Homeschooling takes a certain amount of self-confidence. You need a bit of a strong will to swim upstream and do something different than most of the parents around you. One thing that can threaten to shake that confidence is the discovery that one of your children has a learning disability. For us, it was multiple disabilities ASD, ADHD, Dysgraphia, NF1and Dyslexia.
I’m not an expert on dyslexia and I’m not here to give specific answers or advice. I’d like to share the emotional journey we’ve walked. By doing so, I'm hopeful that it will resonate and be the encouragement that you need if you are in a similar place.
Building Confidence Using A Different Approach
I’ve known for a while that my son struggles to read. He’s a very bright child. He loves to listen to audiobooks and can discuss them thoroughly. He still however struggles to read.
At first, 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 or pressuring them.
I thought maybe it was just because he’s a boy. I told myself that it was okay that he didn’t choose to read for fun like his younger sister. 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. As someone who has always loved to read and excelled at it, this made it harder to watch him struggle.
Using audiobooks allowed us to access content on his level, without making him have to decode words that are beyond his capability.
He Didn't Choose This
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 to me, he revealed more information to me about life from his perspective.
Once he said, “You know how in Ancient Egypt, there is one hieroglyphs for each word? Well, that’s how I read. I know the shapes of each word. If I don’t know the shape, I don’t know the word. Sometimes I try to think of another shape I know, that looks like the shape of that word.” Another time he shared, “When I am reading, the letters seem to move around out of order. I will sound out the first part and then when I sound out the second part, I've forgotten what the first part says.”
When I asked him if he found reading exhausting, he immediately said, “Yes!” His answer didn't sound angry or frustrated. Actually, it seemed as if he was relieved that someone had finally asked this question.
I learned that he’d always thought that maybe he was just lazy or stupid. He said he had so many stories in his head he wanted to put into writing, but it was just to hard to do. I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that there were tears—both mine and his.
Changing How We See Things
Somehow, I had this crazy idea that if I chose to homeschool, I’d be able to craft the perfect educational plan for each of my children. I had pictured in my head 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 disabilities and especially dyslexia was this feeling that I’d failed him. I hadn't seen it and he was suffering internally because of me. It wasn’t like he was one student in a class of twenty-five. He was my kid, one of two, and I missed it. I dealt with a lot of internal criticism and self hate. All of those clues I'd missed continually ran through my head. I fought constantly with the what ifs. What if I’d caught this earlier? What if I’d realized this as he was learning to read? What if I’d done more research? The list could go on forever.
The thing that really troubled me was that when I reflected on my laid-back attitude, it seemed to me more like negligence and arrogance in retrospect, and I couldn't stop beating myself up about it. How many other important things had I failed to see? Was my daughter also hurting because I was failing to see her struggles?
I had to learn to see that this wasn't my fault and even if I'd had caught it sooner it would not have changed the outcome or how we've dealt with it. I had to learn to forgive myself so I could move forward and help him in the ways that he needed.
There Is Hope
My son has been tested and received an official diagnosis which I sometimes questioned when he'd read a particular hard passage or a new book that he's never seen before. Acceptance was also the first positive step in this journey we are on. I read many articles about the strengths of dyslexia.
For the first time, I began to see dyslexia differently. It was not a disease that we’d failed to diagnose and treat nor did it mean that he won't achieve academic greatness. Rather, it was a realization that some people's brains just work differently than the way that most others do. The wiring in some people's brains is not the same as the wiring in most peoples brains.
Dyslexia isn’t something you can just fix or cure. Instead, our job is to help him to learn how to function as a square peg in a round hole world. With this 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.
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