Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia: Grades 1 – 3

by | Sep 11, 2021 | By The Grade | 31 comments

What to expect, setting goals and the best curriculum choices for homeschooling kids with dyslexia in grades 1 – 3.

What to expect, setting goals and the best curriculum choices for homeschooling kids with dyslexia in grades 1 - 3.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of homeschooling kids with dyslexia.  I should know really.  I’ve been homeschooling kids with dyslexia for the past 25 years!  I have seen the failure of the public schools, despite the efforts of many well intentioned teachers and administrators.  The system is big, short on funds, and dealing with children with all kinds of learning and personal challenges.

I have also seen my kids thrive when they are able to learn at their own pace and are free from being misjudged by uneducated teachers and being compared to kids who are traditional learners.

Even the International Dyslexia Association agrees:

Dyslexic students need direct, systematic and individual instruction in reading and spelling and traditional schools do not always provide adequate levels of service.

If you’re still trying to decide whether or not to homeschool your kids with dyslexia, read this too.

First Things First

Before I launch into a discussion on the who, what, why, when, and where of teaching kids in 1 – 3rd grades, there is something that needs to be understood.  We are homeschooling our kids because the ‘one-size-fits-all’ teaching of the public and most private schools doesn’t work for our kids who learn differently.  It is not my intention to create another set of unrealistic expectations for you as homeschool parents, but rather to offer some insights on what you may be experiencing and some ways that we have been able to encourage enjoyable and  individualized learning in our home full of dyslexic learners.

Basic Child Development Ages 6 – 9

It is important to note that many kids, especially those with Executive Function weaknesses, develop slower than average.  I have one son who is consistently 18 months behind his peers in social, emotional, intellectual and even in some ways, physical development.  He is making steady progress and so we persevere – learning at his pace.

Intellectual Development

  • Most kids learn to read during these years.  However, many dyslexic children do not. More on this in a minute!
  • By age 6 most kids can count to 100 and by age 9 kids are learning to multiply, or in our case with kids with dyslexia, skip count.
  • Increased ability to think logically
  • Learn to tell time
  • Very curious
  • These kids love hands-on experiential learning.

Physical Development

  • Kids at this age are becoming more coordinated and are able to dribble a ball, ride a two-wheeled bike and are better able to throw and catch balls.
  • Enjoy climbing
  • Enjoy learning to swim
  • Kids this age like to move. Many become restless and wiggle if they sit for too long, which is why school can be difficult for some children at this age.

Social Development

  • Children this age become more savvy with relationships and may have a ‘best friend’, but they also may have more conflicts with their peers.
  • Many children are competitive, and can become argumentative and quarrelsome when they lose.
  • Children in this age group can be hard on their younger siblings.
  • At age 6 or 7, kids tend to do best with one friend, but by age 8 or 9 they can begin working well in small groups of three or four.

Emotional Development

  • Children this age still tend to be self-centered. Most want to be first, and most want all the attention. Squabbles can break out when your child feels slighted.
  • It’s not uncommon for kids this age to sulk, pout, or worry. Helping him or her learn to deal with disappointments and worries is part of parenting this age.
  • These children tend to have their feelings easily hurt. They also tend to assume that people who hurt them “did it on purpose.”

Daily Dos

Before we get to curriculum choices and learning styles, here are a few things that are priorities in our homeschool.

Reading aloud

Because many dyslexic kids at this age are not able to read independently, it is vitally important to make reading aloud good literature a daily habit.  Reading aloud (or allowing the use of good quality audio books) fosters a love and appreciation for books and reading as well as exposing young learners to vocabulary and increasingly complicated sentence structures.  Consider practicing the gentle art of narration (telling back what you’ve heard) with your kids during and after read aloud time.

Limit screen time

This is more of a daily don’t.  It can be tempting for busy homeschool moms to get a little quiet by allowing kids to play on computer games or tablets but research has shown that screen time can have negative affects on young learners, especially those with attention issues like ADD or ADHD.

