The Best Thing You Can Do to Help a Struggling Reader…
I have been homeschooling for ten years now.
Over the course of the past decade, there is one area of study that has been the most frustrating, and if I’m honest, the most terrifying for me.
Teaching my youngest son to read has been, by far, the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever done.
Because of a combination of learning differences, my child struggled to learn to read for almost nine full years.
From the time he was in preschool all the way up until his 13th birthday, he tried and tried to grasp the sounds. He tried and tried to form the letters. He tried and tried to remember the sight words.
Often, it felt like nothing worked.
At one point, I was sure that he might never be able to fill out a job application or be literate as an adult.
Today, he is reading more and more.
I no longer worry about his adulthood–at least not in regards to his reading ability. (I am still his mom after all…)
Looking back, I think it was a combination of many things.
It was helping him read in hands-on, movement-oriented ways. It was finding ways to engage him in reading that were age-appropriate for an older struggling reader. It was all the hours we spent with flashcards and reading exercises. It was all of these things.
And so the other day, when another mom with her own struggling reader asked for my advice, even I was surprised at my answer.
The Best Thing You Can Do to Help a Struggling Reader
“What do you think is the number one thing I need to do to help my son learn to read?” she asked, concern etched on her face.
“Try not to freak out.”
A decade in on this learning-to-read journey, I can honestly say that this is the very best thing, and the hardest thing, you can do for your struggling reader. I share this not only to encourage you and put your heart at ease but also because there are a million ways to teach reading. But once your child loses confidence in his or her own ability, none of them will be as effective.
If I could do it all over again, I would stop treating my child’s ability to read like an assessment of me as a homeschool mom.
I would stop forcing practice that I knew wasn’t working because that’s what “the experts” said I needed to do.
My son knew I was worried. It only made him less engaged. My son saw my fear. It only made him more fearful as well. My son knew that learning to read was a very big deal, and when he failed to do it (over and over again), it stole his natural curiosity and love of learning for far too long.
Ten years ago, I made the decision to homeschool so that my child would not be defined by some external concept of grade level. I wanted to foster relationship more than academics.
Homeschooling, for me, was about doing it differently than the typical school environment, but when my child struggled with reading, I immediately went right back to it.
It wasn’t until I finally let go of the timelines and flashcard drills and instead got back to one of the primary reasons we homeschool in the first place, that he started to make progress.
I wiped the reading slate clean.
I stopped freaking out.
Eventually, he learned to read.
If you are a mom in the middle of the struggle, please know I see you. I know this advice may even seem a little bit silly.
I can almost hear your thoughts –
Easy for her to say. Her son is reading now.
I want to believe that it can happen, but I am so afraid she’s not going to be able to learn it.
But my child is eight…
But my child is ten…
But my child is twelve…
All I can say is that I know exactly how you feel, and my advice is still the same.
The very best thing you can do to help your struggling reader?
Try not to freak out.
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