Outside The Box Homeschooling

A site to help moms teach their "outside the box" kids.

Processing Disorders – Disclaimer

At our house, we are in the infancy and learning process as to what a processing disorder, such as dyslexia, means.  From what I have read, there are many different forms and kinds of dyslexia.  By no means am I an expert in this area and do not intend any of my posts to be a means of diagnosis.  I am just another homeschool mom searching for a way to teach my daughter in a way that makes sense to her.  I hope that I am an encouragement to other moms out there on similar journeys.  The huge weight that I used to carry around on my shoulders was lifted this year, as we have finally found something that works for Sweet Pea.  Keep up the good fight, researching, and advocating for your kids.

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Homeschooling a Dyslexic Child

Sweet Pea was only about one or two when I noticed that she approached the world differently.  She spoke her own language until she was about three.  We joked around that she spoke in tongues.  There was a definite pattern to her speech.  Over and over, she would repeat the same sounds and get frustrated when the rest of us failed to speak her language.  I vividly remember the day she stood at the end of the hallway yelling the same sentence over and over at me while I guessed the meaning.  Finally, I came upon the correct meaning.  She threw her hands in the air, clapping, and yelled, “Yeh, Mommy!”  Portions of her speech we could understand, but it was different than the typical toddler jabber.  She still spoke this language into her first grade year of school.  I would look at her and tell her to translate.  She would then translate her language into English.  She knew exactly what her language meant.  Yes, I will admit, for me is went way past being cute and really struck me as odd.

Many other personality and behavior issues directed me to think that I probably had an “outside the box” kid. I thought we were most likely dealing with ADHD, as we suspect that my husband has it.  He did not have a pleasant trip through the public school system and I refused to allow my child to follow that same path.  The gears began to wind as to how I could help her be herself while providing structure and guidance to her education.  I wanted to figure out how to teach her the way she learned.  Let me tell you, this has been a long and interesting journey…. and we are only to second grade with her.

Math went pretty well for her… well, sort of.  It took me about two or three years to get her to call eight an eight.  She almost always skipped five.  What to do with a child who refuses to acknowledge the existence of the number five and insists that eight is a snowman?  One, two, three, four, six, seven, snowman, nine, ten.  On the other hand, she understood odd and even and basic fractions by the age of four.  I wasn’t quite sure how to teach Sweat Pea because there were definite holes in what she knew, but when it came to concepts, she was so far ahead.  She has taught me patience, forced me to grow, and demanded that I learn how to educate a child without a boring workbook.  A workbook mutiny was waged in full force by this child.  She won, and school is so much more fun and interesting now.  I am glad that she has forced me to be a better teacher by forcing this “inside the box” mama who fit the school model and happily regurgitated memorized information to open my mind to different ways to get the information into her smart little head.  In fact, my mother, a retired public school teacher, told me the other day that she so wishes she had worked with a Sweet Pea at the beginning of her career.  She now wonders how many of those kids who she thought were just not paying attention or misbehaving, simply needed the information presented differently for them to learn?

Then came reading.  Developmental reading has been my least favorite part of our entire homeschool experience.  We are on year three with her. When I asked for help, everyone seemed to think I was just comparing her to her sister.  Sis read chapter books in the first grade and breezed through a 3-5 grade writing class as a second grader.  I kept pointing out the fact that she could read “the” on one page and then look at the word as if she hadn’t ever seen it on the very next page.  I searched for reading programs that I thought would work.  The program at the parent partnership program dissolved her into panic attacks and hysterics.  I thought Hooked on Phonics looked most promising.  It had a colored boarder around the edges of the pages to help her focus.  The words were underlined.  We worked and worked all the way through the summer up to her second grade year. I thought that if she went into second grade a stronger reader, she wouldn’t be so anxious.  Interestingly enough, the Barton Reading site lists Hooked on Phonics on its list of curriculums that don’t work for dyslexic children.  Well, I’ll be, they were right.

The first day of school came along.  She actually read quite well and tried hard for her new teacher.  There weren’t any tears and she put forth a great effort. From that one reading, her teacher approached me and asked me if she had ever been tested for dyslexia.  I hadn’t thought to explore this area.  She switched her “b” and “d” letters, but wasn’t that developmentally normal?  The test was only twenty five dollars, so I thought I would give it a whirl.  What was there to lose?  Interestingly enough, the tutor identified exactly the issues I had been trying to explain to other people.  Sweet Pea tested gifted in some areas and preK in others.  The child can perfectly pick out parts of speech, but writes on a pre-school level.  She isn’t slow, but who asks a child to pick out nouns and verbs when they can’t read “the”?  I was overjoyed.  What was to come was what I called “A Total God Thing”.

Our parent partnership had just experienced a major overhaul by the school district.  Many of our classes had been cut, especially for the younger children.  The only way to schedule both children at the same time was to enroll Sweet Pea in the horrid reading program that had produced tears and anxiety the previous year.  I wasn’t thrilled.  Ok, I was the mom who threw a minor fit over the whole thing.  Then, Barton Reading threatened to pull their license because it was only being taught one day per week.  The program is supposed to be taught two days a week.  They had to move it in the schedule.  I was notified that the dyslexia program was going to be moved to the exact day and time as the HORRID PROGRAM!  ( I will keep my completely negative review of that curriculum to myself for now.) The only catch was that she had to have someone to attend with her to work one on one with her.  Due to work and health issues, I wasn’t going to be able to do this. Guess what happened next?  The most wonderful reading teacher on the planet, didn’t happen to have a child assigned to her during that time slot.  Sweet Pea has been able to work one on one with her all year, two days a week, and then return to the regular class just for the literature portion.  It has worked out fabulously, and she has done so well.  Reading makes sense to her now.  The anxiety attacks are gone.  She is learning to read the way her brain works.  I can’t say enough about how pleased I am with this program.  Granted, she still is significantly behind.  We will be paying a Barton tutor this summer to continue working with her, but school and learning has turned from a negative chore into a love for learning.

Barton Reading does offer homeschool curriculum, but it is extremely expensive.  The Barton tutor in our area charges around $120 per month to work with a child two days per week.  We receive this program for free through the public school district.  If this program is out of reach financially for your family, another similar program is All About Spelling.  Their method is slightly different, but I think it might accomplish a similar result.  We started using it this year before Barton became available.  We were asked to discontinue its use because they didn’t want to confuse her due to it being too similar.