He Might Be a Reluctant Reader, Or Maybe He Can’t Read – How I Missed My Son’s Dyslexia

-If you've told a child a thousand times (1)

 

 

 

I just read that Tom Cruise could barely read or write until he was 19. Then he got his first role, and realized that he would need to be able to read to become the actor he wanted to be.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a starring role in a hit film to motivate my son to read.

And I would guess, if given the choice to work his butt off to learn how to read so he could star in the next Mission Impossible film, or to not read at all, right about now, I’m thinking he’d choose – not read.

Being 10 (or wherever your child may be) and lacking such strong external motivation, I have to support him where he is. And right now, he’s a kid who thinks the world thinks he’s dumb because he can’t read, and that Dyslexia is a four letter word. (I know there’s a joke in there somewhere.)

So, when I happened upon this quote, I realized what I had been doing wrong for the last few years.

If you’ve told a child a thousand times and he still does not understand, then it is not the child who is the slow learner.

I have been calling my son a reluctant reader since he was 5.

When every other kid was sounding out Sandra Boynton’s Moo Baa LaLaLa mine was happily listening to me read it.

It didn’t matter how often I ran my finger under every word, he just sat there happy as a clam as I read.

The years passed and I read.

Make no mistake, he loved books! And as an extension, loved being read to.

So many hours spent at the Library picking out books. Books to read, audio books to listen to in the car. Books, books and more books.

But we had a secret, a secret perpetuated even more so by the fact that he has such a gifted vocabulary. The secret was that he couldn’t read.

In all of my homeschooling books and curriculum, I had often read how when a child is ready to read, he will read. And so I waited.

And waited.

Sometime around 8, I started quietly asking around other homeschool moms and groups, and every where I went I got the same answer. “When he’s ready, he’ll read.”

I heard stories about 11 year olds who finally were motivated to read when they wanted to learn code, or wanted to become the best at a video game, and then the next thing you know they were reading 700 page books.

So I waited. I waited and I watched, but in my heart I knew something was wrong.

Because Isaiah did want to read. Reluctant reader was not really the right term for him. Kid who couldn’t read and was super frustrated whenever he tried and had tantrums and fits would have been more accurate.

But I am nothing if not a Queen of Denial, and I was trying. MAN I WAS TRYING.

I defended his reading reluctance to my family. I felt threatened and hurt and scared. And secretly I worried I was making a mistake by not aggressively intervening.

But. If you’ve told a child a thousand times and he still does not understand, then it is not the child who is the slow learner.

It took me aggressively intervening to realize he was not ever going to learn to read like other kids.

There was not going to be an Aha! moment. He wasn’t going to pick up Harry Potter and devour it in one weekend curled up on the sofa with a do not disturb sign.

And so I sought help from a professional.

As I sat across the desk from a really super nice doctor guy, who doesn’t pull any punches, but at least punches you with a sense of humor. I sincerely believed that he would tell me my son was fine, the problem was I was not teaching him correctly.

Instead I heard. “Your son has severe dyslexia, and how far he has gotten is a testament to how hard you have worked with him.”

*record scratch*

Apparently there is not a diagnosis of reluctant reader. That’s not actually a medical term, or a learning disability. For me that term helped perpetuate the denial I was living in. And I used that term to help other’s perpetuate their’s as well.

It did not help my son.

Time spent looking back on the “what if’s” and the “shouldas” is time wasted. And so I do my best not to go there.

Time spent sharing my story, is like spreading gold. If one mom in one group had said to me, “Your story sounds just like my son, and it turned out my son had dyslexia.” Well then, she would have saved a lot of tears and tantrums, and been a true blessing to this family.

And so I am sharing this story and our journey with you. Because if you share this with just one mom of a “reluctant reader” and she hears you. Then my work here is done.

 

I wrote a post about how I came to grips with those feelings right after the diagnosis on my other blog, it’s too soon to repost it, so you can go read it here.

Stay tuned by subscribing to my blog, this week I will outline our week one curriculum. And I will be sharing my thoughts on the Gifts of Dyslexia.

