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!

A Whole is Simply the Sum of Its Parts

So what do prime numbers, factoring, multiples and division all have in common?  Why do we learn them?

Welcome to the second math block of the year!  In the first math block, Sims worked on prime numbers, factoring, complex multiplication, long division and reviewing addition/subtraction.  The second math block focuses mainly on, you guessed it, FRACTIONS!  When I think of fractions, I mainly think how many parts of a whole.  However, as I review fractions to teach them to Sims, I am amazed at how much more there is to them and how they bring everything we’ve done so far this year together,

First, we focused on the simple things such as how to name them.  For a child with dyslexia, we had to focus quite a bit on the “ths” sound at the end of tenths and hundredths.  Next we discussed all the places we casually use fractions in our daily lives; such as distance, cooking, filling the gas tank and of course money.  In Montessori, we use circles and look at how to break up circles into pieces.  In Waldorf, we use a fraction tree.  Since we use both methods, we did both.  Then, Sims took it a step further and made a fraction hand.  I was pretty impressed with his idea and it worked well.

Over the next few weeks, we will begin working with fractions more in-depth.  We will bring in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions.  The fun of fourth grade math.

Fraction Hand1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

 Fraction Hand
1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

Fraction Tree with Roots1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Fraction Tree with Roots
1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Montessori Fraction Circle

Montessori Fraction Circle



Disability? Not Now…Maybe Later

Endless Possibilities

Endless Possibilities

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 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.

“He who is served is limited in his independence.”Maria Montessori

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Week 1-the introduction to school-CHECK

Week 2- the first full week of school-CHECK

The week began in a different way than I had imagined-but this is how life goes; so, I went with it.  Our family went out of town for the weekend, and we were all exhausted.  So 830 rolled around and none of us were ready to begin.  Thank goodness we are at home and we made the choice to start the following day.  This lasted until about 230.  By this time, the kids were on each other’s nerves and the day was going down hill fast.  I motioned everyone to the school room and just told everyone to find some work.  THREE hours went by!  They worked and worked and worked.  I loved what they came up with.  Sims and Sawyer used the metal insets to make pictures and then they each wrote a story about their picture.  Lessons were given.  It was beautiful.  My husband came home and asked if school started and the kids answered, “no, school starts tomorrow.”  I did not have the heart to tell them that they actually were in school.

Tuesday through Friday went a little more as I planned.  We woke up and had a leisurely morning.  They boys got outside most of the mornings to play in the yard before school  School started at 830 with the calendar, a song or poem and a review of the day.  Sims and Sawyer (Fourth and second grades) each have a new and improved workplan.  Parks has 6 drawers filled with activities and the lessons I planned for him through the week.  In my mind, I thought six drawers full of activities would be plenty.  The first thing he asked for was apple cutting.  Umm……there is no apple cutting up in the school room….What about the long bead chains?…..nope.  Hmmmm…..Thoughts that had not crossed my mind.  I knew homeschooling would be a change for Parks, but I did not consider how it will also be limiting the independence and choices he had in the past.   Obviously, I do not have loads of Montessori materials or even enough to keep him busy for an entire work period; however, we are going to work on a plan.

The work period continued until 11 at which time, the crew headed outside.  Parks worked in the garden and in sandbox on his creation.  Sims and Sawyer finished up their work and did nature study.  Then at noon, we all sat and ate lunch (which they cooked) and went on with the rest of the day.  Afternoon activities will begin next week and include dance (for Sawyer), if all goes well-a co-op with Spanish, drums (for the boys) and a lot of afternoon fun.

I found it scary last week that it was already time for school to begin.  This week, I am releaved.  Our family has come back together.  The kids are getting along well and playing together every chance they get.  They have started a band (I apologize in advance to all of my neighbors as I put them in the attic to try to stifle some of the “music”).  They are planning a fairy garden and a fall vegetable garden.  They are giving input on things they want to research and getting excited about the year.  Let’s hope the excitement continues.

It seems most children have officially begum school at this point in the year.  I hope all of your little ones are having a wonderful start in their journey this year as well.  Thank you for taking a few moments from your day to read my blog.  Please, keep the questions and comments coming.  I am always looking for feedback to keep people coming back for more!  Have a beautiful week!