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My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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about Math: Making Long Multiplication easy for the Right-Brained Learner

  • January 29, 2014 5:26 pm
Long Multiplication Story

This has been a hard year for math. I have very gifted children who understand mathematical concepts way beyond their years (like set theory, fractions, and summations — yes, The Elder solve this the first day he was exposed to summations at age 10), BUT still add on their fingers!! Sigh.   I do have…

about Dyslexia: Making Spelling easy

  • September 3, 2013 7:48 pm

Maybe you have charge of someone with dyslexia or maybe you know someone who just struggles with spelling. I hope this post eases those struggles a bit or at least sparks some ideas.

The Elder was an early reader, teaching himself at 2.5 years of age. So he masked his dyslexia well through his Superpower Decoding Skills thanks to autism. But when he got to writing age, around 7, it was more apparent. As I studied and learned more about the nature of dyslexia, I saw other indications in his reading and speech patterns. Before this, he didn’t talk to people and didn’t use sentences until after age 4 so anything verbal was celebrated and not necessarily analyzed. So there may have been earlier signs that I just didn’t see. And there are other cases of dyslexia in his family line. So I guess I wasn’t surprised by his diagnosis, but I was definitely very impressed by how well he had adapted to it. His reading comprehension has always amazed me, especially when he read something aloud and butchered it, yet could still answer questions correctly. I mean, Wow! Just Wow!

He was in Second Grade when I decided that he was not “outgrowing” it and I approached the IEP team in earnest. It seemed that everyone was in agreement of the problem but the solution was left open-ended and therefore never addressed at his school. Two years later it had really affected his other subjects and worst of all, his confidence.

“Dyslexic children require direct, systematic, and individualized instruction in reading and spelling. Public schools cannot always provide an adequate level of service. Indeed, some systems are woefully ill-prepared to deal with such children and may even deny, against all scientific evidence, that dyslexia exists.  Homeschooling can provide solid remediation without the burden of travel and can allow the parent to see directly the progress of the child.” (International Dyslexia Association (IDA))

Resource: “Homeschooling with Dyslexia: What to Expect

Last year when I first started schooling him at home, I implemented some curriculum and strategies specific to dyslexia to help him with his writing and with reading aloud. I’ve been doubly impressed at his progress in just one year. However, Spelling is still a struggle for him. While he was still in public school, I had worked with him at home using strategies from the book: Visual-Spatial Learners by Alexandra Golon. This being when his words were much simpler and I apparently had time to be creative and fashion works of art…

fire wire tire, motion question island station information subtraction

These worked. He understands syllables. He understands phonics. BUT put those two together and it’s like a whole new element to him. He has a wonderful memory and can remember spelling rules all day long, but does not recall them in application. He can spell “station” and “question” because he has these visual images in his head from THREE years ago. However last week he spelled “vacation” as “vacashun.”

I found a new curriculum for this year that really is different. It is not written for people with dyslexia per se, but it is geared for older students, say, those who already know that the “b” says “buh” but can’t spell no matter how hard they “sound it out.” It’s a sort of “remedial” course even though it doesn’t call itself that. It’s titled How to Teach Any Child to Spell by Gayle Graham, along with its companion student workbook Tricks of the Trade.

The biggest difference I took away of this approach is teaching him to proofread his own material. I don’t spell things for him anymore, just let him spell it as best he can. Then after letting it “sit” a while (I guess to keep from overwhelming him) I ask him which words he thinks he misspelled – the ones that don’t “look right.” Those are the words we go over. First I pronounce it by syllables the way it is spelled (not necessarily the way it is pronounced in everyday language). Then I come up with a visual way for him to remember it.

Here are some examples from this past week. The Elder misspelled “million” and “thousand” and “hundred.” (Yes, it was his math lesson – so we don’t need to have a separate “spelling” lesson! Yay!)

He spelled “million” as “millon” which is an improvement from “milyun.”  I pronounced it MIL-LEE-ON to distinguish the syllables and then reminded him that each syllable must have a vowel sound. Since he only has 2 vowels in his word, what vowel sound is missing? I keep over-pronouncing it until he gets it. Of course he said “e” but I corrected it to “i” with the plan that if he misspells it again in the future then it will go into his spelling notebook of his own frequently misspelled words. But we never had to enter it because the next 2 days he spelled it correctly.

He spelled “thousand” as “thousound.” I broke it into syllables and showed him the word “sound” in his spelling and how that would read THOU-SOUND instead of THOU-SAND. How do you spell “sand?” Of course he knew, so he fixed it. The next day he mispelled it again as “thosand.” He got “sand” right but not the first syllable. This is the visual I made for him to remember that the first syllable has the “ou” sound:


“Ouch! Thousand needs a band-aid.”

