Homeschooling with Dyslexia: Our Story

Homeschooling with Dyslexia


Thank you for dropping by the Abundant Life blog for this 10-day series on homeschooling your child {or children} with dyslexia. The series will run for the next two weeks {except for Saturdays and Sundays}.  If you have not signed up to receive blog posts via email, sign up now so that you don’t miss a single post from this series.

Writing about how to homeschool kids with dyslexia is a passion of mine because of our own experience homeschooling 7 of our 8 kids with dyslexia.   Oh, those early years of wondering and worrying!  How I wish I could go back, knowing what I know now and do things differently.  That wish has been the impetus for this blog space – to encourage other mothers and families that they, indeed, can homeschool their dyslexic children successfully.

Understanding dyslexia can be complicated, so over the next 2 weeks we will look at homeschooling a dyslexic child from:

  • the practical to the spiritual,
  • from research to real life,
  • remediation to compensation,
  • preschool to college.

You will be encouraged that not only is it possible, but that homeschooling your dyslexic child is the best way to teach your child to his or her unique learning style, draw out their God-given talents and prepare them for a successful future.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia:  Our Story

Homeschooling has been a huge part of the past 16 years of my life – literally changing just about every habit and practice that I had developed in the 30+years before I set out on that path. Becoming a stay-at-home mom was the beginning of this journey. I, like many of you, read every book I could get my hands on about raising, feeding and nurturing healthy and happy babies and kids. After several years working as a social worker with Child Protective Services prior to having my own kids, and having seen first hand the sometimes brutal effects of neglect, I happily poured my life out for my children believing that they were a precious gift.

After these years, homeschooling was a natural progression of what had already become a lifestyle of learning together as a family. My {then two} kids were naturally inquisitive and fun to be around. How hard could teaching reading, writing and math be?

Famous last words!

My oldest is certainly one of my brightest and he progressed rapidly through his math and even phonics books. We read lots of ‘living’ books and had many thought-provoking conversations.  We began to see a pattern of deeper understanding of the world, not just who did what and when but intangible {and untestable} things like why and what would you have done if you were in their place.

Trouble learning to read

Then we arrived at the silent – e rule. We sat on the couch as I introduced the rule. He agreeably repeated back the rule and attempted to apply it to his reader. Day after day, we rehearsed that rule and day after day he seemingly forgot. Have you had a conversation like this?   “Why can you not remember this? We have discussed it at least 20 times!” Exasperation and frustration began to be the norm during reading instruction and my husband and I knew that ‘something’ was not quite right.

Otherwise Intelligent

Our son was eloquent, having spoken in full sentences at 15 months of age. He had a huge vocabulary that stunned the casual observer. He was observant and often commented and questioned about things going on around him that we had assumed a 6-year old would not know or care about. Yet learning those phonics rules was like storing water in a paper bag. We poured the info in and somehow during the following afternoon and evening, the information leaked out.

I began to try to remember how I learned to read. Was it phonics based or whole word? How did the teacher teach that entire classroom to read all at once? I could not remember learning to read. I know I was always considered a good reader and as an adult I had no idea that there were actually people that had difficulty learning to read.

Asking the experts for help 

By the time our son was 7, we had reached the end of our own understanding and as there was little improvement, we decided to have him tested by an educational therapist. The tests revealed {as we knew} that our son had an incredible vocabulary {equal with that of a 12 year old} and above average intelligence. However, he also had some weaknesses such as visual-spatial grounding and other terms that we had never heard before. The therapist explained a bit about the phenomenon called dyslexia and our world was changed.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is an inherited condition that causes an interference with the processing of language. It is not the result of a lack of intelligence or motivation or even poor teaching methods. Kids do not outgrow dyslexia. A dyslexic child will grow into a dyslexic adult.

We went online and began to research what the ‘experts’ had to say. We tried everything from vitamin supplements to colored glasses to exercises crossing the midline. We nearly spent more than my car was worth to put our son through vision therapy but we were planning an extended overseas trip as a family so were unable to commit.

Who are the experts?

Interestingly, while we were traveling, we rented our house out to a family who put their kids into the local public school where our children would have attended had we opted to go that route. Coincidentally, their daughter, who was our daughters age, was dyslexic. I am certainly not saying that this is the case in all public {or even private} schools, BUT due to a lack of understanding {and training} her daughter was teased by students and ridiculed by her teacher. Later on our dyslexia journey, when I would come to doubt my own ability to teach our dyslexic kids, I learned of this experience. In fact, this young lady’s journey through the public middle and high schools continued to be vastly different {and inferior} to our kids’ experience at home.

