I have been keeping this blog for about a year now but nothing’s raised more comments than my post last week about the programme ‘Don’t Call Me Stupid’ presented by Kara Tointon.
Dyslexia is an extremely emotive subject. As is becoming clear from the comments, but it seems this is not as much about the dyslexia in itself as about the way children were/are treated in school because of it; poorly treated. Often because they could not learn at the rate of their peers, became switched off and labelled by teachers in a negative way, sometimes as ‘stupid’ as Kara pointed out. How frustrating for children who are as intelligent as anyone else when all they need is just a different learning approach.
I know mature and intelligent adults who are so scarred by their school experiences because of their dyslexia that they have little self esteem. I know many parents who have chosen to home educate their children because of their dyslexia and the way schools made them into ‘failures’. I also know dyslexic children who were home educated so successfully they are now at university. The parents are pretty certain that wouldn’t have been the outcome had they remained in school!
The point is that everyone is completely different, as Tracie Storey pointed out in the comments. And all children need a different approach. And as Anne Brocklesby commented time is often the essential ingredient.
Schools are hard pressed to keep children’s learning on targets. This means that when children do not acquire a certain skill within a given time then problems occur. But by home educating these time constraints can be lifted. Yet children can still acquire skills, and by the time they get further on in their lives no one would know they did it any differently!
Our own daughter was a good example. Reading for her was extremely painful and difficult. It could have become painful and difficult for me too if I’d had to keep to school milestones. But by home educating I was able to back off from her reading. I allowed her to come to it in her own time, keep her relationship with print a pleasurable one, put in place some strategies to help her, allow her to develop her own strategies, allow her to read in her own time, provide other learning experiences that enhanced her education and intelligence in practical and experiential ways and through conversation and interaction. She was thirteen when she read her first book – I could have knelt down and given thanks! And imagine the shame of admitting that in a class! But out of school it was no problem and now she’s seventeen, it doesn’t matter; no one would know she did it any differently. In fact she spells and writes much better than some of her non-dyslexic counterparts at college. She has found her own ways to help her overcome the challenges dyslexia sets her. Reading ‘The Gift Of Dyslexia’ by Ron Davis really gave me confidence in her abilities when I doubted.
She is not as severely dyslexic as some. And what worked for her would not necessarily work for others. But it serves to show that there are other ways than school ways in which we could enable dyslexic children to overcome the difficulties dyslexia sets them. Tracie said she found her own ways to help herself – well done – that’s the key! And that it’s important not to let your dyslexia stop you. Perhaps, as we did with our daughter, it’s more about finding ways to live your life round your dyslexia than it is about expecting a magic answer from some institution. To keep faith in the fact that everyone has abilities and a way forward.
The best thing we can do for dyslexic children is not to treat them as stupid, to keep their self esteem intact, to encourage the other valuable skills that each individual has and to try and eradicate the appalling snobbery of academic institutions towards those who find reading difficult.
There are many, many approaches to learning, not just academic ones although many people would argue that academic ones are the most valuable ones – they’re not!
Home educators are pioneers. They are pioneering personal approaches to learning that are about developing individuals rather than developing league tables. (You can find some of those approaches illustrated in my book ‘Learning Without School’; see my page on the left!) By removing their children not only from school they are also removing them from the label of ‘learning difficulties’. And showing how many of these difficulties become non-existent once you take school out of the equation.
We can learn much from them. Politicians harp on about making learning ‘personalised’. In reality it is as personalised as a conveyor belt. If it was truly personalised we wouldn’t have so many children who have failed to engage with learning, many dyslexics among them.
Thank you to all of you who have taken the trouble to comment.