As a home schooling mom of six children, with my oldest being 21, I have had many experiences through our educational and spiritual journey over our entire home school happenings. I really thought I was flexible enough and experienced enough to handle straight-on whatever came our way. I was not, however, prepared for what happened when my fourth child reached the “reading” stage. All three of his older siblings had easily completed a phonics curriculum and were reading fluently and above grade level shortly thereafter. I know deep-down I quickly assumed their success was due to my incredible teaching ability; but it seems when we allow arrogance and pride to creep in, our Savior—sometimes gently, sometimes abruptly—brings us back to the realization that we are unable and He is able.
There were some signs that concerned us slightly as early as first grade, such as confusing b and d, p and q, 6 and 9, and 5, 2, and S; flipping letters and numbers; reading ending sounds first; and not being able to recall a letter, sound, or even a word he had just learned or struggled through one sentence prior. He had a hard time concentrating and focusing on the task at hand. Because of the concerns we had, we spoke with various people and read many articles trying to determine if our concerns were valid. We were informed by multiple people to wait, that most children are not even tested for learning disabilities until they are in third grade, and that many times children will outgrow some of these issues.
We continued to monitor our son throughout first and second grade, but his difficulties did not lessen, and he did not outgrow them. He became more and more frustrated, especially in the areas of reading and writing. It was obvious to us that he was quickly beginning to lose confidence in his ability to learn. Our school day resembled one of the battlefields we were learning about in our history curriculum. As a result, we began to research what tools were available to determine what the exact learning issues were and how to help our son, to ensure he had the best educational path available to him.
Through our research and much prayer, we developed a plan. The first step was to have his eyes checked. We needed to ensure that his vision was not the basis of his struggle to read. There are vision therapies that can be helpful for some students who have eye muscle weakness or convergence problems. Once we completed that testing, we checked into what avenues were available to have him tested for possible learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, etc. We determined we could make an appointment with a private screening company, a psychiatrist, or our local independent school district’s Special Services department and put our tax dollars to work.
School districts in Texas have funding that gives them the ability to offer “special services,” such as help with visual or auditory impairment, speech difficulties, learning disabilities, autism, etc., to private school and home school students, not just those students who are publicly educated. Because it was most cost effective, we contacted our local school district and made an appointment to meet with the Special Services representative.
When we contacted Special Services in our school district, we were informed that they had helped other home schoolers who had speech issues but they had never helped a home school family in addressing other learning disabilities. Through research on their part, we were given the option of full evaluation and were also provided with a specific reading curriculum to use until we could further assess the situation. It was obvious that our son met many of the criteria for a diagnosis of dyslexia. We began to incorporate the reading curriculum, with accompanying computer software, into our daily lesson plans.
We were also informed that children with dyslexia basically need to work twice as hard, if not more so, to learn and retain information. Repetition and consistency became a daily necessity. The fact that our son needed consistency caused us to see the need to have regularity in our school year and not take off long periods of time for various holidays and summer vacations. Another important aspect in teaching dyslexic children is to teach in a way that encompasses all of the senses. This is referred to as a multisensory teaching approach. For example, we had our son use his fingers to write his letters in a box lid filled with cornmeal. He would hear the letter spoken, say it himself, feel the letter as it was written, and see the letter written. We also used a math curriculum that incorporated manipulatives to give him that hands-on understanding. As parents and teachers, opening our minds to embrace such a multifaceted approach to learning opened up a world of opportunities to be creative and have fun with our teaching methods and not be tied down to strictly “book learning,” which was not meeting the needs of this particular child.
We also decided to locate someone who would be willing to read with our son several times a week. The idea was to have someone, other than Mom or Dad, be a fresh face to work with and possibly relieve some of the “I’ve already done that” or “You are making me do too much” attitude we were encountering. God provided just such a friend. Instead of only reading with him, she began to use a borrowed dyslexia curriculum that incorporated various evaluations to locate his specific issues and began to teach him from it. In addition, we have been using a wonderful computer curriculum called My Reading Coach.
Our son has come a long way and found much success in his ability to decipher words, the fluency of his reading, and his ability to comprehend the stories he is reading. He has even picked up a book on his own without prompting and read of his own volition. He has much more to work hard toward and accomplish, but we have overcome the initial “stop sign” that halted his ability to really move forward in this aspect of his learning process. He is now on a road that is still full of curves and bends, potholes and bumps, but he is moving forward at a steady pace.
As for his parents, we have learned much alongside our son. We have learned to fully embrace learning and not limit it to a classroom-type setting. We have also learned to set aside our pride and ask for and accept help from others, to the benefit of our family. We have realized that a bumpy road is sometimes the best because it grows each one of us in our dependence upon our Creator, Who created each of us so uniquely, and it draws us closer together in community, in helping others, and in accepting help from others.