Take two…

Meanwhile, our younger daughter was beginning to learn to read. She was rather slow to begin to speak. She could talk, she just didn’t. Maybe because her older brother never stopped long enough to give her a chance! We did notice that she was not as good at remembering what she heard.  In fact, she appeared at times unable to hear us and would often ask us to repeat what we had just said. This was our introduction to auditory processing issues, another root cause of reading struggles.

Walking by faith

We traveled during the years that our oldest two children would be learning to read in school. In between exploring new lands and meeting different kinds of people and languages, we kept chipping away at the reading skills. We followed Dianne Craft’s method of Brain Integration Therapy, gave them plenty of practice at whatever level they were reading and focused on lots of practical hands on experiences. To pass the time while sailing between ports we would read raucous stories of explorers like James Cook, Amerigo Vespucci, Columbus and since we were in Mexico – the wild and adventurous Hernando Cortes while up in the cockpit of our boat.  We knew that our kids were not reading where other kids their ages may have been but they were thriving and there was no other alternative at the time

I have painted a somewhat idyllic picture of our life at sea but there were grave doubts milling through my mind at this time as well.  I cried out to the Lord for wisdom, desperately wanting my kids to succeed at school. One thing about traveling by boat to remote places is that there are no cell phones, no Internet (except occasionally in port), not many friends and no {english-speaking} church.

God weighs in

It was at this time that I read through the Bible in a year for the first time. I hadn’t gone very far in my reading when I began to border on exasperation. The Bible was supposed to be the Owners Manual, the Handbook for Life, yet what did it say about dyslexia or about what I was to do about that?

That was when I was reading about God telling Moses to go back to Egypt to lead the Isrealites out – in the book of Exodus. Then I read it. Moses was appealing to God to rethink His plan to have Moses speak before Pharoh because he was not good with words. So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind?  Have not I, the Lord?”

God made my kids’ eyes, and their ears and their mouths and every stitch of their being. God does not make mistakes. The thought revolutionized our thinking process about dyslexia. Whether you homeschool, private school or public school, you can help your dyslexic kids discover their God-given talents and giftings and help them have successful lives in school and out.

Where are they now?

The complete story of homeschooling a houseful of kids with dyslexia is too long for this {already too long} blog post.  Now that my oldest two kids are young adults, I can look back and see how their life experiences have woven together to produce two unique and very talented individuals who have learned to persevere through difficulties.  The flexibility and freedom of homeschooling allowed them to pursue their passions which has led to both of them attaining world records in the sailing world.  Our oldest son, Zac, is the youngest American to sail around the world alone and our daughter, Abby, is the youngest person ever to sail around Cape Horn alone.  She also wrote a book!  As for the other 6 kids, we’re still in the trenches, every day, like you.

Want to talk?

We’ll be discussing each day’s post on my Facebook Page.  If you haven’t joined yet, make sure to head over so we can share our stories – both trials and triumphs.  Join me back here tomorrow and learn more about the latest encouraging research on the underlying causes and most effective treatments of dyslexia that will help you understand and teach your child successfully.

If you haven’t subscribed and would like Abundant Life and this series to come to your inbox, subscribe to Abundant Life by email.  This is a two-step process – you will need to confirm your subscription via the email confirmation sent to you.  Please help me spread the word about this series by sharing this post via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or by leaving a comment below.

This series is part of the iHomeschool Network’sHopscotch blog hop.  Click the link below for links to more great blog series.

Marianne Sunderland

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  1. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series! I homeschool my 10 year old son who has an audio processing disorder, has been in vision therapy for almost a year,and I’m 99% sure he’s dyslexic, but haven’t had him tested. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with dyslexia.

  2. I have just found your website. What a blessing! We have a five year old son (our only child we have been able to have) and he just tested and was diagnosed as dyslexic. I am a fellow Christian and I know God can do anything and has a perfect plan. I will also say that I am scared, disheartened, and feeling like asking “why?” We have enrolled in educational therapy/tutoring and start tomorrow. I am so thankful you have shared your story publicly. You have already hit so many topics that my head has been spinning with.

  3. Please add me to your email.

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