Spelling Progress for dyslexia

progress for dyslexia | homeschooling dyslexia

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.

progress for dyslexia | homeschooling dyslexia

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

Introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

I know that not everyone loves poetry the way I do. I totally understood why my college students weren’t as excited about our poetry unit in Creative Writing as I was. But that’s never stopped me from loving the challenge of introducing poetry to a skeptic and surprising them with the reality that they could love it, too. Now as a homeschool mom, I still love that challenge. I love introducing a love for poetry to my kids. And often, that love surprises them.

Especially if you have active learners, introducing a love for poetry can be tough. But here are a few ideas to give you a head-start in the right direction.

Introducing a love for poetry

Choose the best books.

I love Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, especially for boys. If anyone can pull off a surprise love for poetry, Shel Silverstein can. My kids have literally laughed out loud through his books. Falling Up is such a favorite at our house that we now own it (because someone left the library book outside overnight and it got a little too damp to return).

But a new favorite of mine is the book Guyku, haiku for boys (or any kid who loves to play outdoors). Even my daughter with dyslexia couldn’t help but pick this one up.

introducing a love for poetry | haiku
Guyku by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds

Haiku is probably one of my favorite poetry forms, and these authors do a fantastic job writing kid-friendly haiku. Their website also includes some great teaching resources and free printables.

Create a memorable moment.

  1. Have a picnic, lay out on a blanket, hunt for cloud shapes, and read a couple of fun poems. (Just a couple, don’t over do it.)
  2. Use poetry to introduce something fun you are about to do. Read a poem about the beach and let them guess where you are going. Read haiku about nature and then go on a nature walk to find ideas for your own poem. 
  3. Have a poetry scavenger hunt and have them find poems about particular topics you’ve listed. (Choose a fun book and quirky topics.)

Whatever you do, let the poetry be a part of an already fun experience. The positive vibes from the event will spill over into the poetry part of that memory. Your goal is to have a fun, positive memory associated with poetry, rather than the memory of sitting at a desk discussing rhyming patterns.

Provide a fun snack.

Adding food never hurts, especially if you’ve got boys. Food is definitely part of that positive association. I can pull off just about anything with my kids if there is food involved. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Have one particular treat that only comes out during poetry time. Or surprise them with a favorite treat, and a new favorite poem.

I’ve read a lot of the blogs that do the “poetry teas” as a way of introducing a love for poetry to children. It’s a great idea, and when my kids were little, I could get by with that. But my soon-to-be sixth grade son is not keen on “tea parties.” These ideas still work for him, though. And with the right book, I can still surprise him with a love for poetry he didn’t know he had.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | customizing Tapestry of Grace

We’ve used Tapestry of Grace as our core curriculum for going on 6 years. I love it, primarily because it is designed to be customizable. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Tapestry presents a buffet of choices and ideas for reading, crafts and art, literature study, history discussion, and more. It’s perfect for customizing a learning plan that fits our unique ADHD/dyslexia struggles. But for the first time this year (as a solution to the enormous loose-paper crisis we experienced), I’m also customizing our own Tapestry of Grace student notebooks.

While the option is available to purchase these in printed bundles, ready to assemble, I prefer to print my own, allowing my kids to be in-between levels. Also, I wanted to separate the projects into separate notebooks—history and literature—rather than combine these, since we tend to work on them at separate times during our homeschool week. I’m loving the result and am looking forward to a lot less mess this next year.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for History

Lower Grammar/Upper Grammar Notebook

My daughter will be officially fourth grade this year. While she faces some stiff learning challenges from her dyslexia, she’s made tremendous progress. Technically, she should probably be entirely Upper Grammar this year, but I’m still allowing her to be in-between. Especially for history, where information is more technical and less story-driven, she needs the lower grammar level. Her notebook includes the following items.

Weekly Overview. This page includes major theme and project ideas, famous people we will be covering, and the vocabulary words that she will be encountering in her reading. Each week, she looks over this sheet with me and looks up any words that she isn’t familiar with in the provided glossary. Because of her dyslexia, I do not make her write or copy any of this information, she just reads over it.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | weekly overview

Glossary. Last year, I kept one copy of the Year 1 Glossary in my Teacher Notebook, and the kids shared it. However, sharing the notebook didn’t always work out well. To streamline things, I went ahead and printed off a glossary for each child and included it in their own notebook. While this exercise builds my daughter’s vocabulary and prepares her for any difficult words she may encounter in her reading, it also gives me the opportunity to work with her on dictionary skills without an overwhelming amount of information for her to navigate.

Binder Pockets. We’ve used these binder pockets for years to organize different resources in our Case-it Binders. This year, I’ve included one in her history notebook to help my daughter organize lapbooking projects that she is working on. Once these are completed, I will oversee that they make it to their final destination (the portfolio) without taking an indefinite detour to her bedroom floor.

customizing Tapestry of Grace student notebooks

Upper Grammar/Dialectic Notebook

At the end of last year, we tip-toed into the Dialectic stage. This year, we’ll be delving more deeply into this level of thinking with history discussions and accountability questions. Because there is more involved at this level, there is also more included in my son’s history notebook. 

History Topic Summary. Each week, there is a brief overview provided for the student to read that provides the basic summary of what we will be covering and a Biblical point of view on that topic. While the content is a little technical and difficult for my daughter to understand, my son will be ready for it this year, and it will provide the groundwork for our discussions each week.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | dialectic history

Accountability and Thinking Questions. As part of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum for the dialectic level (grades 6-8), each week there are accountability questions that come from the reading and thinking questions that provoke the student to form some opinions and comparisons about what he is learning. (Yes, the answers are provided in the teacher material, so I’m not on my own on this.) This will be our first time to use this consistently, and I’m expecting to do quite a bit of hand-holding as my son gets used to thinking critically in this way. I have provided these questions in his notebook so that he can read over them and know what we will be discussing as he does his reading. This is not pop-quiz. It’s just a step to help him understand how to read for information.

Weekly Overview. This is the same sheet that my daughter has in her notebook, but my son will be using the upper grammar vocabulary while she uses lower grammar. It is the same exercise, looking up the words in the glossary; however, my son is required to write the definitions of words he doesn’t know. The Weekly Overview also includes dates for my son to enter into his timeline. Typically, we do not include all the dates. At this stage, I require a few but allow my son to choose those dates that are significant to him because of his reading and the connections that he is making. 

Glossary. This is the exact same glossary in my daughter’s notebook, and will be used for both dictionary skills practice and vocabulary.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for Literature

 

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | literature

Our literature ties in directly to our history studies. These selections are either historical fiction novels that demonstrate the history and culture we are studying, or they are classical selections that were written during this time-period. Our curriculum includes literature study activities for these selections. Activities for sequencing, cause and effect, character analysis, plot study, narration and summary writing, and more are included in their Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for literature.

My daughter has a good blend of lower grammar and upper grammar activities depending on the skill involved. Because of her dyslexia, she will be doing many of these activities orally while I scribe or write down her answers. Though she is capable of making the connections, she needs some coaching with communicating her thoughts.

For my son, there are a few skills he still needs to work on that are covered more thoroughly in the upper grammar materials (cause and effect, character analysis, etc.) The other three-fourths of his notebook include the dialectic level worksheets, with more in-depth studies of plot, characters, and genres. 

I love the fact that I can create these custom Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for my kids that meet their specific needs and still challenge them appropriately. And hopefully, we will not have quite as much paper on the floor throughout the house this year.