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Personal Notes, Pajama School, Advice for Dyslexia

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, May 21, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 38                           May 21, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
  And please visit our sponsors!  They make it possible.

                  PLEASE VISIT OUR SPONSOR:

                The Full Year Notebook System


  "Two years ago I learned about FULL YEAR NOTEBOOKS and it has
  changed the way I schedule homeschooling. I plan each child's work
  for a year at a time and they each have a notebook with their lessons.
  It takes me a lot of time during our off months to do the planning,
  but it frees up more time for me during the school year because my
  planning is already done!"


  "I have been homeschooling for 14 years (we are graduating our
  first this year) and finally found a system that keeps us organized.
  It is called the Full Year Notebook System. The planning part has
  helped my children to learn to be more independent and plan their
  school time more efficiently. I am no longer having to search
  folders, drawers, etc. for completed work. Their daily schedule and
  all paperwork they have completed are organized into their notebooks!"

  Find out more!   http://www.full-year-notebooks.com/



  Notes from Heather
  -- Personal Notes
  Helpful Tip
  -- Notebooking Pages
  Resource Review
  -- Pajama School
  Winning Website
  -- The Phonics Page
  Reader Question
  -- Advice for Dyslexia
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  I apologize for missing the last 2 issues of our Notebook!

  To those who wrote to me to make sure I was okay -- THANK YOU for
  caring enough to write.  The "news" is that my husband was in the
  recent batch of engineers to be laid off from General Motors -- right
  before they began cutting Pontiac and the dealerships.  We believe
  it was God's timing (he is going into nursing and needed to begin
  clinicals in the fall), but it is still a pretty big adjustment
  for our whole family.  I would appreciate your prayers as things
  here in Michigan seem to be getting only worse!  Many friends
  are in the same situation, so it will be difficult to help each
  other out.  I am thankful we are not in immediate danger of losing
  our home as so many others are... and already have.

  Anyway -- I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and just didn't have
  it in me to keep my usual pace.  I might slack off a bit here
  and there with my 2-issue-per-week schedule -- so I hope you will
  understand and adapt with me!  I will focus mostly on making sure
  the content is great -- quality vs. quantity? :-)

  Thanks for your patience.

  -- Heather


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net



      Helpful Tip

  "I wanted to add a quick endorsement about Notebooking pages.  I
  use them almost every day homeschooling my boy.  For reluctant
  writers, or kids who like a more creative approach to school, the
  notebooking pages are an excellent tool.  Debra has a great variety
  of resources for any subject matter and a bunch of freebies on her
  site, too.  Her sale is the perfect time to check them out without
  investing a lot of money." -- Sue, HomeschoolingBOYS.com member


  Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share?  Please write!
  Send to:  mailto:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

     Resource Review

  Pajama School
  Author: Natalie Wickham
  For more information or to order:  www.pajamaschool.com

  I love talking to other homeschool families to find out what life
  is like at their house, why they homeschool, what curriculums they
  use, their kids' hobbies, etc.  In her first, self-published book,
  homeschool graduate Natalie Wickham gives readers a glimpse at
  homeschooling through the eyes of the student, sharing both the
  ups and downs of living in a family that learns and grows together.

  Using her own recollections and occasional journal entries, Natalie
  shares how her parents came to the decision to homeschool their
  daughters -- and then allows us to grow with her as she takes us
  from the elementary years through her post-homeschool experiences.

  'Pajama School' is really more about family, relationships, and
  faith in God, than it is about how-to homeschool.  This is really
  the candid tale of one family's growing together, and how the
  homeschool lifestyle allowed them to be there for each other through
  thick and thin.

  Natalie is an accomplished pianist, and has a contagious enthusiasm
  about homeschooling, family, serving others, and of course, loving
  God.  It is so refreshing to read a book about a 'real' family, that
  is not only filled with wonderful, precious moments, but also honest
  about the very real struggles that we all encounter in family life.
  Although her homeschool experience is different than the path we have
  chosen, I was encouraged and inspired by how God worked out His plan
  for the Wickham family.

  -- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

      Winning Website

  The Phonics Page

  With money tight everywhere, I was excited to find this site, which
  can be used to teach your child to read for free!  The lessons are
  primarily phonics drills.  You will need to sit with your child to
  be sure they are ready to move on to the next lesson.  The site's
  producer recommends use of Webster's Syllabary, and provides it for
  download.  These are not fancy videos (no flashy graphics or song
  and dance), but the voice on the video (you don't see a person; you
  see the letters and words that are being taught that lesson) is very
  pleasant.  Throughout the phonics lessons the teacher presents
  spelling/phonics rules.  After completing all the lessons, your child
  should have a very firm foundation, and, according to the site's author,
  should be able to sound out any word they encounter.

