1. Identify the problem. Mothers should
listen to their heart and instinct. We have found that mothers, because of the
time that they spend with their children, can usually explain exactly what the
problem is. Too often these same mothers have been made to feel inadequate and
ridiculous by the very professionals they have sought help from. Some have even
been advised to seek psychiatric help as an over-protective mother. The problem
is not the mother, it is the child’s learning ability and will only become
worse the longer the problem is left.
2. Remove, where possible, any contributing
factors. Our food is no longer natural. It contains sprays, hormones,
antibiotics and additives. Many naturopaths will administer Vega Tests quite
cheaply which show if there are intolerances to any food, additive, spray etc.
This may result in changing the whole families diet. In our daughter’s case, it
was food like corn, oranges, apples, milk and garlic which were helping create
a fog in her brain and stopping her retaining facts. It was not the whole
solution but it was a start.
It is also important to have the child’s hearing
and eye sight tested. Dealing with a slow learner is frequently a process of
elimination and the more you can eliminate the better.
3. Start working with the child at the
correct level for them as an individual. If the child is older test their
academic ability first. We have found that most mothers have a fairly good idea
of what grade level is appropriate for their child. We generally suggest that
the child is tested at a level below this to ensure that there are no gaps.
Rather than embarrass the child, inform them that you are going to test their
teachers. The child should not be assisted. Once the child begins experiencing
difficulties the test should be stopped. The aim is to find out what the child
knows not the mother.
4. Begin work at the level the child’s
results indicate in each subject whether this is first or sixth grade. A
child’s ability can vary dramatically between subjects. Do not ignore the test
results. When we build a two-story house we do not try to build the second
story first, we begin with the foundations and the same applies to education.
All children, other than those with severe brain damage, can learn, but some
children learn slower than others. Slower learners are not unintelligent. They
simply have difficulties in some areas.
5. Choose materials suitable for your child.
We do not buy one set of clothes of identical colour for all our children.
Neither should we expect to do so when it comes to educational material. Some
children need factual material, others creative material, others more hands-on
material. Again, mothers should follow their knowledge of their own child. Many
slow learners need to visualize a concept before they can understand it but
this does not mean all material must be hands-on. Often it is only the
introduction of a new concept that needs to be hands on. Sometimes you may have
to read an explanation and then break it down further for your child.
6. Extend the child on the same level.
Slow learners need far more extension than other children. Choose books that
present the same skill in a different way until the child becomes confident and
until the principle reaches the child’s long term memory. Many slow learners
have short term memory problems. Repetition, repetition and more repetition is
the key. One of the delights of Australian material is that there may be as
many as four or five different books which can be used to present the same
concepts at the same level. Each one has a different cover, is illustrated
and so appears different to the child. The
result is that the child becomes confident. Instead of assuming that they are
“stupid” and can not understand they will gradually come to a point where they
know they can “if they try a little harder.” A child’s confidence in their
ability to succeed is, we are convinced, a major factor in their ability to
learn. No-one, however brilliant, will ever succeed if they are convinced they
7. Never deliberately place a child in a
position where they will fail. We all fail at times and this is part of
life but no adult will attempt something they know they have no hope of
succeeding at. For example, someone who can not knit will not attempt to knit a
jumper. If they want to knit a jumper they will learn how to knit first and,
beginning with small projects, increase their ability until they can knit the
jumper. Never place the child onto the next grade level until you are certain
they have mastered the one they are working on. Homeschooling is not a race.
Not every child needs to reach year twelve. All children need to master the
8. Set realistic goals. We all need short
and long term goals but they need to be obtainable. With a slow learner aim for
a grade six standard and consider anything extra a bonus. By grade six most
children should have learnt the majority of the basic skills they will need all
9. Set bite size pieces. Many slow
learners can not work for long periods of time so break the lessons into
fifteen minute time frames. Choose material that does not contain too much on
one page or enlarge the page and cut it in half. Providing you purchase and do
not resell the material, most publishers do not mind if you enlarge a page. As
the child progresses you may need to tear up the book and only give them a
sheet or two at a time.
10. Where possible make learning enjoyable.
Revision, of phonics for example, can be in the form of a game. Children are
always willing to play games so they will often get the cards out each day.
Tables can be said while skipping, swinging on a swing or jumping on a
trampoline. The rhythm helps.
11. Rejoice in success Even a small gain
should be a reason for rejoicing. Do not count the failures. Houses are built
one brick at a time and so is a child’s education. Mastery of one principle
leads to mastery of others.
12. Never give up. All children can learn
but some take longer. If one thing does not work try another, and another and
another, until you succeed. Your child’s only hope for success is you. If you
give up who will help?
Children’s learning and growth patterns appear
to be similar. A child will remain the same height for a long time and then
grow over night. Children appear to learn in the same way. A child will have a
plateau where the parent can reinforce what has been taught and then over night
they will suddenly find a concept that was too hard is very clear. The plateau
varies from child to child and may not be constant even for the same child.
Understanding this often removes the frustration parents feel.