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Aug 13, 2012

A Homeschooling Success Story - Overcoming Dyslexia

Charity Klicka

    Mrs. Natwick’s son, Charlie*, is a typical homeschooler in her area. In the Yahoo Groups she participates in, Charlie seems to be a typical, albeit profoundly impacted, dyslexic homeschooler. “In other words,” Mrs. Natwicks explains, “we struggle with the difficulties, but homeschooling gives us the opportunity to soar in areas of his strengths.    

   To remediate Charlie’s dyslexia, Mrs. Natwick used private tutors, Barton reading and Spelling System, and last year enrolled him in the Neuhaus Education Center’s excellent O-G-based program. Mrs. Natwick received 170 hours of coursework toward becoming an academic language therapist. She met several other homeschooling moms there, and soon found that she was not at all atypical in her quest to further her own education in order to help her son.

   “The absolutely beautiful thing about homeschooling is that we can treat my son's dyslexia as an island of weakness in a sea of strengths”, Mrs. Natwick expressed.

   Charlie attends a weekly wilderness class, where he troops out, with 10 kids and two dedicated naturalists, for three hours into the mountains, or explores the tide pools and coastal bluffs of the Natwick’s California shoreline.

   He had a weekly home school chess class from a company called "Academic Chess" and, at a local art studio, a home school art class called "Exploring the Masters," where each week they study one great artist and draw a picture inspired by that artist’s technique.

   Charlie had a weekly home school Shakespeare class from an educational troupe called "Much Ado About Shakespeare," where, much to Mrs. Natwicks surprise, his difficulties with language did not prevent him from shining as a natural actor. “This class is an incredible exposure to English history, dance, music, and psychology as well as performing”, explains Mrs. Natwick. In addition to memorizing lines, Charlie’s homework consists of writing about topics like, "What would your character dream about as being their perfect life? What would they long for?" or "Write about an event in your character's past, one that does not occur in the play, but that might impact the way he reacts in the play."

   “My son's greatest gift is in emotional intelligence, and questions like these are like ice cream to him. (At first he thought his character, the Earl of Westmoreland in Henry IV, Part I, would hate most to die in battle. After studying the play for a couple months, he decided that the Earl would like even less to be captured by the enemy. Even if he were treated well and kept for ransom, it would be like a gilded cage. He would hate that even more than dying in battle”, Mrs. Natwick explained about Charlie’s experience in the troupe, “Much Ado About Shakespeare”.

   “I cannot imagine a public school giving him these opportunities at 9 and 10 years old” (Mary Natwick).

   In addition to these standing classes, Charlie attends at least one (and not limited to up to three) field trips a month, Many of these field trips are free or under $7.

   Charlie has had many opportunities to experience many different things. He’s been on a bald-eagle-watching cruise and a whale-watching cruise. For twenty minutes, Mary and her son watched a mother grey whale teaching her baby how to breach (leap completely out of the water). Charlie has seen an opera, ballet, and many musicals at Pepperdine University. On different Living History field trips, Charlie has made adobe bricks, has ground corn with a mortar and pestle and made tortillas as they did on the Spanish ranchos around California, and all the while learning about life in the mid-1800s. He walked on stilts and rolled hoops as he learned about the early life in the colonial times in Williamsburg. Charlie also learned how to load a musket and fire cannons. He toured Air Force One and has been inside WWII tanks, fighter planes and bombers. Charlie spoke with a WWII fighter and asked him how it felt to watch his friends’ planes get hit, starting an engaging conversation. He has visited Sutter’s Mill, where the Californians first discovered gold in California, and has toured the museum there as well. In addition to all these exciting adventures, Charlie also toured a guitar factory and a bakery. And Charlie did all this before he was even10 years old.

   This past year, the Natwicks signed up for art museum tours at the Getty Museum of Art and the LA County Museum of Art. Charlie will also be attending a series of six homeschool days at Los Angeles’ California Science Center, where they will explore laws of gravity, force and motion while building roller coasters and rockets, work with wind power, build a sailboat, do experiments with acids and bases, the variables of electricity, and more.

   Everywhere Charlie goes, he talks to the docents, naturalists and scientists, the boat captains and marine biologists, to the performers and factory workers, the bakers and volunteers. Charlie is continually learning about vocations and passions, about how people come to do what they do with their lives. He empathizes and communicates, and listens and shares. His mother empathizes, “Charlie’s retention of knowledge presented in his hands-on, multisensory, people-oriented way is so much better than if he were reading it, or listening to it read to him, from a book.”

   Charlie’s at-home academics this past semester[s] in addition to reading, writing and math, are America history and biology. He’s also learning touch typing, as his dysgraphia is extremely limiting to his writing. Mrs. Natwick attended an all-day seminar on Handwriting Without Tears, a nationally renowned handwriting program. And when she showed her sons writing samples afterwards, the instructor said, “put him on a computer”. He does the usual afterschool sports including volleyball, basketball, and soccer.

   This year, Charlie is a 4th grader. He is reading about a mid-3rd grade level, and improving by leaps and bounds. His fluency has improved dramatically this last fall and his prosody is wonderful (though his oral reading is still somewhat halting). In a recent chapter book Charlie read the cowboy dialog with a twang, thrilling his listening mom with his expressive dialog. Although his writing is still an enormous struggle, he is making progress.

   Charlie’s mom reads to him quite a bit, sometimes a couple hours a day. They often listen to audio tapes while driving to field trips and classes.

   “I cannot think of a single aspect of my son's life that would be improved if he returned to public school,” Mrs. Natwick explains, “Even socially, he is much more stimulated by homeschooling than by public schooling." In addition to his classes and field trips, Charlie has weekly park days where he and other children build forts and "play wonderful, creative, made-up, running-around games while the moms sit and compare curriculum ideas, field trip ideas, volunteering ideas, books, etc” (Mrs. Natwick).

For a full account from Mrs. Natwick, visit HERE.

*To protect his identity, a pseudonym is used.

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