Provide plenty of down time or time to play

With the recent increase in rigorous academcis studies in many American schools, we are seeing less and less down time or play time being provided to kids even in these early grades.  Honestly, the negative impact of this change is enough reason to homeschool any child in my humble opinion!  Play time, especially outdoor play, has been linked to many lifelong benefits.

Encourage some independent learning

Kids with dyslexia can have a harder time with independent learning than kids who are confident readers.  All kids are different.  Some will naturally be more independent, however, I encourage you to find tasks, math fact practice, handwriting or copy work practice, or something that your kids ages 6 – 9 can do independently and start having them do a little independent work each day.  Highly praise and encourage this behavior!

Hands-on learning

This is what can really set your homeschool apart from the public and even private schools.  Most people, and especially kids of this age range, love to learn by doing.  This kind of multi-sensory learning taps in to physical, visual and auditory pathways which activates more areas of the brain and results in a better, more long lasting memory of learning.  See resources below for some ideas of good sources for hands on learning.

Foster friendships

Kids at this age are becoming more social.  Homeschooling families need to be intentional about providing sources of friendship for their kids.  Most homeschool families never have a problem with this but it bears mentioning.  Joining a small Cub Scout pack has been a huge source of social and emotional growth for my 8-year old son who was lacking in these areas.  Other sources for friends are churches, homeschool groups or co-ops, sports teams, robotic or programming clubs etc.

Learning to take responsibility

Kids at this age should be given simple and increasingly elaborate chores and household responsibilities.  Make lists and have them begin to take responsibility for their bedrooms, toys, clothing and pets.  We assign each child a small patch of garden every springtime.  This helps them to practice daily care and they love harvesting the fruit of their labor!

Learning to temper feelings – learning self control

I have often said that character training is a subject just like reading, writing and math. I mean, we spend plenty of time every day teaching these things anyway, right?  Looking at character training as less of an inconvenience and more of a daily-do will help you to have the right attitude when those training opportunities arise.

Curriculum Choices for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

Character Training

Parents, especially homeschooling parents, will spend an enormous amount of time correcting behavior.  Even the most easy-going of kids will need to be taught to think of others before themselves, and to be patient and kind.  One powerful way to teach this most important of subjects is through the reading of good literature.  Don’t let your kids’ reading lags stop this from happening.  While other kids at this age may be reading to themselves, reading aloud can achieve the same or even better results.

Resources for Quality Read Aloud Materials

Other read aloud resources that we love:

The Read Aloud Revival

Reading

The most important thing for homeschooling parents of kids with dyslexia to remember is to teach your kids at their ability level, which will likely not be their grade level.  In my posts on homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten, I talked about the importance of laying a strong foundation in phonemic awareness in young children.

Not to worry, if you are just beginning to understand that your child is dyslexic, all of the programs that I recommend will teach phonemic awareness in their early levels if that is a skill your child needs help with.

All kids with dyslexia can learn to read with the right methods.  The method with the strongest track record for teaching kids with dyslexia to read is Orton-Gillingham.  To learn more fully about the Orton-Gillingham (or OG) Approach to teaching reading, read this post.

This site is full of articles on teaching reading.  If you’re still wondering how to teach your child with dyslexia to read, read these:

Is it Dyslexia?  Signs and Symptoms of Dyslexia

How Dyslexics Learn:  Teaching to the Dyslexic Strengths

Reading Methods That Work With Dyslexia

How to Teach Sight Words to Kids With Dyslexia

Building Fluency in Dyslexic Readers

Best Reading Programs for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

There are several affordable, effective, research-based programs that can be used at home without becoming a certified dyslexia tutor.  Here are our top picks:

All About Reading All About Reading and their spelling program All About Spelling are hands on, simultaneously multisensory introduction into the written word. Every lesson comes with an engaging phonemic awareness activity that is so fun, your kids won’t know they are learning one of the most foundational skills of reading success. Lessons are completely scripted so there is little prep time for mom. The customer service at All About Learning Press is top notch. Specifically designed for the homeschooled student that struggles with reading. This program has all of the elements of an Orton-Gillingham research-based reading program. For more information, click the image below.

