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Slow learner and motivation

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    Slow learner and motivation

    We’re currently homeschooling for a semester while on sabbatical, and I’m using a blend of our school’s classical curriculum, Simply Classical (writing, Storytime Treasures, Copybook), and All About Reading for my son. He is 9yo but in 2nd grade at his school. We’ve had some success with modifying curriculum and adding SC resources, but I’m still struggling to motivate him. Even with such short writing and copying exercises, it feels like it takes forever!!! I’ve tried sticker charts, switching the order of activities, etc... but I still sometimes feel like we’re standing still. I know he needs a slower pace, but do you have any suggestions for motivating and keeping on track at a reasonable pace with a slow learner?

    Do you have a diagnosis? You definitely don't have to share, but some of us moms with kids with specific special needs are better equipped to give pointed advice for his struggles. My youngest has developmental delay, and he seems to continue to make steady progress, just a few months behind everyone in his peer group. I could practice with him until the cows come home, and we do, but to some extent the skill emerges when it emerges. This was backed up by the educational psychologist we saw, but delay can walk itself out in many different ways. Some kids plateau for a while and before their skillset explodes, while some kids embody the slow-and-steady wins the race. Some kids may experience a lifelong deficit in certain areas, so you need to know when to move on and develop complementary areas where they can achieve.

    Cheryl's latest iteration of her book might be a great resource if you haven't already read it. Writing is hard for so many of our kids, but the etiology of the difficulty will largely determine the approach.

    I would look start with SC level assessments to see where the fine and gross motor skills are compared to cognitive function. Have you had an OT assessment?

    Finally, copywork was a great low-stakes intro to writing for my eldest, who inexplicably struggled with writing. We did far more of that before we moved on to copying sentences from answering lit guide questions.
    Mama to 2, Married 17 years

    SY 19/20
    DD 9-3A
    DS 6-SC C


      SJune80, sometimes bursts of movement can help sluggishness, slowness, or motivation.

      I'm currently visiting our Simply Classical school this week near Tulsa. The teacher of five students with intellectual disability uses an audible timer to swiftly move from a seated activity to a brisk crossing-the-midline marching in place to a new lesson. The pace seems to keep everyone moving quickly during transitions yet allows sufficient depth *during* lessons for good progress to occur.

      Another tip: Divide and conquer! In this same room a phonics lesson is first conducted through the phonics list and reader at the table for oral reading practice but then later in the day again while the student stands at the board.

      Keep everything moving, dive deeply into the lesson at the time, use a timer, and split lessons into two-per-day if necessary. If you add some related independent leisure activities to the mix, that will boost progress further.

      Agreeing with enbateau in all respects, I would be happy to help further if you want to share more!


        One say you know he needs a slower pace, but also say you feel like things are taking forever. Do you mean he works very slowly with each individual daily assignment or that the overall pace in the curriculum is so slow that progress is hard to recognize?

        If his daily pace is excruciatingly slow, Cheryl's timer idea may work. I looked at the suggested course times in front of the guide. I then set a visible, but silent timer (the time -a red disc- slowly disappears). When it's up, we move to the next subject whether we're done or not. For my child it becomes "homework". You may just set it aside to finish later that day or the next day.

        If the overall pace of the curriculum makes it difficult to see overall progress, I would recommend videoing your child reading or doing flashcards. Review it one month later. You will see progress, it's just slow and steady.

        You can also time some fast paced activity or therapy between each subject to get the blood moving. Running in place, indoor trampoline, mid-line activities, or some fun phonics reinforcement like jumping to the word/sound/letter you call out.

        But, it could also be that good old mama worry, "he's not where his peers are." Maybe the little voice of "he's falling behind" is getting louder? This is all totally okay. Even us veterans fall into this guilt trap every now and again. I just rest assured that God gave me this child to parent and educate. God didn't make a mistake. He knows right where my son is at academically and He's okay with it. My job is to find peace with it as well. And sometimes that's tough.