  -- Cindy, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "My son is 9 years old.  He is not an avid reader, but he can read.
  His comprehension is good, but he cannot write a complete sentence.
  He doesn't seem to be able to spell anything.  I have tried different
  approaches with him, but none of them seem to work.  Nothing sticks!
  And when he does write, it's all guesswork.  But here's what I don't
  understand.  I was doing Sequential Spelling, and they repeat the
  same words over and over again.  They change them just a little.
  Yesterday I had him do two lists of spelling words.  He could not
  remember how to spell a word he had spelled 5 minutes prior!

  We don't do well with lists of words to memorize, and I don't think
  it would do him much good to memorize specific words, when he can't
  write a sentence using even the basic ones.  I think he needs a unique
  approach -- he's very visual and needs something that will stay in
  his brain!  Any ideas?" -- Crystal

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "Dear Crystal -- I also have a 9 year old son.  He was taught to
  spell and write using a different system by The Riggs Institute:


  This system teaches WHY words in the English language are spelled
  the way they are -- not memorization.  This system was originally
  used for children with learning disabilities, but the private
  Christian school my son attended (he is home schooled now) taught
  it to all of the students.  It is amazing to watch the children in
  K-5 grasp the English language and become proficient readers and
  spellers.  I would highly recommend this program to anyone with a
  child struggling to spell or write -- or to anyone with a child K-5
  to 3rd grade.  Using this program, my son won 3 spelling bees.  When
  they get it, they really understand.  This program is very different
  from anything I have ever seen.  It takes us as parents a lot longer
  to understand than it does our children, because we didn't learn
  this way.  Their web site is: www.riggsinst.org " -- Judi L.


  "Crystal -- I have been homeschooling for a little over a year.
  I love to do research -- and the method I am seeing make the most
  sense to me is the Charlotte Mason method.  She doesn't believe in
  doing rote work -- she said it is forgotten more easily.  With
  that, I am also using SmartMoves/Brain-Gym:


  These methods are so simple, but when you understand how the brain
  works and how to make it work better, they're wonderful tools!"
  -- Heather B.


  "My daughter will be 9 in September, and she has many of the same
  'problems' with writing and spelling that you have described.  She
  can spell many words, but she literally spells them how she sounds
  them out.  My husband is the same way; he has trouble with expressing
  himself in written word.

  I have tried several spelling and writing programs, and although she
  seems to have improved in expressing thoughts in writing, her spelling
  reverts back to guessing.  She forgets the lists and rules right after
  the lesson.  She does not seem to care that her spelling is wrong.  We
  even tried copywork that Charlotte Mason suggests, and made her redo
  the whole thing if she made mistakes.  It was a joke -- she was crying
  by the end, her hand hurt, and she did not understand what she was
  doing wrong!  It was like her brain could not see that her words did
  not match the words she was copying -- but the ideas matched!

  I don't mean to sound like a defeatist, but I have accepted that I
  will probably never get her to be 'serious' about her writing until
  it is important to her.  She can read well above her level, draw
  beautifully, is doing long division with ease, but written word is
  just not her strong point.  I think part of the problem is that when
  she writes, her mind is so stressed by forming the letters and words
  and expressing her ideas, that spelling is the last thing on her mind.
  Her spelling and penmanship get exponentially worse the more writing
  I ask of her.  So, I have tried to make writing assignments meaningful
  to real life situations, and make them sparse.  She also is allowed
  to type certain assignments on the computer and use spell checker.

  There is no magic curriculum that will solve my daughter's problems.
  Curriculum is simply a tool to help you, not a cure.  I will keep
  providing her with tools to help her understand the process and form
  of writing, but continue to remain positive and not focus on her seemed
  'failure'.  She is still young, and I don't want her to get burned out
  on writing when there is so much potential for her.  There is so much
  pressure (even in homeschooling) to have our kids 'excel' that we
  forget they are just kids -- and they have time!

  The other day, out of the blue, my daughter presented me with a worship
  song she had written for me.  She even sang it for me; it was such a
  beautiful testimony to her love for the Lord!  There were misspelled
  words, and I could have corrected her, but the expression behind the
  words was so much more.  I had her type it out and email it to the
  grandparents, misspelled words and all.  That is what I am looking for
  -- not that they can spell perfectly and create boring rote work; but
  that they can express their inner self to the world!" -- Aadel in KS


  "Crystal's boy sounds like my husband.  He was labeled dyslexic in
  school -- and no matter what they tried with him in the remedial
  classes -- his spelling is still atrocious.  I can tell him a million
  times that 'bed' is not spelled 'bead', but 20 minutes later he will
  most likely spell it the old way again.  He, too, can read -- and his
  comprehension is phenomenal.  It takes so very long for him to read
  it, but once he does, he's got it forever.  He only reads if he has
  to or wants to, because it is such a monumental task.  He now wants
  desperately to read like me, and has asked me to find him help.

