I didn’t expect homeschooling my son to be so hard.
I gleefully made the decision to homeschool my children, attending homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs before my sons were even out of diapers. My boys weren’t going to learn through boring textbooks like I did. No, we were going to learn through field trips, hands-on activities, and reading great literature. At least that’s how I imagined it would be. God had other plans.
Despite the best curricula, reading aloud to him from infancy, and hours of my undivided attention during school time, reading just wouldn’t click for my son. He couldn’t make the connection between letters and their sounds, nor could he rhyme. I reached out for advice, but heard the common refrains, “Give him time” and “He’s just a slow bloomer.”
We continued to plug away. School time became a chore rather than a delight. Frustration set in—for both of us. My incredibly bright son would beat himself up when he couldn’t remember sight words or even read what he considered “baby books”. When his peers began to read chapter books while he was struggling with easy readers, he decided he was stupid. Our days often ended with tears. No one was enjoying homeschool.
Plagued with self-doubt, I felt like a failure and that I was letting him down. Would he be better off in public school? Was I ruining his future? Would he ever learn to read?
I spent countless hours looking for help. I read books, I bought programs, but nothing seemed to work. There was one topic—actually, one word—that I avoided: dyslexia. But as my son’s second grade year drew to a close without any improvement, we had him tested. The results: moderate to severe dyslexia.
Can You Homeschool a Child With Dyslexia?
While I know children with dyslexia find success in traditional schools, we decided to continue homeschooling our son. I knew that I would do anything to help my child succeed and that no one would be more committed to his education. Additionally, homeschooling allowed us to uniquely tailor his education. Gifted in math and science, he could make his way through advanced curriculum in those areas while we remediated his skills in reading and writing. Family read-alouds exposed him to rich literature and vocabulary far beyond his reading level. Furthermore, we desired to preserve his self-confidence. We were concerned that in a traditional school setting, the fact that he read, wrote, and spelled far below grade level would single him out. In our home, we could allow him to acquire skills at his own pace in a safe environment.
What Worked For Us
We educated ourselves about dyslexia using sources such as the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz and the website Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. I learned that dyslexia is surprisingly common, affecting an estimated one out of every five people, and results from differences in brain anatomy. Imaging studies have demonstrated that dyslexic readers use different, less efficient parts of their brains to read than good readers do.
We also educated our son about dyslexia. Rather than giving him a “label” we wanted our son to understand how his brain was made differently. It did wonders for his self-esteem. He became his own best advocate, teaching others about dyslexia. In situations where he was in a classroom setting, he would make sure his teachers knew he wasn’t comfortable reading aloud and asked for help when he needed it.
We learned that while dyslexia never goes away, it is possible to teach dyslexics to read, write, and spell. The Orton-Gillingham system is by far the best approach to use. Specifically, we used the Barton Reading and Spelling System to teach our son, and he made tremendous strides.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Child Has Dyslexia?
- Don’t wait
Know the signs of dyslexia, many of which are present even in preschool-age children. Studies have shown that early intervention and remediation can help dyslexics rewire their brains to read quickly and effectively.
- Get tested
I’m not gonna lie: dyslexia screening isn’t cheap and often isn’t covered by medical insurance. So why test if you already suspect that your child is dyslexic? There are several reasons.
- Accommodations: If your child has dyslexia, he is legally entitled to receive accommodations. If life changes ever necessitate your child going to school, a formal diagnosis will make applying for accommodations easier. An official diagnosis will also help when applying for accommodations for college entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT. For example, my son was granted extra time on the ACT and was able to take the test in a quiet room. He has also qualified to receive accommodations in college (extra time for all tests, the opportunity to test in a quiet, private room, and the option to record his lectures).
- Resources: Resources are available to assist dyslexics in school, and many are free (or reduced price) if your child has an official diagnosis. Examples include Reading Ally and Bookshare.
- Spend as much time (if not more) developing your child’s strengths as you do working on his weaknesses
Make sure to provide your child with ample time to work in the areas in which he is gifted. This will build his self-esteem and keep his dyslexia from defining him. For example, we enrolled our son in private art classes and gave him many opportunities to play team sports. His successes in these areas provided the fuel that helped him continue to work hard in school.
- Find support
Homeschooling a dyslexic child can be very isolating. Find others who are traveling your same path and with whom you can share your struggles and successes. These groups can be great for exchanging tips and resources. If you can’t find a group that meets face-to-face, there are many groups on social media.
- Understand that it’s ok to put away the books now and then
Frustration can get the best of us, especially when you’re homeschooling a struggling learner. It’s ok to take a day off to refresh yourself if you need it. Some days will be easier than others. Learning was always hard work for my son, and sometimes he needed time off to decompress too.
- Take care of yourself
Make sure to nourish the other areas of your life. Don’t be defined by your life as a mom homeschooling a struggling learner. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Make time for hobbies, exercise, time with friends, or whatever you need to do to make sure your cup is full.
Where is he now?
My son is thriving as a college sophomore, majoring in engineering. He’s on the Dean’s List and a member of several national honor societies. He remains a slow reader and still needs help proofreading written assignments, but his dyslexia doesn’t define him. If anything, his dyslexia has taught him discipline and determination. Homeschooling my son has been the highlight of my life. I am thankful for his dyslexia because of the character it has developed in him (and in me) and for the time we spent working hard side by side.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Dr. Kristin Moon is a microbiologist, wife, mother, and all-around science geek who left the world of scientific research to raise and homeschool her two sons. When she’s not busy writing online science curricula, or blogging about everyday science topics on her website Kristinmoonscience.com, you can find her outside exploring the beauty of God’s creation.
More posts in the series:
Join us all month as we tackle the tough stuff! Sign up for the newsletter and I’ll send you a weekly email with all the great content from homeschool moms all over the world.
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on this site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Life in the Nerddom.