        Either way, we're all here to support you and cheer you on in this journey. Hopefully, some of our ideas are useful or spark some creativity in you. Welcome to this exciting adventure!
        Married to DH for 14 years. Living the rural life in the Colorado mountains

        DS11- Simply Classical 5/6
        DD9- Simply Classical 5/6 (neurotypical, but schooling with big brother to save mom's sanity)
        DD 6- Classic Core First Grade

        We've completed:
        Classic Core Jr. kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
        Simply Classical levels B, C, 1, 2, 3, and 4.


          Thanks for your responses. I have found timing activities to be helpful as well as letting my son get up and move around periodically.

          As far as his precise struggles go, he is dyslexic and has low working memory. He is also has a slow processing speed. In the grand scheme of things, I can see slow progress; he is certainly further along with reading/phonics than he was when I started working with him. I pull him out for reading/phonics and vision therapy when he's at his classical school, but we are homeschooling this semester. He was held back in kindergarten and is currently 9yo in 2nd grade. Our hope is that he can fold back into the classroom in January with continued help from me and modifications in the classroom. We'll see. We know that may not work long-term. And that seems more and more like a real possibility the further along we get.

          He's become increasingly uncooperative during our lessons. He covers his ears, says it's too hard (even when I'm asking him to read words like "a" or "on", despite the fact we've moved much further along than that). He often can't remember sounds that he learned years ago, frustrating both of us. Then there are days when we sails through sentences (especially when he knows the lesson is almost over!) and I wonder who this kid is that I'm teaching! It's definitely a roller coaster. On good days, I am hopeful that he's moving forward and will be able to stay at the school he loves. On hard days, I feel like I've been teaching him the same thing for four years and he still responds with the emotional maturity of a kindergartener. It's been common this semester for me to have to put him on his bed for 15 minutes when he has a meltdown during reading lessons.

          In moments of reflection, I am reminded that I'm not in control, and that God loves my child and our family infinitely more than I ever could. I'm so grateful for this community of like-minded parents and teachers who believe the same, and who believe it's possible to give a beautiful education to any child!

          Also, in response to one previous comment, yes, I've read (and even reviewed!) Cheryl's book Simply Classical and we've benefitted from using some of the SC curricula this year! I'm grateful for your ministry, Cheryl!


            Thank you, SJune80.

            Last week Tanya & I visited a classical Christian school for special needs. One veteran teacher was especially masterful in her ability to re-engage slow, unmotivated, or obstinate students. Rather than use words like "don't" or "no," she creatively found the desired behavior, "Head up," or "Eyes on me," followed immediately by "Thank you." As soon as she observed an approximation of compliance she resumed teaching in a matter-of-fact, efficient way.

            She noticed good engagement all day with Warm Fuzzies she quietly added to a big jar. "Thank you, xyz, for opening your book and being ready to work."

            We witnessed no sighing, no sign of frustration, no evidence of being perturbed or despairing, but only this steady blend of redirection, correction, and affirmation with behaviors that ranged from mildly offtask to wholly unacceptable, e.g., grabbing another person, linking the paper, sulking slumped in a chair and refusing to work. Those were three different students in about ten minutes!

            She was well-prepared to teach efficiently with her visual aids at-the-ready to lead an impressively effective Simply Classical Curriculum recitation. She gave the clear, undaunted message that she could wait out anything that came her way and that, above all else, the work would be accomplished.

            This is not easy. When she said throughout the day, "We work diligently as unto the Lord," I wondered whether she was reminding herself or her students.

            Yours is not always "fun" work but it is important work. Whether he needs to be with you more than a semester or not, you will do well to prove yourself to be the one who will outlast and outlove him for his good.

            As you ride that rollercoaster, hold tight and enjoy the rare easy days when they come! We have those too. Rather than think we can or should make all of them equally successful, we have learned that they are just blessed "blips" to appreciate for the moment.