Of all the different curriculum choices you will make for your kids with dyslexia and other language-based learning difficulties, choosing the best language arts curriculum is probably the most important. There are programs and methods that work with dyslexia and those that don’t. Grab a snack (or reheat your coffee!) and get comfy. This post is a bit long!
We talked about how dyslexia affects learning and what to expect and prioritize in different grade levels in this post – Choosing Homeschool Curriculum: A Grade-by-Grade Guide. Because there is only so much time, we will also look at what to focus on during each age level. Language Arts includes reading, spelling, writing, grammar, and literature.
Language Arts Curriculum in the Elementary Years
As many of you know if you’ve been homeschooling kids with dyslexia for more than 5 minutes, teaching reading is your primary focus and takes the bulk of your time in the elementary years.
Years ago, when our oldest child was struggling to learn to read, we were told not to worry – that he was just a ‘late bloomer’. While that made me feel a bit better for a time, the reality was that he was not going to bloom if we didn’t teach him. Research has shown the incredible importance of early intervention in kids with dyslexia.
Teaching Reading to the Younger Child With Dyslexia
This website is full of posts on teaching reading so I will summarize briefly:
- Kids with dyslexia absolutely can learn to read with the right methods.
- Their learning curve starts out slower than traditional learners and mastering reading takes much more practice and exposure.
- The research shows hands down that the best method for teaching kids with dyslexia to read is by using a program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.
For a deeper understanding of how to teach kids with dyslexia to read, read this series: How to Teach Reading to Kids With Dyslexia
Reading Curriculum for Elementary Kids With Dyslexia
There are several excellent Orton-Gillingham reading programs that are easy for parents to use at home:
All About Reading (AAR): AAR is an affordable, easy-to-use, program that is effective. We have been using it to teach our kids with dyslexia for 9 years and love it. Highlights of the program are the wide variety of hands-on activities and the beautifully illustrated, engaging readers that come with the program. AAR separates teaching spelling and reading. Spelling takes a lot longer to master which can hold back reading progress. Teaching these subjects separately gives kids the freedom to move ahead in reading and provides an excellent continued review of rules and concepts.
Read more about All About Reading:
- My All About Reading Review
- Is All About Reading a Complete Orton-Gillingham Reading Program?
- Building Fluency With All About Reading Readers
Logic of English (LOE): LOE Foundations is another amazing, OG-based reading and spelling program that is affordable and easy to use. Highlights of this program are the variety of multi-sensory activities including excellent phonemic awareness activities and colorful workbooks. Read my review of Logic of English Foundations (for ages 4-7) here.
Reading Horizons Discovery (for ages 4-9) comes in print and online versions. I don’t find the print version user-friendly but the online program is animated and fun while following the OG approach. Note: I’m not usually a fan of computerized programs as the main curriculum for teaching reading to kids with dyslexia in their younger years. RH Discovery is good for kids with more mild dyslexia.
Reading Horizons Elevate (for ages 10-adult) is one of my favorite Orton-Gillingham reading programs for the older struggling reader. It is a complete, systematic program that teaches the foundations of reading and spelling without being the slightest bit babyish.
Read my full review of Reading Horizons Elevate here.
Barton Reading and Spelling: This program is solidly based on the OG approach to teaching reading and has an excellent phonemic awareness module (Level 1). It is known for being dry and some kids find it boring, but it is a good choice for older struggling readers who would be put off by the more childish graphics of other programs.
Read this Comparison of the Top 4 top Orton-Gillingham Reading Programs for Homeschoolers here.
Should I teach grammar to my elementary-aged child with dyslexia?
This is a highly personal decision. I have both taught it and delayed teaching it over the course of our homeschool journey. Many parents of dyslexics find that grammar concepts just don’t stick. You have to weigh for yourself whether teaching grammar is important enough to warrant the extra time commitment it will take to teach. Personally, I think it is 100% okay to wait until middle school to teach grammar.
Best Grammar Curriculum for the Elementary Years
Winston Grammar: Colorful, hands-on grammar instruction.
Daily Grams: Simple, short, daily grammar review sheets.
