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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Sensory Spelling and Modeling Beeswax

We’ve really been jumping all over the place here.  I don’t know about you.

Even though I had the curriculum all ironed out, I just never know what will happen as I start a new school year.

Isaiah is a person. And as a person his likes and dislikes change. What works for him changes. And to be honest, I don’t do well with change.

And so I went back to what I know works, and we started a Waldorf spelling block. I’m adding it in twice a week. We have never done “spelling” per se so I am starting from the beginning with the first 100 of the High Utility 500 words.

And since this is Waldorf,

waldorf spelling

 

The beauty of Waldorf is they did Sensory work, before Sensory was cool.

We pulled out the box of modeling beeswax.

I have to say I really missed the modeling beeswax, and I didn’t realize how much until we started using it.

You can’t get anymore sensory integrated than having to wait patiently as the beeswax warms in your hands, as it warms you begin to smell that light comforting smell that is uniquely beeswax. Slowly you begin rolling it in your hands, it warms more and becomes more and more malleable until it’s ready to use.

The whole process is so integrated with the senses that it has a very calming effect. The key is getting your child there.

Isaiah is impatient. And at first refused to take the time to grab a lump and let it warm up.

So I grabbed a lump and worked on it as I walked around the room.

When I came back I found him working carefully on his own beeswax project. Even he couldn’t resist that feeling. It also speaks to just doing it, and waiting for your child to follow. Don’t press, just do.

 

Working in beeswax is completely unique and inviting. It responds so well to your directions. Even the artistically challenged can make something look like what they (I) want.

spelling modeling beeswax waldorf

 

The road became clear to me when yesterday I asked him to spell “the” as we were driving home from his allergy shots.

His response? “We don’t do spelling mom.” and then after some negotiating “th”.

I found this odd, I know he can read that word just fine. But clearly the idea of spelling was foreign to him. You have to start somewhere, right? Immediately I realized Waldorf’s method of learning to spell was going to be the right answer for us.

So today, I handed him my warmed up red and asked him to spell “of.”spelling with modeling beeswax

At first he resisted, but then he formed the letters carefully and put them in front of me.

We continued through the first 9 words of the first 100. And amazingly, even though he couldn’t spell them as we drove down the street, he had no problem modeling them out of beeswax.

Score 1 for Waldorf, or more like 100!

Of course I am nothing if not a crazy, whatever method works for you, homeschooling mom. And so this happened too.

spelling modeling beeswax unschooling

 

Here are some tips for Waldorf – Sensory Spelling.

Modeling Beeswax, slowly warm and then form the words.

Write the words in whatever handwriting your child enjoys using colored pencils or beeswax crayons, and then walk to the other side of the room and write it again, either the same way or a different way.

Then on his way back to you, have him walk the letters of the word he’s spelling.

Make it fun, encourage him, do it with him if he’s being resistant.

I know everything there is to know about a child who won’t do it “because.” He doesn’t need a reason to say no, me asking is usually enough. So be gentle, do it yourself at first if you need to.

I am very confident this will work for your reluctant speller!

working with modeling beeswax

 

Please feel free to ask any questions or share your ideas for sensory spelling!

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