 

 

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Amazingly Beautiful Winter and Christmas Stories for Children

I love a beautiful story so much. There is something about the internal calmness that one feels after reading a story that is filled with soothing imagery and elegant language. A story that touches the nature of who we are, that slows us down and reminds us to look at the world around us. No matter the eloquent words used to describe such a story, they touch the souls of our little ones because they speak to the universal beauty in this world, something that is not unique to one person, something that makes us take a deep breath, and relax into that moment. The moment the story takes us away. These treasures have crossed my path over the years as I have continued to search for books that are more… More than the fun hokey Christmas stories, more than the obvious morals and much much more than the pure entertainment. Of course there is a place for those. But when I know it is time to help my child quiet his mind, this is where we go. the tomten The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren – This book is really a winter book. The best way to describe it is quiet. The imagery is amazing, with very few words as we watch the Tomten’s footprints move through out the farm, our imagination is piqued. Astrid Lindgren creates a story that is captivating and calming all at once. snip snap sledSnipp Snapp Snurr and The Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman – These books are over 70 years old. The whole series of Snipp Snapp and Snurr are absolutely a gift. The stories of triplets and how they work through simple life tasks. In this story the boys desperately want a sled, they work for the money and visit it every day. Another boy visits every day too, but when they find out how come he won’t be buying the sled, you will understand why this is the perfect Christmas book. the night before christmasThe Night Before Christmas original poem illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. I specifically recommend this version, there is something about the very classic drawings, they are like you are peering into someone else’s world. The details are amazing, and captivate my son year after year. This version is not modernized, nor is there a twist. It is what you would expect, it is an amazing peek into history and a quiet lyrical way to look at Santa Claus. christmas in noisy villageChristmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren – This book could not be more different than The Tomten. This book takes us back to a time where there was no electricity or refrigeration, where eggs were collected from out back and every single wonderful treat the children looked forward to at Christmas time was lovingly made from scratch by their mother. Christmas rituals consisted of time spent with friends and family, and also a few jokes. The children’s antics as well as awe are so wonderfully illustrated it makes you want to join them again. (Which you can by reading The Children of Noisy Village) the wild christmas reindeerThe Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett – Well this book would earn its spot on this list by the illustrations alone. But of course a book so wonderful would have to give us even more, and this story does. She is well-known for her illustration style because she uses the borders to deepen the story. While we watch young Teeka learn a lesson of teaching with kindness and the power of using kind word on the main pages, on the borders we watch the elves prepare for Christmas. The story is captivating, and the illustrations make you want to linger on each page. the secret staircaseThe Secret Staircase by Jill Barklem – This is one of many amazing books by Jill Barklem. After discovering this book I decided to just go ahead and buy The Complete Brambly Hedge. Within each of her stories you are transported into a world living beyond, the mice of the hedgegrow have homes and mansion within the trees along the river and at the edge of the fields. They are intricate, beautiful and delicate. They have a society amongst themselves, there are bakers, weavers, a keeper of the wine and even a Store Stump where every item you could possible need to cook with is kept to assure this beautiful community at Brambly Hedge makes it through the winter. The Secret Staircase is an adventure for two young mice who discover a part of The Old Oak Palace no one knows about and it is also about the celebration of Mid-Winter, such an intricately woven tale. We have read all of her stories year round for three years and the boy is still not tired of the vividness and detail that help feed this imaginary world that now has a permanent residence in his mind.

I highly recommend all of these books, I found them all through Amazon myself. Sadly many of them were not available at my library, however I never once regretted adding them to our collection.

How I Refused To Learn My Lesson and We Came Full-Circle

My husband and I always planned to home school.

Even before Isaiah was born it was the plan. So I had plenty of time to decide how we would go about it. I read lots of books, did a ton of research, checked out everything from Unschooling to Classical Schooling to Charlotte Mason. I researched it all.