Fix-it Grammar: Grammar is taught through writing a story, one sentence each day. Kids label the parts of speech each day, learning new ones as they progress through the weeks (33 weeks) . The story reveals itself as they go along, so it keeps kids interested and engaged. There are helpful tip cards to remind them of what they learn. It’s painless and easy and takes them about 10-15 minutes, 4 days a week.
Teaching Writing During the Elementary Years
Compared to traditional learners, many younger kids with dyslexia are very delayed in writing. The reasons for this are poor spelling skills (spelling skills come after reading skills) and sometimes dysgraphia limits a child’s ability to physically write.
I delay teaching writing while my kids are younger – say K-3 – although I do teach handwriting. In place of composition, we use narration – telling me what they are learning. When I feel they are ready, I have them narrate their ideas on our iPad using the built-in speech-to-text function.
Because teaching composition is less of a priority in the early years, and because there is often not enough time, I delay teaching composition until anywhere between 4th-6th grade.
Best Writing Curriculum for the Elementary Years
WriteShop Junior: Our kids have LOVED using the WriteShop Junior program. It is full of engaging writing projects and is taught systematically which my kids appreciate. It gives my kids the tools to learn the foundational skills of brainstorming, organizing, and editing in a wide variety of writing genres. It is somewhat parent intensive so if you are still busy with little ones and remedating reading, wait a few years to start this.
Essentials in Writing: An excellent online writing program for grades 1-12. (They also have a literature program that begins in Middle School.) With short, direct video-based teaching and short, clear lessons, many kids with dyslexia report building confidence in writing with Essentials in Writing. Sign up for a free week trial to see which level is right for your child.
Teaching Literature During the Elementary Years
We cover literature study during the elementary years solely by reading good books. I actually covered the idea of incorporating quality read-aloud time into your days in my post on choosing a homeschool history curriculum since many of these good books can cover History study as well.
Language Arts Curriculum in Middle School
Teaching Reading & Spelling in Middle School
We talked about the balance of remediation and accommodation in middle school here. Middle School is usually when our kids with dyslexia begin to take off with reading. There are different degrees of dyslexia: mild, moderate, and profound and this will affect how quickly your child gains fluency. If reading is still a struggle, your priority will be to keep remediating. If reading is good, you will likely keep remediating spelling which develops later than reading.
Language Arts Curriculum for the Older Struggling Reader
Reading Horizons Elevate: An online OG-based reading program for older struggling readers. Not babyish at all but covers everything from phonemic awareness to morphology. It is hands down our favorite program for the older struggling reader. Read my complete review of Reading Horizons Elevate here.
Logic of English Essentials: Another outstanding OG-based reading program that includes 3-levels of study so the program can be used year after year with ample review.
Teaching Writing/Composition in Middle School
Teaching writing should definitely begin to be a focus in middle school. Using a program designed for slightly younger kids is okay. Despite delaying teaching writing in the younger years, most kids pick up these skills quickly in middle school.
Remember that the middle school years are the prime time to teach how to use assistive technology. Click here to read my comprehensive list of the Best Assistive Technology Apps for Dyslexic Students. Speech-to-text and spell checkers would be the most useful for language arts.
Writing Curriculum for Middle School
- Essentials in Writing: An excellent online writing program for grades 1-12. (They also have a literature program that begins in Middle School.) With short, direct video-based teaching and short, clear lessons, many kids with dyslexia report building confidence in writing with Essentials in Writing. Sign up for a free week trial to see which level is right for your child.
- Write Shop Junior : Recommended for up to 6th grade but can be useful in delayed 7th or 8th graders. This is an excellent introduction to the writing method. Systematic instruction that is fun!
- Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers: Recommended for grades 6-8.
Grammar Curriculum for Middle School
- Fix-it Grammar: Grammar is taught through writing a story, one sentence each day. Kids label the parts of speech each day, learning new ones as they progress through the weeks (33 weeks) . The story reveals itself as they go along, so it keeps kids interested and engaged. There are helpful tip cards to remind them of what they learn. It’s painless and easy and takes them about 10-15 minutes, 4 days a week.
- Easy Grammar: An easy-to-use program that teaches parts of speech by first recognizing prepositions and prepositional phrases.
- Daily Grams: Short daily practice in punctuation, capitalization, and other basic sentence writing rules.
- Winston Grammar: A hands-on approach to learning parts of speech.
