Homeschooling High School for the Teen with Dyslexia

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!

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Teaching the Person with Dyslexia to Spell

 

As a child, I attended Catholic school.  I distinctly remember spelling.  We had a book with ten words a week.  We had to write each word ten times, use each word in a sentence, do some kind of wordplay with the words and finally take a test.  I recall writing the numbers 1-10 in my spelling journal and copying each letter ten times (ie-shirt, 1. s, 2. s, 3. s,….1.sh, 2.sh, 3. sh…).  I rarely actually wrote the word out in full ten times (ie-1. shirt, 2. shirt, 3. shirt….).  I also rarely (if ever) scored a 10/10 on the quiz.  To this day, I struggle with spelling.  Thus, I want my children’s spelling experience to be different.

I thought from the beginning that we needed a multi-sensory, Orton-Gillingham based program.  We started with All About Spelling.  We learned the spelling rules.  The kids did terrific with spelling while we were spelling.  The program did not seem to carry over into daily writing.  Next we tried Apples and Pears.  Initially, everyone LOVED the daily work and the spelling carried over into daily work.  Unfortunately, everyone tired of the curriculum pretty quickly.  (Although, I still like it.)  Last year and this year, my older two kids used Phonetic Zoo.  Again, initially they loved it but they quickly got bored with it.

So what to do?  Well, my oldest mentioned last week how much reading books and copy work helps him with his spelling.  Doesn’t that just say it all?  He works with a dyslexic brain, as do I.  He has just over the past year started reading for enjoyment.  My daughter, a ferocious reader, has never struggled with spelling.

Now I have to make the decision for next year.  My gut is to play a lot of scrabble, read, do copy work, read, and maybe continue to read.

2014-2015 Year End Wrap Up: Grade 6

The year is coming to an end, and it is time to reflect on each child’s progress over the past year.  I wrote about our second and fourth grade plans in the two previous posts if you want to check them out.  Sixth grade proved to be a big year for Sims. Similar to Sawyer, he did not rock all of goals but he surpassed my expectations on a few other activities.  Here are the goals that I made for Sims at the beginning of the year (hind sight is always 20/20.  I put in writing goals for the older two but I had no plans work on writing this year.  The plan was to focus on grammar.  Just reminds me to make sure my plans and my goals actually will work together).

Sims (sixth grade): 1) Begin note taking with research 2)increase independence with reading and activities 3)time management skills 4)Vocabulary 5)Independent with writing a well planned 5 paragraph paper 6) Journaling

Wow, did I go wrong with these goals.  In the beginning of the year, Sims did work hard on taking notes, doing vocabulary and writing.  After Christmas, his enthusiasm to write did not remain.  Thus goals and 1, 4, and 5 were not met at a level that I feel comfortable with.  On the flip side, he found the love of reading!!  I will take this over writing any day.  He read more books than I was able to keep up with.  He used to always kid Sawyer about how much she reads during the day until this year.  He read the Hatchet series, the My Side of the Mountain series and many other books.  I must say, once again, that I LOVE Learning Ally (If you have a child with a reading disability, I HIGHLY recommend checking into Learning Ally).  Sims also really stepped it up this year with being independent and managing his time and work load.

Ok, onto curriculum!

Spelling: Sims started the year with Apples and Pears and quickly asked if he could find another program.  I have to admit that this hurt a little bit because he was doing so well with Apples and Pears.  The carry over with spelling into other writing is amazing.  I researched programs and we decided upon IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  He loves it.  The program is simple to use. Overall, Sims’ spelling improved over the year.  Even better than improvement is his awareness of spelling.  He wants to spell words correctly and really started asking how to spell words more this year.

Grammar: Growing with Grammar worked well for Sims as well as the other two kiddos.  He easily read the lesson in the lesson book and then used  new information to complete the assignment.  The assignments were easily modified on days that he did not want to write as much (which were few).  The lessons are written directly to the student so he only needed help when he didn’t understand a concept.

Math: Sims completed the first half of Teaching Textbooks level 6 and quickly became bored with the program.  I guess he is feeling more comfortable looking at other curriculums because he again asked if we could look around for something else.  We ended up with Math Mammoth Grade 6.  He loves is.  Overall, the content is more on a seventh grade level compared to the other sixth grade math programs that we looked at.  The lessons are short but require some mind work.  🙂  He will continue to work through that book next year as of right now.  Sims also used a lot of practical math this year with more hands on projects.

Main Lessons:  We loosely followed the Waldorf Essentials sixth grade curriculum.  Sims really enjoyed the lessons this year though.  He worked through business math using the book Striker Jones which made the subject very interesting and appealing to a sixth grader.  He LOVED Roman history.  We spent way too much time on this and did not get through nearly as much Medieval History because of the amount of time we spent on studying Rome.  Sims also thoroughly enjoyed physics this year.  He worked with his Grandad using the Lego Technics Educational sets.  He also did the physical science program from Education Exploration.  Both were terrific programs.  Sims also worked through geology with the other two kiddos.