AAR-AAS-Footer-Banner

Barton Reading  Another one-on-one reading tutoring system, completely scripted for easy parent use and Orton-Gillingham based.

Logic of English  A comprehensive, completely scripted reading, spelling, handwriting and grammar program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.  The Foundations levels are geared for ages 4-7 and include a daily variety of phonemic awareness and truly kinesthetic review activities.
The Wilson Program Not as user friendly as All About Reading/Spelling or Barton but an affordable, evidence-based program that really works.

Best Math Programs for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

Math-U-See  An uncomplicated, hands-on, time-tested program for teaching math.  Children learn each mathematical concept by building it, writing it and saying it.  Used with base 10 math manipulatives, many dyslexic children find success with Math U See.

Teaching Textbooks (beginning in 3rd grade)  Like having the ‘good’ math teacher year after year.  Teaching Textbooks is computer based (no Internet required).  Each lesson is taught and followed by 5 practice problems.  Kids then work each lesson right on the computer.  Immediate feedback allows students to watch the solution to any incorrect answers – after 2 tries.

Right Start Math  Another hands-on program that de-emphasizes counting, uses visualization of quantities, and provides strategies and visual pictures for learning the facts. Understanding and problem solving are emphasized throughout the curriculum. The primary learning tool is the Abacus, a specially designed two-sided abacus that is both kinesthetic and visual.

Touch Math  A highly visual, hands on program designed for kids who struggle with math.  

Fun and (mostly) free math resources:

  • cook a recipe
  • play a math game
  • play a board game
  • download a math app or game
  • play store with a toy cash register

Best History Programs for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

Since most kids with dyslexia won’t be reading independently at this age, it will be important to find an enjoyable history program that can be read aloud or listened to on CD.

Story of the World by Susan Weiss Bauer  This program is available in paperback book with an optional CD version and a comprehensive curriculum guide and activity book that contains map activities, coloring pages, games, projects, review questions, cross-references to illustrated encyclopedias, and extensive book lists. Children and parents love the activities, ranging from cooking projects to crafts, board games to science experiments, and puzzles to projects.

Beautiful Feet  Learn history through literature with Beautiful Feet History Guides.

Five in a Row  The four volumes of Five in a Row contain 70 literature based unit studies covering Social Studies, Geography, Language Arts, Applied Math, Science and Art in a way that causes children to fall in love with learning.  Read each book once a week (5 days in a row) and choose an activity to teach along with the story.

Fun and (mostly) free history resources:

No need to bore your kids to tears with history.  Teach your kids with real learning.  Especially in the early grades, history should be more about exposure to ideas than learning names and dates.  Captivate your kids imaginations with:

  • read quality historical fiction
  • take field trips to historical sites or museums
  • play a history or geography game
  • put together a map puzzle
  • create a timeline and add events and people as you learn throughout the years
  • watch historical movies or documentaries

Best Science Programs for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

Apologia Exploring Creation Young Explorers Series  For grades K-6.  This is a Christian curriculum that teaches about science from a creationist point of view.  Program comes with ideas for hands on projects.  Optional Science Journals available. I prefer to use this excellent series as a guide as the long, detailed lessons can be too much for younger kids. Read the main points and focus on the hands-on activities. They will for sure remember those!

Five in a Row  The four volumes of Five in a Row contain 70 literature based unit studies covering Social Studies, Geography, Language Arts, Applied Math, Science and Art in a way that causes children to fall in love with learning.  Read each book once a week (5 days in a row) and choose an activity to teach along with the story.

As with teaching history, teaching science to kids in grades 1 – 3 can be low key, hands on and fun!

