Are you wondering if homeschooling your dyslexic child is a good idea or the worst idea you’ve ever had? In this post, I cover five great reasons to homeschool, and one possible reason not to.
Here’s what I’ll discuss below:
- Experts make mistakes
- Schools may not actually teach reading
- Children of color are passed over for services
- Parents often have to homeschool after school
- Children need time to pursue special interests
- If homeschooling just doesn’t work for you, here’s what to do
When my oldest daughter, Alta, was in first grade, her teacher pronounced her “uneducable” because she wasn’t learning to read and write like the other kids. She also quit speaking (at school) and started avoiding other kids, who were tormenting her. After a lot of soul-searching and meetings with school experts including a psychologist, a special education teacher, the principal, and her classroom teacher, we decided homeschooling was our best option.
Our decision to homeschool produced consternation and disbelief from the assembled experts. They warned us that we would ruin our child’s life. But, the IEP (individualized education plan) from those meetings consisted of teaching Alta to wipe tables so she could someday get a job at McDonald’s. The picture the experts painted of our child didn’t match the curious happy child we saw at home. So with great trepidation, we decided to ignore the experts’ advice and take our own journey.
Homeschooling was a wonderful journey. I’m grateful those early meetings were so frustrating because it “forced” us into homeschooling and I’m insanely proud of our hard-working daughter! Dyslexia and dysgraphia became her superpowers. She actually reads a lot faster than me! Now, she’s actively enjoying two of her passions as Dr. Graham, professor of music, and computer science, which happens to make her money! Alta co-authored the book, “Dyslexia Tool Kit Expanded Edition: What to do when phonics isn’t enough” with me. Washing tables wasn’t a goal for her!
But, what went wrong at school? Why couldn’t she learn to read there? What would have happened to her if we let the experts guide us?
Parents of dyslexic children are often reluctant to homeschool because they doubt their ability to teach the child to read well. This makes sense to me since I felt the same way. However, few schools provide anything close to the individualized one-on-one instruction needed by a dyslexic child. Most schools do not provide access to audiobooks paired with printed text, allowing the dyslexic child to keep up with and eventually surpass peers in literature-based learning and vocabulary.
Providing audiobooks paired with texts used to be prohibitively expensive because it involved hiring an adult reader, but with iPads and read-aloud apps any school can now provide this service. Many schools refuse this service based on the idea that “children never learn to read if we do it for them.” However, research shows just the opposite. Sadly, restricting bright dyslexic children to only the books they can read unassisted limits them dramatically.
So why do dyslexic students fall through the cracks? I think the answer lies in the fact that about 85% of the class is NOT dyslexic. Schools save time and money by ignoring those pesky dyslexic students, or by providing minimal “services” consisting of pulling them from class for an hour or two a week for a reading group. If this doesn’t “fix” the child, well, it must be the child’s fault, right? “They probably aren’t really trying very hard.” Except that they DO try, so hard it might break your heart to watch. So, if your child struggles with reading, don’t expect a school to fix it. You are your child’s most devoted advocate, most loyal ally, and best chance at learning to read well.
It should NOT be true, but it is. I’ve seen it too many times not to mention it here. If your child isn’t blond and blue-eyed, you may find that school staff tend to think their failure to read is the fault of the parents, the home environment, the child’s lack of effort, or a behavior disorder, instead of getting a dyslexia diagnosis. Sadly, I’m not joking. This means the child will not receive the services needed for a dyslexic child to learn to read well. They WILL develop extremely harmful self-talk such as “I’m stupid.”
Here’s a little secret about school and dyslexic kids. If you want your child to learn to read, you will be doing that yourself, after school, when both you and your child are already exhausted. Yes! Parents of dyslexic children are expected to do the one-on-one work themselves because when the child fails to keep up with the class, that means homework. Teachers simply don’t have time to do one-on-one with students.
Many dyslexic children succeed in school. I asked parents how they did this. I found out that parents of dyslexic students are homeschooling them after school. Does this make sense? Only if you really, really need the child care aspect of school. Of course, if you have the cash, you can hire someone else to tutor your child. But your child will still be learning to read while tired and wishing they were outside on a bike.
As the Eide’s have so eloquently documented in, “The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain“, dyslexic people exhibit unusual creativity and powerful strengths in 3-D thinking. It seems a shame to force a talented dancer to sit in a desk for seven hours a day, or make a budding engineer quit building things and focus on nothing but reading and writing because they’re so “behind.”
Homeschooling, because it is individualized, takes much less time each day than school. In fact, the average homeschooled child spends 2 hours per day on “school work.” This allows dyslexic students the needed time and freedom to develop their awesome special talents and discover their gifts. Because Alta was homeschooled she had time for her heart’s desire; music lessons and hours of practice.
As great as homeschooling can be for dyslexic kids, there is one reason not to — if homeschooling makes you or your child miserable. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I have zero time or patience for this,” then you probably aren’t the person to homeschool. Or maybe your child really, really, really wants to go to school with friends. Maybe sports are so important to your child that this outweighs the academic concerns. Perhaps you are lucky enough to live where there’s a school that meets your child’s needs and keeps them excited and happy. Consider all aspects of the situation. Especially attend to the child’s happiness, as happy children learn more and retain information better.
In summary, there are some great reasons to homeschool a dyslexic child. There are also instances in which you should send that child to school or search for alternatives such as micro-schools or charter schools. But if you have a dyslexic child in school, please don’t expect the school to provide the one-on-one individualized instruction needed. It won’t happen, even in the best schools, because schools are about educating classes of children, not individual children. Sorry. Truth! But before you go, consider homeschooling with a tutor. It’s generally cheaper than a private school with better outcomes. You’ll be glad you did. So will your child.