I started home educating before I had any idea that my daughter might have any learning difficulties.  She was clearly a bright child, making her milestones, curious and interested, and extremely conversational.  I am not British and was not impressed with what I saw as the products of the British educational system:  Intelligent people with degrees whose knowledge was yet very weak.  I investigated alternatives and eventually decided on home education.
I am naturally academic (my father was a professor of biochemistry and I grew up on the university campus; my mother a lover of literature who eventually trained as a librarian).  I wanted to give my daughter a rigorous but engaging education that still followed her interests.  We have attempted unschooling for a few months (it sounds like such a good idea!) but the truth is that neither of us thrive with unschooling.  We are both much happier with a structured routine to our days — spelling then maths, history then violin practice.  Short, intense, focussed lessons work well and provide for steady progress.
I first realised that my daughter might have learning difficulties with reading when she wanted to read (oh, so desperately!) and met all the “reading readiness markers”, but was still unable to learn to read.  It was not until then that I learned that 3 out of 5 of my husband’s immediate family have severe dyslexia!  We eventually paid for a diagnosis, which was reassuring in that they told me that I was already doing everything right and that she would eventually learn to read.  (It was also helpful in dealing with members of my family who were not encouraging of home education; my husband’s family, experienced with dyslexia, were not worried!)
It was years of hard work for both of us.  We slogged our way slowly through All About Reading (and are still finishing off its sister programme, All About Spelling).  I would sit up every night writing extra reading practice for her, using the Lang fairy books as inspiration for stories she had never heard and which would be, to her, worth the work of decoding.  I would recommend All About Reading; I also found The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller helpful.  We also did hours of read-alouds (that is, me reading aloud!) and invested heavily in audiobooks.  Audiobooks are wonderful for people with dyslexia; they provide access to great literature, proper grammar, and advanced vocabulary when children are still unable to read for themselves.  Reading aloud does this too, of course, and also builds relationship; but I cannot hope to match the 90 or so hours of audiobooks that my daughter listens to every month!  (Listening and re-listening to favourite books.)  Librivox is a wonderful place for free audiobooks, if you search out the best readers (Karen Savage, Adrian Praetzellis, etc).  We also did poetry teatimes once a month, taking turns choosing poems while we ate special treats.
Then one day my daughter picked up a book that we had done as a read-aloud previously (above her “age-appropriate” level!) and started reading.  She now reads Shakespeare for pleasure, and spends hours immersed in the Oxford Book of English Verse.  She wants a set of Jane Austens for Christmas.  A few years ago I could not have imagined this!

Why We Chose to Home Educate

Oliver, our eldest son, was born on the 26th August, a summer-born baby boy.  Oliver was a bright, inquisitive baby and toddler – always asking questions at every opportunity and eager to learn new things. He enjoyed pre-school for a time, but then became frustrated with the adults who wouldn’t answer his questions as they had too many other children to attend to. He was very good at communicating this to me at the time.

Then the time came for Oliver to start school. He turned 4 years old and started school a week later. I felt slightly anxious about this as he was by far the youngest in the school and in a class of 30!  He made friends and appeared to be settling in well. Then I gradually witnessed a change in him; he stopped asking questions, became very withdrawn and then started to say he felt ill every morning before school. At a parents’ evening, the only feedback we got from the teacher was that Oliver held his own for his age. I felt that the teachers didn’t really know him and I knew how important adult interaction was for Oliver at this stage. I then asked the school if they would consider flexi- schooling (part time school) or if he could possibly re-join in the year below. The answer was no to both, so we made the very difficult decision to pull him out of school with the plan to possibly put him back in in year 1. During this time we joined as many groups as we could and then found the local home educating community. I felt like we had to do as much as we could fit in as I was worried he would miss out on social interactions. Looking back I now realise that this was probably a mistake; my advice would be to spend time at home just doing the things your child is interested in and de-schooling before jumping into too many groups and activities. We did however make some really good friends and connections during this time that we are still connected to 6 years later.

We had many wobbles along the way and some negative opinions from some friends and family about our decision. It certainly was a rocky road in those early years. We did then put Oliver back into school in year 1 for a time which ended very badly and he became very anxious. So once again the decision was made to pull him out of school, this time for good. It was quite obvious this time around that school just wasn’t going to work for Oliver. We suspected he was dyslexic which has now been officially diagnosed and this was one of the big reasons we decided that home education was the way forward. Children with dyslexia really benefit from doing things in their own time without pressure and being made to feel inferior. We knew that keeping Oliver in school would probably have affected his self-confidence and ability to learn long-term. We now home educate Oliver and his little brothers William and Sebastian.

So 6 years on and my advice would be – take things slow, never compare (I have struggled with this one), all children do things at their own pace and they do get there in the end! Read stories, play and ditch the worksheets until they want to have a go and above all try and have fun in the process. It is such a gift getting to know your children properly without school getting in the way.

Written by Laura and uploaded by Streams.