Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …
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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 Learning Styles: Timing is everything

  • August 27, 2013 2:08 pm

I’ve just had to switch our schedule up yet again. But I’m glad I did. Eventually it will sink in my thick skull that the day goes by so much more predictably if I cater to their learning styles rather than my teaching preferences.

My preferred schedule:

Time of Day The Elder The Younger
8ish Computer Work Non Computer Work
9ish Non Computer Work Computer Work
10ish Snack and Group Work
12ish Lunch and Free Time
2ish Snack and Group Reading

Last Year their Individual Work was labeled “Independent Work” and “One-on-One Work” instead of Computer/Non Computer but we have since lost the use of a computer. Plus they prefer the tower hooked up to the Big Screen (who wouldn’t??). This has been even more appropriate with the adoption of the Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool curriculum for The Elder (more on that transition later).

But this is my preference because it just seems to flow well and logically hits everything we need to cover during the day and gives me a 2 hour break after lunch to shower do what I need or nap what I want to do. I KNOW it can work because every time I schedule an appointment in the morning (usually during group work because I can take that on the road and teach in the car or in waiting rooms), we end up finishing AHEAD of schedule and get to go to the park or have lunch with Dad. But apparently this is the exception because…

Learning Styles trump everything.

I went through months of searching for the correct curriculum that would “work” for The Younger who’s style includes lots of hands-on, lots of movement, lots of interaction, lots of noise, lots of things going on at the same time. Whew! The Elder pretty much can handle any curriculum that I throw at him as long as it’s quiet, he can be somewhat alone (I can be close to him but I get “shushed” a lot), he can self-teach – only needing me to monitor frustration level, or if it is something that I have deemed as “one-on-one” work. This means that The Elder wakes up an hour before the rest of us (on his own) to do his individual work in peace…heavenly. I wake up and there’s only half-an-hour’s worth of teaching to do with him individually and The Younger isn’t even awake yet!

Therein lies the problem…never wake a sleeping baby, right? I’ve had to start waking him up to start his work (which is still much later than when he was in public school, mind you). Early morning just does not suit him. In fact, he learns best in the afternoon. I should have taken the clue from when he was in public school: he would jump off the bus at 3:30 and immediately do his homework and then ask if we could “play” school so he could fabricate more homework or pretend to be the teacher. It just goes to show that…

Time of Day is very much so a part of one’s Learning Style!

Well we decided to compromise because I am not a very good teacher (mom/person/etc.) in the late afternoon when I’m just counting the minutes before The Hub comes home so I can find a quiet place. Plus the neighborhood kids are home or done with their school and are ready to play, so it wasn’t a difficult compromise on his part either. We switched his Individual Work to right after lunchtime and moved his Free Time up to the morning.

The deal was that, in order to do this, he would have to stay a day ahead and do “Tomorrow’s” assignments Today. That gave me the peace of mind that he was not “falling behind” in the lesson plans (more on that neurosis later). He was so excited that he actually did TWO DAYS worth of assignments yesterday after lunch so that we could start the new schedule today! So here’s the new plan we are trying today.

Time of Day The Elder The Younger
8ish Computer Work Free Time
9ish Non Computer Work Free Time
10ish Snack and Group Work
12ish Lunch and Free Time Lunch and Computer Work
1ish Free Time Non Computer Work
2ish Snack and Group Reading

Yes, I had to forego my mommy break after lunch, but it will be worth it if it means mornings won’t be a struggle for me him.

How do you tweak your schedule to accommodate the different learning styles of your students?


Pocket Chart Schedule

Their Visual Schedule “Checklist”




about Fun: fun trumps hard work

  • June 19, 2012 10:34 am

So yesterday I was informed by The Brothers that last year, Summer Homeschool was more fun than this year. Bummer.

Every summer, me and the boys do a little homeschooling in the mornings for 2 hours a few days a week. It keeps them structured, and it helps me work on skills they struggled with during the school year while reinforcing their other skills to reduce regression when the school year begins. This is particularly helpful because the transition is such a stressful time (for all of us) that their energy is freed up to only wig out about the socialization, instead of wigging out about that AND academic skills.

When we first started, these “academic” skills were more like OT – cutting/drawing on the line, gluing things together without a freak-out, yoga and calming-strategies, etc. But last summer, we actually worked on writing and reading and math, etc.

Sounds real fun doesn’t it? I like to think I made it fun since I’m pretty fun and all…

This past school year, their teachers had no suggestions on skills they needed to be working on. Not even social skills or anger management! #proudmama

So I thought I would make Summer Homeschool more “fun” this year (obviously only by my definition). We still write and read and do flashcards, but I added a Character Building unit. I got tools from various places and people, but have based it on the Fruit of the Spirit in Galations 5:22-23. The thing is that they have loved everything about the unit. The worksheets, the Bible study, the videos, the “crafts” (its just coloring and cutting – The Younger should teach the crafts portion. He has more artsy genes than all of us put together!), and especially the music! So I was really scratching my head on this one. We haven’t been as hard core on the writing and math this summer. As a matter of fact, I felt like I was too diligent last summer on academics and resolved to be a little more laid back this time around.

So what did I do differently last summer that was sooooo fun?

I found out that it wasn’t what we did during school hours that captivated them. It was what we did after we dismissed. We had a Cooking Class (that was code for “lunch”). They helped me make lunch and they would write down the recipes. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches, spaghetti, “good meat” and rice (will post that recipe another day). Some days, I would give them a “test” and they would have to make the rice all by themselves (rice + water + rice cooker).

I learned that it didn’t matter how much I drilled them last summer or how hard they worked to try to figure out that analog clock nonsense. What they remembered, and ultimately labeled the entire program, was the fun they had making a mess in the kitchen together. Therefore, this morning I announced that we would start school with Cooking Class today and they got to vote for what they wanted to learn to make.

The verdict…Breakfast Casserole…

This made me a little nervous because I “hide” good-for-you stuff in this recipe and secretly put onions in it even though they swear up and down they hate onions. But it worked out!  We had a nice brunch (with leftovers) and now we are off to the pool!

And so “fun” has been reinstated into the curriculum!  Maybe now I can pull out those flashcards without feeling like a math nazi.

how we made our Breakfast Casserole


Allow me to translate…


1. Fry 2-3 strips of turkey bacon and set aside.  (Since we use uncured turkey bacon, we have to add a little coconut oil to get it to brown and look like bacon and produce bacon grease.)

2, 3, 4. Finely chopped 1/2 an onion and saute in the bacon grease until translucent.

5. Add 2-3 cups hash brown potatoes and brown.

6. Cut the 3-4 bread slices to fit the bottom of a casserole dish. Ours is from Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix.
(The Elder added Step #7 in his notes: Eat Extra Bread).

8-12. In a bowl, beat 4-5 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk (we used unsweetened coconut milk), salt, garlic powder, and any dehydrated/powdered veggies you want to hide (today it was “spinach” – code for anything green).

13. Crumble bacon (we cut into strips with shears)

14. Layer the potato/onion mix on top of the bread.

15. Layer more veggies you want to hide.

16. Layer the crumbled bacon.

17. Pour the egg mix evenly over the entire dish.

18. Top with freshly ground pepper.

19. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.

20. Yeah, I was the only one washing dishes here…Oh but The Younger did wipe up spilled eggs off the kickstool!

21-22. Layer cheddar cheese on top and bake an additional 5 minutes. (we used Daiya Foods Cheddar Shreds)

23. Enjoy!

Me: Do you think you’ll know how to make this on your own now?

The Elder: Yeah, now that I have the list of ingredients and the steps.