“Why can’t you remember this!”
“We just went over this yesterday!”
“Why can’t you pay attention?”
There are memories of my early years of homeschooling that I wish I could forget. Those were the days before I understood that my kids might not learn like me – or like anyone I had ever known. They were the days that I misunderstood learning, dyslexia, ADD and the beautiful freedom that I had in homeschooling.
One of the reasons that I started this site was to share what I have learned and to maybe help a few people to avoid the painful and costly mistakes that our family made when we first started homeschooling our kids with dyslexia. Here’s what I wish I had known:
1. Homeschool isn’t school at home. Recreating a traditional classroom at home seems laughable to me today. Why bother when we have the freedom to create any kind of learning environment that we wish? Well, if you’re like me, probably because that was the only understanding of school that you had. Schedules, and lists and homework and text books – lots and lots of textbooks. Oh, and ‘What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know” books. Parents of dyslexics don’t need those. No parent needs those.
2. Don’t compare. It starts with comparing yourself to traditional school and continues with comparing yourself to every other homeschooler you come into contact with. Yup. It’s middle school all over again. Why are we so brave to step outside the norm of public school yet so quick to cower in shame when our kids aren’t performing like other kids? If I knew what I know now, I’d know that my kids excel in some areas and are average or below average in others – just like every other kid out there. I would begin early to look for my kids strengths and help cultivate them.
3. Some people won’t understand or support your choice to homeschool. And those people haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. They still believe that the schools are the educational experts because most of us assume that their training would include learning about dyslexia. It doesn’t. Most people don’t know that even reading specialists with advanced degrees don’t have any training in what dyslexia is, how to diagnose it or how to teach these kids the way they learn. As parents it is our responsibility to protect our kids and to provide them with the best learning environment we can. Many kids with dyslexia in the traditional school setting are feeling anxious and depressed due to continually being misunderstood.
4. Kids with dyslexia can learn well with the right methods. Because I grew up in a traditional classroom, and liked it, I never bothered exploring other ways to teach when I became a homeschooler. That is until my right-brained, creative kids were bored to tears and not learning! Now we are what I call eclectic homeschooler, borrowing methods from a variety of teaching styles. Get more ideas for teaching your kids the way they learn by reading this post on How Dyslexics Learn.
5. They will learn eventually – regardless of which method you use. While it seemed to me in those early days like my kids would never learn – they did. Even with my mismatched methods and despite my worry. In fact, my mom instinct told me to just keep reading to them (or use audio books) and sure enough, when they learned to read – they zoomed ahead. Wish I had known that from the beginning. It would have saved me a lot of worry.My oldest kids began reading on their own for pleasure at 12 and 10 years old. This process wasn’t without its issues, and I am now a firm believer in early intervention so that our kids don’t have to fall behind, lose their confidence and feel stupid.
6. Enjoy your kids and celebrate their gifts – even if they can’t read yet. Funny thing with people with dyslexia is that their apparent ‘disabilities’ often over shadow their inherent strengths. Things like being able to make connections that others can’t see and being able to see the big picture unlike others. Who ever said that caring for animals, singing like a pro, being an amazing organizer or being able to solve complicated math problems in your head and a myriad of other talents aren’t valuable? We were all created differently so that we could fulfill different purposes. We are all valuable!
7. Every dis-ability that kids with dyslexia have has an opposing ability. People with dyslexia are famous for being able to see the big picture – to make connections that others who think in a more linear fashion are unable to make. The flip side of this ability to think conceptually is that they often miss out on the fine details of a subject. So while teaching these kids to read and write and spell (and sometimes math) can be an uphill battle, don’t lose sight of their real gifts and talents. Learn about the dyslexic strengths and notice and cultivate them in your kids.
8. Our kids need us to be their advocate and teach them to one day be their own advocate. Studies on ‘successful’ dyslexics asked what one thing had the biggest impact on their success. The majority of those polled said that it was the presence of at least one caring adult who took the time to understand and help them. That’s you. As a parent of a child (or children) with dyslexia, it is our job to get educated about what dyslexia is (and isn’t) and to help our kids understand what it is as well. Taking one of my Parent Dyslexia Classes is a great way to start.