by Ashley Lindsey, SPED Homeschool Community Member
A new homeschool year was about to begin and my youngest, Landon, was about to start his kindergarten year. I enthusiastically prepared for this upcoming milestone by gathering all necessary components for a successful year: file folder games, arts and crafts projects, literature selections, the cutest most colorful math workbook, and the cornerstone of it all- the reading program that helped my oldest son blossom into a brilliant reader. We were set for our family’s learning adventure.
The year started out as expected. We colored our ABCs, snuggled and read, did more art projects than our refrigerator doors could hold, made erupting volcanoes, and explored forests. After learning to count to 100, Landon wanted to move on to count higher. He even started fractions and beginning multiplication sequences, thanks Odd Squad! The year was taking off better than I had ever hoped, and Landon was excelling at school. It was time to take out that magical reading curriculum- the one everyone on social media raved about- the one that turned my oldest son into a super-reader.
“Mommy, the words are moving,” Landon informed me.
“Ashley, this is completely normal, especially for boys. Just put the reading program down for a few months and let him play,” a well-respected veteran homeschool mom of eight children told me.
We continued our joy-filled school year. The boys had a solid four months of learning and playing before I broke out the trusty reading program again. Surely, Landon will have had enough time to just “be a boy,” so reading will come to him now. Our break was not as successful as I had hoped. He could not even string CVC words together. It was like watching gymnasts do somersaults. I consulted the curriculum company, who advised me to put the material down until next year.
Once second grade hit, words were still flipping upside down for my son. My husband and I had him evaluated at the local school district. Finally, I will get a name for this mysterious condition and they can help him, or teach me how to help him. Landon went through the long hours of testing, exhausted and sad when he got home. A few weeks later the school district called me and explained that Landon has classic symptoms of dyslexia, however, since we have not worked on spelling yet, they could not give him a diagnosis and treat him. I explained to the diagnostician that our Orton-Gillingham reading curriculum specifically tells parents not to start the first level of spelling without completing the first level of reading first. She looked at me like I had two heads.
I was a mom on a mission to find help for my son. Since the school district wasn’t an option, I reached out to several people who claimed to help dyslexics.
“Oh yes, we are the best, and yes, Mrs. Lindsey, your son sounds like he has dyslexia. However, we are full and have no room for him. Please try back next year.”
When Landon started seeing black holes in the road while riding in the car, I got his vision checked. For sure, the optometrist will be able to tell me something. This is our pediatrician’s wife- she must be the best.
“Mrs. Lindsey, your son has 20/20 vision. I checked his retinas and they look perfectly healthy. I am sorry I can’t help you. “
Completely deflated, I consulted social media groups. After all, I couldn’t have been the only desperate homeschool parent out there. My inquiry received many suggestions from empathetic parents. I took some of their advice: switched reading curriculum, tried colored overlays, used all the gadgets and books suggested, and most ridiculously, turned subtitles on his TV shows. Most of these efforts were unsuccessful, however Landon told me how much the TV subtitles were helping his reading. I noticed an improvement in his reading accuracy and fluency, but there was still more work to do.
It was time to reevaluate my approach in homeschooling Landon. My husband and I contemplated public school, but my husband quickly reminded me of the IEP meetings I sat through begging for services for my autistic students only to be refused. Landon would just fall through the cracks like most of my students did. That summer I took inventory of Landon’s strengths and created an individualized educational program where he could blossom and thrive. I had to unlearn most of my formal teacher training, I had to break down the walls of my educational platform built on checklists, essays, straight A’s, completing every workbook page, and every other facet of my perfectionistic self. I had to let go and let Landon lead the way. Not only did he soar in life and his education, but I also was able to relax and shed some of that tight skin held by false expectations.
Over the years, other specialists who were happy to slap as many labels on him as we could afford has seen Landon.
We are a single income family so that well dried up quickly. When I was studying the Book of Proverbs and came upon Proverbs 16, the Lord gave me the gift of confidence and steadfast. Verse 16:9 says,
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.
I was trying to do God’s work all along but He already did the work, and perfectly so. I still have concerns about my son, but as time passes, my fears are replaced with awe. This child has flourished into an empathetic, fun child adorned with the love of God and a glowing confidence. His smile is contagious, and his humble confidence is admirable. He is a pro at basketball, has built his own gaming PC, is a walking encyclopedia of fun facts, and enjoys good books. I encourage weary parents to peel off those labels and take a holistic inventory of your child, including personality, talents, and gifts. We cannot ignore learning weaknesses, but we can learn how to teach our children to adapt with the plethora of resources available today. Home education can still be fun, exciting, and adventurous, no matter what the needs of your students are. Form an alliance with your child and, with patience, creativity, and insight, you will both be amazed.
Ashley Lindsey lives in Missouri with her husband and two teenage boys. When they lived in Texas, Ashley was a Special Education teacher. Once her oldest son started kindergarten, the family pulled him out and began their homeschool journey. Ashley has developed an educational approach for both of her children, meeting their individual needs and interests. The extra-abilities she specializes in are autism, Type 1 diabetes, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, processing disorders, visual impairment, gifted, and twice-exceptional. She believes everyone possesses unique abilities, and her goal is to build an educational platform based on those gifts while still challenging any weaknesses.
If you would like to correspond with Ashley, her email is Ashley5707@gmail.com.