Fun and (mostly) free science resources:

  • read living science books
  • get outside and study nature
  • get a book of simple science experiments to do at home
  • visit a science museum or zoo
  • watch a science documentary or educational show
  • read biographies of scientists

Best Handwriting Programs for Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia

Many kids with dyslexia will also struggle with the physical act of writing – also known as dysgraphia. Taking a relaxed approach to writing is not only doable as a homeschooler but is advisable.  Start handwriting by having your child trace letters in a shallow tray of salt or sand or trace sandpaper letters.  Move to dry erase pens on a white board after that.

Handwriting Without Tears (check out their iPad app!) Designed for kids who are struggling with learning to write.

Italic Series  A simple font that is easy to read and easy to write.

Logic of English Foundations reading program for ages 4-7 includes handwriting instruction.

Tools for Kids With Dysgraphia


A Few Thoughts on Grade Levels and Falling Behind in the Homeschool

If you talk to a burned out homeschool parent of a dyslexic child (I talk to lots of them!) it is pretty common that their educational goals for their kids – goals to be at or above ‘grade level’ – are making them crazy.

It isn’t until they begin to move from an achievement mentality to a progress/mastery mentality they begin to find the freedom and enjoyment of homeschooling.

What do I mean by a progress/mastery mentality?

Most homeschoolers need to shed the ‘school-at-home’ mentality in order to create a home learning environment in which their kids can thrive.  This is never more true than for the homeschool family teaching kids with dyslexia.

It doesn’t really matter how much you, or any well-meaning family member, wants your child to be reading at his or her ‘grade level’.  If they aren’t able to do it – you have to teach them, faithfully, at their current level until they get there.  Is your child making progress?  Are they mastering their subjects – regardless of what grade level they’re working on?

Read these posts for more information on Setting Goals for Your Dyslexic Homeschooler, and How to Know if You’re Doing Enough

Related Posts

Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia:  Preschool

Homeschooling Kids With Dyslexia:  Kindergarten

31 Comments

  1. Sharalee Smith

    Hello! I am just now thinking my almost 8.5 yr old may struggle with Dyslexia…she is getting stronger at reading and can write…I haven’t been using a spelling program because I just figure if she is just learning to read, spelling can’t be at the top of the priority list….she will get to spelling once she better understands what she is reading…but am I far off with a potentially dyslexic girl? Would you strongly recommend teaching spelling at a grade two level?

    Reply
    • Marianne

      There are two schools of thought on this. What program are you using to teach reading? The traditional Orton Gillingham approach to teaching reading combines spelling and reading also know as encoding and decoding. Because encoding (spelling) is so much more difficult than reading (decoding) some programs separate the two subjects. All About Reading is the program we have been using with success for the past 4 years. They have a separate spelling program (All About Spelling) that they recommend kids start after completing Level 1 of AAR. So to answer your question…first off, you know your child best. Secondly, starting a program like All About Spelling Level 1 now would be a good idea. It will not be too difficult and she can get the practice that she need encoding the words that are easy for her to read. Hope this makes sense!

      Reply
  2. Sarah M

    Marianne,
    I would love to see a list like this for grades 4-5, as well. My son, who hasn’t been formally diagnosed but his teachers put him on an iep for dyslexia, is going to be in 4th grade next year. I’m doing all the reading/researching I can, and we’re now doing Susan Barton level 2 (he hates it, we may switch to all about spelling for the summer) but I’m wondering about math as well. We’ve used Singapore from K-3 (present), but I’m wondering if I should switch him over to a different program. He struggles with the simple math facts, but can get the concept behind harder math concepts (for his age) like multiplication and division, but aside from 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s, struggles with memorization. I’d love to see a resource list for his age as well, when you have the time! (or maybe I’ve missed it? I’m a fairly new reader)
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Kylie

      Math Mammoth is very similar to Singapore but has a lot more meat! It gives a lot of “tricks” for remembering math facts instead of just telling you to memorize everything.

