I am working with another parent to start-up a support group for parents who have children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and/or another type of reading disorder. We started talking about this a while ago, and we never got it up and going until recently. I have to admit that I do not even think about it much anymore. I decided to go back through my blogs (since they are basically my journal for this journey) to see what has changed.
One of the areas I read through was about why we homeschool. The words in this section evoked a few emotions that I had not felt in a while, and they got me thinking. My son and I have a learning disability according to the world. We both have dyslexia and dysgraphia. As I have written about in previous posts, I did not have much of an issue with it growing up and nor do I now as an adult. Well, the neat part is that it is not much of an issue for Sims any more either.
Let me explain. In therapy, people have impairments or something that is not functioning the way it should. Most of us have some type of impairment (flat feet, poor posture, bad teeth, etc). Think about something that is “different” in you. How does it affect you? Does it? If it has no effect on your daily life, then you probably do not think anything about it. However, if you suddenly decide to start a running program with flat feet-you may quickly realize that your flat feet are going to affect your life somehow. When this impairment impacts your life, then it becomes a disability. “Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives.” (Wikipedia-Disability)
So what do flat feet have to do with our reading and writing issues? Well, pretty much nothing. Except for the fact that, yes, we have dyslexia and dysgraphia. They are impairments for us now in our current situation. I think back to when Sims was in school. While attending Montessori school, he was a happy kiddo who did his work. He tried very hard and was willing to ask for help when he needed it (this is how we found out he had something going on. He asked me to come into his classroom to help him with his reading. Big sign that was ignored until it blinked in neon in my face…non stop….for days..months..you get the point). He never felt any social push that he was different. He was learning a lot. However, he was not learning how to read, spell or write. In this situation, he did not have learning disability.
We changed his school so that he could get services through the public school system. When we made the switch from Montessori to traditional school, we thought we were helping him. We thought that we were preventing him from having a disability down the road. We all know that in the fourth grade, most kids transition from learning to read to reading to learn. In my mind, the school would have the resources to help him make this transition. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I took him from an environment where even though he had an impairment, he did not have a disability. He now was in a learning environment that was all teacher lead. The teacher taught by standing in the front of the classroom while the kids sat and took notes (for most kids, this is not an issue. I am not slamming public school or the teacher here. Just trying to explain the teaching style). I quickly lost my fun, loving, happy kiddo. He did not like school (something that he always loved). He was struggling to keep up in class. He was unable to perform his work. He was unable to learn in the environment he was in. I gave him a disability.
As awful as that time was for him and for me as a mom, the experience brought us to homeschooling. We are now at home where he can learn in an environment that works for him. He can use multisensory learning. He can research topics and use those topics to motivate him to read and write. I know many people’s first thought is, “yes, that is great but homschooling is not the real world. He needs to learn to be in school taking notes and tests.” Well yes, I do get to shelter him from being picked on when he is reading aloud. However, overall he is learning how to be in the real world. He is given the time and the freedom to utilize the tools he needs; such as Learning Ally to read a book, going to a dictionary to find out how to spell a word, learning cursive to write because this comes easier (this is not taught in schools in our district unless there is extra time), asking how to pronounce a word, utilizing a multisensory spelling program (All About Spelling) and having the time to rewrite his work.
So as I read through my blogs, I think about how much has changed in just two years. My son went from an environment where he was impaired, happy, and not learning all that he needed into an environment where he became “disabled,” unhappy, and still not learning and now into an environment where he is impaired, confident, happy and learning more than I ever imagined. In addition to that, he gets to be a kid, explore nature, build with his hands and meet some amazing friends who he never would have met. As I have stated before, we will take homeschooling one year at a time. But for now and for as long as I can, I will give my son the chance to focus on his abilities rather than put him a situation that brings the focus to his disabilities.