Are you Afraid to Teach Your Kids With Learning Differences?

by | Jul 29, 2019 | Teaching Tips | 4 comments

In my last post, I asked the question of whether or not language-based learning difficulties like dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia are learning disabilities that need to be ‘fixed’ or learning differences that need teaching differences.

We also talked about the freedom we have for the most part as homeschoolers to teach our kids where we want, what we want, and when we want.

We have this freedom but we still have a lot of fear. We’re afraid that we’re failing our kids and we’re afraid that we are doing too much for them.

I’m Afraid I’m Failing my Kids

My own homeschool has always been a relaxed one. Well, academically speaking, not necessarily the rest of it! We worked as consistently as possible. I offered support and accommodations to my kids who weren’t learning independently. I tried to focus on strengths and give them time to pursue their interests.

Honestly, I had no idea if what I was doing would work and I was worried for my kids just like many of you. I worried that I wasn’t doing enough or that they wouldn’t be able to succeed after high school because of their learning struggles.

When we teach our kids differently by using their strengths to teach it can be hard to assess what they’re learning. If we do hands on math, we can’t count pages completed. And what if we help our kids with 85% of an assignment? Should they still get an ‘A’?

Let me share a few stories from my own homeschool with you.

A Writing Success Story

One of my sons, who is profoundly dyslexic, struggled with writing. In high school, he took a Literature and Composition course with our homeschool group. Each essay was a monumental task with me siting by his side 80% of the time coaching, prompting, correcting, and encouraging.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was very concerned for his future. How would he be able to work or go to college if he couldn’t write well?

Last summer while I was away speaking at a homeschool conference, this son called to ask how to replace the printer ink in our home office printer. I asked him what he was working on and he replied that he was preparing a proposal for a client. When I got home he showed me a beautifully bound professional looking presentation that he had prepared by himself.

A Math Success Story

Another child of mine had a terrible time with math in high school. Today, she is taking advanced math in college and is doing very well. She has a goal to become a physical therapist and higher math is needed to get there.

Why a Gentle Approach Works

The thing with both of these stories is that these kids didn’t have a ton of academic success in high school. We moved at their pace, I helped them as much as I could (and hired tutors when I couldn’t) and left time for them to pursue their interests.

As adults both of these kids got a vision for what they wanted to do and have consistently and intentionally worked toward it – overcoming their weaknesses along the way.

I really believe that taking a gentle approach allowed them to keep their confidence and enjoyment of learning in tact. (Within reason here people. I made them do Algebra and higher level science which got ugly from time to time.)

Related Post: The 6 Attributes of Successful Dyslexics This article details the 6 attributes all successful dyslexics have. I’ll give you a hint, none of them were IQ scores, grades, or level of college completed!

I’m Afraid I’m Helping Too Much

Offering an individualized education with lots of support to our kids with language-based learning difficulties takes a huge shift in how we teach and takes a lot of time.

We all wonder if we’re helping too much – especially if we never struggled to learn.

There’s a simple formula for figuring this out. I got this idea from Dr. Daniel Franklin who himself is was a struggling learner and now works with struggling learners as an educational therapist.

First, ask yourself this question. What is the purpose of this assignment?  Have you just finished reading a history lesson and you’re trying to have your child answer the questions at the end of the text?  What is the purpose of answering the questions? The purpose is to check to see if your child understood what was read.  

What part of the assignment is your child struggling with? For example, did they not understand the passage that was just read? If you read it to them or they listened to it on an audiobook, were they not paying attention? Or did they really not understand?  If they read the book themselves, did the effort it took to decode the words take away from their comprehension? (By the way this is often the case with struggling learners.) More often than not, our kids have excellent comprehension. The problem may be that your child is struggling to complete the assignment because of difficulties with handwriting and spelling.

How can you modify the assignment to help your child be successful? Based on your answer to these questions, come up with a strategy to help your child achieve the purpose of the assignment and be successful. If your child’s comprehension is affected because of their poor reading skills, allow them to listen to the passage whether you read it to them, a sibling reads it to them, or they listen on an audiobook. If your child is having difficulty with the assignment because handwriting and spelling is difficult, allow them to narrate or speak their answers to you, to a sibling, or to speech to text app.

In summary, figure out the object of the lesson, determine in which areas they are struggling, and provide the support they need to express themselves at their intellectual ability.

Am I Helping Too Much?

Research shows and my experience confirms, that when your child is comfortable with a higher level of independence, they will happily take that route. In other words, if they feel they need your help, help them! 

Does this help you with your fear? What other things are you afraid of as you teach your kids with learning differences?


  1. Kim

    Oh Marianne you are leading us down a path we definitely need to go! You post is timely and important. Thank you for posting this information!

    • Marianne

      Thanks Kim. I’m just sharing where I am right now. I’m glad it is helpful!!

  2. Steph

    Yes. Thank you so much for this. You described my approach exactly, and 95% of the time I feel like I’m on the right track with my 2, but I still have moments of absolute, crushing panic like I did last week when I tried to picture either of my kids succeeding in college and absolutely could not. Will I still be typing their dictated assignments when they are in college? What if my athletically gifted child gets a sports scholarship far from home and I’m not there to help? I mean, lots of crazy what-ifs—as we do. But you are correct—they will figure it out. It’s so helpful to hear it from someone who is just a little ahead of me on this path. ?

    • Marianne

      We’ll get through this together! I love hearing dyslexia success stories. We can’t possibly plan how our kids will figure things out but they will!


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