  I have to wait until his vacation to do the lessons that seem promising,
  so I cannot say for certain how this works out, but you were wondering
  about a unique approach and I have found one that seems to describe
  him and promises good results.  I wanted to bring it up now since you
  are asking, even though we haven't finished the course.  The book is
  called 'The Gift of Dyslexia':


  Reading the reviews of the book can give you an idea from people who
  completed it and found it successful with their kids or themselves
  as adults.

  There is a lot of background on the author's theory of dyslexia (This
  man was dyslexic, borderline autistic when growing up, and taught
  himself to work with his dyslexia in order to read a book for the very
  first time in his 30s).  His theory is that dyslexic people are picture
  spatial thinkers and that kind of thinking is good mechanically and
  artistically, but fails when you have to interpret symbols like words.
  If the dyslexic doesn't find how to control his 'mind's eye' that works
  for other things but doesn't work for reading, they will try all kinds
  of approaches that don't work well (the symptoms of dyslexia) and will
  struggle with what they come up with their whole life.  It kind of
  sounds 'out there' if a non-dyslexic person reads it, like I did when
  I was reading it for my husband, but there is a test that you do with
  the student to see if his or her problem might be fixable by this man's
  approach.  I did the preliminary test on my husband and he did it with
  no problems, whereas I would have had difficulty doing it like he did.
  I then explained to him the whole theory behind the man's work and my
  husband was amazed that I thought it was weird and that I didn't use a
  'mind's eye' to look at things.  When we started the program, everything
  the man said would happen during the lessons did.  We haven't gone very
  far because of time constraints, but we both have already been amazed
  at how everything this book has told us to do seems to be true for him
  and his thinking process.

  So -- I don't know if your child has dyslexia, but around age 9 is when
  it starts showing up and causing problems, so I thought it might be
  good to suggest this book.  What is nice is that you don't have to go
  to the man's school for a few weeks for $3000+ one-on-one teaching,
  because a concerned parent or friend can help do the whole seminar
  thing for the cost of the book.  He includes the school manual in the
  back of the book for free!  And if it doesn't work for your kid (because
  he might not be dyslexic), you aren't out a lot of money for just a
  book and your time.  If any of you have a struggling reader/writer at
  a young age you might want to check it out and see if it describes your
  child -- or even your 40 year old husband!" -- Melissa


  "You may want to see if a nearby college education dept has testing to
  help you identify exactly what the difficulty is.  The AVKO spelling
  curriculum is considered helpful for dyslexia.  If you're a member of
  HSLDA, they have some educational experts that may have some ideas as
  well.  We are using AVKO and find it helpful.  My youngest daughter (10)
  is using an online curriculum called ClickNKids Phonics that drills
  phonics, spelling and reading in a really fun way.

  [ ClickNRead Link: http://shareasale.com/r.cfm?B=69815&U=226815&M=11396 ]

  Another website we found sells a series of computer drill programs
  called 'Learning in a Flash' that is helpful for drilling things in
  a fun way.  My oldest daughter was helped by a home program called
  Learning Connection 'Stepping Stones' program that works on developing
  vision and visual memory and was developed by an optometrist and
  educator.  I'm in the process of reading a book called 'The Gift of


  It was written by someone with dyslexia and is the first insight I've
  had to what my kids are actually seeing when they read.  The author
  also has some ideas for therapy that I have not tried yet, but they
  sound interesting.  None of my kids are good at spelling yet, and
  they'll probably have to work at it the rest of their lives, but I
  am seeing progress.  I've also used Ruth Beechick's idea of copying
  sentences from books at younger ages, then taking dication from simple
  books -- and then more complicated books -- to improve their writing
  skills.  I have seen progress from that as well.  I have them check
  their own work with a red pen, and take off 1 point for each mistake
  they find, but 2 points for every mistake I find that they missed,
  hoping to improve their editing skills.  If you google learning
  disabilities or dyslexia, you'll probably find lots of other ideas.
  My kids didn't benefit from traditional spelling programs either (like
  workbooks, memorizing lists, etc.).  AVKO works by taking a simple
  word and building on it, as well as using word families, to go in the
  brain's 'back door' and let the child figure out as they take the
  spelling 'tests' that 'Oh, the last word was *come*, so I bet this
  word is spelled the same way but with *be* in front of it.  If the
  kids make a mistake, I also talk to them about any phonics rules
  that may apply. 
  By the way, my oldest daughter is making As and Bs in the local Jr.
  college now, without a dyslexia exemption/handicap, so don't despair
  or give up hope!  And she was the one with the worst symptoms.  Keep
  praying for wisdom and help with his education!" -- Debbie in TX


