These 6 homeschool expectations are the cause of many of our frustrations and disappointments in our homeschool experiences.
I was looking over the survey you guys filled out earlier this year and making notes of your specific needs. One thing that stood out to me loud and clear was that many of the disappointments and frustrations that you are experiencing as you homeschool your kids with dyslexia start from having the wrong expectations. Today I’m going to talk about some of those homeschool expectations and why adjusting your mindset surrounding them is good for you, for your kids, and for your homeschool.
Expectation #1: Schedules should work.
In my nearly 30 years of homeschooling I have tried every scheduling hack and planning system out there. Some have worked better than others. Some work better in certain seasons and others work better in other seasons. But the one constant has been that there has never been a day that has gone completely to plan!
In the survey, many of you expressed frustration that you weren’t able to stick to your schedule. The thing with schedules is you can take a lot of time and effort and thought to create a schedule that allows you to fit in the things that are important to you but there is one variable that we don’t take into consideration during our planning. Our kids!
I think most of you would agree that it’s difficult to plan how our kids are going to respond to school from day to day. This is especially true for kids with learning differences like dyslexia who for some unknown reason tend to have good days and bad days; days where learning is easy and days where nothing seems to go in. Add to that some ADHD and you have a situation that is, well, unschedulable.
A better expectation for schedules is to hold on to them loosely. Write them in pencil. Or better yet, seek to establish homeschool routines that naturally have built in flexibility.
Get as much as you can comfortably get done in a day and shift the other things to the next day. And don’t beat yourself up! There is not one homeschooler on the planet that is keeping to their schedule. Better to release that unrealistic expectation and be thankful that you got something done.
Expectation #2: Learning should be linear.
This expectation is one that took me a long time to let go of. Our kids do not learn in a linear fashion. It is often more of a one step forward and two steps back type of growth.
Then there are seasons where our kids will hit a wall and it seems like nothing goes in. We’ll take a break for a week or so and then suddenly they take off with their learning.
Many of you expressed frustration that your kids’ learning was slow. I want to encourage you that every lesson that you teach your children is valuable. It’s just that our kids need lots of exposure and lots of repetition to master anything to do with language or rote memorization.
So let go of the expectation that you should do Lesson 1 on Monday and Lesson 2 on Tuesday and never have to go back to what was taught in lesson one. It’s just not the way teaching kids with dyslexia works.
I like to encourage parents to think of themselves as a tutor. As a tutor teaches their students, they adapt their teaching to the student’s specific needs. Don’t be afraid to go back and review. This is exactly what your child needs to master the concept. And don’t feel bad. This is 100% normal.
Expectation #3: Our kids should love to read.
Let me just start addressing this expectation with a question. Do you love scrubbing your kitchen floor? No, of course not. You may appreciate the end result, but the actual scrubbing, not so much.
It’s similar with reading and our kids. Learning to read is one of the most difficult things that our kids will ever do. It is okay if they don’t enjoy doing it.
Do they enjoy listening to stories? Whether it’s somebody reading aloud to them or them listening to an audiobook? Most of my adult dyslexic kids do not enjoy reading to this day. However they are avid consumers of information through audio books, YouTube videos, and podcasts. They are always learning.
So don’t worry if your kids don’t love to pick up a book and read like you did when you were a kid.
Expectation #4: If I work hard enough at it my kids will become more traditional learners eventually.
Or, stated another way, “I wish my child learned in a more traditional way.”
No, just no!
This idea that our kids are broken and need to be fixed is based on old information. The Dyslexic Advantage book clearly shows that for every weakness a dyslexic brain possesses, there is an opposing strength that goes with that.
So for example, while people with dyslexia may have difficulty with details of language, they have a phenomenal ability to see the big picture in many situations. They see connections that other people don’t see. They have ideas unlike their linear thinking counterparts.
A dyslexic child will grow up to be a dyslexic adult. Yes, they will learn to read and they will learn to adapt and use assistive technology (or you) to help them with their weaknesses while they pursue their strengths.
Your job is to help them find those strengths, to support them, and to help them find meaningful work that uses those strengths. Trying to make them into a traditional learner will not only be frustrating for you but frustrating for them as well.
Expectation #5: My child with ADHD should be able to focus.
After all, they can focus on Minecraft or Legos for hours so they should be able to focus on reading and math too, right? Wrong.
ADHD is a complex diagnosis. Yes, people with ADHD can focus when they are interested. There is some brain chemistry that helps explain this.
One of the key neurotransmitters implicated in ADHD is dopamine, which plays a crucial role in the brain’s reward and pleasure system. When people with ADHD are engaged in activities they find interesting or enjoyable, their brain releases more dopamine, leading to increased focus and attention on those tasks.
Kids with ADHD tend to be more responsive to novelty and high levels of stimulation. Boring or routine tasks often do not provide enough novelty or excitement to capture their attention and maintain focus.
So while it may seem like your child is choosing only the fun things to pay attention to, it really has a lot more to do with brain chemistry. It’s important to understand and debunk the many damaging myths about ADHD.
Expectation #6: I can figure out my kids’ struggles on my own.
This expectation has some truth to it. You can figure out your kids learning struggles on your own but, it will take a lot longer and there will be a lot more error in your trial and error than there needs to be than if you had the right kinds of support.
One of the reasons I see parents of kids with learning differences isolating themselves and their families is because they are embarrassed by their kids learning differences. The reality is that when you love a person with dyslexia or ADHD, you automatically become an advocate. It is our responsibility to understand what these learning differences are, what causes them, how they affect our children’s well-being, and how to offer them solutions to their struggles.
Not only should we be learning about our kids’ difficulties for their sakes, but also for others. I believe that our struggles become our message. Before I started this blog in 2014, I spent many years struggling trying to figure out how my kids learned, the best curriculum, the best schedules, how to tell other people about their struggles, heck – even how to think about them myself. I really worried about my kids when they were younger before I knew what I know now.
Don’t be afraid to talk about dyslexia. You don’t want to make your child the poster child for dyslexia and share embarrassing details of their life with others, but we do want to be open about it because that’s how we find our people.
I’ll never forget going to a women’s Christmas lunch at my homeschool group when my oldest son was about 8 years old. One of the ladies at the table mentioned that her son was diagnosed with dyslexia and lo and behold there were three other moms at that table with kids with dyslexia as well. That was over 20 years ago and we are all still friends! We helped each other find resources and lifted one another up in the hard times.