I liked the idea of unschooling the best. It resonated with me. The freedom to learn about what you loved made sense. If you were passionate about it, it would become a part of you.

Sometime around 3 or 4, I started to be afraid of the idea of unschooling. What would that really look like I wondered. How would I have anytime to myself if Isaiah had no structure? How would I know what to do? Already thinking too much, I decided there was a happy medium and that would be Waldorf. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Luckily Waldorf kindergarten is basically unschooling, and Waldorf first graders should be 7 or turning 7 the first few months. So we had lots of time to prepare. I became an expert in Waldorf Homeschooling (as much as one can be without schooling). I knew what we should do and was ready to do it. What I wasn’t prepared for was Isaiah not wanting to do it.

Well, I thought, what kid wants to do school? I became part of multiple forums, I queried “What if he doesn’t want to do form drawing?” the response was “You are not asking him, you are telling him. ‘Now we are doing form drawing’.”
“Yes, but what if he won’t do it even when I say that.”
“Then you say, ‘this is what we’re doing now, we can’t do the next thing until we finish this'”

Well, that seemed fine and dandy, but these “experts” did not know my son. I tried that tact and we spent hours in struggle. 2 months into first grade I gave up. I couldn’t spend the whole day sitting on the sofa needle felting while saying “Just let me know when you are ready to start Form Drawing (or whatever) then we can move on.”

A child shouldn’t be so averse to doing something, that he willingly gives up everything that brings him joy to avoid it. 

And so, a third of the way into first grade we began informally unschooling. There was some structure; in the form of me reading to him everyday, him developing an on and off interest in needle-felting, science projects that involved fire, and nature walks. We went to the library often and checked out books on topics that interested him like Thomas Jefferson and The Titanic.

Then the family started asking questions. Why can’t he read, he’s 7 already! Why can’t he do math? I started to become self-conscious and bought the Bob Books and tried to teach him to read. He did not like that.

So we took a break and decided for second grade we would try Waldorf again.

We are one month into second grade. Apparently I have a thick skull and do not learn from past mistakes.

This year was even harder. He is 8 and his beautifully rich mind has also learned more effective ways to show-off his temper.

In my current state of denial I refused to see that what was setting him off was school. Everyday I would say, it’s time to start our day. He would say “NO! I don’t want to do school! I hate school!”

Second grade Waldorf involves learning to read and learning math. It is a little more aggressive, although it allows for the slow learners, but I didn’t believe he was a slow learner. What I believed was he didn’t want to do it.

So we stuck with Form Drawing because I was making it fun. Let’s make this castle turret, do you want it to be a haunted castle? Let’s read this story about the King of Ireland, and draw a wavy line like when he is stuck in the cave.

But eventually, I thought, we needed to get back to the reading. Boy was I in for a surprise. The tantrums got so bad I had to lock myself in my room. I was lost and had no idea where to turn. I didn’t believe him when he said it was the reading. I didn’t want to think that my son didn’t want to read.

And then I remembered where I started. Why was I pushing him? How many times had I read about unschooling? How many times had I seen the success of these kids allowed to work at their own pace on topics they were interested in? What good was forcing him to do anything?!

I reached out to the most brilliant homeschooler I know. Jane from Undogmatic Unschoolers, if you aren’t following her you should be.

She put me at ease, she reminded me that he would read when he was ready,

but if I pushed him, he would never love to read

She said, find some learning apps on the iPad but most of all read read read to him!
Well, that was easy. We were already doing that.

And so. We have come full-circle. We are unschooling again.

In his tantrumus rage, we decided we would call school “playtime” to stop his anger before it started.
The last two evenings he said “Mom! We forgot to do ‘playtime’ today!”
“No sweetie, we didn’t. We read Carry On, Mr Bowditch didn’t we? And The Willoughby’s? You built a ship in the living room with 3 masts and working flags. You colored a ton of sailing ships and we went for a walk everyday. I would say we did plenty of ‘playtime’ ”
And he said, “Mommy, I love you so much. These are the best days ever, I love ‘playtime'”

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