My Dyslexia Homeschooling Story Part 2

Click here to read Part 1 first....

Third - Fifth Grade

Homeschooling my son in his third-fifth grade years was a learning experience - for both of us.  It was during these years that I finally educated myself more about dyslexia.  Instead of just "beating my head against a wall" when we ran into roadblocks, I began to learn WHY the way I was teaching was not the way he learned best.  In fact, later on in my training, I learned that if the dyslexic child is not getting something, it's never the child's fault - it's up to the person doing the teaching to determine how to present the material differently so that it "sticks". Now by no means did I master this right away.  I think the most difficult thing about teaching your own child is that it's easy to get back in "mom" mode and not patiently approach everyday teaching from this professional viewpoint.

Having said all of that, I wanted to share just a few nuggets of wisdom I learned along the way:

*  Multi-sensory teaching is so effective, but requires time and planning.  It's easier to fall back on just "telling" (I say it, you hear it, learn and remember it) but I found that the auditory channel alone was my son's weakest mode of learning. 

* Abstract vocabulary terms (such as math terms) are often remembered today and forgotten tomorrow.  Making homemade flash cards and reviewing these words each and every day helps.  An even better idea is to allow the child to draw a picture on the card - whatever comes to mind when he thinks of that word.  The picture acts as a cognitive hook every time he looks at that word to remember what it means.  You could use this technique with any subject - not just math.

* Written expression is the last mountain a dyslexic student must conquer.  If a dyslexic student struggles with written expression, it often helps to spend a good deal of time "easing into" sentence writing.  Using a "think it, say it, write it" approach is better than just "think and write".  In other words, give the student lots of practice creating one and two sentence compositions where you give them the subject of the sentence, or the verb, or both, and ask them to create a sentence verbally.  Once they can say it out loud, it's much easier to write the sentence.  The child can even be given a mini-recorder (or one of those 30-second voice memo gadgets) so they can say & record the sentence, then play it back as they write it.  Remember, just sticking to one or two sentence compositions at first (giving them a phrase, a subject, a verb, an adverb, etc.) helps them practice the art of transferring thought to writing without the added pressure of coming up with a whole paragraph to write about.  

I could write more, so I hope to add to this homeschooling section in the future!

So How Does This Story End?

Every good homeschooling story needs a happy ending, and I am happy to report we have one with this story too!  Even though we made progress gradually, the time I spent using the Barton Reading system with my son really paid off.  This is an Orton-Gillingham based reading program that dedicated homeschooling parents can learn to use.  The training DVDs are included in each level.  Once I received formal training through the Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, it helped me transfer the "Orton philosophy" of teaching reading to other subjects as well. My son's handwriting gradually improved and even though it's still not GREAT, it has really come a long way! You can see a sample of writing three years after the early samples I showed, and compare.  I include this writing sample to encourage you as parents  - THERE IS HOPE! 

One of the biggest benefits I feel in homeschooling my son, despite the difficult days, was keeping his self esteem intact and not burning him out on school.  My son today is a smart, sweet, sensitive, hillarious (although sometimes irritating) Christian young man who hasn't spent years being ridiculed for his bad spelling or his embarrassing dyslexic errors. This is a child who would volunteer (according to his teacher) to read in Sunday school!  What a testimony to homeschooling! Another big benefit was teaching him at his own pace and allowing him to catch up without overwhelming him. 

For his sixth grade year, we made the decision to send him to a private Christian school.  It was a big adjustment, but having a wonderful teacher and small class size was a God-send for us.  I'm happy to report that so far he has made A's and B's on his report card and is doing well.  Not bad for where we started!  (Thank you, God!)


Do we still have issues?  Yes. Is his dyslexia cured? By no means.  He will have to deal with his "dyslexic ways" the rest of his life.  That means he will often have to work harder than the average student.  But now there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I no longer worry so much about his future...I have to learned to put that in God's hands.  

If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have tried to find him a good Orton Gillingham (OG) tutor when he was younger if we could have possibly afforded it.  Teaching your own child can be very stressful at times and often familiarity can get in the way of progress. But would I have still homeschooled? Absolutely.  I wouldn't have traded those years & memories for anything in the world.