My little girl was different from birth. She had, and still has, this mystifying and mysterious form of eye contact. It is nearly its own language. She’d spend hours gazing into my eyes, talking to me without words. She studied everything from the comfort of my lap, snuggled and sedate. She smiled and twinkled, as her brother performed for her infant eyes. Rarely, cooing or giggling at the expected moment but attending with intent passion.
When she did begin to speak, she talked in an accent and often flipped syllables in her words. Turing words like magazine into mazageen. She’d work for long minutes, explaining and describing simple objects, like broccoli, instead of using their names because you could not remember what to call them. Friends at church or at the park meant the world to her, but were often hurt because she couldn’t remember their names. The girl in the purple horse shirt may have been a great play mate but she cold not get her brain to recall that her name was Beth. So, play dates with Beth were never scheduled. My little one could not recall labels and I couldn’t always follow her down her mental path its intended finish line.
I sought advice from my home school community. I was encouraged to calm down and wait it out. They reassured me that my pupil’s development would catch up to her peer’s and things would finally click. Almost like magic. By the time my girl turned 8 we had explored nearly as many curriculum options. I was nervous but did my best to turn to God and wait. I waited and waited and waited. After all, who was there to point out her differences. She didn’t go to government schools. She was safe and growing at her own pace in our home.
My little girl noticed things. She watched Sunday School friends read scriptures aloud, fill in worksheets, and complete word searches. All while she sat quietly baffled. She had well meaning teachers tell her to focus harder, that she would be able to do the work if she would only try, or ignore her altogether, as if she was being disobedient. All in the Bible Class. She gathered the evidence, added it together, and concluded that either something was really wrong with her or she was just stupid.
So, while I waited, terrified to stick my student with an unappealing label, she labeled herself.
Thankfully, God is amazingly patient and much wiser than I’ll ever be. I wouldn’t listen to His prodding to get my girl help but my daughter did. At 8, she bravely asked me to find someone to tell her why she couldn’t read.
That’s what we did. Diagnosis? Severe Dyslexia, among other acronyms. Basically, when tested, my 8 year old sprout could think and reason like a 10th grade student but could only read at a pre-K level. Can you imagine? She wasn’t stupid… she was STUCK!
So we attacked the situation with remediation and life style changes. All about Learning, Barton for Reading and Spelling, Brain Training, Cogmed, Cod liver oil, Pro-biotics, arm tapping, and midline exercises are just a few we’ve tried. They’re all pricey, either costing money, time, or energy. Usually all three. Which ones have worked the best? Who knows. I can’t tell if it’s her age, the training sessions, the supplements or all of them. But I have discovered 2 things that work every time!
Understanding & Compassion
Not to be confused with empty lip service or pity. Understanding and compassion work when nothing else will. Because there are days when my girl is fighting to push herself, as hard as possible, and still can’t comprehend the lesson. There are days when our remediation sessions are spent holding each other and praying, resting in the promise that where we are weak God is strong.
Why compassion? Because without it I can force my student to finish the assignment but I’d lose the opportunity to minister to her heart.
Why understanding? Because without it I can be stony, cold, and callous… judging my student for her lack of production and not her hard won progress.
Why both together? Because struggling learners are usually their harshest critics. Because they don’t need another curriculum or program or tutor as much as they need your approval and admiration.
They take time to develop. They take effort to execute. Days can be long and homeschooling can be hard. Thankfully, the God that has called you to home school is the God of all compassion and the One to ask for all understanding. If your keys are rusty than seek the Holy Spirit and shine them up. These 2 keys can free all struggling learners, allowing them to become the best version of themselves. The creation the Father intended them to be and nothing less. Learning differences are challenging but they don’t have to be disastrous to you, your child, or your home school journey. So, before you lay your hands on the next shiny promise of a new curriculum, I dare you to pick up your keys and unlock some freedom!
If you haven’t already, check out my book Diary of a Dyslexic Homeschooler, it’s sure to give you a shot of understanding. You can find it on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.com. I’d love to here what you think.
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