I really didn’t want to do it. Homeschooling my dyslexic son was on the very bottom of my things I’d like to do in this life list and although my husband and I had already kicked around the idea and I had expressed that maybe I would homeschool him next year, I was really just dragging my feet hoping for something else or someone else to step in and present themselves as the answer to our problems. The little voice in the back of my head, that persistent little whisper that had been there since my son was two, when I first started to become aware of his language and learning difficulties, the one that always said what I wasn’t willing to admit, told me there was no rescue coming. It said, “you are all he has.”
I desperately didn’t want to believe it.
And then, six weeks into my son’s grade four year, at yet another school meeting with the teacher, the principal and a myriad of other admins who had simply passed the buck by passing my son through grade after grade, year after year, knowing full well he couldn’t read and not wanting to deal with his recent dyslexia diagnosis (no one at the meeting could even bring themselves to say the word dyslexia outloud -well, except me, who said it constantly and loudly knowing it HAD to be addressed if my son was to have any chance of success in school), the house of cards that had been my son’s inefficient education finally and completely, collapsed. Through yelling and tears (and not just mine), it was made abundantly clear that no one at the school was willing to help my son in the way that he needed to be helped. So, my husband and I gave up the fight, we collected our son from his classroom and went home to wage our own battle.
Sitting at the kitchen table with my boy the next morning, knowing that his education was now completely in my hands and my hands only was as scary and daunting as sitting in my dorm room in college away from home for the first time had been. It was a spine-tingling sort of realization of “Oh my god, I’ve done it. I’m here. Now what??”
The two years that followed (much like my two years of college) were some of the most challenging, yet rewarding times I’ve ever had the pleasure of going through and growing through – and most importantly, it had the same impact on my son.
During those long hard years of homeschooling / reading remediation, my son went from reading four years behind grade level (that equated to not knowing the alphabet in grade four) to reading at grade level. He revelled in finally being able to read his Harry Potter books to himself. I’d listen at his closed bedroom door with tears in my eyes as he carefully and haltingly read outloud. It tugged at my mommy heartstrings just like hearing his first words and seeing his first steps had done – but moreso because learning how to read (and for me, learning how to teach him to read) had been a steep, steep mountain for both of us to climb. But, even on my worst days, that persistent little whisper in the back of my head was my constant cheerleader, believing in me and what I was doing even when I wasn’t too sure of anything at all. “You’re the only one who can and will help him,” it told me, “so keep going!” So I did.
Two years have passed since I wrapped up homeschooling and put my son back into the school system. He just finished grade 7. He still has his struggles (and always will) because of his dyslexia, but his reading has continued to improve and stay consistent with his grade level. I couldn’t be prouder of him, even as that persistent whisper in the back of my head has continued.
“Keep helping,” it has told me for two years now. “There’s more like him.”
And it’s true.
While homeschooling, so many of my mom friends shared their own frustrations at their child’s poor reading skills and the inability of the school to provide appropriate or effective resources to help and so many came to the same sad conclusion, “I can’t do anything about it. I’m not self-employed like you are, so I can’t homeschool.”
That was true, too. Being self-employed as a photographer for the past decade has allowed me to schedule my work around my kids and their needs and I was able to move from full to part time employment in order to homeschool. But then, the pandemic happened and in March I closed up my studio, thinking it would be temporary, but instead, it offered the silence needed for those whispers to get louder.
This summer, I will finish up my Orton-Gillingham certification and will close my photography business. This fall, I will start a new venture: Rock Star Readers, a reading tutor service for kids.
Those persistent whispers in my head finally made their way to my heart and now I trust them to lead me where they may.