Deciding to Homeschool
Many parents feel they can best meet the needs of their children through homeschooling. If you choose to homeschool, you will be able to provide your child with the individualized attention that is so important for a child with dyslexia, and create an educational plan that fits his needs exactly. You will be able to afford your child the extra time he needs to master subjects and skills that are difficult for him and allow him to forge ahead in his areas of strength. Your child will not face the humiliation or daily frustration of classroom failure. However, homeschooling takes work, and it isn't the ideal situation for every family. For your child with dyslexia, you will need to consider carefully whether you can successfully take on the dual role of parent and teacher, knowing that your child may present some unique challenges.
If you did well in school as a child, and are the type of person who enjoys reading and solves problems in a logical, rational fashion, you may find that it sometimes seems as if your child with dyslexia comes from another planet. Your child's style of learning and communication may be very different from yours, and you may find that your attempts to explain new concepts in the simplest, most direct fashion you can imagine leave your child totally baffled.
In 1999, an estimated 850,000 students nationwide, or almost 2 percent of all students, were being homeschooled. Four out of five of these students were homeschooled only, and one out of five were enrolled in public or private schools part time. Homeschooling families have a greater percentage of both gifted students as well as students with learning disabilities than the national average.
Ingredients for Success
In order to succeed in homeschooling your child with dyslexia, you will need to live by three rules: patience, flexibility, and fun. Patience means the willingness to give your child the time she needs to explore and master a subject, even if that means that a lesson you think should take twenty minutes ends up spread over many days or weeks.
Flexibility means the willingness to learn new things and change approaches. You may have decided to homeschool out of dissatisfaction with the reading methods or curriculum used in the local public school. Perhaps after doing your own research, you think you have figured out what type of instruction your child needs, and realized that you can do a better job than the school is doing. Armed with your knowledge and your firm commitment to help your child, you purchase the books you know he needs and get to work…only to find that your home-based lessons are a disaster, invariably ending in shouting and tears. Flexibility means simply that you must be ready to change course, to try new things, to back off at times, to listen to your child, and observe him in an effort to let his interests and inclinations guide you, until you discover your own child's best learning strategies and ways to accommodate them.
Fun means that you need to always keep your sense of humor, and always mix the work of learning with play. Be creative: Use games, puzzles, songs, rhymes, or physical activity. You are bound to have good days and bad days. If you can't see the light side of things, the task of helping your child on the bad days may simply overwhelm you. Your child is entitled to have a parent who provides unconditional love and support; he will not be helped by seeing disappointment or anger in your eyes when he falters or stumbles.
Have Faith in Yourself
Once you decide to homeschool, you will need to have faith in yourself. Invariably, if your child's reading is delayed, you will encounter criticism from friends, neighbors, and other family members. Some may blame you for your child's difficulties, suggesting that it is your bad teaching or overindulgence of your child that has caused him to lag behind. Others may offer well-meaning but misguided advice or suggestions. If you decide to delay reading instruction until you feel your child is developmentally ready, someone is bound to admonish you, citing the importance of early intervention. On the other hand, if you decide to start very early with a structured approach, you are sure to hear from someone that you are pushing your child too hard. You need to understand simply that these sorts of comments come with the territory of homeschooling, and learn to graciously ignore unwanted advice.
However, don't be afraid to seek help or advice with your child's reading problems from an outsider. If you feel that you are overwhelmed or have reached a wall trying to teach your child, it may be time to seek professional therapy or tutoring. In some communities, your child may be eligible to receive home-based services from the local school district or to participate in remedial reading programs at the school; policies vary considerably from one state to another with respect to homeschoolers. Sometimes it helps to pool resources with another homeschooler, who may be able to help your child with a fresh approach. Even a tutor with minimal experience, such as a high school student in your neighborhood, may give you and your child a welcome break from each other and help build your child's motivation.