From Confusion to Confidence: The 10 Stages of Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

by | Apr 1, 2021 | Dyslexia Information, Encouragement | 20 comments

As I was working on my new book, No More School: Meeting the Educational Needs of Kids With Dyslexia and Language-Based Learning Difficulties, I realized that there are stages we go through as parents homeschooling a child (or children) with dyslexia. As I share my story of going from confused, to overwhelmed, to desperate, to peace, I brain-dumped these stages.

The following is an excerpt from my new book, No More School:

Why can’t you pay attention? What is wrong with you?! I blasted at my 6-year-old son. I could see the frustration in his eyes but I was SO DONE! How many times did I need to teach the same thing?! Why could he tell me every dinosaur’s name and characteristics but not remember how to read the word ‘the’? And that after being taught 100 trillion times, or so it felt at the time.

If this story sounds familiar to you, you are in the right place. Teaching smart but struggling students can be confusing and therefore, overwhelming. At least that is until you make a few changes to the way you look at educating them.

This book was born out of a lifetime of teaching my 7 outside the box learners. I started out just like the story above recalls. Trying the same thing over and over again. Not realizing that there were other ways to teach. Discounting their strengths as cute but not important or real learning. (Not many paleontologist jobs out there despite my son being a mini dinosaur expert.) Not appreciating how hard my kids were actually trying. Yes, I went on to berate my other kids until I learned a few very important things. Things that I am thrilled to be sharing with you in this book.

You see, when my oldest son was diagnosed with dyslexia at 7-years-old, I had no idea that there were smart people that struggled to learn to read.

Learning differences and different ways of being smart had quite literally never come up on my radar.

Until I started homeschooling my kids.

The 10 Stages I Went Through as I Homeschooled my Kids With Dyslexia

Blissful ignorance. I hesitate to call this one a stage since it only lasts 15 minutes or until your child misreads ‘the’ for the 50th time. Nonetheless, we are blissfully unaware that this strange occurrence is a real thing that will likely continue to take place for the 1000 or so other sight words they need to learn.

Self-doubt. If this is your first go-round with homeschooling a child with dyslexia, you’ll pretty much immediately begin to doubt that you’re cut out to teach your kids at home. After all, Linda’s 3-year-old is reading the entire Harry Potter series already! Oh comparison, how I loathe you!

The hunt for a better curriculum. Oh yes, or more specifically, the hunt for a better reading program. Look, this one has games! Oh, but this one has been used by an actress. Hey wait, this says my child will read in 100 easy lessons! Followed by listing said curriculum on eBay and continuing the search.

The hunt for a miracle cure. This stage comes once we realize that the circus, otherwise known as our daily reading lesson, is exhausting. Supplements? Glasses? Brain games? The more expensive the better because they must have stumbled upon that one thing that no one else has discovered yet. Or not.

Pulling out the big guns: going in for testing or assessment. This is where we get serious and ask for help. Who even knows what the heck is going on anymore? Just as a woman who is 9 1/2 months pregnant is happy to go into labor just to not be pregnant anymore, you’ll pay anything just to know what is going on!

Fear and excitement. Getting a diagnosis and or a peek into the strengths and weaknesses (ie. normal IQ and low processing speeds, etc) brings fear, as in “How will my child succeed in life?” and a little excitement as in, “At least I now know what to type into Google.”

Researching like the FBI. Now that we know the terms, auditory processing, dyslexia, working memory, executive function, Orton-Gillingham, structured literacy, we’re up until 2:00 am nightly learning everything we can so we can help our kids.

Trial and error. A little bit of hands-on learning and a little bit of Orton-Gillingham. The pendulum swings as we try one thing, then another to see what combination of methods works best with our smart but struggling kids.

Consistency with understanding. By this time your child is reading and actually pretty happy. Looking back, you realize that the recipe for success was consistently doing your best and being encouraging, believing in your child despite their difficulties.

Your kids grow up and don’t live under a bridge. Hands up if you actually thought this at some point? My ‘bridge experience’ came while helping my profoundly dyslexic son write a comparison essay on the differences between love in a Shakespeare play and the Bible. That one nearly did me in folks! BTW, that kid is wildly successful now and writes his own million-dollar business proposals.

What do you think? Have you gone through any of these stages? What stage would you add?

Would you like support to get from confusion to confidence?

I started a community for just this! It’s called Beyond the Box Learning and we’re having a ton of fun over there. With monthly Master Classes (this month’s Master Class is on inspiring kids to be internally motivated) Success Stories, Books Clubs, Live Chats, and more, it is the perfect place to learn and grow with like-minded parents throughout the year. Click here or on the image below to learn more and sign up!

20 Comments

  1. Leanna Henry

    I laughed and cried reading your stages because its all SO true! I am in my 4th year of homeschooling & this is the first year I actually feel at peace with the challenges! He IS learning, he IS grasping new concepts, he IS feeling confident about himself and his abilities!
    But my my my….it took us 4 years to get here. I went through all of those stages you wrote above! The berating, yelling, pulling my hair out….and that is the stage that made me cry when reading your post. If only I could tell myself 3 years ago….its not me, its not the curriculum, its not him….its how God developed his brain and we will find a way that he learns best! I love that you continue to share the real struggles as a parent because it makes me feel not alone! Keep on writing & sharing!

