When I began my homeschooling journey I had no idea all that it would entail. I had no idea how hard it would be. I had no idea how beautiful it would be. There was no way to prepare me for how it would grow me, for how it would shape me. I figured it would shape my children, but me… I’m blown away by how it has formed us closer as a family. How it has revealed gifts in me I didn’t even know were there. The challenges we’ve faced have made this journey even sweeter. It’s through disappointments and set backs that you enjoy the progress even more. Life becomes more about celebrating each step forward rather than darting to the destination.
One of the challenges we’ve faced in our homeschooling journey is dyslexia. This is a topic I’ve become passionate about although I haven’t talked about it much. I want to encourage the parents who have children who are dealing with dyslexia. It doesn’t matter whether your kids are in public, private, or home school. I think all parents would agree they want the best for their kids. Watching a child struggle in school is hard. You want to help but may not always know how. Let me just encourage you that there is help out there. Don’t be afraid to use it. You don’t have to be on this journey alone. There are organizations, websites, and Facebook pages set up to help parents and children. I’m still trying to figure some of this out myself. Before I get much further let me tell you a little about my journey.
I have four children. I started homeschooling my oldest daughter when she was in kindergarten. By second grade I could tell she was struggling some with her reading. Skipping the small sight words was one of the biggest clues for me. Yet somehow she managed to work it out. Grammar was an awful subject for us. She REALLY didn’t like grammar. I tried many approaches of teaching it to her. Still she struggled with this subject. Spelling was also not a strong subject. It wasn’t horrible mind you. Like I said, she managed, but I knew in that mama part of me that something was a little off. I suspected dyslexia but had no idea what to do about it. So I did nothing. After all, she did okay.
Then came time to start schooling my second child. We were still in kindergarten when I noticed the struggle with him. Letter recognition and knowing the sound for each letter was much more difficult for him. I tried a couple reading programs. Again I suspected dyslexia. So here I was facing the same obstacle I faced with my daughter but with a more aggressive presence with him. This time I had to do something.
By this time I was feeling like a horrible teacher and mom. Talk about your double dose of guilt. Thankfully I’m also a praying woman. I pray for my kids but I especially douse them in prayer around the time we begin a new school year. I lean in closely to listen to the Holy Spirit as He teaches me about each of my children and how I can parent them and teach them better. There is no one better than the Holy Spirit to have on your parenting and educational team. He designed each one of these children and knows their future, as well as their past and present. I believe it was the Lord’s guidance that lead me to an event I found on Facebook.
It was October, which is Dyslexia awareness month. A woman named Susan Barton came to my area to talk about Dyslexia. My husband and I were very interested. We couldn’t find a babysitter but we were still determined to get there. So all six of us slipped into the back row of this filled room, armed with busy bags. The woman began sharing about how she got involved in helping people with dyslexia. She shared symptoms and showed what reading was like for dyslexics. As I listened I had a wide range of emotions. Relief, I was so glad I was not alone. Inspiration, I felt like we would be okay. Aha moments as I realized I’ve struggled with a mild case of dyslexia myself, especially as a child, but as an adult I’ve learned how to deal with it. It was also interesting to hear dyslexia runs in families. My husband also realized he has had dyslexia but never knew it. His has been on the more severe side. It was all making sense.
But now what…Now I had the information but what do I do with it. I really, really hoped this talk wasn’t just a gimmick to get us to buy her curriculum. At the same time I was desperate for a reading and spelling program that worked. I was pleased to see she gave several curriculum options, not just hers. She didn’t even talk much about her curriculum at all. After praying and researching we decided to buy the Barton Reading and Spelling and I’m so glad I did. It has made a world of difference in both my kids with dyslexia. I love their approach so much I decided to teach my other kids with it too. (I know my third child doesn’t have dyslexia but the verdict is still out on the fourth.) The way they teach spelling just makes sense. She explains why Noah Webster made the rules to spell American words the way he did. It’s been great. If there’s one gripe I have about it it’s that some of the content is to wordy and adult like. I prefer more family oriented (and Christ centered) content in my curriculum but I just ended up writing many of my own sentences and stories that follow the rules my kids have learned.
I am so, SO glad now that I decided to homeschool my children. God knew the way my kids are wired. He knew this learning challenge would come up. Yet, He has helped us (and is still helping us) work through it. I have to admit that teaching dyslexic children has been time consuming and at times draining. I make accommodations for them like doing much of their schoolwork orally. While this has taken a lot of time and energy it has also created a tight bond with my kids. They know I’m on their side. I’m here for them and cheering them on. It has been well worth the time and energy to see my kids progressing.
I know not everyone has the option to homeschool, but if it can work for your family it could be a great plan. Most of the time moms and dads know their kids better than anyone. I’ve heard All About Reading is a good program too. Be sure whatever curriculum you use is Orton-Gillingham based. If homeschooling isn’t an option for you I would suggest getting an Orton-Gillingham curriculum and working with your child on weekends, evening and school breaks. There are also tutors that could help. I believe each state has some sort of Dyslexia Association that could point you to the tutors in your area. Susan Barton has a lot of resources on her website at https://bartonreading.com and at http://www.dys-add.com/. I highly recommend checking it out.
Whatever you do please, please do NOT tell your child they are lazy, stupid, or not working hard enough. People with dyslexia have to work five times harder than their peers to get the same grade. Please take the time to understand how their brains are functioning. Also know that things are not as bad as they may seem. I remember when I realized we were facing dyslexia I wanted to cry for my kids. Now I realize the gifts that come with this as well. As often as I can I show my kids successful people that have dyslexia. There are A LOT of them. Henry Winkler (who has a great series of books made just for kids with dyslexia called Here’s Hank) and Steven Spielberg have videos on line were they talk about their dyslexia. Many comedians and sports players as well. Also several of the cast of Shark Tank. Look it up, you may be amazed what you find.
Dyslexia is not a disease or an excuse to give up. It’s helpful to understand your child. You just need to learn how to work with how your child learns. Once you do you will find some amazing and beautiful gifts that are part of the package. Don’t give up on them and don’t give up on yourself.
My last tip is the most important. Pray for your kids and their education. Pray for doors to open and for the Lord to guide you on this journey. He will be faithful. Remember, He loves your kids more than you do. He wants them to succeed too. If you’re not a praying person you could still give it a try. It couldn’t hurt.
I know many of you have your own story about learning challenges. I see you on social media and my heart goes out to you. I hope my story has made you feel a little less alone and that you find some encouragement. I hope you’ve found some of my tips helpful. This is really only the tip of the iceberg for me on this subject but we’ll save that for another day. Until then, thanks for reading.