  "Sounds like my son... and most boys!  We do Spelling Power, which
  also builds from word to word, but he'll forget from one day to the
  next.  It's just not that important to him yet.  He's also very visual.
  The best way we've found is to combine spelling and creative writing.
  I'll give him a blank sheet of paper and just ask him to draw something
  -- anything.  The next day he gets a piece of loose-leaf and is asked
  just to write down all about his picture (horrible spelling allowed,
  just getting his words out).  I will then print it out nicely, asking
  him for help when I can't understand the words.  The next (and final)
  day he copies out the story, in his own writing but with proper
  spelling.  We then attach them all together and it counts as one
  assignment.  I figure this will get old sooner or later and he'll
  start asking for correct spellings and shorten the process.  In the
  meantime, he is slowly learning to 'see' when a word looks wrong and
  will occasionally self-correct.  It can only get better the more he
  sees and uses the spellings and edits them.  Just keep plugging away!"
  -- Liz in BC


  "You might have your son checked for dyslexia.  I have found that the
  spelling curriculum, 'If it is to be, it is up to me', is great for
  kids with spelling, writing and attention difficulties.  Some kids
  have a wiring issue where it takes so much effort to just write that
  they can't focus on keeping words/sentences in their brains long enough.
  All effort goes to the process of getting it (poorly) onto paper.  My
  son is like this.  He's very smart and can memorize anything if you go
  over it with him orally.  Once he has to write it takes forever to get
  a couple of sentences and he's lost the whole thought."


  "Hi, Crystal -- Try having your child dictate a story into a tape
  recorder to be typed up by you.  Print them up and have him illustrate
  them.  Even though your child has difficulty physically writing, you
  can still encourage him to create a story.  If he has trouble developing
  ideas for a story, read the first half of a story to him, but DON'T
  finish it.  Your child needs to develop the ending to it.  You could
  also try having your son re-write an Aesop's fable with a different
  setting and characters." -- Heidi

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I am so discouraged sometimes.  My seven year old boy is very bright
  and wants to learn; he enjoys learning lots of times.  But sometimes,
  like for the last week, he decides he hates something so much that he
  acts as though he's unable to do it.  When I am there with him, though
  I'm not helping him, he does it easily.  But, as soon as I leave,
  suddenly he can't do it anymore.  In the last week, he has spent soooo
  much time doing his math.  Granted, he is a year ahead in math - doing
  second-grade math now, instead of 1st-grade math.  But, yesterday he
  spent 75 minutes doing a worksheet that should have taken him 20 minutes;
  and he never came out of it.  I finally walked him through it, yet still
  not giving him the answers.  Today he has spent 150 minutes on a similar
  20 minute worksheet -- and he's still not done.  He keeps saying he
  can't do it, but he did the same type of problems 2 weeks ago without
  any trouble.  In fact, what I think triggered this is that, though I
  don't post 'grades', I expect him to get most of his work right.  Lately
  he has gotten 3-4 problems wrong on a worksheet of 12-16 problems.  I
  told him that he has to check his work before turning it in (a good
  habit, right?).  And, if he gets more than 2 wrong - when I grade his
  paper - he has to do another worksheet.  At the time I implemented this
  - a week ago - he was doing two math worksheets a day, with no problems
  other than some sloppy mistakes.  To be extra easy on him, I told him
  he only had to do one worksheet a day from now on and check it himself.
  He will only have to do a second worksheet if he gets more than two
  problems wrong.  An easier thing, right?  But he's fallen apart at math
  every time since I implemented this new rule.  (By the way, math is
  the only subject we do worksheets on a bunch.  We do an eclectic mixture
  of Charlotte Mason/Classical Education with lots of living books).
  What do I do?  Do I make him tough it out, 'til he sees that he CAN do
  it?  Am I being too hard on him because he's only seven, and I can teach
  him to be disciplined when he's older?  I've tried to explain that it's
  easier this way for him.  Is this a character issue?  I don't handle it
  right - I know - when my children do this.  My younger son has also
  pulled this three times with his writing, even though he's a beautiful
  writer (but he's not doing it now).  What do you do when your children
  fight with you over schoolwork?  During all the time he's wasted, we have
  had some words about it.  It is soooo hard for me to quietly allow him
  to self-destruct his day over 8 problems of math (the number of problems
  on the last 2 days worksheets)!  And I guess I'm not patient enough to
  let my children sit at their desks for a long time, constantly letting
  themselves believe they can't do something that I know they can.  I end
  up fussing at them for believing things that aren't true.  Should I be
  patient for this?  What should I do?  Thanks in advance for your help."
  -- Diana


  What do you think?  Can you see a solution for Diana?
  [Your answers will appear in our 5/28 issue.]

  Please send your email to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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Next - HIGH SCHOOL EDITION #4 - Math Choices!
Previous - Reader Advice, A Degree We Need, Adhering to Grade Levels

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