We’re almost at the end of Dyslexia Awareness month and I hope that the posts I have written both here and on my FB page have been a help to you. 

Today’s message is about not giving up.  Anytime your child struggles with anything makes for a hard road.  When they do succeed; however, wow, is that precious!  Seeing their confidence build is worth the tears.  Of course, I wish that there had been no tears at all, but life isn’t all sunshine and roses.  The homeschool life is no different.  There are going to be tough times, troublesome lessons, and tricky areas to progress through.  That doesn’t mean that the hard battles won’t hurt, or be worth it once they are fought. 

Throughout my “Getting Started” tab, you will see me reference something called a “Philosophy of Education” repeatedly.  This isn’t something that gets figured out and out down on paper overnight.  It takes time to refine it and put it into words.  It is your WHY for choosing to take this road.  An educational philosophy is wonderful for anyone who is pursuing homeschooling as more of a conviction rather than a convenience, but it is imperative for someone who has a child with a learning disability—whether suspected or formally diagnosed.  Knowing, deep down, that you are doing the right thing for your child will help you sustain this lifestyle for the long haul. 

There are lots of helps available for parents today.  I have many of them showcased in various parts of this website as well as on my FB page.  A Google search using well-chosen key words will yield more. Teaching and learning are intrinsically connected. I would say they are two sides of the same coin. So keep learning so that you can keep teaching!

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More on the Science of Reading

Many people begin with The Reading League when they want to learn about the Science of Reading.

Here’s another great place for information. Check out their guides here.

This page links to what Shanahan has to say. You might be wondering who Tim Shanahan is and why he matters to the discussion. He’s a literacy guru who has been active in the world of reading for decades. You can read his bio here.

Last, but certainly not least, Mark Seidenberg is a the cutting edge of all things Science of Reading. In fact, his book is well worth reading–even if you are only teaching one child to read! The science behind this really is fascinating. Stanislas Dehaene’s book is excellent, too.

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The Science of Reading

THIS is where it’s at for teaching reading! In fact, a Facebook group that I belong to that dedicated to the Science of Reading surpassed 50,000 members this month — and it’s only been in existence for about a year! That sort of growth is unprecedented. While it’s a very technical page, usually dedicated to educators in schools, there are some parents in there who are trying to change things for their own kids. What that means is that YOU REALLY CAN TEACH READING. Arm yourself with the best practices and you will be amazed at how far you will go!

This book is fabulous, as is this one. Both will arm you with more research than you probably need when you are only teaching a few children of your own how to read.

If you need curriculum that is easy to use and is aligned with the science, you can take a look at All About Reading and All About Spelling. Another good option is Spell to Write and Read. Both are geared toward neurotypical students, though. AAR and AAS can be helpful for mildly dyslexic children, but someone with more profound disability will need more. If you cannot find an Orton-Gillingham tutor near you, look to the Barton program. It’s pricey, but it it is available in levels so you don’t have to buy the whole thing all at once. Plus it’s completely scripted and was designed for a parent to be able to use it at home with a child. You can do this!

More on the Science of Reading tomorrow …

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Check out Balanced Literacy: See for Yourself What’s Wrong!

This PDF shows what balanced literacy is supposed to look like in a classroom.  On the surface, these things don’t look awful … but look more closely.  Nowhere is the child told to sound out a word!  That’s the crux of the matter.  English is a phonetic system.  Granted its phonics comes to us via several language backgrounds which makes it hard to decode at times, but it CAN be done. When morphology and etymology are considered before phonology is consulted, most words in English are indeed decodable! 

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What’s Wrong with Balanced Literacy?

The answer to that question will take some time. Sorry. Here goes:

On the surface, the name Balanced Literacy sounds wonderful, right?  I mean, what could be better than something completely balanced?  We hear about balanced meals, balanced approaches to work life vs family life, and a host of other applications.  The thing is, balanced literacy is nothing more than Whole Language (think Dick and Jane readers) repackaged for the new century.  In case you are wondering, Whole Language was debunked during the 90s and Balanced Literacy arose from its ashes. 

This quote from a NY Times article in 2014 sums up one of the most problematic perspectives on Balanced Literacy:

“The fatal flaw of balanced literacy is that it is least able to help students who most need it. It plays well in brownstone Brooklyn, where children have enrichment coming out of their noses, and may be more “ready” for balanced literacy than children without such advantages.”

The thing is, some of Balanced Literacy’s ideas do work … but ONLY after someone’s reading skills have reached the level of automaticity. They are not at all appropriate for someone still learning how to decode or how the English language works.

Here’s a report about Balanced Literacy and why it doesn’t qualify as “Good Instruction.” If you need more ammunition against Balanced Literacy, here’s Shanahan’s take. Learn what GOOD Instruction consists of and provide it.

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Systematic, Explicit, Intensive

While every student will benefit from a systematic, explicit, intensive literacy program, dyslexic student REQUIRE it!  This is where Structured Literacy comes into play.  Read about it here

Structured literacy differs greatly from balanced literacy.  The University of Michigan has wonderful information here.  

Don’t forget about the MULTISENSORY part, too! That doesn’t have to be elaborate, using all sorts of manipulatives. You can do it with just your fingers, your voice, a pencil, and paper! Fun stuff is fine to use, but it isn’t necessary to make things multisensory!

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What does the IDA say?

Good instruction can mean many things to different people. Here, and especially this month, we want to talk about the specifics of good instruction as it pertains to reading.

Structured Literacy info from the IDA (Spend some time reading this!)

While this information is old (2004), it is based on the science of reading and includes basic instruction on the vocabulary behind the science of reading, which can be helpful for homeschoolers new to the ideas behind this movement.

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What IS Good Literacy Instruction?

Components of effective instruction

Though written for educators in the state of Tennessee, the PDF here is wonderful!

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Guess what? The Reading Wars are back!

While this Timeline of Reading Wars has not been updated in years, but it does a good job on the earlier stuff.

The Washington Post noticed that the war is back ‘on’

Here’s a podcast about the resurgence of the reading wars

I’m all for bring you both sides of the equation so you can make up your own mind:

This is the link from the above report about how kids learn to read.  It’s a classroom-based model, though, so it might not seem very useful to you. Look beyond the classroom, school-y ideas and think about what they would look like if you did them 1:1 around your kitchen table.

The Reading Wars don’t have to be waged in your home!

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Homeschoolers often lag behind the latest educational research, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Let’s do this!

In schools all across America these days, there is something called RTI taking place. RTI means Response to Intervention and it is a way of grouping kids, especially when talking about reading. Tier 1 is all about average readers in a classroom, so it doesn’t really apply to homeschoolers.  Because of our ability to target our instruction, almost all homeschoolers are going to be Tier 2, with Tier 3 being reserved for the kids who are struggling for whatever reason. Interestingly, all homeschooled kids could have what is known of as Tier 3 Instruction. Here’s more about what the different levels mean. 

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