      Reply
  3. Sandra Centeno

    What do you think about Time 4 Learning?

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Sandra. We have only used it in high school and we liked it! It is a nice blend of audio, video and print which was good for dyslexics. I liked the parent controls. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Jesscia

    Hi my son is 7 yrs old, he is in the 2nd grade and were off to a rough start. He is dyslexic and struggles with writing the mos. I have been working with him after school and seen a improvement in his reading and spelling, I really feel like the school is failing him he is not getting his 504 accomadations most of the time, his teacher is rude to him and rushes him through his work. We have a meeting schedule with the school, but I am seriously thinking about homeschooling him. My question is where would i start ? Which curriculium would be best for him ?

    Reply
  5. Kylie

    We are using “The Phonics Road to Spelling and Reading” for Language Arts. From the reading I have done it follows the OG approach to reading but I was wondering if you have had any experience with it?

    Reply
    • Shasta

      This is a wonderful program, and our oldest ds has done very well with it. (It is based on the Spalding method.) His little sister (7 yrs, 2nd grade), has been on level 1 for about 2 1/2 years – and though she is reading above grade level she is not “getting” the spelling (i.e. spells “butter” as “butr” after all this time!) A free web-based test seemed to indicate dyslexia. (She is the reason I landed on Marianne’s web page, looking for answers.) She HAS done very well with “Explode the Code” workbooks, which I now realize are VERY Orton-Gillingham — so I’m thinking that for her, something like All About Spelling might be a better fit.

      I’d love to hear Marianne’s feedback on Phonics Road as well (or the Spalding method), particularly as it relates to dyslexics. It’s a big investment, and if we can modify it somehow to work better for her we will, but if a pure Orton-Gillingham method will bear more fruit (with less frustration), we’ll go that route.

      Reply
  6. Jessica

    Hello
    I have an 8 year old (just turned 8 today October 27 2016) who is technically in 2nd grade, but this year we are using AAR Level 1 and Math U See Alpha. The Neuropsychologist that did his testing (didn’t formally diagnose Dyslexia) said that due to his low working memory and slow processing speed said not to even bother trying to have him memorize his math facts (he recommended that he be allowed to always use a “cheat sheet”). Of course the whole first portion of Math U See Alpha is focused on memorizing the math facts 0-9 and while my son struggles with some of it and sometimes forgets the next day what I thought we had learned the day before he is making progress (we are 2 months into the schoolyear)… My question is with a dyslexic child (or a child with working memory challenges) would you continue to focus on mastery of the basic math facts before moving on to anything else as in line with Math U See or go ahead and move on once they sort of know them?

    Reply
  7. Melody

    Do you have any experience with or knowledge about Sing Spell Read & Write?

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Melody. Yes, I do. Although it looks like a great program, it does not work well for kids with dyslexia.

      Reply
  8. Celeste

    Thank you. What do you think about Logic of English Essentials? I had bought this when describing to a friend using the program my child’s abilities. My child didn’t like it…..

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I love Logic of English Essentials, however only for my kids who were a bit older, like 10-11.

      Reply
  9. Michelle Warner

    My 9 1/2 year old is deaf in his right ear, has balance issues, dyslexic, and has dysgraphia as well. He has had hearing aids for 6 months. We just finished AAR 1 (took 16 months). I started AAR 2 and he is struggling by lesson 3. He cannot keep up.
    I gave him the Barton student test today and he did not pass to be able to begin Barton. Barton’s web site states that Auditory Discrimination and Auditory Memory are the cause of this lack of knowledge and Orton-Gillingham approach will not work until this is addressed. Barton’s web site suggest Foundations In Sounds. Do you have any experience with this program? With his lack of hearing I am concerned this approach will not help.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Michelle. I do not but I would trust any recommendation from Barton. Why don’t you contact the customer support at Foundations in Sounds and ask them?

