misses a lot of school, she struggles to keep up with all of her assignments. Angela is currently living in a car with her mother and three siblings. Unfortunately, Angela's situation is not unusual among American students.

Homelessness is a chronic problem for many students. Homelessness occurs when an individual lacks stable or permanent housing. Rates of homelessness among students are on the rise according to the United States government, which determined that more than 1.1 million students were homeless during the 2011-2012 school year, an increase of nearly 10% from 2010-2011.

Homeless students face unique challenges in terms of education, such as:

  • High rates of absence due to unstable living conditions
  • Lack of reliable transportation to and from school
  • Lack of school supplies
  • Barriers to meeting basic needs for food, health care, clothing, grooming, etc.
  • Barriers to school enrollment such as no physical address and lack of access to school records

Migrant Characteristics

Having learned about some of the issues that Angela faces, Ms. Wilson turns her attention to Juan. She sees that Juan has some similar and some unique challenges. His family moves around a lot so he also misses a lot of school. This makes it hard for him to keep up with his classwork. Juan falls asleep in class nearly every day. Juan is a migrant child whose family moves from state to state according to the harvest schedules of local crops.

Migrants move from place to place often in search of employment. Migrant students face similar challenges to those faced by homeless students. This can create problems with enrollment and placement. To complicate matters, migrant children are frequently in the country illegally, meaning that they and/or their parents have not completed the necessary steps for citizenship. This creates issues with identification and reliable employment.

Also like homeless students, migrant students are often impoverished and may lack adequate nutrition or health care. In addition, migrant students often work alongside their parents in the fields. This increases their rates of absence. It also means that the students may have a full day of work ahead of them after school lets out. These extreme conditions can cause children to lack adequate sleep or self-care. In addition, migrant students and their families may have limited English proficiency. Now that Ms. Wilson has learned about some of the challenges faced by homeless and migrant children, she takes a closer look at their learning needs.

Learning Needs

Ms. Wilson knows how much focus and time it takes to be successful in school. She wonders: how much harder would this be if you were hungry? Tired? Sick? In need of a shower? Students like Angela and Juan have an uphill battle when it comes to learning and education. The instability that they face makes it much harder to be successful in the classroom.

Specific issues include:

  • Lower academic achievement
  • At risk for dropping out of school
  • Less likely to participate in extracurricular activities
  • Social isolation
  • Self-esteem issues

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