My husband and I have three sons, the oldest is now in high school (Lord help me), the middle is in the middle school range ironically enough, and the youngest is still in elementary school. The oldest and youngest attend public school, the middle (oft referred to as Dark Child) is homeschooled.
The decision to start homeschooling Dark Child halfway through kindergarten was a very simple one. He had seemingly done well in pre-k, but I later realized that he hadn’t actually “learned” his letters and sight words so much as memorized the order on the posters that the pre-k teacher used in her class to teach and review. This is an important distinction because he has dyslexia. Once you took those letters off the poster and rearranged them on a page, he had no idea what anything was.
For that semester that he was in kindergarten, grade-wise he did okay. They don’t grade on a letter scale for kindergarten here, they rate student progress as Outstanding, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement, and Unsatisfactory. Dark Child, like the majority of his class, got mostly Satisfactory, a few Outstandings, and a few Needs Improvement. But watching him try to do the work, especially the required reading homework, was heartbreaking.
This child, this 6 year old little boy, would struggle so hard to meet his word per minute goal that while he read he would start pinching and twisting the skin on his neck and arms. When he stumbled over the same word multiple times he would break down sobbing. This wasn’t going to work for him.
When we first started homeschooling, I tried a few different methods before I finally threw up my hands and declared we were unschooling. And you know what? That was the best decision for his education and well being that I ever made.
Over the next few years, he learned to read via video games, YouTube, movie subtitles, etc… And honestly I will credit video games the most. Because there are some games that aren’t voiced: a text bubble pops up to tell you what you need to do, what you need to know, where you need to go, etc… He quickly realized that if he wanted to make any progress in the game, he needed that information.
At first he would come get me, his dad, or his older brother and ask what the words said. But when he started to ask constantly, we all eventually said, “no, we aren’t going to play the game for you.” The knowledge that he needed to read the text bubbles in order to play the game was his incentive. With no actual assignment or worksheet and no one there to check or correct his work, he could spend two minutes or twenty on a text bubble until he worked his way through it. So he did.
He learned math the same way. If you put a worksheet in front of him and asked him to multiply or divide, add or subtract, he would struggle. But in Minecraft he loves to build statues, mostly scale models of 2D and 3D items in the game. And when I say to scale, I mean exactly to scale. Because this poor child didn’t just inherit dyslexia from me, he also got anxiety and OCD.
In order to make things to scale, he had to work out exactly how many blocks he would need, and in which directions, etc… At first it was slow going, but he eventually got faster and faster, then started branching out, making his own designs and variations.
No, he can’t necessarily answer math questions the way most kids his age can, but he has a working understanding of that math in a physical and spatial sense that a lot of people don’t. He can’t put into words how he solves for X, but he stares at the screen for a moment while he thinks, then he just has the answer.
All of this brings us to now. I’ve been considering putting him back in school next year (assuming he can pass a basic skills entrance exam that he would have to practice for) with an IEP and accommodations in place.
But the Universe is speaking to me. (More specifically, based on my faith I believe God is sending me a message.) And now I need to listen, and carefully consider what I am going to do, and exactly for whose benefit am I doing it.
Read Part 2 here.