When Conner was four years old, my friend Staci noticed something one day while babysitting him. She noticed he would reverse letters and had a hard time with his colors. She had a daughter the same age as Conner, who knew these things and Stacy mentioned to me that maybe something was going on? Conner was a boy and boys tend to be developmentally behind girls, so I thought nothing of it.
We had chosen to homeschool our children long before our kids were school age. We liked the idea and thought it would work for our family. Staci's daughter and Conner's cousin were starting school that fall so I decided to start Conner, I had started school at 4 1/2 and thought he was ready. We started with a very simple curriculum and basics. The first day, when quizzing Conner, he kept missing the letters but Elizabeth who was two was picking them up. Halfway through the term, Conner was frustrated because his sister was catching on but he wasn't catching on. We decided to stop and wait until he was closer to six to start Kindergarten based on everything I had read regarding boys and learning.
The following fall, we started Kindergarten again armed with more resources and material. Everyone was questioning my ability to homeschool and our family's choice. Conner was still writing in complete mirror image by that spring and struggle to pick up reading. He would also jumble sayings and phrases, struggled to get his words out in order, he also failed vision testing at the pediatrician and eye doctor. We had a feeling, that something was going on with him. After testing by a neuropyscholgist , we learned Conner had a language processing disorder, along with dyslexia. Basically, he had trouble processing what he was being told and putting it down on paper and knowing what to do with it?
Our hearts broke as parents, how would he overcome this and what would happen to him someday? would he be able to make it through school and go to college someday? When you learn there is something wrong, you grieve the ''what could have been'' after a while, I set out to educate myself how to best teach him. Basically, we formed our own IEP based on Conner's learning style.
I learned that Conner really was good at memorizing things and picked up by listening to things set to music. His AWANA leader Traci helped me get a CD for his verses to listen to. The first year he had failed to finish his book, the second year along with the help of this CD, he finished his book and extra credit. Another friend directed me to a Language Arts program especially for kids with learning issues.
We had tried several reading programs, We finally found the funny enough, Hooked on Phonics along with an Orton Gillingham based approached worked for him. I hid the fact his sister had learned to read from listening to the hours I spent teaching him. When he was eight years old, he proudly called his Poppa Brown to read to him. Conner could finally read.
Eventually that same year, he figured out that he was behind. He found out his sister was on his same level at six that he was at eight and that he had a learning issue. We cried a lot of tears that year, I encouraged him to find ways that worked best for him and taught him in ways that suited his tactile learning style along with using as much set to music that I could.
Fast forward to 2014, Conner has long ago learned to compensate with his learning style. I have likened our homeschool adventure as being on a fast moving train that you cannot jump off. He path clearly set out to graduate has been long laid out by his rate of learning and what needs to happen. We offered them the chance to go to public school when we moved to TN and both kids chose homeschooling. Conner especially because he knows what needs to be done and happen to graduate based on our long ago formed IEP.
This year, he wanted to join a local academy. As parents, we had put him in other classes before but this was out of the homeschool community. It entailed a lot of reading, memorizing and writing. Memorizing is his strong suit but writing is still something he struggled with in the past. Testing is something that has been tough in the past as well.
He has blown us away with his hard work, diligence and study habits. We have not had to help him, to push him or prod him during the academy. He has found his niche, excelled beyond our wildest dreams. He came home last night, one week left in the academy to say he got all of his tests back. He scored FIVE 100% scores including his mid-term with the lowest score of 85% on one test. To say we're thrilled, overjoyed and proud is an understatement. His future looks very bright and he has even formed a game plan for post high school, all on his own.
I wrote this for the other mom's out there, the mom's who are in the trenches still struggle to find answers and plans. For mom's still searching for answers, grieving that loss of ''normal'' and wondering, ''what will happen to my child?'' hang in there, fight, don't give up, listen to your gut and don't let anyone bring you down. There is hope and your child can overcome.