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Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

By Mercy Howell
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #81, 2008.

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Mercy Howell

Growing up is hard for everyone, but especially hard for "late bloomers." They might be called slow or stupid, but the truth is simply that their brains take a little longer to warm up.

I was a late bloomer. In a house of geniuses, it can be hard when you just do not get subjects and problems you feel you should. Late bloomers hear this comment a lot: "I can't believe you didn't get that!" However, do not give up! Your late bloomer may not "get it" now, but these things have a habit of "clicking" when you least expect it.

Just because you had a slow start, does not mean you will have a slow finish. For example, one subject that just would not click for me was reading. My mother struggled over those flash cards with me. She even sang the songs and repeated the sounds in ways that were supposed to work, but I could not for the life of me pronounce them. One day I was looking at the pictures in a comic book and I had an "ah ha" moment. Suddenly, those meaningless flashcards and sounds made sense! After that, I learned to read at an ever-increasing rate to the point where I got 33 (out of a possible 36) in reading on the ACT the first time I took it at the age of 16. That put me, the late-blooming reader, in the 97th percentile of college-bound students.

Perseverance and patience are important when learning a topic. This applies to both teacher and student. When a late bloomer is learning a topic that he or she does not really get, it is easy to give up in hopelessness. Such students will never get the "click" feeling unless they push through the "I can't do this" part of learning a subject.

I was the queen of hopelessness. My mother would try to teach me a simple math problem. I would sit there with my head aching trying to listen, promptly tell her "I don't get this!" and give up. It frustrated my mom to no end.

We must have gone over reading, math, and grammar a million times. Sometimes we spent hours on one subject while both of my parents tried many different methods to drill it into my head. Finally I did understand, but it took time.

Do not allow your late bloomers to tell you that they cannot understand. Push them through their automatic "give up" response and they might surprise you with the results. Keep in mind that you might have to wait for the "ah ha" moment, but they will never have that moment without perseverance and patience on both your parts.

Another problem late bloomers face is challenging themselves. When you are unsure of your own talents or abilities, it is very easy to settle for little. For years, I accepted the bare minimum from my work and did not press myself to work harder.

This all changed when I began setting goals for myself. Whether it was finishing the course, or some other milestone, I gave myself a reason to do the work.

The biggest turning point, and the most life-changing, happened during my final year of high school. I had been rather lazy in my work. I was not even sure I wanted to go to college because I had never given myself a reason to go. After all, my only goal in life for a long time had been to become a wife and mother, and as I told myself, "Who needs a college education for that?"

This self-limiting view changed when, while college surfing with my mother, I found that it was possible for me to go to college early at a very affordable price. I had found my goal. I pushed myself to finish high school a year earlier than what is conventional, earning the prestige of becoming the earliest high-school graduate in my family. I went to college at the age of seventeen and did well. Although the college I began with was not the one I am graduating from, nor was the degree I initially pursued the one I ended up with, it paved the way for so much more.

Do not give up on your late bloomers. Though they start slowly, they might speed up and surpass every expectation you ever had for them.

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