FAQs: Insights to Help Struggling Learners and Readers Succeed
One of the benefits of Home School Legal Defense Association membership is the opportunity to ask the special needs/struggling learner consultants specific questions. We speak to dozens of parents each day. Here are several of their most common questions and our answers. If your questions is not answered below, please feel free to contact us directly—we want your homeschool to be successful!
My child has had some learning problems in a formal school setting. I really want to homeschool him. However, I also had some problems learning, although I managed. Do you think I can homeschool successfully?
Betty Statnick: More than a few homeschooling moms who once posed that same question to me have called back after a few years of homeschooling to report, “Homeschooling my child has been a very rewarding experience for both of us. It has been challenging at times, but we both are learning so much.”
What causes these parents to become such advocates of homeschooling?
1. The parent transforms vivid memories of her own negative school experiences into something positive for teaching her child. Mom remembers how it felt when fellow students (or the teacher) expressed, verbally or through body language, that she was “less than.” Mom is solidly convinced that these actions further suppressed her ability to learn. (And she did learn in other classrooms where the teacher was very affirming.)
“SUCCESS IS A
VITAMIN THAT EVERY
KID MUST TAKE IN ORDER
TO THRIVE DURING HIS OR
HER SCHOOL YEARS.”
Mom knows that if she had been given a little more “think time,” she could have produced correct answers. She also realizes that responding solely with paper and
pencil tasks didn’t allow her to show all
that she had really learned. She needed
some alternate methods of response (like submitting a project or oral report) to demonstrate her grasp of subject matter and concepts.
A vivid recollection of her own negative school experiences causes Mom to avoid subjecting her child to what was damaging to her as a student.
2. Mom has a strong desire to promote honesty in her child. She has a clear memory of the ruses/excuses she concocted to avoid doing schoolwork that seemed too difficult. Mom also remembers a boy in her grade who became the class clown in order to be noticed and thereby deflect attention from his academic inadequacies.
Mom wants her child to unashamedly admit, “Mom, I don’t understand this assignment. Can you please give me some more help here?”
Here for You
HSLDA’s special needs/struggling learner consultants offer a variety of resources for parents of struggling learners or children with special needs. HSLDA members may contact Faith Berens, Dianne Craft, and Betty Statnick for counsel and suggestions. Call 540-338-5600 or visit HSLDA’s staff contact page.
For helpful resources 24/7 or to sign up for our e-newsletter, visit HSLDA’s struggling learner webpages.
3. Mom purposes to utilize her child’s unique and God-given strengths/gifts in the choice of subject matter, the manner in which she teaches that material, and the way she permits her child to show that he has learned the subject matter. (Refer back to No. 1.)
Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrician and author of many books related to learning, has summed it up this way: “Success is a vitamin that every kid must take in order to thrive during his or her school years. We must make sure that this critical learning ‘supplement’ is available to all children.”
Note: Parents do have to adhere to their state’s current regulations relating to required curriculum and year-end progress reports, testing, etc.
My 7½-year-old child still
can’t read! Will he “grow into” reading if I give him more time?
Dianne Craft: One of the clear advantages of homeschooling is that we can adjust the teaching schedule to match our individual children. Parents can adopt the homeschooling philosophy that fits them. Some parents adopt the Moores’ philosophy of Better Late Than Early, and don’t begin any formal teaching instruction until age 8. Other educators, such as Sally Shaywitz, MD, says in her book Overcoming Dyslexia, “In all my experience with parents, no parent has ever said to me that they started intervention too early for their child.”
Let’s look at some signs that can be used to determine if this child is just suffering from a maturity issue, or is experiencing a blocked learning gate that could use some intervention.
1. Desire to learn: If a child is only interested in playing instead of learning to read, then likely this is a maturity issue. I would give him another six months to mature before trying again. However, if he has a strong desire to learn to read, but struggles to remember letters and words, I would see this as a red flag.
2. Alphabet: If the child learned to sing and say the alphabet easily, and knows the letter names and sounds, but is not interested in learning to read, I would consider that a maturity issue and try again in six months. However, if this child has difficulty learning to say the alphabet and learning the names of the letters, I would see that as a red flag.
3. Listening to stories: If the child is too wiggly to sit and listen to the parent read a story and wants to go out to play instead, I would see this as a maturity issue. However, if this child would sit for hours listening with great enjoyment to the parent read to him, but still cannot remember words or letters when taught to him, I would say that this child is ready to learn, but is experiencing a learning block that needs to be explored further.
4. Letter reversals in reading or writing: If the child wants to read and can remember many words and sounds, but is plagued with both reading and writing reversals, I would seek intervention. This issue is easy to deal with, and gives the child much relief.
My child is having a lot of
difficulty with reading. Could it be dyslexia? How does one diagnose dyslexia and who should I go to in
order to have my child tested for it?
Faith Berens: A psycho-educational evaluation is needed in order to formally diagnose dyslexia. Such an evaluation traditionally has included intellectual/cognitive (I.Q.) and academic achievement testing, as well as assessment of the critical underlying language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia. These include receptive (listening) and expressive language skills, phonological skills including phonemic awareness, and also a student’s ability to rapidly identify letters and names. A student’s ability to read lists of words in isolation and words in context should also be assessed. This type of testing can be conducted by licensed psychologists or trained specialists, such as an educational diagnostician.
The level of homeschooled students’ access to educational diagnostic testing through their public school special education departments varies from state to
state. It should be noted that the legal staff at HSLDA recommends that parents pursue private testing, if at all possible, in order to avoid possible legal entanglements with the state.
If a profile emerges that is characteristic of dyslexic readers, the special needs
consultants on staff with HSLDA are
happy to work with parents in order to recommend specific reading programs,
connect parents with trained dyslexia specialists and tutors, and discuss alternative teaching methods.
We also encourage parents to work with the evaluator or a private educational consultant to develop an individualized intervention plan or student education
plan, which should include specialized reading intervention materials, appropriate instructional strategies, modifications to curriculum, and suggested testing accommodations, such as extended test-taking time.
|About the authors
Betty Statnick, Dianne Craft, and Faith Berens are HSLDA’s special needs/struggling learner consultants.