We made the decision to homeschool our dyslexic son three years ago. Our experience working with the school district to address his need for additional help was less than satisfying. I’ve come to see that as a blessing, because it allowed me to move forward without anxiety that he would have been better off at school.
We were very fortunate to have an excellent classroom teacher and reading specialist, however each year would have brought a new lottery for a teacher.
Looking back I’m glad homeschool was the number one option for us. There are many benefits I didn’t fully appreciate at the time we made the decision. So far I would call homeschool a huge success, not just for where our son’s reading skills are, but also for his emotional health and positive relationships within the family.
So why is homeschool so great for dyslexic kids?
1. Homeschool lets you arrange the schedule. The hard work can be done at your child’s most productive times. When you have dyslexia, reading is hard work. Smash together too many reading and writing activities or place them at the wrong time and not much will sink in.
2. Homeschool allows for individual reading instruction. We were pretty much laughed out of our IEP meeting when we stated we wanted our son to receive individualized reading instruction. “There isn’t a child at this school who wouldn’t benefit from individualized instruction, but we can’t possibly give them that.” That is from an A+ rated school. We have worked with tutors and I have learned many effective techniques for improving reading instruction. By far the most beneficial thing we do is read together every day using material my son selects for himself. We use the techniques we’ve learned to enhance that experience, and we always making sure whatever we are reading is valuable to him. We also do a short phonics lessons each day.
3. Homeschool allows for continual adjustment. Reading is hard work for a dyslexic. Writing is tiring as well. Homeschool allows us to push up to a certain point and then switch it up. We can work orally or change subjects or take a break, but we try to keep the learning continual without letting the dyslexia get in the way. Every day, every hour we are finding the balance between stretching for growth and counter productive frustration.
4. Homeschool allows the dyslexic child to experience the same satisfaction in reaching milestones that normal readers do. Many skills simply take the dyslexic reader longer to master. If all their peers have moved on it can feel a bit hollow finally reaching a goal. Homeschool removes that constant comparison and lets the dyslexic child move at his or her own pace with confidence and celebrate the milestones they have worked hard to reach.
5. Homeschool removes the nightly homework struggle and can improve relationships at home. Imagine that you have a really difficult job. Every day you go to work, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day for you to get everything done. You are exhausted after working hard, but you dutifully bring home your work night after night. Your employer has recruited your spouse to report how many hours your spend doing work at home. Your friends don’t have such difficult jobs and you frequently see them hanging out together. If you manage to join them, it’s only for a short time before your spouse reminds you to do your work. It would suck right? That’s pretty much what dyslexic kids are experiencing. They come home looking for a haven of rest and acceptance only to have homework hanging over them.
Homeschool allows the child to work hard during the day while receiving appropriate accommodations to help move the work along. During the evening he / she can pursue interests and build bonds with the family. Evenings are a great time to participate in team activities like sports or robotics.
6. The homeschool environment has fewer distractions. Try reading a very difficult piece of technical material in the middle of a crowded airport while listening for your flight to be called. I think life is very similar for many dyslexic children. Reading and writing takes an incredible amount of focus for them, yet the environment can be extremely distracting and they are expected to tune in to certain interruptions (i.e. the teacher making an announcement or clarifying/modifying instructions). Add to that the frustration of being told you aren’t focusing.
7. Homeschool allows kids to focus on areas of strength. School success is heavily dependent on fast reading and writing skills. A well run homeschool program will allow the child to investigate other areas of interest well beyond what is available in school. Perhaps it’s playing a musical instrument, karate or sculpture. Even in more academic fields like science and engineering, adjustments can be made so the child enjoys more success than in a traditional classroom.
Let me clear that we are in no way giving up on college or advanced education. We are just figuring out how to best overcome dyslexia and develop the best possible reading and writing skills. SIMULTANEOUSLY we are figuring out what accommodations are necessary and helpful. Time management will always be a big piece of the puzzle for our son. He will be able to read, but large volumes of reading will be slow and laborious. He needs find ways to manage his time well by using the tools that are available.
8. Homeschooling your dyslexic child lets you see and appreciate his / her incredible abilities. When you open up to a more complete learning environment that includes learning through audio books, documentaries, field trips and hands on activities you will not see your child as having a learning disability – instead you will realize how limited traditional views of learning are.
I want to close with a picture of a happy and relaxed child learning about icebergs. So many of the posts I read when I was first researching dyslexia used pictures that showed people looking sad and distressed. When a child is matched with an appropriate learning environment, dyslexia is less a learning disability and more just a fact of life.