Dyslexia At Our House (Plus Freebies and HUGE Giveaway Bundle from The Thinking Tree–value over $100!))

I noticed our son had some reading challenges early on. Not only that, but letter writing challenges, number challenges, math challenges, and handwriting challenges. This was prior to putting him in our state’s virtual academy for homeschool. We only remained with K12 for a year and a half, but in that time, testing was done (along with reams of IEPs and tons of online meetings which were very frustrating, to be honest). Dyslexia. Not profound, but significant.

When I pulled our kids from K12, I had to maintain my own course and establish strategies that would work for our son to succeed. Here are some of the things I found helpful:

  • I used a basic evaluation like this to discern if I was headed in the right direction prior to formal testing.
  • One of the best discoveries I made as a mom was realizing it helped our son a great deal to separate his math from any reading assignments. Do math first. Do math after recess or lunch. Why? Because in reading, his brain is going top-to-bottom and left-to-right on the page. Then in math he had times when his brain was required to perform processes going from right-to left, and bottom-from-top. A simple truth, but one I’d never considered before. His brain was exhausted. This is what it may have looked like to him during a normal school day: http://space.io9.com/nasa-tossed-astronauts-with-this-gimbal-rig-before-laun-1727900059
  • We started slow with reading, and I found that the Abeka pages I reverted to (because I had them on hand) were way, WAY too busy for him. There was too much color, too many different concepts on his math pages in particular. So at that point, I switched to Rod and Staff , which was very basic, one concept at a time, and no bells and whistles to distract. Now that he is older, we use Teaching Textbooks, which is simple, quiet lecture, easy to follow, and appeals to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.
  • For reading, I found for our son that he had the best success when he read books in comic book form, with text bubbles. There was something about having small bits of text, isolated and not in paragraph form, that really helped him. “Missile Mouse” (we bought the whole set for Christmas) was a favorite, and we had a wide variety of these books at our library.
  • I used Abeka Phonics for all three of our kids, with good success. It uses some rote drill along with pictures, and that helped our son to associate sounds with images in his mind.
  • I also found that in the beginning he made good progress writing in text bubbles as well! We made our own story boards, but here is a fun, free template source.
  • Simple exercises like these can help exercise the mind!
  • For reading comprehension, I found it very helpful at the start for our son to use sticky notes for each paragraph. We would decide what the “big idea” in that paragraph was, and write it on the note. This trained his mind to look not only for main ideas and subjects of sentences, but also for how everything works in context.
  • Using a bookmark under lines of text while reading helped a lot. Pointing at each word with his finger did not help him to train his mind to see groups of words together. Using a straight edge under each line of text helped his eyes to embrace ideas instead of just syllables.
  • Something that is a relatively new idea is the dyslexia font, available free here. It can be used to create your own printables and worksheets. This was not around when we were first testing the waters, but I’m happy to offer it now!
  • While we spent time on handwriting (of course), I didn’t make a federal case out of it, and for our purposes we only focused on cursive for his signature.
  • One of the most liberating things we did was teach typing/keyboarding early. Not only is this a skill our kids must have in this generation and beyond, but for our son, it skipped the whole mental gymnastic thing with the letters he commonly “flipped”. Because he learned the keyboard by rote, his brain told him “b” and he typed “b”. Incorporating the keyboard into our homeschooling was a total game-changer for us! You can find good, free typing programs here.
  • Our son reads well now (but still prefers not to read aloud). He enjoys works with more difficult vocabulary and mythical names, etc. like the Narnia series, the Chronicles of Prydain, and the popular Tolkien books. I’m so grateful for his progress.
  • Even now, when we have a good handle on reading, I still see the challenges show up again in math. He can do mental math very quickly, but on paper, it’s a chore. For instance, in multiplication review, using numbers in hundreds and thousands, and remembering to bump numbers one spot to the left in the answers…the frustrations came up again. Understanding fully the “why” of doing it helps some, and TT does a great job at that. But I remembered again that he cannot do reading in close proximity to math. I’d forgotten, and set him up for a very bad day with algebra.

I hope these tips might help someone else who is struggling on this journey. In the last year, I discovered The Thinking Tree–a resource I would have given my right arm for years ago! Go and check them out!