      Reply
  10. lori Engel

    Hello, I am wondering if it is possible to be dyslexic and Excel at math. My 8.5 yr old daughter struggles with language, but excels at math. We are using all about reading and will start all about spelling as soon as she masters level 1. Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Lori. Yes! We have had kids with dyslexia who could solve complicated Algebra problems in their heads!

      Reply
  11. Jennifer

    Hi, I am wondering about Diane Craft reading program. Do you think it is as good of an option as AAR? I have AAR but my son struggles to remember all the rules. He’s 7 and forgets basic sounds.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Personally, I find it difficult to use. It isn’t systematic enough for me. Dianne Craft is a wealth of knowledge but her Right-Brain phonics program didn’t work for us.

      Reply
    • Jamie

      I wonder if he needs to start with lessons on auditory discrimination (Linda Mood Bell LiPS program or Foundations in Sounds program) first. This is where my son is needing to begin before he can even start an Orton Gillingham program.

      Reply
  12. amy

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if you had an opinion of IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Primary Art of Language: Reading and Writing with the Phonetic Farm written by Andrew Pudewa based on the “Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning” by Anna Ingham. I have been using this for my 8 yr old son who was diagnosed with Dyslexia in the spring. I think he is making progress, but somedays he forgets what he has learned. I’m always wondering if there is a better program for him, or if I should have him privately tutored using an Orton-Gillingham method.
    Thank you for your help,
    Amy

    Reply
  13. ruth

    I would suggest that you add Verticy Phonics (from Calvert School) to your phonics recommendations and ShillerMath to your Match suggestions. I am a homeschool mom teaching my 3rd dyslexic child.

    Reply
  14. Margaret

    Have you used essentials in writing? It claims to work well for students with dyslexia. We are homeschooling my youngest, but he also attends the elementary school for a special reading/writing class and speach. We even have him attend the PE class for his grade. He is currently in second grade. His reading has improved this year, but he is still behind his peers. My friend reccomended the sing spell write program, but from the above comments that won’t be a good program for him. He also struggles with writing and doesn’t really enjoy coloring either. So far we have used a variety of different resources, but I would love to be able to just use one program to cover the grammer, writing, spelling, and reading. I worry that he might not be getting the rounded education he needs with our current method.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Yes, we have used Essentials in Writing and like it!!

      Reply
  15. Trina W.

    I know this is an older post, but I would so appreciate it if someone could give their opinion here.
    I have a 9 year old that I’m homeschooling, and I think she may have dyslexia. I have ordered Logic of English Foundations and we are excited to start.
    I was at a homeschool function today and a mom told me about Nessy. She said it’s doing wonders for her struggling reader.
    I am wondering if Nessy is truly a complete Phonics program? Should I try it before opening my box of LOE, in case Nessy works well for her? I’m thinking of trying the free trial.
    Thank you so very much for your help!

    Reply
    • Marianne

      We love Nessy however, unless your child is very mildly dyslexic, I don’t think it is enough for a full program. I have used it as a supplement. My kids LOVE it. It’s fun and they are motivated to keep working. It moves quickly though and my kids always needed more review.

      Reply
      • Trina W.

        Thank you so very much for your reply!
        I think I will proceed with LOE and just use Nessy as a supplement.
        I love your site and have learned so much from it!
        Blessings to you!?

        Reply
  16. b K

    Interesting. My 7yo has mild dyslexia but mainly an expressive language disorder. Im amazed how there is no approach to educate these children since so much overlap exists. She has been at a dyslexia school since age 5 and has extra therapy sessions. We spend over 70k a yr. i’m considering home schooling and just hiring a fulltime specialist. How do I search for a local educator willing to be my solo teacher for my child?

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I’m not sure about finding a teacher but tutors are abundant. I would try NILD.org for language arts and do math at home with something like Math-U-See. Way cheaper and probably more effective.

      Reply

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