7 Resources for Homeschooling Kids With Learning Disabilities
Since making the decision to leave the world of public school and the special education system, I had to find a way to provide the resources my children needed on a tiny budget. I have six school age children. Four were internationally adopted, so we have had the ESL aspect to consider for them along with their many learning disabilities. Five of them were on IEPs by the time our family finally left public school for our emotional and educational well-being.
It’s one thing to research and advocate as a parent-member of an IEP team, and entirely another to be the only one responsible for calling the shots. I was beyond frustrated and disappointed at the lack of progress my children were making in public school, but bringing them home meant I became the one responsible for ensuring just that.
I am happy to say we successfully completed our first year of homeschooling in June, and are set to begin again after Labor Day! I feel like it took me a year to really get it sorted out, but I finally found programs and apps that work for my kids and are affordable. My 5 kids with learning disabilities have quite a mix of diagnoses, including auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and visual impairments. Four of my children are also English language learners.
I’ve compiled a short list of things that have made our homeschooling journey with learning disabilities successful.
1. Learning Ally. This app has thousands of pre-recorded books for visually impaired and dyslexic individuals to access. The books with VOICEtext show the text as it’s being read with the current sentence highlighted. The user can change the text size, background color, highlighter color, and text color. Because many dyslexic kids are able to read better with color overlays, this is a fantastic feature. The app also allows the user to slow down or speed up how fast the book is read to them. Some of my kids with processing issues or visual impairments cannot keep up with a typical read-out-loud speed, so they can set the speed to super slow to allow their eyes to keep up with what they are hearing.
To access Learning Ally, there is a very quick and easy qualification process required to ensure the child has a disability that requires this type of adaptive technology. An IEP, an evaluation from a reading specialist, or another type of evaluation diagnosing their difficulty with reading will suffice. The yearly fee can be waived for those who can prove a need for financial assistance. This app has allowed my children who have comprehension years above their reading ability to enjoy books they otherwise cannot read.
I also want to give the Epic and Farfaria apps a shout-out. At $3.99/month they are wonderful apps with large libraries of audio children’s books to select from. We have also used Brain Quest books and games, and Sentence Building Puzzles as needed for more practice on certain skills.
2. Dyslexia often coexists with dyscalculia. We have a computerized math program called Teaching Textbooks that is wonderful for teaching the kids in a way they can understand. If a child gets a problem incorrect, the program goes over how to solve that problem before moving on to the next one. Grades are recorded in a grade book so I can see how they’re doing, and I have the option of deleting a lesson that was failed. Sometimes I will delete a lesson three times in one day for a child to redo before they are finally able to pass. I tell them it’s not a big deal how long it takes them to “get” something. The important thing is that they do. We have an abacus so kids who need manipulatives can visualize the problems.
3. We plan to purchase Touch, Type, Read, and Spell this year. TTRS is a multi-sensory course that teaches touch-typing skills to help children improve their reading and spelling. TTRS can be used as a stand alone touch-typing course and is especially useful for those with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.
4. We purchase materials from Dyslexia Games to use along with our reading and math programs. “Dyslexia Games is a series of workbooks packed with learning activities that empower your student’s brain with new abilities and new brain connections for literacy.” The Dyslexia Games workbooks series A, B, and C specifically addresses issues with handwriting, reversals, and letter or number confusion. The DIY Homeschool Journals allow us to use library books to create our choice of topics to cover. Dyslexic kids are often very creative, so having a curriculum that allows them to choose what they want to learn about has made school much less stressful. My daughter loves coloring the pages and working through the “Dyslexia Therapy.”
5. Netflix. We cannot stream movies where we live, but we subscribe to the Netflix mail order program and I select educational movies for the children. Netflix has many of the classics on DVD such as “Oliver Twist,” “Moby Dick,” and “The Secret Garden,” as well as many IMAX documentaries. Their streaming library is even better, but we make it work with just the DVDs!
6. The local library. I take the kids to the library at least once a week to pick out books, movies, and audio books. We have four library cards and have been known to max them all out. While Learning Ally is fantastic, nothing quite replaces holding a book in your hands. I have always loved reading and adore libraries. I feel that the joy of books is quickly being lost in this technological world. I want my children to understand that while Google is great, the library is also a vast source of knowledge and entertainment.
Our library allows me to select books to place on hold from three different branches online. This has saved me so much time and is a wonderful free tool to have at my disposal when I want to teach about a certain topic. We have also participated in their summer reading program, in which the kids could pick food coupons from our local restaurants as their weekly reward for reading. Watching my dyslexic children struggle to read and begin to hate books broke my heart. I want to pass on a love for reading and feed their natural thirst for knowledge. Libraries are an often-overlooked resource that allow children to search for and find things they genuinely want to learn about.
7. Homeschooling co-ops. We have joined a co-op this school year and are looking forward to the new friends we are making and all of the great lessons and activities we have planned. Our state has a large number of homeschoolers. The rise of social media has made finding each other very easy. To meet other homeschoolers who are usually more than happy to answer questions and offer advice, search for homeschool groups in your state, city, or county on Facebook. Not all co-ops are a great fit for children with learning disabilities, but we have finally found a group of moms and kids with similar teaching styles, needs, and interests.
I hope this list encourages other parents out there who wish they could homeschool their children with learning disabilities. I see many parents discouraged with the special education system, yet uncertain that they can do any better at home. My advice is don’t doubt yourself! As parents we naturally know when something is or is not working for our child. We are their best advocates while they are in the school system, but sometimes, public education ceases to become the best choice for our children. If that’s where you find yourself, know that you too can successfully teach your child at home.