5 Things My Daughter Taught Me About Homeschooling with Dyslexia

This week is the last week I’m Homeschool-Teacher-Mom to my daughter.

Next week she starts her semester at the community college for her last two classes of homeschooling…ever.

This girl of mine, what can I say? I knew when I was pregnant with her that she would be special.

I wasn’t sure exactly how that would play out, but what I *didn’t* expect was that she would teach me far more than I would teach her.

My daughter was diagnosed when she was around 11 with dyslexia, ADD, non-verbal learning disabilities, and issues with working memory and processing, but I had known long before that there were “problems.”  I finally decided at 11 to find out exactly what was going on.

She also suffers from alopecia, multiple severe food allergies, and more, so she’s got more than her share of things to deal with. The cheerful and straightforward way she carries all of her burdens is truly an inspiration to me and always has been. She’s awesome. 🙂 She’s also highly sensitive!

She has taught me many life lessons, but today I’m going to focus on the homeschooling.


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Things my daughter has taught me about homeschooling a student with dyslexia:

Keep the long view

The child  I saw at 6 is not the young adult I  find at 18. While her core personality is similar, the young woman she has matured into is light years from the 3-year-old and 6-year-old wild child I was parenting.  This is my experience with other well-nurtured people with learning disabilities as well.

“Blooming” is an apt description.  They don’t just remain a bud, and then a bigger bud…they go from bud, to half opened flower, to lavish, fully formed rose.  And yes, sometimes that rose still can’t spell, or do math without a calculator. Maybe it bloomed two years later than others. But don’t miss the ROSE!

Dyslexia is more difference than disability

Read The Dyslexic Advantage. Dyslexics typically have strengths that, when nurtured, can change the world! My daughter has “narrative” and “dynamic” strengths. (I can’t recommend this book highly enough!) Teaching to those strengths has been key.  We’ve encouraged her particular strengths and she’s grown into a young woman with all the qualities seen below.

Patience when things aren’t “sticking”

My daughter’s prime learning style could best be described as “stand still and leap,” especially when she was younger.  I can’t tell you how many times I felt exasperated because she “knew this yesterday” (or five minutes ago!) and now it’s gone. Or worse, she just didn’t get it at all.  I would buy special books to work on whatever topic was a struggle, and we would try it for awhile.

When it was obvious that it was all frustration and no learning, we would put it away. When we came back to it a month or two later, she not only understood that topic but had outpaced the entire book and we needed to move on to something else!  She says she’s a “whole to parts” thinker, and until she’s gotten the whole, the parts don’t make as much sense.

When you’re homeschooling, it’s OK to use many accommodations, especially when they are younger, if that is what it takes for them to learn

I was so worried that I was over-accommodating. That I was somehow “cheating” by letting her do her work orally or giving her charts or formula sheets to reference. Over time, however, I realized the goal should be *to learn* so if she needed me to give her math questions orally while she spun in circles, we did it.

(true story) (she was 8)
(she didn’t know the answers sitting still)

Teach to their strengths, allow them to use output in their areas of strength.  Accommodate weaknesses.  You can, and should, spend time working on weaknesses, but don’t let that be a focus or majority of learning time.  For example, if we had worked only on memorizing the times tables until she got them right, we would have taken 6 years and been behind on every other sort of math concept learning. Instead, she got a multiplication chart to reference, and was able to move on. Eventually the facts started sticking as she used them repeatedly.

What works for one is not what works for all, or even what works for most might not work for you

The “experts” recommend an Orton-Gillingham program for spelling and teaching reading. This does work for many people. But it didn’t help my daughter half as much as another type of program. In fact, she absolutely hated the O-G programs we tried, thought the letter tiles were stupid, and just could not remember all the rules.

What helped her? Apples and Pears Spelling (morpheme based),  being read to early and often, maturity, and vision therapy.  She went from a very UN-fluent reader at 10, to someone who reads things like The Silmarillion and Shakespeare for pleasure, writes creative fiction, got a 700 on her Reading SATs, and multiple scholarship offers. Yet she is still very much a dyslexic.  (An aside:  Be warned especially of “experts” who are are trying to sell you something.)

Homeschooling was the BEST thing we’ve ever done for her


She has grown into a young woman who isn’t swayed by peer pressure, who understands her own worth is not tied to how well she can spell or what she looks like, and has positively blossomed into an amazing, creative young woman because she wasn’t always comparing herself negatively to the kid in the desk next to her, who could read or spell or do multiplication better than she could. She knows that even if she struggles through college because it is different than what we’ve been doing, she’ll find her way, because she practiced doing just that for the last 18  years – finding what works for her, and not being tied to what “the system” forces her to do.

Was it easy? No. Did I always know what to do? No.  Did I worry? Yes.

Was it worth it? Definitely!

Thank you, dear daughter. You have taught me well.

8 thoughts on “5 Things My Daughter Taught Me About Homeschooling with Dyslexia

  1. I think you could be writing about my son, but at 12 I don’t think the blooming is all the way there. He spells at a second grade level, but he is writing a novel on his kindle. (I need to read the book you recommended.) And he only learned to read…finally…with Dancing Bears. I am often so frustrated with homeschooling him because he also plateaus seemingly forever and then just leaps and wow! That’s amazing to see, but it’s hard to wait out those flat spots. Will he ever learn his multiplication? Probably, but there are no signs of it from where I stand! Thanks for sharing, it’s encouraged me.

    • That sounds just like my daughter. Things looked much scarier to me at 12 than they do now at 18! There was a ton of growth between then and now. My dh and I call them “dog years” because it’s like every year or two was a huge leap in ability and maturity. Thank you for telling me about your son. 🙂

    • You’re welcome! It’s so hard not to get caught up in the compare trap! Neighbor’s kid, other siblings, whatever…I think it’s very human.

  2. Such a terrific post! I am dyslexic as are two of my kiddos. I had such a different experience and so much less self-confidence than my kids do. I totally attribute that to homeschooling.

    • Yes! My daughter has said over and over she’d probably have much less self confidence if she had gone to school. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. This post was something I needed to read. My 11 year old is dyslexic and dysgraphic. After years of badgering we finally got the school to test her in 4th grade. She was 2 years behind in reading and math and had a 1st grade ability to spell. The school district shamefully brushed her off by saying they didn’t have the budget to provide the accommodations and remediation she needed and would use what they had already been using, just 20 minutes more a day. I yanked all the kids. I bought Barton reading and spelling and all about reading and spelling as well as math u see. The math works for all the kids really well. Barton works too but its not affordable for my family anymore and my daughter hated it. I decided to just use all about reading and spelling because it fits the budget. I feel guilt and worry that it won’t be enough to help my oldest. Its very easy to get consumed by worry about what they are struggling with. I am working on taking a step back and letting her get confident again, letting her learn how to learn, and realize learning should be fun. We are still undoing years of damage that traditional school left behind.

    • I’m so sorry you all had to go through that. I hope homeschooling gives her the peace to recover from the damage of the school system! My daughter still can’t spell well, but when we started teaching to her strengths she really was able to take off with other things. Feel free to email me if you ever want to chat about it (my email is up by the other social media icons on the sidebar).

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