Homeschooling is a terrific option for many children with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia. At first, you may think that it is too much to tackle. However, you have time on your side when you homeschool! Children with dyslexia and dysgraphia typically need to have information presented in multiple ways. Children with dyslexia also do much better when information is presented either in a small group or one on one. Teachers do not have the time or the resources to do these two things even when they really want to.
Homeschooling high school makes many parents anxious-you are not alone! I do worry that I am not doing enough or that we are not doing something right, but then I take a deep breath and realize how far my son has come! This post is a revision of two previous posts. Now my son is in high school, so a few things have changed.
Spelling: We started with All About Spelling and went through levels 1-4. This program taught/reinforced the spelling rules. The down side for us was that the information did not carry over into other writing activities. Well, it is wonderful to get a 100% on your spelling test but if you can not spell the word in your journal or in an email, then you didn’t get it. Thus, I moved to another spelling program called Apples and Pears. This is an open and go curriculum. We started with the first book and are moved through the second book. The program appears to have no rhyme or reason initially but as the teacher, you soon realize that the words appear again and the patterns are progressed. The best part is that the spelling carried over!
The best spelling program I have found for high school-texting. Yep, you read that correctly-texting. Once my son got a phone and began texting his friends, he began to be aware of this spelling errors. The phone marks when the word is spelled incorrectly. It also has word prediction. Seeing words spelled properly over and over that are used in daily communication has had the largest impact yet on spelling. The carry over is amazing!
Reading fluency and comprehension: For reading fluency, we used Dancing Bears. He began with the fast track AB book which went through the sounds fairly quickly. Due to the extensive tutoring, he did well with this. If you have a reader who is still struggling with the initial sounds, then I highly recommend you begin with book A (we are doing this with our youngest and it is working well). Again, I find the carry over phenomenal. Reading fluency in other book continues to improve. Reading aloud is still a struggle and most books that my son can read aloud are not necessarily what he wants to read. This is why we use Learning Ally! Learning Ally is an online program for people who are blind and/or have a reading disability. Learning Ally has real people record books as they read them aloud. Note that I added real people. The kindle and apple programs can read aloud but the voice is automated and lacks inflection. Real people make the stories come alive, use the proper pausing, and use the proper inflection. Learning Ally allows Sims to read books that are at his comprehension level, which is much higher than his fluency level. Learning Ally also has many textbooks which can be beneficial for high school and college! We also use audibles a lot also. Reading speed continues to be an issue, but fluency has increased.
Writing: I did not use a specific curriculum for writing originally. I had him journal and write nature studies that I did not edit. These were for him just to simply practice writing. Then when he did have a writing assignment, we did several things. Some times he would make notes and then dictate the paragraph or paper to me to write. Other times, he made his notes, formed an outline, and then wrote on wide ruled paper and skipping a line. We use form drawings (a Waldorf activity) and metal insets (a Montessori activity) to work on sizing, fluid motion, pressure and letter formation. I also recommend using gel pens or mechanical pencils. Gel pens allow for smooth writing. Mechanical pens teach how much pressure is needed (most kids with dyslexia/dysgraphia tend to push very hard when writing-the crayon breakers-LOL).
Last year, Sims worked through Essentials in Writing level 9. Overall, it was ok. I didn’t love it. He didn’t love it. The writing was dry and mechanical. This year, he is using a program called Byline which is more journalistic writing. So far, it is going very well. There is a purpose to the writing which (like the spelling) makes it more motivating. He is also using speech to text some for longer papers. Speech to text still requires him to plan, outline, and have a rough draft.
Math: Luckily for Sims, math comes easy. He gets it and he understands how to apply it. We used Teaching Textbooks in the past. For Algebra, Sims used Life of Fred and he loved it. This year, he is making an online class for geometry. Now the difficult part isn’t doing the calculations. It is the writing! In the years past, he has used two methods to keep the numbers in line. One trick is to use large graph paper (meaning the squares are large). This is tough to find, but when I do, I stock up! The other trick we us is to turn a wide ruled notebook sideways. This allows you to place the numbers in the same column. For geometry, the writing continues to be the most difficult part.
Note taking/Vocabulary: We use two methods for note taking and vocabulary. One method is using notecards. Some people love notecards. Others do not. They are simple. He can put a picture on one side and a word on the other or a definition. There are many options for using notecards. Notecards allow the use of pictures too. The second method is to draw a T on a sheet of lined paper with the top of the T going across the top of the page and the perpendicular line about three inches from the left hand side of the page. Then either dates or vocabulary words or a main topic can go in the left column. On the right, corresponding definitions, information or notes are written. Adding color is a terrific option. Highlighters or using different colored pens are options.
We are only one full year into high school, but we are figuring out some methods for Sims to be as independent as possible. He seems to be doing well with it. We have taken some of the fluff out of some subjects, but he is doing them all. He has also learned to advocate for himself this year in his outside classes. He attempted to take notes in his chemistry class, but could not seem to get everything done (and legible), so he spoke with the instructor (who happens to also be dyslexic) about getting a copy of the notes after class. This way, Sims writes as much as he can so that he can practice taking notes. After class, he looks over his notes and the instructor’s notes to make comparisons/corrections. As I stated in an earlier post, we know that he has dyslexia and dysgraphia but it no longer seems to be a learning disability while he is learning at home. He is beginning to take classes outside of the home, so hopefully all that he is doing will continue to transfer over to his classes!