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Homeschooling a Child With Learning Differences

This week, The 4 Moms are writing about homeschooling a child with learning differences. Be sure to see what each one has to say on the topic:

I have never had any of my children diagnosed with a learning disability, but I suspect a couple of them would labeled with attention deficit disorder and dyslexia/dysgraphia if they were in public schools.

Here are the ways I have dealt with homeschooling these children:

Research the symptoms.

After lots of reading, I am certain that dysgraphia is the reason for difficulty in writing for one of my children. Google is your friend. Type in the keywords that describe your child's difficulty and see what comes up.

Find out all you can about how to teach a child with a learning difference.

After you have researched the symptoms, find out how others have successfully taught children with learning differences. Talk to other mothers who have the same issue. Look online and at the library. I gained a LOT of useful information from The Gift of Dyslexia.

Modify lessons.

No need to make the child miserable doing a task that is difficult for him if he is able to learn the lesson a different way. See this example of tactile spelling practice.

If the child has difficulty with keeping still, why not let him do the work standing up or interspersed with jumping jacks? Keep the lessons short (15 minutes) and focused if this is an issue.

Remember the goal.

I want my children to be life long learners; to understand and explore the world. Forcing them to complete every last page of their handwriting workbook may not be necessary in reaching this goal, and may actually be a painful hindrance to them.

What have you found to be helpful in homeschooling a child with learning differences?

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  1. First, I love that you called this Learning Differences instead of Learning Disabilities! After years of dealing with one of my children who could not focus and thinking that she just had behavior issues, I finally realized that she might have ADD. I found some really helpful information on HSLDA’s website, where they described her symptoms perfectly and offered simple suggestions to help her. Most importantly we cut out sugar for breakfast, including juice. We also began covering up most of the problems on the math page so she could focus on just one section at a time, having her write in different colors, and having her move around more – table to couch to floor to dry erase board. She immediately began to focus much better and her behavior improved too! I highly recommend HSLDA!

  2. I work with many students who are what I call antsy in puiblic education. They may or may not be officially diagnosed with ADHD, regardless, I try to meet their needs. Several things I have found that work well include allowing the student to write on colored paper. For some reason it tends to hold their interest. I also highly recommend a visual timer. A visual timer is a timer that actually shows how much time is left (not just the numbers). The student can actually see the red area getting smaller and smaller. So if I tell Johnny to work for 7 minutes then he can do a preferred activity, he can see how much time is left. Then I reset it for 5 minutes for the preferred activity. I catch myself looking at it frequently as well. Seeing the viusual of how much time is left is great. Covering up problems, as Lisa suggested is also a geat way to work within their abilities. I also assign 3 problems then let them check just those three before they go on. Gives them a break and usually biulds their confidence a little. If they had trouble with the problems I can immediately give feedback instead of them missing every problem on a page. In larger groups I let peers help with this. I also allow them to use a calculator to check their computation problems. Basically anything to write/work a little, switch gears, then go back to writing/working. We also take little yoga/stretch breaks. We do a stretch for awhile them resume working. This is great for standardized testing, because they can usually ask for a break then do that without bothering others. (espeically is they sat in the back of the room). Hope these ideas help. I love kids who think differntently. They challenge me and make every day unique!

  3. Of our five home-grown, home-schooled children, two have disabilities. Our oldest daughter has cerebral palsy and is hearing impaired. Our third born (oldest son) has Hirschsprung Syndrome, autism, hearing impairment, and, because of having had cataract surgery in one eye, he has visual difficulties related to the fact that one eye doesn’t focus up close.

    When it comes to teaching these children, it has helped tremendously to keep the end in mind: “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5). For our children with disabilities, we keep their goals very practical and spend much of their “school time” on therapeutic activities designed to maximize their independence as adults. They won’t factor quadratic equations; they will hear great classical literature and music. They won’t write compelling research papers; they will use the talents and abilities they have to help themselves and bless others.

  4. My daughter has an ASD diagnosis. When the special ed teacher at the public school said they could not meet her needs, we decided to homeschool to give her the individualized attention she required. My fault was that I tried to educate her in the same traditions as public school and it was not working. I had to shake off those template images in my brain and think outside the box. When I allow her to lead how she wants to learn, we struggle less and she absorbs more.

  5. After teaching our oldest three kids to read by age 5 w/o any problem, I couldn’t figure out why our 4th child struggled with it. She tends to be wigglier, but loves to be read to. Occasionally she’d tell me (w/ 100 Easy Lessons, which we love) that the words would wobble right off the page. I chalked this up to her being silly – a pretty common thing with her :)

    Imagine my surprise when at homeschool co-op I was talking to a lady who had done some tutoring and she (w/o me mentioning our daughter’s problem) that reading had always been a struggle for her because the words wobbled off the page!!!!!

    I had our daughter tested by the same lady (I do recommend getting a private tutor/tester like this lady if possible and not through the public school) and she recommended an Irlen screen. An Irlen screen is a simple piece of see through plastic – it comes in a wide variety of colors – yellow worked best for our girl. She lays it directly on the page as she reads.

    It’s been amazing – the words don’t wobble any more – It was a perception issue not a vision issue.

    One thing that helped most was that I kept doing a ton of read-alouds with her like always because I didn’t want her to associate reading with difficulty and frustration – but pleasant times.

    Reading still takes more effort for her than it has for any of my others – but the screen made all the difference.

    So I would encourage moms to ask around, do your research, don’t feel you must resort to the public school option and most importantly – ask God for a great amount of wisdom (James 1!). No other person loves your child more than you, no one cares more about their education than you!!

  6. My daughter had dysgraphia as well. The curriculum Handwriting Without Tears (http://www.hwtears.com/hwt) was a lifesaver for us!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I’m tutoring some kids this year and I think I have seen some of the symptoms of dysgraphia in one of them, but it had not occurred to me that this might be the answer. This child has been struggling for awhile and does have ADD. Regardless, I will definitely be more on the alert for the subtle signs and symptoms that could help this child, his parents, teacher, and I as we work with him.


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