Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, homeschooling and other types of at-home learning became the norm for many families. If that caused you to reevaluate how you want to educate your child, know that there are unique challenges when 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. Rebecca Mannis, PhD, a learning specialist with Ivy Prep, says homeschooling can be a good choice for children with dyslexia. Homeschooling allows you to:

  • Adapt the pace of instruction to your child's needs
  • Assess mastery and growth in a meaningful, customized way
  • Collaborate with a dyslexia specialist, if you wish, to develop a customized instructional program and ensure that it’s implemented (and then modified as needed) in an effective and child-centered way
  • Customize learning materials to match your child’s specific learning profile, temperament, and learning goals
  • Focus on content (for example, Spanish or algebra), as well as related skills such as paragraph structure, organization, executive function skills, or reading fluency
  • See your child in action and guide other stakeholders (such as therapists or tutors) based on your observations
  • Use technology to help foster more independent learning
  • Work with others who are implementing the same learning model, which can save time and reduce stressors

Most significantly, homeschooling a child with dyslexia allows parents to develop a program that meets their unique needs.

Challenges of Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia need explicit, direct instruction in the way language works, says 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 how letters and sounds correspond.

Though many parents are skilled readers themselves, Ness says they often don't have the foundational knowledge in reading development and linguistics that is 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. This person can either work directly with the child, or help the parent develop a program they can then deliver to their child. 

Strategies 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

Carefully review homeschool curricula before committing to specific methods. Check the reading level of textbooks, for example, to make sure they are not too challenging.

Many homeschool programs with pre-packaged materials require students to submit a great deal of mastery work, Mannis says, since they are not taking exams in a classroom. This may not work well for a child with dyslexia.

It's also important to maintain realistic expectations. Kids with processing issues or slow-paced writing may not be able to complete all of the required mastery assignments, Mannis says.

Get Familiar With Available Resources

While you are reviewing curricula and textbooks, check out their websites to determine which are most helpful. “At Ivy Prep, we often use the Pearson ones because they are streamlined and have great review books,” explains Mannis.

She adds that 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, ask 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," says Mannis. "You know your child best, so don’t be shy about asking specific questions and trusting your gut instinct.” 

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

As helpful as tutors can be, it is important to ensure they are not spoon-feeding the material to your child. The goal of working with a trained tutor or educational consultant, says Mannis, is for your child to become progressively more independent and able to learn on their own.

If the tutor is doing most of the heavy lifting, this could be a sign that different instruction or a revised learning plan is in order.

Resources on Dyslexia

There is a lot of help available, in print and online, for students with dyslexia. Ness recommends that parents of children with dyslexia check into organizations including the Yale Center for Creativity and Dyslexia, the International Dyslexia Association, and Decoding Dyslexia, a grassroots parent-driven organization (which has local chapters).

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 have dysgraphia 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.

Whether your choice to homeschool is temporary 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. 

By Sara Lindberg
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed., is a freelance writer focusing on health, fitness, nutrition, parenting, and mental health.