Having a “late” reader when you’re homeschooling brings with it some unique challenges.
My girls and I have dealt with all those uncomfortable scenarios and then some over the years.
In the process, I’ve grown more confident and competent in the role of “mom to a struggling reader.” I wish I’d felt this strong when my oldest daughter was going through her reading challenges.
It would’ve been transformational for her as she endured her difficulties. But alas, experience is a great teacher and oftentimes, wisdom comes only to the experienced.
However, while 43 year old me can’t share her hard-won wisdom with 33 year old me, she can share it with you.
In no particular order, here are 7 things I wish other people understood about my late readers:
Yes, my child is having a hard time learning how to read. No, she’s not learning to read on a timetable that’s comfortable for you.
Rest assured, though, her difficulties learning how to read are not reflective of her intelligence or her work ethic.
It bothers her that she’s not reading as well as her friends are. She wonders what’s wrong with her that learning to read was so easy for her friends and it feels so impossible for her...
...and the only conclusion she can draw that makes sense to her is that she’s dumb.
That is not a conclusion I want her to accept. Because it isn’t true.
Please bear how she already feels about herself and reading in mind before you open your mouth in front of her and make any statements that further shame or discourage her…and then just keep those statements to yourself.
Please don’t buy my child workbooks, puzzles, games, or apps to help her learn to read. Please don’t quiz my child. Please don’t tell her you’re sure she’d learn how to read if she just tried a little harder.
None of those are going to help my struggling reader. All of those are more likely than not to make her feel worse than she already does.
As uncomfortable as it makes you to have my child not reading as well or as much as you think she should be based on her age, please realize that she’s even more uncomfortable.
Everywhere she goes, peers and adults like you expect her to be able to read well. Every time she steps into one of those situations, it takes enormous courage. The situation is ripe for her to be humiliated and teased.
Every program we try that fails, adds another notch of failure to her belt. It weighs on her more each time. It worries her more that we’ll never be able to find something that works.
I hope that you don’t mean to peel her scab off and pour salt right into her wound when you do this. I hope that your heart is in the right place and you think you’re helping to motivate her.
That said, you’re not.
So please shut up about someone else’s child who is a better reader than she is.
I’m not opposed to people being shamed when they’ve done something mean or rude. But that’s not the case here.
My child already feels enough shame about her weak reading skills. She doesn’t need you adding to it.
Plus, I’m trying to keep the shame at bay here. Feeling shame doesn’t help my child learn to read. It doesn’t help her love to learn. It doesn’t uplift or inspire her spirit.
I’m well aware that my child’s poor reading skills are very obvious in a lot of situations. If you know she’s a struggling reader, and especially if your heart is in the right place and you want to help, the first thing you wonder when you see her again is if her reading has improved any since the last time you saw her.
Please just wonder silently.
Either I’ll tell you when there’s improvement, or my child will be so excited, she will.
Until then, realize that there is more to her than how well she does (or doesn’t) read. There are things she excels in. There are things that incite her passion. There are other skills she’s working on mastering. There are other questions she asks.
Her entire world does not revolve around learning to read. Please appreciate and support the other aspects of her life and her personality.
Yes, I am aware that school administrators speak openly and frequently about the relationship between solid reading skills by third grade and success in adulthood.
I’m disgusted that so many children are trapped in an environment where the adults around them are making judgments about how successful they will or will not be later in life by the time they’re eight.
I’m disgusted that we comprise a society that thinks it’s okay to pass judgment on a child’s odds of success later in life by how well they read at age eight.
I’m thankful that my struggling readers were never in a place like that. Instead, they had me speaking life into them at every opportunity.
They were able to struggle without being humiliated. They’ve been able to take advantage of alternative forms of acquiring information. They’ve been able to live and learn in an environment that leverages their strengths and marginalizes their weaknesses.
I wish every struggling reader out there had that same opportunity.
P.S. If you're homeschooling a struggling reader, this last part here is a personal message just for you.
Take heart, mama (or papa), all is not lost. Stress will make you feel like everything has to be done RIGHT NOW. It doesn't. The window on education never closes.
It's okay if your child is struggling with reading - or anything else, for that matter. We all have weaknesses. A struggle today does not equal a struggle forever.
So, be gentle with your struggling reader. Be supportive and encouraging. Don't let panic make you apply more pressure to your already-stressed child.
And finally, a request from me: If this article helped you, please share it. Then come join me in my Facebook group and let me know, too.
I'm a married, homeschooling mama of three who is passionate about self-directed learning.
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