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Homeschooling a Child with Dyslexia

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Mom and Daughter Reading

Mom and Daughter Reading

Homeschooling Because of Dyslexia

Hi. My name is Kay and I have a few questions for you:

Do you have a child with Dyslexia or serious difficulties reading? Is school stressful? Does he or she dread reading? Is your child's self esteem being affected?

As the mother of a daughter with Dyslexia, I know the challenges involved with not only seeing your child get a good education but maintaining their self-esteem in the process. We are helping our daughter by homeschooling and seeing some pretty amazing results.

Homeschooling may not be for everybody, but I'd like to share a bit of our journey thus far.

What is Dyslexia?

According to my favorite book 'Overcoming Dyslexia' by Dr. Sally Shaywitz,

"A substantial number of well-intentioned boys and girls - including very bright ones - experience significant difficulty in learning to read, through no fault of their own. This frustrating and persistent problem in learning to read is called Dyslexia."

How Early Can Dyslexia be Recognized?

Indeed, my daughter showed signs of Dyslexia by preschool. She was a late talker. She loves to talk and talks non-stop but much of it then was not recognized or just unintelligible babbling. She was also a late walker (almost 16 months). By preschool age, she was struggling with skills such as rhyming, buttoning, clapping rhythms and holding crayons. She does the letter reversal thing still (in second grade), puts her shoes on the wrong feet and will often put her clothes on backward or inside out. She still confuses left/right, before/after, yesterday/tomorrow...if you've seen The Trouble with Harry, you'll understand this one...rewind/fast-forward and many other opposites. Honestly, we just knew something was different with our daughter and while other parents and teachers insisted it was too early to check for Dyslexia, we found that the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the results.

Please, keep in mind, every child has various symptoms. The symptoms we saw in our daughter may be different than they ones seen in your own child.

If you want to read more about Dyslexia and preschool: Dyslexia symptoms - explains the signs and symptoms to look out for in the preschool child that can indicate dyslexia or a specific learning difficulty.

For an excellent book on Dyslexia, I really cannot recommend Dr. Sally Shaywitz's 'Overcoming Dyslexia' enough.

"Dyslexia affects one out of every five children - ten million in America alone"

— Dr. Sally Shaywitz Overcoming Dyslexia

Beginning a New Chapter


Five years ago, we homeschooled our son for two years with great results. You can read that story here. I've often joked that while homeschooling my son was wonderful, I'd never homeschool my daughter. The fact that we joke about our son as "Order" and our daughter as "Chaos" should help you understand why we were content to let her learn at school. I adore that little girl but just knew we'd clash. For the sake of household peace and tranquility, off to school she went.

Then first grade happened.

My daughter attended a wonderful school. Her teacher was lovely and I certainly have no complaints there. However, we found her slipping further and further behind the other children. She was coming home every day stressed and would cry at the drop of a hat. She starting telling us she was 'dumb'.

Now, I just have to stop here and say 'dumb' is not a word used in our household. 'Dumb' in considered a four-letter word.

We just weren't able to help her and it was hurting my heart to see her this way. Her teacher recommended a reading clinic in our area. Although, we've always suspected Dyslexia because my husband is Dyslexic, everybody just kept telling us it was too soon to know. I'm a firm believer in getting help as early as possible so it was a relief when the clinic finally confirmed our suspicions. Now, we could move on and get her the help she needed.

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Our daughter began therapy once a week with a trained therapist. Indeed, we say amazing results within a month but, still, school was stressful. Her new IEP allowed her to take her tests away from the class in order to give her more time but that made her feel 'different'. Everybody recognized that she needed more one-on-one attention but with fifteen other students, that just wasn't always possible.

So, we decided to try homeschooling for second grade.

"Reading is not a natural or instinctive process. It is acquired and must be taught."

— Dr. Sally Shaywitz "Overcoming Dyslexia"

Writing our own Homeschooling Chapters


How to go about homeschooling a child with Dyslexia?

First of all, socially speaking, I was not worried a bit. Outside the home, she is very involved in American Heritage Girls and AWANA,. She is a dancer and currently spends three days a week dancing. She also takes physical science, computer readiness and drama classes outside the home. She has friends in many places here and homeschooling allows her social butterfly personality to truly blossom.

If your concern in homeschooling is socialization, keep in mind, many studies are showing these kids are often better socialized and more active in their communities. A great article to help ease your mind is one published in the Journal of College Admission Homeschoolers on to College: What Research Shows Us. Honestly, if you are motivated, socialization is not a concern.

Our concern, of course, was academics. I am a very structured and academic sort of person. My daughter is not. Whereas I see learning as black and white, my daughter sees all the various shades of gray. Would I be able to tailor my "teaching style' to meet her needs?

I began with research....a lot of research. I spent weeks reading everything I could about Dyslexia and homeschooling the child with Dyslexia.

Again, my favorite book? Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz. Although she does not tackle homeschooling and doesn't seem to know much about it, she has terrific insight into understanding my child. From there, I was able to put together a curriculum to help my daughter.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many helpful programs are out there for children with Dyslexia. I will include links on this page to many of them. After much research and much review reading, we went with two programs:

- - A Beka. A Beka is a Christian curriculum that is very strong especially in the lower grades. My daughter had used it in preschool and kindergarten. She was still behind while using this program in school but, when they used a Harcourt program for first grade, she very quickly fell far behind the rest of the class. After much research, we decided to go back to A Beka simply because they really break down phonics in a way she can understand.

