What to Know About Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

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Homeschooling and other types of at-home learning is becoming the norm for many families. And whether homeschooling is a short-term solution to COVID-19 school closures or a long-term commitment for educating your child, there are unique challenges and needs of homeschooling a child with dyslexia.

If you’re considering this option, you might also be wondering what preparations, resources, or strategies would be most helpful in addition to or instead of traditional homeschooling methods. With that in mind, here is some advice from experts on how to homeschool a child with dyslexia. 

Benefits of Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

Homeschooling allows families to customize an educational experience and create a learning environment that works best for everyone involved. More specifically, it gives parents the opportunity to develop a program that meets the unique needs of their children.

With that in mind, Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D., a learning specialist with Ivy Prep, says the benefits of using this model for a child with dyslexia include:

  • Ability to customize learning materials to the child’s specific learning profile, temperament, and learning goals
  • Ability to identify and collaborate with a specialist who can develop a customized instructional program and ensure that it’s implemented (and then modified as needed) in an effective and child-centered way
  • Ability to focus on content (for example, Spanish or algebra) and also on related skills such as paragraph structure, organization “executive function” skills, or reading fluency
  • Ability to adapt the pace of instruction and ways we assess mastery/growth in a meaningful, customized way
  • Access to several resources and technologies to help students learn well and take agency over their learning
  • Opportunity to see your child ‘in action’ and can guide other stakeholders based on your observations
  • Access to others who are helping roll out this learning program, which can save time and reduce stressors if you have a strong, communicative, collaborative team

Challenges of Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia need explicit, direct instruction in the sound structure of our language, according to Molly Ness, an associate professor of curriculum and teaching at Fordham's Graduate School of Education. 

This instruction, says Ness, needs to include teacher modeling and explanation, a multi-sensory approach, and ongoing support as students work to build their understanding of letter-sound correspondence.

Though many parents are skilled readers themselves, Ness says they often don't have the foundational knowledge in reading development and linguistics that are necessary to homeschool students with dyslexia. 

Parents may need to consider hiring an educational expert, learning specialist, or tutor trained to work with children who have dyslexia that can provide this service, or work with the parent to develop a program they can deliver to their child. 

Helpful Tips For Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

While every child with dyslexia is different, there are some helpful tips and strategies you can apply to most homeschooling situations. Here, Mannis shares her expert tips on how to get started when homeschooling a child with dyslexia. 

Research Homeschool Curricula

Do a careful analysis of homeschool before committing to specific methods. For example, Mannis says many homeschool programs with pre-packaged materials require a great deal of mastery work to be submitted since students are not taking exams in a classroom.

So you want to be sure that you can adapt or otherwise use those materials with your dyslexic child (i.e., reading level of the textbook is not too tough). Also, says Mannis, for kids with processing issues or slow pacing in writing, it may not be realistic for your child to do the sheer amount of mastery assignments that are required.

Get Familiar With Resources Available

Get to know different curricula and textbook sites so that you can see which supportive online materials are especially helpful.

“At Ivy Prep, we often use the Pearson ones because they are streamlined and have great review books,” explains Mannis.

But they also draw upon ESL (English as a Second Language) materials as a way to provide dyslexic kids introductions to difficult concepts in a way that reduces reading demands.

Vet the Experts You Hire

When hiring a tutoring company or education consultant, Mannis says to ask the direct and tough questions about training, background, and supervision.

“Ask for specific examples of similar students they have taught in the past and how the homeschool program was structured and modified for those kids. You know your child best, so don’t be shy about asking specific questions and trusting your gut instinct,” she says. 

Balance Print Materials With Digital

When it comes to learning materials (workbooks, games, etc.), Mannis suggests that you think tactically and practically about which tools you will use, why you are selecting them, and how you will implement them for different learning goals.

"There are wonderful tech tools, but the trick is to use ed-tech as a tool that helps dyslexic kids hone skills and also increase their metacognitive awareness or understanding of themselves as learners,” she explains.

Keep an Eye on Tutors

You want to make sure that they are not "spoon-feeding" your kid. The goal of working with a trained tutor or educational consultant, says Mannis, is for your child to be learning how to learn as they learn information.

If the tutor is doing the "heavy lifting," Mannis says that may be a sign that a different sort of instruction or learning plan is in order.

Resources About Dyslexia

There is an abundance of resources in print and online regarding dyslexia. Ness says parents of children with dyslexia can benefit from the information put out by organizations including:

Ness also recommends the work of Sally and Bennett Shaywitz to parents.

“If I were homeschooling a child with dyslexia, I'd encourage audiobooks and technologies like Dragon Dictation and Rewordify (which allow children to dictate their writing and to make the reading level of a text more accessible)," she says.

Mannis likes to use tools such as Evernote to track information and sort it with tags. She also recommends predictive word processors such as Don Johnston’s CO: Writer, which helps kids who don’t remember sight words well or who are dysgraphic get their ideas out more thoroughly and more efficiently.

A Word From Verywell

Homeschooling a child with dyslexia can be a rewarding experience for both parent and student. Getting started on the right foot, and with the best resources, can help both of you navigate this educational path.

And whether your choice to homeschool is temporary—in response to COVID-19—or long-term, reaching out for help from experts, calling on your support team, and staying up-to-date on research, curriculum, and learning strategies will give your child the best possible experience. 

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