Curiosity got the better of me when this article popped up recently in the Facebook newsfeed for our blog’s page. I clicked on it. What sort of facts about homeschooling was the author going to share with parents whose children are dyslexic?
I read the first line, and I could feel my eyes dull. I muttered, “Really?” Now it was sheer morbid curiosity – the kind you get when you have to drive by an automobile crash – that kept me going.
Before I say anything else, I’m going to offer a disclaimer here: I cannot tell you that what I’ve done with my kids is what’s best for you and your children. I work with (and around) my oldest daughter’s own unique blend of dyslexia, inattentive ADD, poor working memory, and slow processing speed. What that looks like in her probably isn’t what something similar looks like in your child. I might have made some different decisions if Erica’s issues presented differently. So, please keep those in mind as you read. All I can ask of my readers is that you open your minds to the possibilities that exist outside of classroom-style K-12 education.
So, the first line… the very first line… It says, “Homeschooling has emerged as a viable choice for many families. Homeschooling may also be an option for a child with dyslexia (italics are theirs).” What do they mean, “Homeschooling may also be an option for a child with dyslexia”? It may be? Why wouldn’t it be?
Continuing right along, the author states that, “One challenge is the relationship between teacher-parent and student-child.” That is only a challenge if you are seeking to duplicate the classroom-style, authority-directed view of education at home. The thing is, though, that’s not the only way of homeschooling. So if, on the other hand, you opt out of that, there’s no challenge. If you, as a parent, look at your role as that of a facilitator, a guide, and a mentor for your child, there’s no challenge.
I can assure you that the only times I have ever butted heads with my kids about homeschooling is when I have unilaterally decided that there is something that they need to know, and I have gone about trying to teach that something to disinterested, unwilling children. Those times have been few and far between, and all occurred relatively early on in my homeschooling journey before I gave myself permission to dump what doesn’t work with this crew in favor of what does.
According to the article, “… the parent is required to maintain a supportive, yet disciplined approach.” Supportive, yes. But disciplined? That’s absurd. There is no such requirement. That’s a personal choice that should be based on what you believe about education, the role of the student, and the role of the teacher.
There have been times that have been more structured or disciplined in my family’s homeschool than others. One year, we did an academic co-op with three other families. My kids decided that the group wasn’t learning what they wanted to be able to devote more of their personal study time to, so we did not continue with the co-op in the following school year. While we participated, all three of my kids did what was required of them.
This year, Erica has decided that she wants a more schoolish experience at home this year, so I am accommodating her wishes. In general, my role is as a facilitator, a guide, a mentor, or even a fellow learner, and none of those require any “disciplined approach”.
Following this “supportive, yet disciplined approach,” the authors contend that parents who wish to homeschool their children will find that, “Knowing what to teach, the sequence of instruction, and the use of valid instructional methods…” will be a difficult, time consuming task that takes an extensive amount of research and specialized training. Again, that may be true if you are looking to duplicate the classroom-style, authority-directed view of education at home. Otherwise, it’s utter rubbish. I don’t need to know what to teach. My kids are perfectly capable of figuring out what they want to learn about.
While some things do indeed require that the information be presented in a sequential manner, a surprising amount of learning can take place out of order. For example, at six, Jillian was very interested in family genealogy and history. I read part of an adult non-fiction book about one of our ancestors, called Here I Shall Die Ashore, to her. While I read, she interrupted me and asked questions when we came across something she wanted to learn more about.
Then, together the next day, we researched it. I utilized Google Earth several times to point out locations. We watched a hurricane on YouTube. We looked at pictures of cahow birds and wild boars. We researched St. Elmo’s Fire (not the movie). We looked up information about the British monarchy in-between the 1100s and the 1600s. Nothing about that process has been sequential, or even close to what a “normal” first grader would learn in school. My point is that it doesn’t have to be because I believe that what my kids want to learn is valuable and should be supported.
While the authors state that, “The parent needs to become highly trained in the areas of language and reading or find expert resources that can provide a framework for a systematic approach appropriate for the needs of the child,” I can’t bring myself to completely agree or disagree with that statement. I myself am neither highly trained in areas of language or reading, nor have I utilized any expert resources to “… provide a framework for a systematic approach appropriate for the needs of (my dyslexic child).” In the statement from the article, the word “needs” is being used from an authority-directed perspective; someone else gets to choose for the student what their needs are. In my homeschool,my children get to choose for themselves what their needs are.
Somehow along the way, with very little direct instruction, Erica learned how to read well enough to meet her current needs and desires. Is she a good reader? Not if you compare her with neuro-typical kids her age. Is she a fluent reader? Again, not if you compare her with neuro-typical kids her age. I’m not opposed to remediation of reading skills; I’m opposed to forcing Erica to do it. She knows which skills she needs and how good she needs to be with each one in order to meet her own needs. When she finds herself lacking, she will speak up and we will figure out then what we need to do in order to bring her skills up to par. We’d do that with any skill. She’ll need to know how to do that because the course of life will be constantly bringing new or deeper interests into her life that will require her to adapt or acquire new knowledge or skills.
The author goes on to discuss several of the benefits of homeschooling, includes some recommendations for getting started, and concludes the article by asking, “What are some examples of the kind of instruction I should provide?” The examples he gives are examples of, again, a classroom-style, authority-directed view of education, and that is not the only way of doing things.