If you have a child who struggles, seeing progress can be a little tricky. Sometimes progress comes slowly, and most often it doesn’t look anything like we had expected it to. Other times, progress for dyslexia looks more like a complicated dance—one step forward and two steps back, with lots of zigging and zagging. But every now and then, progress surprises us, like laboring in a garden and being surprised by the first ripe fruit tucked under the lush foliage. Homeschooling my dyslexic daughter is exactly this way; our progress comes slowly and often surprises me.
About a year and a half ago, I quit teaching her traditional spelling. Nothing I tried was working, and all our efforts only created tons of anxieties for her. We stopped. I researched dyslexia, and we took a different approach. Instead of phonics and spelling, we worked through Dyslexia Games levels A and B. This year, I thought she had progressed enough to give spelling another try, but not from a purely phonics approach. What I noticed was that my dyslexic daughter was learning to make a visual print of her words in her memory. Dyslexia Games had trained my very right-brained, creative daughter to notice details and patterns.
When I saw A Reason for Spelling, I loved that it continued in this same approach, with lots of fun activity ideas. Our first week in, my daughter traced her spelling words in play dough, danced her spelling words in rhythm with jingle bells strapped to her ankles, made her spelling words with bananagrams, among other fun activities. The result? A 100% on her spelling test! She aced all 15 words. She’s had the same success with her second list, mastering every word. And we’re now working on her third list this year. We take our time and complete every activity, moving on only when she’s ready.
She also loves Writing and Rhetoric. We’ve baby-stepped writing. I scribed for her really all the way until the end of last year. We take turns sometimes now with her daily work, but she’s much more confident in writing. During writing time, we don’t worry about spelling. Her one objective is to get those creative thoughts down on paper. Spelling, punctuation, grammar—all of that comes later during revision. Writing and Rhetoric gets her started with a fable which becomes the framework for what she will write. She rewrites sentences or phrases and finally rewrites the entire fable. It’s a workbook style of learning, which I was very surprised she liked. But it has been a good fit for her. We also play some writing games that add variety and challenge her story-telling skills.
We’ve come so far in some areas, but progress for dyslexia is that complicated dance, remember. And our huge leaps forward in some areas have meant new battles elsewhere. Math is one of those battle scenes right now; reading comprehension is another. So what does progress for dyslexia look like?
Spelling Progress for Dyslexia
- Academics. We are in a unique homeschool situation that requires regular testing. My daughter’s testing has shown regular improvement. In some areas that improvement is small and incremental; in other areas, it surges forward and then stalls for a bit. But testing is the least of the ways I monitor progress. When she completes an assignment, when she enthusiastically initiates a project or goes the extra mile on an assignment, when she gets through a day of homeschool without a meltdown, when she makes connections and interacts with what she is learning in her own unique way—all of that is progress.
- Skills. Karate is an extra-curricular that I love for my kids. It teaches energy under control (something all my ADHD ninjas need), it teaches character and perseverance, but it also teaches skills. My daughter practices and performs long sequences of moves in one direction, spins and repeats the sequence in the reverse direction, crossing her midline, moving left to right and back and forth. At first, these sequences were a huge challenge, and half the time she couldn’t remember her left from her right. Once she did memorize the sequence, she had to perform that sequence in front of judges and a gym full of parents. Sometimes she gets flustered, forgets, stalls, remembers, and pushes on. Each kata she learns, each test she finishes, each belt she earns, each evaluation she receives marks progress.
- Character. Dyslexia has taught my daughter how to endure and how to persevere. Nothing comes easily for her, unfortunately. All of life seems to be a struggle. And yet she presses on. That’s not to say there aren’t discouraging days and moments where she gives up. But overall, she’s learning determination and endurance. And so am I!
- Confidence. This progress comes perhaps most slowly and quietly. Often it dawns on me gradually when I realize she’s no longer afraid, when I can’t remember the last time we had a meltdown during a particular activity, when she wants to tackle an extracurricular activity without me talking to the adult in charge about accommodations. I walk a fine line, it seems, between shielding that vulnerable spark of confidence she’s shown and giving it room and space to kindle into a flame.
What spells progress for my child with dyslexia may look nothing like your journey. That’s okay. When you have a child who struggles, you have to decide what progress looks like. You have to sit down and determine what your mile-markers are. But I do encourage you to know what you are looking for. The day to day of homeschooling a child with learning difficulties can be grueling, for both of you. Take a moment and take stock of your progress. It’s there; you just have to know where to look and what to look for. No matter what it looks like, embrace it. It’s progress, no matter how it’s spelled.