- - Time4Learning Homeschool Curriculum. Review after review after review recommended this site for children with Dyslexia. Indeed, this curriculum is very visually based. The lessons are more interactive and keep her laughing. We signed her up for second grade but have access to the first grade and third grade lessons as well.

Not only is my daughter doing the full A Beka curriculum (minus science since she takes an actual science outside the home) but she is doing the second-grade Time4Learning curriculum. And not only is she doing the second-grade language arts program on that site but we have her doing the first-grade language arts classes to really drive home the basic concepts.

I know, you're thinking, "That poor child, she must be doing ten hours of school a day." Not so, she begins each morning around 9am and is easily done by 1:30 or so each afternoon. Keep in mind, in school, a lot of time is wasted. At home, she is not waiting on other kids to take out their pencils, stand in line or turn in their tests. At home, she gets immediate feedback on her tests and papers. If she is clearly struggling with a topic, we can stop what we are doing and go back over the lesson until she understands. That can't happen in a classroom environment. Best of all, she does not have to worry about keeping up with the other kids so the stress is non-existent. I also love that with other subjects such as math, we can match up lessons to reinforce what she is learning in A Beka.

"The only way things will improve is if a knowledgeable and caring adult takes the lead and actively creates change."

— Dr. Sally Shaywitz "Overcoming Dyslexia

Success! - not the end, only the beginning of a wonderful saga!


Last week, my daughter had her annual evaluation (includes the Woodcock Johnson III tests). The evaluation takes 90 minutes and covers various reading skills. This time last year, she was not even scoring at a kindergarten level in some areas and her other scores were below grade level. We were a bit nervous because we had not been receiving therapy while homeschooling. I knew we had seen progress but had it been age-appropriate progress?

This year, after almost a half year of homeschooling, our daughter's lowest score was at second-grade level with her average score at a third-grade level.

Our daughter is now above average in reading and we are told we should just keep on doing what we're doing. Therapy really is not even needed now.

I won't kid you. Those results brought tears to my eyes. We were walking on air all day. Any doubts I had about homeschooling went out the window with those results. Our daughter is thriving academically, socially and, best of all, she is back to being a confident little girl.

It doesn't get any better than that.

What I'd Like to Pass Along - should you choose to homeschool


Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

If something is not working, make changes. Think of how much was not working for your child at school. You have the freedom to try different things until you find that one that clicks.

Make learning fun

Incorporate activities your child enjoys. Your child does not need to be behind a desk to learn. My daughter loves to draw so after her daily journal writing, she uses Draw Write Now books to illustrate her entries.

Change your perspective

Sometimes when teaching math or another subject, my daughter just won't get what I am saying. That's when I realize that if I present it another way, she might understand. I'll find videos on the internet or try a hands on experiment and, often, that's all it takes.

Be your child's cheerleader

Don't forget, you are not only your child's parent and teacher, you are his (or her) biggest fan. Remind them often that they are smart. Praise them when they do well. Encourage them when they struggle.

The Most Important Thing

"A child with dyslexia is in need of a champion, someone who will be his support and his unflinching advocate; his cheerleader when things are not going well; his friend and confidant when others tease and shame him; his adovcate who by actions and comments will express optimism for his future.

Dr Sally Shaywitz "Overcoming Dyslexia"

Helpful Books on Dyslexia

Some Famous People with Dyslexia

For this mom of a child with Dyslexia, a very powerful video.

Yes, some days, this is how it feels teaching a daughter with Dyslexia :)

Some Helpful Curriculum Sites

  • Time4Learning
    A full visually-based curriculum. Generally, this site has a free trial period, after which the cost is less than $20 a month for the full curriculum (including one grade above and one grade below).
  • Starfall
    A free public service to motivate children to read with phonics.
  • Orton-Gillingham - Institute for Multi-Sensory Education
    Sensational Strategies for Teaching Beginning Readers is an instructional reading program, complete with instructional DVD, developed for parents to use at home with their children.
  • Lindamood-Bell's Seeing Stars Program
    Seeing Stars Symbol Imagery for Fluency, Orthography, Sight Words, and Spelling
  • BrainPop
    These school-subject related cartoon videos are terrific. This site is fee-based but there are many free videos and often libraries will have a password for free access.

Some Helpful Sites

  • Skedtrack
    Homeschool Skedtrack is a FREE online lesson planner, scheduler, and tracking system rolled into one. My daughter is able to check off activities as they are completed.
  • Spelling City
    Help your students enjoy their spelling homework and achieve a perfect score on every spelling test. With spelling and word games to play online, makes practicing for spelling tests fun and exciting for kids.

Books on Dyslexia for Children

Need to contact the author? You may e-mail Cari_Kay at


Mark B1205 on January 23, 2015:

Our story for what it's worth...

Our youngest of 5 was severely dyslexic. He hated reading. It was obvious he was intelligent but felt miserable about himself, especially in trying to compete with older siblings. By third grade he was still not independently reading.

One day the local home-school enrichment group took a field trip to social center for the blind. Always touch sensitive, our youngest was fascinated by braille. He learned to read braille that day. He was reading visually at grade level within a month. Until he understood with his fingers, his mind didn't make the connection.

I'm not saying braille will help every dyslexic child learn to read. Just be on the lookout for clues that might allow learning bridges to be built.

Kay (author) on May 29, 2013: