The Early Years
So, it all started back in 1999. I knew I wanted to homeschool, my oldest child was 4 years old, and I decided I would give her a head start! Sound familiar?
Reading came pretty naturally for her. She had learned her alphabet when she was 2 and by the time she was five, she was already reading simple stories. Life was good! The homeschooling thing was really working well and I had lots of quality time to spend with her.
Then along came......my son! Anyone who knows me knows I love him with all my heart, but I always knew there was something about him that was, well, different! I realized when he was 3 1/2 that he still did not know his alphabet, so I decided to sit down with him one on one with a good set of flashcards and get the situation taken care of. A few days of special, intensive "alphabet instruction" would surely do the trick. Right? Well, not quite. I was astounded that my otherwise bright, inquisitive little man could not remember "A" five seconds later after I taught it to him. I said it, pointed to it, he repeated a few times, I repeated it a few times..........put the card away for 5 seconds, brought it back out - gone! He couldn't remember. The only letter he remembered really well was "H" because I showed him how it looked like a goal post in football. He had no trouble remembering that - hmmmm, go figure! In fact, he called the letter "H, H, Touchdown!" for at least a year!
Fast forward to kindergarten. Ok, he knew his alphabet fairly well by then. But now we had come to the age where all good homeschoolers teach their children to read. My game plan? I would just pull out the book I used to teach my daughter. It worked for her like magic, didn't it? Well, again, with my son it was a different story. He could sound out the words to some degree - but it wasn't WORKING. Lots of errors. Lots of frustration. Other things we noticed at this age: trouble learning how to tie shoes, difficulty with handwriting, and getting words like "yesterday" and "tomorrow" mixed up. One of his strengths, however, was his imagination. He could tell me stories in great detail and I would scramble to keep up with him to write them down. I still have most of those stories today - they are priceless!
By first grade, I was officially a year behind. We were still working on the kindergarten stuff. We learned the phonics rules over and over again. He knew about silent E. He could sometimes explain the rule. He just didn't apply the rule when he was reading. Long and short vowels? Those terms were way too abstract. I recall the word "and" being particularly troublesome! Why could he say it on one page, but the next time he saw it he had to sound it out awkwardly all over again? And let's not even talk about his writing. He frequently wrote his numbers and letters (especially those lovely b's and d's) backward, his letters never sat on the line, and the eraser on his pencil got a work out!
By the second half of first grade, I was getting really concerned. I kept waiting for a light bulb moment that never happened. I listened to the popular homeschooling advice about boys developing later than girls, some kids just "bloom" later than others, etc. That made me feel a bit better, but inside I knew there was something else going on. I knew virtually nothing about dyslexia. I had no clue I should be getting my son an O-G tutor, or at least do O-G methods with him at home. If ONLY I HAD KNOWN!!! What pain we could have avoided! What time we lost! I just kept trying different reading programs.
Not a good year. I sent my oldest daughter to a private Christian school so I could have more time with my son. My son did pretty well with math, by the way. He absolutely loved to count money and could do a lot of mental arithmetic. But he still had trouble forming his numbers, understanding that "plus" means "adding", and stuff like that. Reading and writing were still taking up most of our time. Progress was slow and, for this year in particular, painful. Temper tantrums were a daily occurrence. Homeschooling was not exactly fun for me - it was more a labor of love. I dedicated myself to teaching my son, but struggled through lots of days where all I could do was cry out to God. Oh yeah, throw in the fact we discovered my oldest daughter had a medical condition requiring major surgery and we were in the process of adopting our 3rd child!
By the end of the year, I began exploring the possibility of dyslexia. I took my son to be tested and was told he was moderately dyslexic. I still wasn't sure I believed it! I know, what was I thinking?
The following school year, I knew I had to take a break. There were many days where I felt like I was losing my mind - literally. I mean, my son was and still is so sweet, so funny, so charming, and so imaginative. He was a great kid and still is. But now he was experiencing major frustration. And I was the person he chose to take his frustrations out on. I enrolled him at the Christian school for a semester. Then he wanted to come back home. It wasn't a bad experience. But I knew he wasn't getting what he really needed. It was during this time that wrote in a daily journal at school. He was 8 1/2. Believe it or not, I didn't know he also suffered from what is known as dysgraphia. I was told when he was tested that he didn't have it, but that's another story. With his permission, I'm letting you all see a couple dysgraphia writing samples: dyslexia writing sample #1 and dyslexia writing sample #2. Later on, as I did my research, I was amazed to find writing samples of dysgraphic students that were so very similar to my son's! I never knew! So that's why I want to make them available, so you can decide if dysgraphia is also a possibility.
Continued: My Dyslexia Homeschooling Story: PART 2
Read more about the benefits of homeschooling your dyslexic child here.