My daughter is dyslexic. I admit, I had hoped that if we homeschooled her she would not manifest this challenge. But alas, genetics won. My mother and I are also dyslexic. Dyslexia is not a disease. We simply process information differently than the average person. Reading is one of the areas where this difference becomes obvious. While homeschooling could not prevent dyslexia, it certainly helped us both to overcome it. (My daughter is currently a freshman in college.)
There is no magic bullet or quick easy solution that cures dyslexia or other reading problems. It is just a matter of building a solid foundation in phonics and persistently practicing reading until one day, your student is reading at or above grade level. Doing this in a homeschooling environment helps because your child is not tested, labeled or told that they are learning challenged. It is easier to learn privately without fear. While there is no magic bullet, I will share some of the things we found helpful. Any parent can use these strategies. I would caution against adding even more school to a public school child’s day. That may be counter-productive.
- Get a good solid phonics based textbook that is easy to use.
I cannot recommend a book for you because I used different ones with each of my children (Weaver 1-2-3 Read, Alpha Phonics, Pathway Phonics, and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons). They all had strengths and problems. As long as the book is teaching phonics, it is really a matter of personal taste.
- Have your child practice writing every day.
This writing practice can be in the form of a workbook like Explode the Code and/or their own writing. I used Charlotte Mason’s narration method and had my children write down their narrations as they got older. Starting off with letters of the alphabet, working up to their name, then a simple sentence and finally whole paragraphs.
- Let your child pick a book that they want to read and take turns reading to each other.
This is not just great reading practice; it is great bonding time. This practice does not have an age limit. My son and I read Augustine’s Confessions, The Peloponnesian War, The Tempest, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, Edipus Rex, The Illiad and Hamlet to each other when he was in highschool. Hearing the language aloud helps reading and vocabulary. It also more actively engages the reader in the story. Obviously, you start with Bob books or home-made readers in the early years. My kids loved Bible Stories for Early Readers. They were also found of the Frog and Toad and Boxcar Children series. We have fond memories of this shared time and these amazing books.
- Sometimes colored plastic helps children focus on the words and keep their place.
A colored plastic transparency or file folder helps highlight the line of text the child is working on. This both helps your student focus and helps them not to lose their place when reading. My daughter found blue and green to be the most helpful colors.
- Let them engage in literacy practice that is fun.
I am not a fan of kids using the computer or other technology for learning. That being said, Animal Crossing really helped my daughter improve her reading. After she had finished her school work for the day, this game could get her to continue reading for as long as I would let her play. One side effect of dyslexia is that reading is not something that is done for enjoyment. This game was the exception for my daughter. Texting was also helpful in that it got her to practice writing and spelling as a social outlet. I am not suggesting that these ever take the place of school, but rather that they supplement your existing program. It is really wonderful to see hesitant readers fully engaging themselves and having fun with words.
- Audio-books can fill-in the knowledge gaps when reading skills are lacking.
Not all of your child’s learning has to come from books. While your student is working on his/her reading level, they can get audio versions of many history and science texts. (Apologia, Mystery of History, Diana Waring all have audio versions.) This is a great way to satisfy the natural curiosity when their reading efforts have exhausted them. Audio versions of a number of great literary works can be found at your local library. There are audio-books about every imaginable subject.
- Be consistent.
Consistent practice is the key. When my children were learning to read, I spent time on reading instruction, writing, student reading, and reading to the student every day. The individualized instruction and one-on-one instruction of homeschool is a great advantage. However, that counts for naught without consistency.
Locust & Honey productions has a YouTube channel with an ever-growing number of book trailers for recent audio book releases including the co-production with Mike Freze exploring attempts to examine and document the historic Shroud of Turin to determine its authenticity. You can view a free listening sample of this work as well as offer comments below the video. If you know of a book that you would like turn into an audio book, you can reach the editors of Locust and Honey here.