(Hey, there’s a grammar lesson there too! Interjections…for excitement…or emotion… yeah, I’ll be singing that all day now)

Notice that it’s not as fancy as before… Just a simple visual on a scrap piece of paper is all he needed.

He spelled “hundred” as “hunderd.” Classic dyslexia error, right? He knows how to pronounce it, and I’m sure he knows how to spell it too. That his fingers just didn’t get the memo on time. So I didn’t spend too much time on this one. I was going to get a “red” pencil to color the “red” in hundred, but he got it right away without needing a color cue. We made up the story “Hundred’s favorite color is red.” Did the trick.

The way I am doing it is not exactly Graham’s method but sort of a mixture of what I learned from her and Golon. There’s still a lot of Graham’s strategies that I want to implement. I do recommend that you read both books because it was eye opening to understand the difference between “good spellers” and “not as good spellers” and what it means to be a “visual-spatial leaner.”

Please share any successful tips and tricks you have for teaching your child how to spell!

about Organization: Homeschool Workboxes

  • August 17, 2013 3:40 pm

So it’s been a year since I’ve posted… but not since I’ve blogged. My wordpress has been sick since its last update (which I’m sure is outdated ten-fold by now). But The Hub, amazing as he is, fixed it!! I’ve still got some cosmetics things to fix (one day). So I’ve got several backlogged drafts that will eventually get posted (in theory). But I’m posting this one now because I got multiple requests for it in threads.

Last year we started homeschooling and it was a whirlwind! And my house looked like that very tornado had struck it. We were so unorganized and I had so many noob issues that I put Organization on the back burner. This year I decided to simplify our curriculum and get my sanity house back. Introducing Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool! Over the Summer and this Fall we are transitioning to all EP courses (with the exception of a few subjects that are paid for and that we love love love!). After a long distance trip to IKEA in July, we have gone from complete chaos to organized areas of chaos. Still a work in progress – almost everything has a home, but I love how much more smoothly the regular school days go now that they can work more independently (simply because now they can actually find things!)

Today I’m talking about workboxes.

A workbox is a portable box (bin, bucket, basket, dishtub, drawer, crate, etc) used for storing or holding tools and materials for activities. You can organize them by activity, project, subject, or by hour, time of day, or even by location.

I purchased this 9-bucket lovely from the TROFAST series at IKEA. We ordered 2 of these online earlier in the year for The Brothers’ legos – yes, sigh, they have THAT many legos. I thought about snagging one of theirs for myself, but then decided that piles of school books and notebooks were far better than piles of legos. So I waited until I had enough saved to get my very own.


In addition to this, we also got the 4×4 shelves and attached desk (for me!) from the EXPEDIT series. Together they have rocked our homeschool world. The Younger would show off the office to our guests, announcing “Come look at our latest upgrades!”

We have the workboxes organized by subject and then they are organized on the shelf tracks by roughly the time of day we hit the subject.

Each Brother has his own READING bucket which holds his library books, reading logs, bookmarks, etc. (Looks like The Elder has a few “reading props” thrown in there as well.) The Elder likes to read in his room, so he just takes the whole bucket to his room and then when he is done he slides it back into its spot (in theory, but I know the habit is forming…I can feel it in my bones…never mind that I had to go bucket-hunting on his bed just to snap this picture…)


They also each have a MATH/WRITING bucket which is essentially their Easy Peasy and Life of Fred curricula. This is stocked with the LOF book they are studying, Math journal used for both EP Math and LOF, Writing journal (from Handwriting Without Tears) for EP English, a pencil (with their names and “Math/Writing” written on it in Sharpie to curtail the “I can’t find my pencil” syndrome), and their current week’s “packet” of printouts for EP.

The rest of the buckets are for “Group Work” or subjects they study together. Shown here is the SCIENCE bucket which contains their Science journals, scissors, glue sticks, and a “mommy folder” for the week’s printouts. Similarly, the rest of the buckets are organized for BIBLE/HISTORY, GRAMMAR, LANGUAGES (which is currently Latin and some Arabic), GROUP READING (which is just MY library bucket and also where I stash the library due date receipts).

So there you have it! That’s how we are using workboxes in our homeschool. It’s been working splendidly so far! There’s so much less visual clutter in the office, we can find everything we need when we want it, and best of all, they clean up after themselves!

How do you use workboxes in your home?


Here are some other pictures I snapped of systems that kept us afloat pre-IKEA era. I still rely on them heavily. I can blog about in the future if there’s any interest.

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