I used to be a Bluebird! That was the name given to my 2nd-grade reading group. There were also the Redbirds, Robins, and Cardinals! Being a naive little girl I had no idea why I had been chosen to be in the Bluebird group, but I dutifully followed my classmates to our reading circle, and I enjoyed the little stories we read in our books.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out what each group really meant. Bluebirds were the best readers. Redbirds were good but weren’t quite as fluent. Robins still stumbled over words. The poor Cardinals could barely read at all. The rest of my class caught on to this as well. The other reading groups with late readers were teased and laughed at. I remember a little Cardinal girl crying because this reading thing was not going easy for her. As I look back I recognize that being placed in reading groups was just the beginning of our evaluations. Predictions about our abilities based on our reading skills followed us throughout our years in school.
I was lucky that reading came so easily to me. My husband and I both are voracious readers. Our house is full of books and my Kindle has more titles on it than I could ever get to in one year! So you would think all of our children would be great readers too right?
Homeschooling a Late Reader
That presumption disappeared with our first child. He had a hard time learning his letters and their sounds. I tried the phonics program that all of my friends were using with absolutely no luck. I used a curriculum that promised to teach my child to read in 100 Easy Lessons. That too was a bust.
Being a new homeschooling mom, I thought it was me. But by 4th grade, my child was still having problems with the most basic words and it seemed to me that I had failed as a homeschooling mom. However, his little brother who was almost three years younger was becoming a very good reader. I had done the same things with him as I had done with my oldest. It started to dawn on me that perhaps it wasn’t me or the curriculum, or my teaching methods. Something was wrong with my child.
I started to think that maybe the best thing to do was to put him into regular school. But the remembrance of the Bluebirds and Cardinals stopped me. This kid of mine would surely be labeled a slow learner and he would be re-routed and judged solely on his reading skills. I knew my child was smart. He did great in math and science and all of his other lessons, as long as I read them to him. I wasn’t willing to let him get pigeon-holed academically simply for his reading skills.
I started doing some research and listening to lectures about reading and eventually found some help for my child. While I was doing that, I continued to read everything for him in his other subjects so that he wouldn’t fall behind. I introduced him to books on CD and audiobooks so that he could become familiar with all of the great works of literature I had longed for him to read during his school years. Many nights I walked by his room and heard the CD player going with a narrator reading Lord of the Flies or Tolkien. He eventually did attend a local charter school and was a B student. He is now a married and works as a paramedic in North Carolina. He is also now a voracious reader!
My next three children were all good readers and picked it up without any problems. I thought I was in the clear until my first daughter and fifth child started school. I noticed right away that she was having problems with reading and writing. I knew some of the techniques we used with my oldest child, but those were only minimally successful with my daughter. After more research on my part, I discovered that she really was a right-brained child and I ditched all of her other reading and phonics programs when she was 12 and we started using the Dianne Craft program.
This meant that my daughter and I went right back to the beginning with a primer book and words like cat, hat, and bat. But because she wasn’t in school influenced by peers, she easily and happily went along with this program. I also used flashcards that used pictures along with the words so that her right brain could capture them and remember them in the way her brain functioned. She also showed herself to be a pure auditory learner! She listened to all of the books her brother did as well as all of the Bronte Sisters and Jane Austen. Her ability to remember dialogue and details from these books is impressive!
In the meantime, she became a beautiful creative artist through painting and drawing. She has even explored blacksmithing and helped my husband to totally rehab a house. With her unique talents, she was allowed to shine and her confidence was built. Her reading skills didn’t hold her back and we were able to allow her to progress at her own pace. After graduation, she joined the workforce in an art store right out of high school and also continues to work on her own art and jewelry designs.
Homeschooling allowed me to get both of my late readers through school without damaging their confidence or having them labeled as slow or deficient. Their path to reading independence was slow and I’ll admit, at times I was very afraid for them. But when I see the confident and productive adults they have become, I’m glad I chose to keep them at home and individualize their learning. Bluebird or Cardinal, it didn’t matter. They both eventually soared!
Elena LaVictoire is a graduate of Baker College in Flint, MI. She worked for 25 years as a home-based medical transcriptionist while homeschooling her six children. Her adult children graduated and successfully entered trade school, college or directly into the workforce. She is still homeschooling her 7th-grade daughter and her pre-school aged granddaughter. She has been blogging since 2002 at mydomesticchurch.com.
This article is part of the I Homeschool Because . . . series. Click here to read other articles in this series, download the free eBook, You Can Do It, Too: 25 homeschool families share their stories, and enter a giveaway from Kiwi Crate valued at more than $200.