Homeschooling Why and How

Dyslexic Child Can’t Keep Up

A distressed mother wrote:

Hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing concerning my little daughter Holly. She is 8 years old and is of the age to be in 2nd grade. I pulled her out of school last year because, at the end of 1st grade, she was unable to read. Although the school she attended wasn’t standards based, she wasn’t ready to go on with her age group and I didn’t want her to fail.

I’ve worked with her this year (since September) and she has made some progress in her reading. I’m concerned tho’ because it isn’t what would be considered an entire year of school work. I would say that we have finished about a half years worth of what would be considered 1st grade work….and its been a struggle every day. In addition, her writing is very primitive. Most of her letters are reversed, poorly formed, and she has trouble distinguishing between b, d, u, a, m, and n. Math is difficult, too. We’ve made about the same amount of progress in the 1st grade math book. My first reaction is that she has dyslexia and I want to have her tested and send her to Assets School. $15,000. a year now…ugggg. But, maybe she just is a bit immature.

I remembered you told me that your son didn’t read until he was 12. How did you teach him when he couldn’t read? How did you comply with the DOE’s request for a report/testing. Do you wish you would have been more traditional in your teaching method or are you happy? Do you think I should have her tested for dyslexia? Is it possible to get a false positive? Does immaturity test as dyslexia, and with the right learning style/ time it corrects itself? If she is dyslexic is it possible to homeschool her?
One of my friends, who is a traditionalist, insists I get help for her–she says that without help she will only grow more resistant and fall farther and farther behind. I don’t know….even if she is dyslexic, the Assets remedy seems almost worse that the problem.
Thanks so much for listening.  Yours,Patty

(Disclaimer:  I have no special training in special education.  Everything I say in my response is from what I’ve read and heard of parents’ stories and from homeschooling our own son)

Ah, how many phone calls I get each year with questions similar to yours.

The answer to your first question, “How did I teach him when he couldn’t read?” is perhaps the answer to all your questions. Check out my book, Homeschooling: Why and How at Amazon or in your state library as many states have copies. The section ”Our Bodyboarding and Rollerblading Curriculum” is the answer to that question but I’ll address the others specifically.

Regarding “learning disabilities,” read the blog on my website The Child Who Hates Math. Besides what Ms. VosSavant says, there is a book, The Magic Feather, that I’ve only scanned but seems right on. My personal view on all this is that we all reverse letters, confuse the mirror image letters and have other problems at the start of reading. And I’ve observed these tend to just take care of themselves with time and enough exposure to books. Kind of like remembering someone’s name — some people remember the name after hearing it once, some people have to have repeated contact with the person. But if we see them really often, we remember.

I’m also reminded of the book, The Child Under Six. He talks about behaviors that are “naughty but nice.” These are the age-appropriate behaviors like how a 2 year old won’t share that whether you try to teach, cajole, coerce, bribe, or punish, the behavior changes when the child grows older. Parents take credit for the change but it would have happened anyway. I feel this is the same with the “professionals” who work with “learning disabled” kids — they take credit for changing what the child simply matured out of. I put “learning disabled” in quotes because I don’t believe in the term nor in “dyslexic” as a label. We don’t label adults when they get a name wrong. Why do we insist on labeling children? Some kids are good at math, some are artists, some are athletes, some are poets. Some are not good at these things….just like adults. We expect children to conform to some adult-created standard of when they are supposed to be good at certain things. It’s our fears, that our children will be doomed if they don’t catch up on this or that by a particular grade in school. I’ll bet I know a lot more about nutrition than you do but you aren’t worried about catching up with me. (And I learned everything I know about nutrition since graduating from college).

As for the testing rule in the homeschool laws, read the article on-line about the laws at the above site. For 3rd grade, I submitted a video of things we did. For reading, I showed me reading to our son and the intelligent questions he asked. (I taped us for about 3 hours and edited it down to the parts that showed he was involved). I think for 5th grade I submitted some letters from people who knew him. He never took any kind of test until he was 15 and wanted to try out school and had to take a placement test. I had never pushed academics on him and he was far behind his peers. But when he decided he himself wanted to take the test and do well, he pushed me! He studied hard for about 4 months and when he took the test (math and reading), he tested grade 12.5! So Holly has lots of time to catch up. And in high school, he took hard classes like 11th grade history and Japanese and he got all A’s except a B in auto shop because his notebook was sloppy. He couldn’t see the sense of copying stuff like sizes of bolts into a notebook when he could just look it up in a book, so he didn’t take the notebook seriously.

As for our satisfaction with our approach, yes, we are very glad we took the approach we did. Our son is an excellent writer, a decent speller (better than his dad who was one semester short of graduating UH), enjoys reading, mostly non-fiction (unlike his peers who seem to have an aversion to reading). The dire warnings of him “never getting a job” have somewhat come true — he is self employed and makes very good money as owner of HI Focused Cinematography.
Of course, we all have times of doubting our approaches. Only the most arrogant never doubt themselves. Another piece I wrote might be helpful on this, I, too, Cry in the Night. But as time goes by, I doubt less and less. He is somewhat driven to succeed but I know that I am still not God of his destiny. I can’t say this or that about him is because I did this or that. I just know that I am proud of the person he is and have 100% confidence in his ability to pursue and achieve most of his goals (an elusive one might be his goal of being best in the world at his sport, but don’t tell him I said that 🙂

Your friend who cautions about Holly becoming “more resistant” is so typical of adults in our society. We have this arrogant view that we know best for our children (and maybe for everyone else, too). We try to make our kids learn what we feel they need to know when how can we know what the world they will eventually live in will be like? And what about the child’s inner gifts, her, for lack of a better word, destiny? It’s by finding out what the child is inner-driven to do that we discover that child’s unique gifts, those things that will give her fulfillment and pleasure in life and will be the biggest contribution to the world.

I feel that so much of my homeschooling and parenting was as much a lesson for me — to unlearn the false lessons passed on in our society. Things like how if you listen to and respond to a child’s communication, you will “spoil” her. If they don’t learn such and such by such and such grade, they’ll never catch up to their peers. We all must be good at everything. Children should live away from their parents when they are adults. So many things we’ve been instilled with just turn out to be false.

You will find the article by John Gatto helpful, too.
I hope this helps. Feel free to write back as much as you need to.

Aloha,
Gail

I, too, Cry in the Night
Gatto acceptance speech
Child Who Hates Math

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