Teaching Literature in Middle School
The most enjoyable way to teach literature at any age is to read (or listen) to good literature. Using a literature guide is an excellent way to draw out the concepts of grammar, vocabulary, themes, and writing topics.
Best Literature Resources for Middle School
Progeny Press: Easy-to-use lessons include vocabulary exercises, comprehension and analysis, critical thinking, activities, plus a complete answer key.
Total Language Plus: Literature guides that focus on grammar, writing, spelling, with a focus on critical thinking and discovery learning.
More Middle School Teaching Tips
For more tips on homeschooling your dyslexic middle school child, read this post on How to Homeschool Your Dyslexic 7th Grader. Despite the title, the content is good for all middle school grades.
Language Arts Curriculum for High School
Language Arts goals for a dyslexic high school student will depend on basic high school graduation requirements and whether your student plans to go to a junior college or a 4-year university or not attend college at all.
Requirements: Depending on your state, graduation requirements for high school level English is 3-4 years. Check with your state homeschool organization or Homeschool Legal Defense for details on graduation requirements for your specific state.
College entrance requirements: Check with your child’s college of choice for English requirements.
Preparing a child with dyslexia for college? Read this 10-day series on how to best prepare students with dyslexia for college success.
Teaching Reading and Spelling in High School
Your focus for reading and spelling in high school will be less on remediation and more on accommodation. If your high school student still needs help with reading, I recommend hiring a dyslexia tutor or Reading Horizons Elevate which can be done independently online.
Teaching Grammar and Vocabulary in High School
It is assumed that high school students already have a grasp of grammar concepts and many programs move on to vocabulary development in the high school years. Since some of us have delayed teaching grammar, if you want to add some now here are a few resources our family has used and enjoyed:
Easy Grammar Plus: EG Plus will give any student beyond Grade 6 a solid, basic understanding of grammar. It’s especially popular because the text is written at a fourth-grade reading level. Therefore, students can focus on concepts.
Daily Grams: Simple daily practice and review of grammar concepts.
Winston Grammar: A more hands-on, multi-sensory grammar curriculum.
Wordly Wise: Build vocabulary while strengthening reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.
Other homeschool families recommend:
Growing With Grammar: Technically only goes to 8th grade but concepts are advanced enough to be high school level if your child needs (and you want) this type of review.
Teaching Writing to Kids With Dyslexia in High School
A typical high school writing course of study includes everything from learning the basics of writing, creating a thesis statement, and writing various types of essays and research papers.
Our family has first-hand experience with these first three programs:
Essentials in Writing: An excellent online writing program for grades 1-12. (They also have a literature program that begins in Middle School.) With short, direct video-based teaching and short, clear lessons, many kids with dyslexia report building confidence in writing with Essentials in Writing. Sign up for a free week trial to see which level is right for your child. If your child is a struggling writer or without much writing experience, it is recommended to start with Level 7 and move to Level 9 the following year.
Write Shop I & II: A systematic approach to teaching high school level writing.
Fortuigence: Essay Rock Star: If you’re like me and struggled with teaching higher-level writing, you’ll love Essay Rock Star. Students are taught how to write four different types of essays – Personal, Persuasive, Expository, and Textual Analysis (or literary review). Instruction is video based (no reading required) and assignments, which are broken into small, manageable chunks, are emailed to the teacher for review. Read my full review of Fortuigence: Essay Rock Star here.
IEW: The Institute for Excellence in Writing offers high school level courses in Communication, Essay Writing, and a variety of online writing courses.
Other homeschoolers also love:
Write at Home: Offers a variety of online, video-based writing courses with teacher grading to make writing instruction easier on homeschool parents.
Bravewriter: Bravewriter offers a variety of online writing courses for all ages including high school.
Literature Curriculum for High School
Total Language Plus: Students learn writing, spelling, and vocabulary through the reading of classic literature. Sold in individual units for each book and also has a separate Poetry Unit. (While literature selections are not specifically Christian, TLP guides are written with a Christian world view) A novel study-based curriculum that includes, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, parts of speech, and dictation. (So you can pick award-winning novels that sound interesting to your child.) The parts I love the most are the enrichment writing projects, research projects, and critical thinking essays that you can pick from.
Beautiful Feet Books: Combines excellent literature with history.