Meanwhile, I have a HUGE giveaway for you from The Thinking Tree! Comment below to enter (and be sure to “follow” this blog!). I’ll post the name of the winner on Friday, 10 am (Mountain Time). Here’s what you are entering to win:

The Boy’s Journal (value $32.00)

The Girl’s Journal (value $32.00)

The Spelling Journal (value $24.50)

The Handbook for Moms (value 32.50)

Specialtember Event for Special Needs Homeschoolers


We have a great event coming up at Schoolin’ Swag! We’ve done many giveaways in the past, but this one is targeted to our friends with special needs students. I’m excited to be offering some wonderful donations from vendors and publishers like:

  • Child First
  • The Thinking Tree
  • Little Giant Steps
  • Ark Therapeutic
  • Sensory Goods
  • Super Duper Publications
  • Smart Tutor
  • CurrClick
  • SmartKnitKIDS
  • Fun & Function
  • Usborne Books
  • Brave Writer

This event takes place next Thursday (when the prizes go live) and Friday (when winners are drawn), September 24, 25. I hope you’ll join us!  Completely free!

The Old Chalkdust Trail–Writing Challenges

I don’t really feel motivated at this point in my life to begin another blog, but with starting up the “Schoolin’ Swag“* Facebook page, the creative educational juices have been flowing.  So, for now, I’ll post a few things in the category, “The Old Chalkdust Trail”. 🙂

Today, I want to share something that I have begun trying with our son, Michael.  Michael has some reading disability issues, and some ways that it translates into his writing (with backwards b, p, d, q, 2, 5, 6,9).  He has hated writing.  It requires an incredible amount of focus for him.

About a year ago, I noticed that Michael liked reading a whole lot better when it was “compartmentalized”…like in a comic book format.  I checked out all kinds of comic books from the library (he really loved Missile Mouse, so we bought him a couple for Christmas).  Then, just recently, I began wondering if the same thing might help his writing.

Michael is very creative in his story-making skills.  Here is an excerpt from a how-to essay he put together a couple months ago, entitled, “How to Make a Galactic Grilled Cheese”:

It’s lunch time, space cadet. You are hungry.  You can’t even boil water!  How will you make lunch?  Oh no!  I am here to save the day!  I am Grilled Cheese Man!

Your first mission is to retrieve cyber bread and space butter.  Your second mission is to find a flying frying pan.  Of course, your prime target is moon cheese.

Here are the steps to deploy your galactic grilled cheese sandwich:

First, energize your flying frying pan.  Setting number 6.

Second, get the cyber bread and space butter out.  Install space butter on one side of one piece of cyber bread.  Then put the cyber bread on the flying frying pan, space butter side facing south.

Third, put two pieces of moon cheese on the cyber bread that is on the flying frying pan.

Fourth, take another piece of cyber bread, put space butter on one side, and put it on top of the moon cheese that is melting in the flying frying pan.  Confirm that space butter side is facing north.

Fifth, take space dispatula and rotate entire sandwich continuously until it turns solar golden on both north and south surfaces.

Last, remove galactic sandwich with dispatula, place on food saucer and wait for de-heatification.  Then dispose through your food portal.

Clever thinking isn’t the problem…it is the execution (and believe me, he feels it in the truest sense of that word) of writing it down.  I have found that he does better when he skips the handwritten draft and sits down at the keyboard.  It sort of bypasses the vortex machine in his brain and, because he knows the keyboard by rote, it flows a whole lot more smoothly this way for him.  However, I don’t want him to bail totally on the actual pencil-in-hand process.  So…

This semester I asked Michael if he’d like to try making his own comic strip.  He jumped at it, and I was overjoyed!  He began with very simple ones.  Here is a cute sample:

I make him do them in pencil, so we can edit and learn grammar/spelling.  This has been a great project.  Perhaps, if you are encountering some similar challenges, it may be something you’d like to try as well!  We are gradually getting longer installments of this project.  He is saving them all in a notebook.  He excitedly tells his siblings about his creations…so I think we’re on the right track!  I thank the Lord for opening my eyes to this opportunity to help my son succeed. Grace.

*If you are on Facebook, join the “Schoolin’ Swag” page…lots of freebies and resources and helpful chat!  Over 100 links so far! It’s an open group, just click on the linked words. 🙂