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Homeschooling is a large task and a huge calling, so you may wonder if you have the ability to homeschool a struggling learner in addition to your other children. I can happily tell you that you are not only called, but you are capable! You know your child better than anyone else, so you are perfectly equipped to teach them at home.
Everyone has a different homeschooling journey. Some parents feel the call to homeschool all their children from the time the children are just toddlers, others pull their children from public school. You may be a mom who has a struggling learner the school system couldn’t help, or you may have one or more struggling learners in addition to other children you’re already homeschooling.
Homeschooling my struggling learner
Our call to homeschool began when our oldest son was in second grade and our younger son was already showing some challenges in kindergarten. I began homeschooling them the following year, for third and first grades. The blessing of being home with your children is that you spot very quickly (much quicker than things get noticed in public school) when something is off. I noticed with our younger son that putting pencil to paper caused stress, simple math facts were difficult to learn, and he was reading more using context clues than the ability to use phonics to sound out words.
Once it was determined he had dyslexia and dysgraphia, determining how he would best learn became my pursuit through his high school years! I want to encourage you by sharing that, as of this writing, our son is a sophomore at Liberty University and pulling out a 3.8 GPA this semester! If you would have told me this when he was in elementary school, I’m not sure if I would have laughed or cried! Even up until his 10th grade year, I didn’t feel he was college-bound. And that’s ok too! Our oldest son is very successful owning a business and being a blue-collar worker. My point is, don’t give up, Mama! If they have a dream of doing something that requires college, they will rise to the occasion in time!
Your mindset in helping your struggling learner
According to Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, the following ideas are important to embrace when embarking on the journey of homeschooling a struggling learner:
- Enabling a child who is struggling with a learning disability such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, etc., to obtain a one and a half to two year growth in a year is both necessary and possible. To achieve this, different methods need to be employed.
- This remedial teaching process requires more intense and individualized teaching sessions than many moms have been doing in the past. This usually involves two individual and tailored teaching sessions, four days a week with this child. This child cannot be effectively remediated by working in a group setting.
- Regular reading, writing and phonics programs, while good, work for “typical learners,” but not for children who have significant learning blocks. You will need some specialized reading strategies and materials to accomplish these leaps in learning, versus just “progress” each year. This does not need to be expensive, but it does need to be different than the regular curriculum you are using with the other children. These materials and teaching ideas are readily available for homeschooling moms.
As moms, we bend over backward to help our children in any area, so we will do whatever it takes to help our kids learn and succeed. With having this mindset, you will need to establish the routine that works best for you in your family. Set your priorities and work around your daily schedule. Could you work one-on-one with this child before the other kids are up? During nap time? In the evening once dad is home to help with the other children? Try out multiple options to see when you are both at your best and able to commit the chunks of time needed.
Can you delegate some work to older children or to another family member? Older children learn responsibility in the family when they work with younger siblings, or spend time reading to them. This extra help can allow you the individualized time your struggling learner needs with you. The important thing is consistency for this child. You probably don’t want to delegate their learning time to someone else.
Curriculum for struggling learners
This is a wonderful time to homeschool, including your child who may not learn like other kids! Curriculum choices abound, and companies have risen to the occasion in providing material for parents to help their struggling learner.
https://diannecraft.org/– This site may well be all you ever need! Mrs. Craft helped me tremendously both with her site brimming with knowledge, and a personal phone call when my son was in 3rd grade! Her website has information on how to identify your child’s “blocked learning gate,” many helpful articles, and tools to use in your homeschool. What I can really appreciate is her attention to the child as a whole person in the form of nutritional therapy as well. Many times, if we aren’t feeding our child real food, their brain health can suffer. Mrs. Craft addresses this important topic in addition to help on retraining the brain. We used many of her techniques with our son and we saw improvements in his penmanship and much less frustration for him.
https://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/index.php– All About Reading and All About Spelling are both beautiful programs that utilize the Orton-Gillingham method, which is the gold standard for addressing dyslexia. I actually have fond memories of using the magnetic letters with our son working on his spelling words! These have scripted lessons and are very fun for sensory learners.
*** Confession time on MATH! Mama, I’m confessing this so you don’t make the same mistake I did! As a new homeschooler, it’s very easy to doubt yourself, and that’s what I did. He didn’t understand one program? OK, we’ll try a new one! That one didn’t work? OK, we’ll switch again! To this day, he reminds me how many math programs we tried! That by itself is confusing enough- try your best to stick with one program. When I say that, I don’t mean something like Saxon which is very rigorous and dry. I mean something like Math-U-See, listed below. If lessons are leading to tears after several months of being consistent, don’t be afraid to try something different. Otherwise, give it a chance for them to learn the method.
Math-U-See– This is a great comprehensive math program using manipulatives. It allows your child to see and experience mathematical concepts from the very basics of number concepts and counting up through calculus. The Math-U-See website has placement tests there you can use to see which unit would be best to place your child into. Math-U-See is great for visual learners. It also has manipulatives that can help kinesthetic/tactile learners as well. This is not specifically a math curriculum for dyscalculia. However, it is fully multisensory and can easily be used as a math curriculum for dyscalculia.
Times Tales DVD– This is the ONLY thing that worked for getting my son to memorize his multiplication facts! It completely spoke his language-animated characters (which also happen to all be numbers) being involved in stories my son thought were so funny. Times Tales is a great Math Curriculum for Dyscalculia students who are visual learners. It also works well for learners who remember mnemonics well. This is an inexpensive, easy-to-use product, and now comes with a notebook your child can use as well. It wasn’t available when we used it, but I would also say it’s not necessary. Even now he can remember most of the characters and the stories that paired them together!
Don’t give up!
The same God who called me to homeschool is the same God that help my hand and gave me strength and fresh ideas to try with my struggling learner. Pray and ask Him for wisdom. Seek help from a local co-op where you can find other moms going through the same things you are. These moms can offer wonderful support and even provide ideas you may not have thought of. I can’t recommend enough the Homeschool Legal Defense Association as well. I have been a member for 15 years and they are a wonderful resource for many homeschooling needs. Here is their wonderful page for working with struggling learners: https://hslda.org/teaching-my-kids/special-needs