About Shawna Wingert

Shawna Wingert is the creator of Not The Former Things, a blog dedicated to homeschooling children with learning differences and special needs. She loves finding out-of-the-box ways for out-of-the-box learners to thrive. She is the author of two books, Special Education at Home and Everyday Autism. You can follow Shawna and Not The Former Things on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

In celebration of the slow learner


in-celebration
Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things

I remember exactly when I first heard the term “slow learner.”

I was in the third grade, and my desk was next to a sweet boy with freckles and blue eyes.

In class, I diligently filled out all the worksheets, and raised my hand to answer all the questions (my husband and I went to school together and he distinctly remembers me being “very Hermione”).

I was careful to listen to the teacher, to write my name in the upper right-hand corner, and painstakingly bubble in A, B, C or D, with my Number 2 pencil.

The little boy next to me could not have been more my opposite. He struggled in the classroom. I often read things to him under my breath when he was unable to decode them. He seemed to have a motor inside him that kept parts of his body moving at all times. One time, he drew me a perfect, frame-able picture of a cat, instead of writing a summary of the story we had just read aloud (which incidentally, was about a cat.)

A teacher’s aide often came to assist him. When another student asked why she was always at our table, she answered, very plainly, “Because he is a slow learner.”

When she said this, the boy blushed so red I could barely make out his freckles. I looked away, not wanting to make it more embarrassing for him.

My stomach ached every time that aide came in for the rest of the year.

I was eight years old and it was clear – being a ‘slow learner’ was a shameful thing.

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How to measure progress when it feels like you’re not making any

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things

We began this school year in almost the exact same place we did last year.

(and I don’t mean our kitchen table…)

My youngest son is one of the hardest working kids I have ever met. He has had to be – most of the time, he works twice as hard for twice as long to get about half the results of other children.

So it really shouldn’t surprise me that we are still in Level Two of our reading curriculum. Even more so, it shouldn’t matter. On my good days, it doesn’t.

But some days, the truth is, it feels like we are not making any progress at all.

When I worked outside the home, I loved feeling like I had achieved something. Measurement was an important motivator for me. It still is.

While my job has changed substantially, my desire to see results and have the satisfaction of making progress has not.

Over the past seven years, I have learned that sometimes, if I want to see progress in our homeschool, I am going to have to go looking for it on my own.

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How my homeschool planning has changed this year

Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

It’s the middle of summer.

Summer days for my family this year include a lighter, Harry Potter themed school schedule, lots of sprinklers and water play, and easy crafts that my boys can do on their own (outside of course!).

Summer days also mean I am planning for our new school year.

Honestly, I love this part.

I find it inspirational. A fresh start, a new approach – our homeschool plan existing only in my mind means nothing has gone wrong yet!

Planning for the fall is one of my favorite parts of summer.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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On homeschooling an anxious child


Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things

When I was in the sixth grade, I ran for student council president.

One of the requirements was getting up on stage, in front of the entire school, and giving a speech about why you should be elected.

I bombed. For reals.

I couldn’t remember the lines I had prepared. I stuttered and started sweating. I ran off the stage as fast as I could and burst into tears.

It was pretty awful.

But what I remember most about that day is what happened next. I went back to class.

I remember trying to take a math test and the page seemingly swimming before me. I remember not being able to focus on verbal directions and wondering what was wrong with me. I remember my anxiety increasing, not decreasing as the day went on.

I didn’t learn a thing that day at school.
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By this time next year (how I measure progress in our homeschool)


Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

“There…in the…wa…wa…water was a boy.”

My youngest son struggled to read the sentence.

Again.

I tried to encourage him, my heart sinking.

“Good. Keep going.”

As he worked harder than any eleven-year-old boy should have to just to read The Story Of Ping, I thought to myself, “Surely by this time next year he will be able to do this.”

‘This time next year’ has been a constant, lingering, elusive measure of success in our homeschool for six years now.

I mutter it to myself when the math concept is not clicking.

I think it constantly when someone questions my dyslexic son’s reading ability.

I comfort myself with it when we are having a tough day.

‘By this time next year’ has somehow become my method of measuring progress and instilling hope in our homeschool. And it is not serving us well.

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