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Homeschooling A Slow Learner: Tips and Techniques From Education Professionals

If you're working with a child that moves slowly through academic work and gets distracted easily you may be homeschooling a slow learner. Tips and techniques on how to help you as a home educator, work more successfully with your child are outlined in this article.

What are the Characteristics of a Slow Learner?

The term "slow learner" is given to a student that has the ability to achieve scholastically, but tends to work below the grade level average. This type of learner will typically score lower on IQ tests, or national achievement tests, but not so low that a "special education" diagnosis is given. If your homeschooled child has not taken an IQ test or an assessment exam, you may be wondering what the common signs are in identifying a slow learner. If you're wondering whether or not you are homeschooling a slow learner the list below highlights characteristics researchers have found to be shared by many struggling learners.

  • They have trouble doing complex problems that require higher reasoning and many steps.
  • These students work slowly on most assignments.
  • They are prone to anxiety and low self-esteem.
  • They have trouble mastering skills, and if they are moved on too quickly gaps will begin to develop academically.
  • They struggle to carry over skills they learned from one subject to another.
  • They lose track of time easily.
  • They have poor concentration skills and may have poor organizational skills as well.
  • They have significant problems with time management.

Tips and Techniques For Helping Slow Learners Improve Academically

happy boyHere are some suggestions to help a struggling learner achieve academically.

  • Minimize distractions by providing a quiet, well-organized space to work.
  • Keep lessons short. Since slow learners struggle with focus, make the times of learning compact, and do several smaller segments of learning rather than one long session.
  • Teach the lesson in multiple ways. While students working at an average or above-average pace can grasp a concept with one worksheet or a brief explanation, to help a slow learner master their lessons you'll need to do more than just what is assigned by the curriculum. For example if your child is memorizing multiplication tables he/she may need to see a written chart, practice with a manipulative like cotton balls (counting out four times four by counting out groups of cotton balls), and do a rote exercise of repeating aloud the multiplication table.
  • Provide short meaningful directions. Once again, because of the short attention spans of slow learners, long drawn out directions with lots of steps will not be helpful. Where possible provide lists and check-off boxes so a slow learner can grasp what should be done first, next and last. It would be helpful to do a check-list for each subject if there are multiple parts (like a worksheet, oral reading and flashcards for phonics) and also a daily check list with all the subjects on it.
  • Accept where your child is at academically. You may need to do some assessment tests to see if your child is working at the appropriate grade level. Teaching a slow learner doesn't mean you need to lower the standards for your child, but it does mean accepting the type of learner your child is, and working to help him/her succeed academically, not just move quickly through age-appropriate work. See more tips and technique on page 2.