Dyslexia Strategies for the Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling takes a certain amount of self-confidence. You need a bit of a strong will to swim upstream and do something different from most parents around you. But one thing that can threaten to shake that confidence is the discovery that one of your children has a learning struggle. For us, it was dyslexia.

I’m not an expert on dyslexia and I’m not here to give answers or advice. But I’d like to share the emotional journey we’ve walked. By doing so, I'm hopeful that it might resonate and be an encouragement if you find yourself in a similar place.

Building Confidence in a Different Approach

I’ve known for a while that my son struggles to read. He’s a bright kid. He listens to classics on audiobooks and can discuss them thoroughly. But he still struggles to read.

In the beginning, I didn’t worry too much about it. I was proud of myself for not pushing him to do something he wasn’t developmentally ready to do. I'd told myself that one of the great benefits of homeschooling was allowing my kids to learn at their own pace without labeling them as delayed.

I thought maybe it was just because he’s a boy. And I told myself that it was okay that he didn’t choose to read for fun like his younger sisters. After all, I didn’t want my image of what smart looked like to put unnecessary pressure on my kids as they developed their own interests and gifts.

Not His Choice

My attitude began to change when I realized that his avoidance of reading wasn’t actually by choice. As he approached the tween years and was better able to express himself, he revealed more information to me about life from his perspective.

Once he said, “You know how in Chinese, there is one character for each word? Well, that’s how I read. I know the shape of each word. And if I don’t know the shape, I don’t know the word. Or maybe I try to think of another shape I know of that looks like the shape of that word.”

Dyslexia Strategies for the Homeschool MomAnother time he shared, “When I am reading, the letters seem to fall out of order. I will read the first part and then when I read the second part, I forget what the first part says.”

When I asked him if he found reading exhausting, he immediately said, “Yes!” His emphatic answer wasn’t angry or frustrated. Instead, it was almost as if he was greatly relieved that someone had finally asked that question.

I learned that he’d always wondered if he was just lazy. He said he had so many stories he wanted to put into writing, but it was just so hard to do. I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that there were tears—both mine and his.

The Reshaping of a Dream

Somehow, I had this idea that if I chose to homeschool, I’d be able to craft the perfect education for each of my children. I had imagined that I’d meet each need at just the right time and that I would support each one perfectly, in a one-on-one way.

Part of the emotional roller coaster in the discovery of my son’s dyslexia was this feeling that I’d dropped the ball. I’d missed it. He wasn’t one student in a class of twenty-five. He was just one of my own children, and I missed it.

I faced a lot of internal criticism. All of the what-ifs ran through my head. What if I’d caught this earlier? What if I’d realized this as he was learning to read? Or what if I’d done more research? The list could go on and on.

The thing that really troubled me was that when I reflected on my laid-back, hands-off approach, it looked more like negligence and arrogance in retrospect. How many other important things had I failed to see or do because I was hyped up on my idea of a homeschool lifestyle? Which of my other children was hurting because I was failing to understand their struggles?

A Sign of Hope

My son hasn’t been tested or received an official diagnosis. However, after reading through a list of the signs of dyslexia, it is clear to me that he meets each and every one of them.

The final key for me—the thing that convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was indeed dyslexia—was also the first encouraging, positive step in this process of discovery. I read an article about the strengths of dyslexia.

For the first time, I began to view dyslexia differently. It was not a disease that we’d failed to diagnose and treat. Rather, it was a realization that some people's brains process things differently than the way that others do. The wiring in some people's brains is not the same as the wiring in others' brains. 

Dyslexia isn’t something to try to fix or cure. Instead, our job is to help him to learn how to function well in a world that is geared towards people who learn differently than he does.

And suddenly, with that revelation, my homeschool philosophy returned full-circle. My job as a homeschool mom is what it always has been: to know my children and to support them where they are. I had just forgotten that knowing a person is a process, not a state of being. This was simply the next leg of the journey.


About the Author

Lynna Sutherland • Homeschooling without Training WheelsLynna is a former homeschooler, then classroom teacher, now homeschool mom of eight crazy (and lovable) hooligans from middle school down to bouncing baby.

She calls her blog Homeschooling without Training Wheels because she loves to encourage families to embrace the freedom and flexibility that come with homeschooling and let go of the things that are holding them back! You can read more in her free eBook 5 Myths that are Killing Your Multi-Age Homeschool

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