My oldest child’s reading level jumped 6 grade levels in our first year of homeschooling to overcome dyslexia. Here is what our homeschooling program looked like during our first year:
OUR FIRST YEAR Overcoming Dyslexia through Homeschooling:
We used Lexia Learning’s Strategies for Older Students daily for approximately 20 minutes each day. Lexia’s program is an online Orton-Gillingham reading program, geared towards children who are nine or older, but being a computer program it doesn’t provide much in the way of kinesthetic learning. The lessons take a ‘game’ format, are interactive, and take place on a computer.
I bought the Lindamood-Bell “Seeing Stars” book and used the techniques in there for helping with sight words. We also used Language Tool Kit from EPS Books. This ‘kit’ comes with flash cards and a brief instruction manual. The Language Tool Kit is an Orton-Gillingham reading program given you create your own multisensory activities for each of the learning activities.
Our key focus was learning all of the phonemes and blended sounds through flash card drills. I must tell you that I had taken 56 hours of Orton-Gillingham training to help me effectively use “The Language Tool Kit” before we began homeschooling. The training is NOT required, but I do believe it helped me understand the means for remediation and helped me do a better job. Training in Orton-Gillingham methods is offered by a variety of providers. The International Dyslexia Association is a good place to begin when seeking a local provider.
We also completed a page in a McGraw-Hill Spectrum Word Study (available through Christian Books, but not a Christian curriculum) workbook each day. The Spectrum Word Study and Phonics Series workbooks, offered by McGraw-Hill, are good for teaching word structure, some basic decoding skills, and vocabulary. The books provide high-level reinforcement of word learning, but won’t provide sufficient depth for a child with a specific learning disability if used as an only program. For any child who can remember and recall with minimal practice, the series is excellent, and it serves well as a reinforcement activity for children who require more in depth practice of skills.
Our main general curriculum was Sonlight’s American History. I selected Sonlight because of the heavy volume of required reading. Call me crazy, but my belief is that a child with dyslexia needs to read, read, read, and read some more, in order to develop strong decoding skills. The Sonlight curriculum uses a “narrative story,” approach which provides engaging stories that my children WANTED to continue reading. Interesting reading material is a must if you want to inspire reading practice. Also, it was critical that we selected a grade-level package at my son’s reading level rather than at his grade level.
In the beginning, completing our daily Sonlight reading was time-consuming, and tedious. It took about two hours per day to complete our reading. This may sound like a lot, but a high level of exposure to reading is necessary to allow your child to progress and actually catch up. For the reading, we began with a you-read-a-sentence, I-read-a-sentence aloud turn taking scenario with the independent readers. We progressed to paragraph swapping and page swapping. By the end of the year, my children each read an entire chapter aloud each day.
A BIG KEY for my child was a constant reassurance that, “I KNOW this is hard for you, but we will work together on all of our reading. We are in this together.” It was key to remain calm no matter how frustrated my child was. When tantrums ensued because reading was “too hard”, I’d simply tell him, “Let me know when you’re done and we’ll work on it some more.” While I may have felt like screaming inside.. I knew I had to maintain my composure if we were ever going to make it through the hard parts.
I also implemented the “Blow Pop” program to deal with tantrums. My child loved Blow Pops, so if he made it through the day without a tantrum, he’d be rewarded with a Blow Pop. It was an immediate, tangible reward he was inspired by. As time progressed, his frustration and anger lessened, so eventually the Blow Pop program was phased out.
In addition to the specific reading remediation steps we took above, my child with most severe dyslexia was diagnosed with a Convergence Insufficiency, which is an ocular motor deficiency. In other words, his eye muscles didn’t work quite like they were supposed to, even though he has 20/20 vision. With difficulties in eye movement, reading was tedious and strained his eyes. Our doctor prescribed the Home Therapy System software program, which did improve my child’s tracking. This allowed him to read more comfortably.
By the end of the school year, reading was much less tedious. My son had advanced well through S.O.S., had completed the Spectrum Word Study, knew the phonemes we studied in the Language Tool Kit, and he could decode most words encountered in the Sonlight books. Best of all, we had phased out the Blow Pop program and my child now willingly and confidently engaged in reading tasks. Trying to always maintain a positive, upbeat, “you can learn this” mindset was a key to me, although I admit to going into the bathroom and crying by myself on occasion! (It IS difficult for everyone.. I won’t lie to you there! 😉
If you’d like to try the “Language Tool Kit,” I think you’ll find it pleasingly inexpensive. Here’s a link for you to check it out: **Language Tool Kit & Manual, Grades K-5 By Paula D. Rome & Jean S. Osman / Educators Publishing ServiceThe Language Tool Kit teaches reading and spelling to students with specific language disability. Based on Orton-Gillingham principles, it is designed for use by a teacher or a parent.