*My son CJ doesn’t have a “technical” diagnosis for dyslexia. When I saw that his younger brother was grasping concepts like sounds and quantities easily and that CJ was still writing his letters and numbers backwards and upside down, I looked up dyslexia. He fit almost every symptom: difficulty matching sounds and letters, unable to sound out words, lots of difficulty with reading, trouble remembering sequences, unable to rhyme words, using context clues to figure out words, reversing and inverting letters in words, etc. I also suspect my brother may have had undiagnosed dyslexia when he was a kid. (We went to public school.) Like most parents, getting a trained specialist for an evaluation is not something we can do very easily. When I found that he fit so many of the symptoms, I just started finding out everything I could about dyslexia to tailor a curriculum to his needs. Onwards…
CJ is seven right now and on a traditional school system schedule, he would be in second grade. We have homeschooled him from the start and last year I started to really focus on more formalized reading and writing based work for him. Before this we had done a lot of learning games and some reading and writing practice. Schooling sessions quickly became a battle. I’d ask him to read simple three letter words and I may as well have asked him to read the Klingon paq’batlh. (This is when I hit my homeschooling crisis moment- “My child is failing because I am a terrible teacher!!! I am a walking example of the education apocalypse that is predicted when parents homeschool their children!!!)
As I began to understand that CJ’s brain just wasn’t wired on a traditional school schedule, I became a little more patient during his lesson time. But I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. This past summer I was giving him first grade level work and he couldn’t do it. He needed a ton of coaching to get through his workbook pages. (Apparently I’m not alone in this experience. One popular homeschooling site for parents with dyslexia had an article called “What To Do When Teaching Reading Takes All Day”.)
One day after cleaning up the school supplies, I saw my four year old’s Pre-K workbook and an idea hit me: Get CJ to do all the pages in the Pre-K workbook.
Unorthodox, yes. But I knew he could do it fairly easily. (The great thing is that he didn’t really know that he was doing Pre-K work. He couldn’t read yet and he doesn’t really understand the concept of grades in schools. So his ego didn’t seem much affected. Which is good because he likes to be in charge.)
30 Minutes A Day to Overcoming Dyslexic Symptoms
We did two 15 minute sessions 6 days a week in the Pre-K book. We started back in August and he was done after a few weeks around the beginning of September. The thing I noticed is that he was becoming more familiar with sequences, lines and writing, quantities and the sounds that letters make. So far, so good.
We moved up to the Kindergarten level book and I am thrilled to say that with the same 30 minutes a day, he raced through the workbook in about 6 weeks! Now he can sound out words, rhyme like a poet, do simple addition and subtraction, finish patterns, spell, and read and write short words. He just started first grade level reading, phonics and math.
The other difference I’ve noticed is that he’s become more confident and takes more initiative. He’s started doing some of his worksheets independently and is getting the answers right. He’s still writing his letters backwards, but he knows the names, sounds and how to use them to spell. A couple of weeks ago, he read Hop on Pop out loud to his dad and brother with minimal help. Score!
Why Is It Working?
I’m not a learning specialist, but my guess is that since dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder that affects the parts of the brain involved in language processing, getting a stronger grounding in phonics, reading and writing has helped him build the pathways in his brain to be a more effective reader and writer.My current hypothesis is that people with dyslexia may need extra strong base in language before moving on to more advanced reading and writing.
I know that people with dyslexia are often auditory learners, but I want CJ to be able to confidently navigate a world that relies heavily on reading and writing. He doesn’t need to be a professor of Russian literature, but I want him to be able to read and write well enough to handle the mountain of bureaucratic paperwork he will inherit at 18 when he has to start taking responsibility for his own medical care. I also don’t want him to be limited in his career options from an inability to read and write well.
Other Things to Note About This Experiment
We’ve also had him using an app called ABC Mouse.com every day. This has introduced him to some second grade level work, though he often needs help with some of the more advanced math and grammar. (However, one of the gifts of being a busy mother of three/ MPH student/ breastfeeding educator/ childbirth educator in training is that I can’t always rush over and help him immediately. There have been so many times he has said that he has a hard math or reading game that he can’t do himself and by the time I’m able to get over to him, he has it figured it out.)
The workbooks we have been using are based on Common Core. You can buy them on Amazon. We’ve used School Zone’s Big Workbooks and supplemental work books as well and Thinking Kids workbooks as well. I don’t if any one work book is better than another, I think it’s the extra reinforcement of those base level skills.
We also feel lucky that we didn’t come into this with the baggage of public school. Public school is like public transportation- it’s necessary to have it as an option, but it’s not an ideal solution for everyone. Most schools are not able to provide the resources necessary to diagnose dyslexia and help kids with it. CJ hadn’t had the experience of being the kid in class who doesn’t understand things, so we were able to avoid some of the frustration associated with that. I think half of the difficulty with dyslexia is trying to fit kids with different brains onto a schedule that doesn’t work for them or their teachers.
Seeing how he struggled to count, finish patterns, sequence events and assess quantities for a while, I suspect that he may also have a learning disability called dyscalculia as well.
And so, our exhilarating adventure in homeschooling with dyslexic symptoms continues!