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Thank you Leanna! Your encouragement means so much to me. 🙂

      Reply
      • K

        I have not homeschooled our daughter with what I think is dyslexia. We have had testing but it didn’t lead to a specific diagnoses (reading and writing disorder). She struggles big in math now. She’s in 5th grade. At a private school since pre K. I’ve known since K that she had something like dyslexia. There has been lots of change at their school (she’s one of 6). I’ve wanted to homeschool her over the years but we’re having little ones and twins at the end, almost three years ago. Spring 2020 was Covid and leaving school abruptly. Spring 2021 her teacher went out sick. They ended up with sub the last 1/4 of the year. All left the class behind. She is struggling so much and has a new teacher that is young. I say struggling but totally lost in math and language arts is more like it. We are really considering making this move to homeschool her.

        I can relate to all of your stages even though I’m not a homeschooler. I laughed out loud! Thank you! I have listened to some of your podcasts and enjoyed them so much!

        Reply
        • Marianne

          Homeschooling can be daunting but it is SO much easier than trying to help a kid who is hopelessly lost. The emotional benefits alone make it worth while!

          Reply
  2. Carley Riley

    Oh, my, how I needed to read this! I between researching like the FBI and the Trial and Error!!! This is our second go around on AAR 1 and it’s still not clicking with my 9 year old. He’s bummed because his younger sister has long surpassed him. He’s still sounding out quite a bit of words. This is encouraging to read though bc I see we will get there!! God is working!

    Reply
    • Marianne

      It really is a journey full of ups and downs isn’t it Carley? But suddenly they arrive!! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Liz

    Wow Marianne, this was so spot on! I feel like you just described the past ten years in about 300 words…lol. We haven’t gotten to the “my kid doesn’t live under a bridge” stage but I am so encouraged and looking forward to that one! Thank you for all you do and are willing to share. Wishing you and your amazing kiddos many blessings!

    Reply
    • Tina

      Marianne,
      It is so wonderful to read through this list and know that you have journeyed down this path before us. Your encouragement breathes life and hope into our own journeys. I know we are not alone as parents or teachers. Your experience and willingness to share your insights and adventures makes the path into the unknown challenges of learning lighter.

      Reply
  4. Sheryl Jerez

    I’ve been homeschooling for 15 years (4 kids). I roughly diagnosed my 3rd child with dyslexia in about third grade approx. 7 years ago. Because of that, I was able to diagnose my 4th child in kindergarten, seeing the familiar signs much quicker. I have gone through almost all of these stages (not testing) and have been at peace that we were making progress, even if it was slow, and things were moving in the right direction. I have felt confident that they will know everything they need to be an adult by the time they graduate.

    Something changed this year as my third child entered 10th grade and I suddenly realized I don’t have much time left. I feel like I am revisiting a lot of these stages. Last year I made some curriculum changes that I thought would help, and they have to some degree but not as much as I was hoping after a year and a half using them. This has been a long school year and the 2 kids are frequently frustrated with particular subjects and I have no idea anymore how to help them because everything I try doesn’t seem to make much difference. I am re-entering the self-doubt phase, even though I would not discontinue homeschooling them. I got sucked into a “miracle cure” this year which I will discontinue very soon. I am on the verge of testing. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for about 2 years. At this point, I am seriously considering professional help, but that is so expensive (I’m not sure we will be able to do that). All of this leaves me feeling lost and clueless as to the best way to help them.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I know that feeling so well Sheryl! One mindset shift that has helped me through the older years is to focus on their interests and natural abilities. Try to help them hone in on what they may want to do after high school. Don’t limit them to only college? What interests do they have that could become a job?

      Reply
      • Sheryl Jerez

        I think one of the contributing factors to revisiting some of these stages has been, I don’t know what a successful dyslexic adult looks like. I want to equip them to be adults, but for a dyslexic, that presents other challenges and I don’t know what is going to look like. For example, spelling challenges. I want to equip my daughter to be able to spell enough to at least function or get by hopefully thrive, but how much is “enough”. Same with severe math challenges. I had a clear idea of what I was aiming for with my older two non-dyslexic children who have now graduated. But I feel like I don’t know what I’m aiming for at this point with my younger dyslexic children, and that time is rapidly closing as my daughter is going in to 11th grade next year.

        Reply
  5. Carolina

    I’m a little out of order in the steps. I’ve “pulled out the big guns” but am in full “self doubt” mode. My child is getting OG tutoring and actually doing well in public school but I very much would like to Homeschool. I am TERRIFIED of undoing all the progress he has made. He’s built confidence and lost a lot of the frustrations he previously was challenged with. How do parents do it? How do they take the plunge???

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Why would his progress be undone? Why do you want to homeschool? How old is he?

      Reply
  6. Dona Goss

    We have an 8-year-old grandchild who has been diagnosed with ADHD. We were skeptical at first but he exhibits all the most common “traits”: hyperactive, super sensitive, extremely bright but unable to get his school work finished on time, socially awkward with his peers (preferring to live in his imagination), etc. we have been looking for any help we can provide for him to help in his academic struggles.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      Hi Dona. Is he being homeschooled or going to a traditional school?

      Reply
  7. Sarah W

    I’m glad I stumbled onto your site in a late night googling session recently! It’s bringing some peace to my interior storm, and giving me confidence that I can help my little people learn. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  8. Tara Pegg

    Hi, I have a 17 year old who has been diagnosed with dyslexia. We live in a remote place and do not have access to tutors. We have tried many different programs but he wasn’t interested. He is now and I thought we could do the Reading Horizons Elevate program. But someone just told me it only works if you also have tutoring as well. What do you think? We are trying to find an Orton Gillingham tutor, but we are looking at a 6 hour drive 1 way.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Marianne

      You do not need to have a tutor at the same time!!

      Reply

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