Wendy Hanson: Homeschooling with dyslexia

This photo of a homeschool room was provided courtesy of Wendy Hanson, who teaches two children with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Recently we featured 7 dyslexia resources in the Kansas City area, and one of them included a new Facebook support group started by Wendy Hanson, a homeschool mom of two and MPE member. Wendy graciously allowed us some insights into teaching children who deal with dyslexia, and how homeschooling can fit into that equation. 

Could you describe a typical day in your homeschool?

We are a morning family. We typically begin our school day about 8:30.

Because my kids have dyslexia and dysgraphia, our homeschool is very teacher intensive. I work one on one with each of my kids doing math. They will work through their problems orally while I write their work out for them.

We use Barton Reading and Spelling for dyslexia remediation. We typically do 40 minutes 3 days a week. This is also done on a one-on-one basis. We have started to incorporate some subjects on the computer that the kids can do independently while I work with the other child.

A typical “full day of school” will be about 4-5 hours. My kids attend an enrichment program one day a week.

What made you decide to homeschool your children with dyslexia?

We began homeschooling before we found out our children had dyslexia. My son was struggling in private school. In hindsight, we now know that the things he was struggling with were symptoms of dyslexia that weren’t recognized at the time.

What have you found useful/helpful in deciding which curricula to use for children with dyslexia?

dyslexia curriculumTrial and error. Traditional textbook curriculums typically don’t work for kids who have dyslexia.

Children with dyslexia need to be taught using a direct and systematic approach. They need concepts broken down into small chunks and processed using a multi-sensory approach.

I am a type A box checker, so having children who don’t learn well with the “typical” curriculums has been a struggle for me.

A lot of people who have dyslexic children lean toward unschooling. I don’t know that I can ever go unschooling all the way, but I have definitely learned to be more flexible and creative with our approach to homeschooling.

What advantages, if any, can homeschooling bring to children with dyslexia?

Homeschooling is the ideal learning environment for children with dyslexia. In a homeschool setting, children can receive individualized instruction. They are able to work at their own pace. They can receive multi-sensory instruction.

A big advantage, in my opinion, to homeschooling children with dyslexia is that they won’t be compared with their non-dyslexic peers. Poor self-esteem is a big problem with children who have dyslexia.

Children in a brick-and-mortar school setting are constantly being reminded of their struggles. Also, bullying is a factor in the brick-and-mortar setting for children that doesn’t exist when homeschooling.

What disadvantages, if any, can homeschooling bring to children with dyslexia?

dyslexia curriculumI don’t know of any disadvantages to a child that homeschooling would bring. I will say that for the parent, homeschooling a child with dyslexia is hard. Right now my kids are 8 and 9 years old.

Homeschooling at this stage is very parent intensive. I have to work one-on-one with each of them. The dyslexic brain can be frustrating for those of us who don’t understand what it is like to be dyslexic. I have had to do a lot of reading and research on dyslexia. I didn’t know anything about it prior to my kids diagnosis.

Any tips for those interested in homeschooling children with dyslexia, but not sure where to start?

Read read read! There are so many myths and misunderstandings about dyslexia. Three books that were recommended to me when my kids were diagnosed are:

  1. The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock and Fernette Eide,
  2. Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, and
  3. The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss.

If you are a member of HSLDA, they have a special-needs department that has good information.

The International Dyslexia Association has a very informative website.

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity is a good website.

Bright Solutions for Dyslexia is a fantastic website to learn all about dyslexia.

Join our Facebook page, Johnson County homeschooling parents of kids with dyslexia, and ask lots of questions.

Any suggestions for places/resources where families can obtain screening tests and diagnoses?

You can receive a list of certified Barton Reading and Spelling screeners in your area from the Bright Solutions website. We obtained an official diagnosis for our children through the Hearing and Speech Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Thanks so much, Wendy Hanson!