Outschool: Try taking an online class surrounding a piece of literature. Outschool specializes in short-term classes. Choose from a wide variety of topics on any subject. My favorite Literature teacher is a dear friend, Kendra Fletcher. You can find her literature classes here.
EIW: Excellence in Literature or Windows to the World: An Introduction to Literary Analysis
Movies as Literature: This complete, high school English course uses classic movies on video to introduce and study the elements of literary analysis. Includes questions and essay assignments for each classic book/movie.
Excellence in Literature by Janice Campbell: This is a literature-rich reading and writing program; students read classics and write papers and essays for each work. There are nine units per guide, each lasting four weeks. The assignments all include reading historical context materials, such as the author’s major influences and historical background of the novel. Does not include Poetry.
Teaching the Classics by Center for Lit: An amazing training on how to apply the thought provoking Socratic Method to the study of classic literature.
Read this post for more information on setting goals and choosing curriculum for high school students.
Okay! That was a LOT!
Still searching for curriculum? Read the other posts in this series:
Choosing Homeschool Curriculum: A Grade-by-Grade Guide
Choosing a Homeschool Math Curriculum
Choosing a Homeschool History Curriculum
Choosing a Homeschool Science Curriculum
Thank you for a great week, Marianne. I’m interested in learning more about mind mapping as a visual help in organizing thoughts for writing. Can you tell me what resource you used to explain mind mapping processes to your child? Thanks ! Lisa
I’ll write a post about it this week! Blessings, Marianne 🙂
We are using the Essentials in Writing (E.I.W) 6th Grade Curriculum this year and enjoying it. (DO NOT CONFUSE WITH I.E.W. – THAT’S A DIFFERENT CURRICULUM). I have Jr. High children, but the 6th Grade curriculum is great for giving a general, useful grammar overview and so that’s why I choose that level. In previous years the other grammar curriculum haven’t seemed to stick and were not very enjoyable. We finally found one that is working for us! This is an outstanding curriculum! It starts with a short video (maybe 3-5 minutes) each day and a follow-up workbook (pretty light weight for L.A.) that specifically covers the lesson’s content. It spends the first semester teaching “practical grammar” for the purpose of using the grammar in the second semester when teaching how to write. It does have some writing in the workbook but there is a lot of underlining and circling to offset the writing. In my opinion it’s not overly intensive in the writing and there is diversity in activities that keeps it lighter. It takes maybe 30 minutes to do a lesson. They do 3 lessons a week. And so far it has been very well presented and easy to understand. It does help to grade the work before moving on to the next lesson.
Thanks for sharing Jojo!
I have heard good things about Grammar Galaxy. It looks fun and easy to use. Discovered it too late for my son to try. Wish it had been available earlier. Free samples and explanations here:
Great review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InaYTde-B9s
One other curriculum I would like to suggest for the preschoolers or kindergarteners that seem to be struggling with remembering the alphabet and the sounds of the letters (or there is a family history of dyslexia) is called Zoo-phonics. It is very multisensory using rebus pictures, large body movement, songs, etc. that really helps the little ones develop phonemic awareness. I’m an experienced reading teacher and tutor who is now home-schooling my grandchildren. Both of my sons are dyslexic, so I used Zoo-phonics with all eight of my grandchildren. Although some have other symptoms of dyslexia, none of them had trouble reading once they started school.
Marianne, between you and me, as a remedial reading teacher in the public schools, I used it successfully through the sixth grade to give the students pictures of sounds to remember, but the pictures are too babyish to recommend to others. I was able to sell it to the kids because they could see it working and they trusted me. The kindergarten teachers at the school got me started on it. They said ALL the kids in their classes were remembering their letters and sounds in 2 weeks where it used to take them all year.
Thanks so much for these wonderful resources. I did have a question about what reading resources would be best for my daughter who is 10 and going into 5th grade. She is currently reading a year or so below grade level and able to make her way slowly through books with lexile levels in the range of the Boxcar Kids series. She definitely still trips up on some foundational phonic sounds, but is able to get through lower level chapter books with some strategies. My question is, do we need to use a comprehensive reading curriculum mentioned above at this point, or should we just have her read every day and use some type of supplemental reading resources. If so, what would be a good resource for her? Thanks.
Do you have any input or experience with the Sonday System for elementary students?