Remember the story of the slow but steady Tortoise and the fast but lazy Hare? The two race. The hare, or rabbit, runs quickly ahead, and stops for a nap, and ends up losing the race because the tortoise keeps up his slow but steady pace to the finish line. We are supposed to admire the tortoise’s persistence and admonish the rabbit for taking a rest, but is that the best way to see this lesson?
Let’s pretend instead that these are two students. Let’s call them Bunny and Turtle.
Bunny Goes Fast
Bunny’s learning style is that she runs at things hard and learns a lot quickly. However, after sprinting ahead, she regularly hits plateaus to her learning. Bunny can be hard to teach because she blows through your curriculum, and then doesn’t want to go any farther for a while.
This is a very normal learning pattern. Children have a surge in brain growth and leap ahead, learning quickly and easily for a time. This might be learning to read, add or write. This child then may have a period where they are not ready to learn more. They learned these things quickly, but now they need some time to rest and practice these skills before they bound ahead to new material.
Turtle Goes Slow
Turtle’s learning style is to slowly plod ahead. At times, he can be so slow you aren’t sure he is moving at all. This child will work the next math problem or learn to spell the next word list, but they aren’t going to win any races. Turtle takes two years to complete a one-year curriculum or works at a level that is made for “younger” kids.
As a parent, you worry if Turtle will ever get to the finish line because of their slow pace. What you don’t realize, is all that your Turtle is taking in that isn’t on the curriculum. While he is moving through one page of his math book at a time, he is also living life and observing the world. Turtle students tend to surprise us as they do eventually get where they needed to go.
But They Both Get There!
And that is the most important thing to remember as you teach your child. Education is not a race. Whether you have a Bunny, a Turtle, one of each, or some other option, the goal is to have your child be educated, and hopefully complete high school. Taking rests or going slowly through their education doesn’t mean they won’t get where they need to go. There is no reason to panic that your child’s learning style doesn’t seem to match the pace of the textbook or curriculum you chose. Tasks like learning reading, writing, and math require brain development that you can encourage, but that your child has to do themselves. While you wait, you can use the time to make art, do science and study history.
Enjoy your child’s education as a long journey you are taking with them. Don’t make your Bunny feel bad when she needs a rest, and don’t be upset that your Turtle goes slowly. They will get there! You’ll see!
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.