Enrichment: Just as the other two kiddos, enrichment takes over!  Sims took Adventure Journaling, hiking classes, survival classes, Boy Scouts, gymnastics team, drumming, art, wildlife biology,archery and horse back riding.

Overall, sixth grade was a year of growth for Sims.  I cannot believe how much he accomplished this year.  He keeps inventing new contraptions and working to improve items that he owns (most of the time, he truly makes improvements-sometimes, the “improvements” cost us).  He fell in love hand crafts such as leather working, backsmithing and wood working.  I enjoy watching him transform into an amazing young man!

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No Curriculum Required

No Curriculum Required

Around here it is the time to look at curriculums, schools and plans for next year.  This time of year always gets me thinking.  Are we in a good spot?

Are the kids learning new information? how to learn?

Are the kids happy?

Are they engaged?

For the first time ever since I became the parent of school aged kids, I am content.  Yes, we are in a terrific spot.  We are not stuck on curriculum.  Life is learning.  When the kids are interested in something, they go with it.  They delve into the subject finding out all that they need.  They laugh daily. They argue daily.  They are learning so much more than information in books.  They are learning about being a good neighbor and citizen, nature, being a good friend, being a loving sibling, emotions, cooking, health, money, reading, math, and being a teacher.  They are engaged in life.  They plan.  They make goals.  All of the important information that they are learning comes from life.  No curriculum can teach all of this.

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Learning Ally has Changed Our Home!

My boy can’t stop reading.  I never thought that I would say those words but I am.  I LOVE it.  Actually, the situation is quite humorous.  Sawyer loves lives to read.  She reads all the time.  The boys find her love for reading quite annoying.  They want her to play and to finish her school work so that she can play.  Of course, she gets so engrossed in a story that she cannot stop.

Well, the situation has shifted a bit since Christmas.  One of our family gifts was a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  Mainly, the tablet is used for school.  The bonus of the tablet is that it is large like an ipad so that you can read on it as well.  In the past, Sims would pick up a book to read occasionally, and he would listen to the book using Learning Ally on my phone.  With the tablet, Sims can read the book and listen to it on the tablet.  Not only does Learning Ally have the text available now, but the text is highlighted as it is read.  I am excited that Learning Ally added this feature.  I know that they have had it for a while, and we did not take advantage of it.

Now, we have house full of readers.  Sawyer still loves the feel of a book, and she does read ALL the time.  I cannot keep up with all of the books that she reads.  Parks likes to use the kindle to read on so that he can make the print a little larger and a little more spaced out (this is they way that I like to read as well).  An now, Sims is reading like a madman on the Samsung tablet.  (In fact, the house is quiet right now with EVERYONE reading.  Those are also words that I thought I would never say.”

Our Holiday Break

Happy New Year Everyone!  I do not have a New Year’s post ready yet.  I am still working on my goals and our plans for 2015.  In the meantime, I figure that I can still write an update on our world.  Many people ask if homeschoolers take a break from schooling and for us the answer is a loud, “YES!”  We look forward to breaks as much as most people.

We lucked out and also got to have Nick home with us for the two week break.  We love having Dad around!  We started our break with a party at Sims’ gymnastics team, and we have been going strong since then!  We ice skated, skied, learned how to throw knives (yes, normal families throw a football on Christmas Day.  Odd ones, throw knives), hiked on the Blue Ridge Parkway, swam, and celebrated the new year.

We are wiped and need a break.  Smile..just kidding.  It is about time to get back into our normal schedule.  I hope you had a terrific holiday as well!

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*On a side note-today we hiked at Latta Plantation with a group.  We went through the Treasure Tree Trail which has a paper guide with information to be read at each marked spot.  Sims volunteered to read at 4 spots.  This may not seem like a big deal for most kids, but for Sims-this was a big accomplishment.  In the past, he has not jumped up to read aloud-EVER!  He still is not a fluent reader, but he did well.  Sawyer also read aloud with some coaxing.  We couldn’t get Parks to step up for a turn, but I am not pushing it.  I know he will surprise me one day by jumping up to read aloud for a group some day as well.

10 Things a Parent to a Child with Dyslexia Wishes You Understood

Since discovering that my children have dyslexia, I have been absorbing all of the information about dyslexia that I can possibly find. In the process, I’ve learned so much. Without further ado, here are the top 10 things a parent to a child with dyslexia wishes you understood:

via 10 Things a Parent to a Child with Dyslexia Wishes You Understood.