Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dyslexia Resources for Homeschoolers

Dyslexia Resources for Homeschoolers
by Topsy-Techie

Disclaimer: The opinions stated in this essay are those of Topsy-Techie and do not necessarily represent those of AVKO.

When homeschooling parents first discover that their child has dyslexia, they can feel overwhelmed. Very few of them have degrees in special education, so they often wonder if they are up to the task of helping their child learn to read and write. Online homeschooling forums are full of questions from parents who are second guessing their ability to handle the education of a child with dyslexia.

The most comforting thing a homeschooling parent of a child with dyslexia can hear is that they are not alone. Thousands of parents just like themselves are successfully guiding their children through the challenges of a learning disability.

One of the reasons that homeschoolers are able to meet these challenges is because curriculum publishers are starting to understand that homeschoolers make up a large share of their business. More and more companies, such as AVKO, are targeting their materials specifically to homeschool families. AVKO’s Sequential Spelling program, for instance, is written in a homeschool-friendly format that does not bog you down with classroom-only style instructions and examples.

Many other publishers are following suit, and are seeking to provide materials and helps for homeschoolers with learning disabilities. Check out some of the following resources designed for, or adapted to, homeschoolers:

  • Time4Learning Online Homeschool Curriculum-- a full curriculum with built-in supports for special learners such as spell-checkers, graphic organizers, text readers, and interactive multimedia lessons
  • Explode The Code- specific phonics instruction for early elementary students
  • Saxon Phonics Intervention- the popular homeschool publisher has created a remedial phonics program for older children with dyslexia that can be used without any special training or preparation
  • Earobics - software program for children with auditory processing difficulties
  • Read, Write, and Type- a multisensory approach to learning to read, that is especially helpful for children with dyslexia

Because of the abundance of homeschool programs and curriculum available for children with dyslexia, parents can rest assured that they will have adequate support for teaching their child. In today’s world, you do not need a special education degree to teach your struggling son or daughter. You simply need a desire to help them reach their potential, and a knowledge of where to find resources that will support your educational goals.

Author: Topsy-Techie is a homeschooling mother and online writer. She writes the blog about learning to write at and the homeschooling blog at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

AVKO Sequential Spelling DVD’s

AVKO Sequential Spelling DVD’s

The DVD version of Sequential Spelling is manufactured and was developed by a homeschooling brother-sister duo: LeeAnn Earl and Joe Hipps of Instructional Media Innovations (IMI). Levels 2-7 will be released over the course of the next few years. Projected release dates are available on the IMI website. This automated version of DVD is comparable to the book version, with some notable differences. Though the program can be used as-is, it is recommended that the DVD be bought in a bundle with the teacher's book of Sequential Spelling and the Student Response Book for Sequential Spelling. Benefits: * The students can learn spelling on their own, with minimal assistance from the teacher, while still getting the benefits of AVKO's multi-sensory system. * Each word presented in the series is pronounced, used in a contextual sentence, and then pronounced again. You won't have to think of our own sentences anymore or look them up in AVKO's Word Families in Sentence Context. * Being on a video DVD, you have the flexibility of using either a television or a computer. There is no need for a computer or internet access to use the program. * Young children can use the program (as long as they can pause and re-start the DVD player). A reading or spelling ability of about 2nd grade is necessary to use Sequential Spelling effectively (a child's ability to use the DVD version of Sequential Spelling is up to the discretion of the instructor). * After the student attempts the spelling of each word, the word is displayed on the screen, with the word families, prefixes, suffixes, and consonant blends in contrasting colors for easy processing of the word family's pattern. * Each lesson has a "Check List" that the teacher can use to review the student's work for the day -- even without purchasing a copy of the book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We Confused Literature with Literacy

We Confused Literature with Literacy

Jane Fell Greene, Ed.D.

(This article is a reprint of one originally published in the Fall 2000 issue of the LaBIDA Journal, a publication of the International Dyslexia Association, Louisiana Branch. Dr. Greene was the keynote speaker at the LaBIDA Tulane conference. She is Academic Dean at the National Institute for Continuing Education, author of Language!, and founder of LaBIDA.)

Examples of Fuzzy Thinking That Caused a Literary Crisis:

1. Language is a "natural" human phenomenon. If we immerse our students in language and literature, they'll become good readers.

This kind of thinking requires a giant leap of logic: spoken language is a natural human phenomenon; written language is not. Written language is invented. Writing has been variously invented in various cultures and civilizations. A quick review of history and anthropology reveals that most civilizations never developed a written language.

2. Don't worry about word recognition. Comprehension is all that matters. Focus on the semantic, syntactic, and schematic cueing systems in teaching reading.

Very early on, some glean the overall meaning of a passage without identifying all words; context clues and picture clues can mask even the most serious learning disability. But readers require automaticity in decoding to become good readers; they must identify words as automatically as their own names. If not, "word attack" becomes literal. Significant increase in special education referrals occurs at about fifth grade level--at the same time, a break point occurs in reading development. Kids can't guess at words like chlorophyll or circumnavigation; these words don't exist in their listening vocabularies.

3. Don't worry about spelling. Let it happen naturally. Let's do "invented" spelling.

Educators ignored what they had learned about the re-learning curve in Ed Psych 101. Spelling inventions were learned so thoroughly they became impossible to unlearn.

4. Basic skills are not the issue; literacy can't be achieved through discrete skills.

Literacy, by definition, is a synergistic collection of discrete skills--all of those skills that give one automatic facility with the written word: reading, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and mechanics.

5. The English language isn't phonologically predictable. Never teach phonics; it produces phonic-damaged children. Drill and kill. There are too many rules and kids can't learn all of those rules.

87% of English is phonologically predictable. The kids who do not learn the structure and function of the English language are the ones who are damaged. Some of learning requires drill and practice; education need not equal entertainment. Suppose a math professor suggested that we never teach the rules. Just immerse them in numbers. Then, there's whole music. And whole science. Why not whole medicine?

6. If children are motivated, they'll become readers; if children are read to, they'll become readers; when children are ready, they'll become readers; if children are placed in a print-rich environment, they'll become readers; if we fail to teach children the code of written English, they will learn to read.

We followed the emperor who wasn't wearing any clothes. The fallout, after twenty years of fuzzy thinking, has arrived. It's here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Instilling Curiosity to Learn New Words

Instilling Curiosity to Learn New Words
by Don McCabe

The most important element in building a vocabulary is the desire. We are all seemingly born with an insatiable curiosity about words. But somewhere along the line, many of us become satisfied with our vocabularies and stop actively learning words. As teachers, we know that the best predictor of success in college, and indeed in most walks of life, is how well we score on a “simple” twenty-five word vocabulary test.

So, if we want our students to excel, how can we re-instill the curiosity necessary to learn new words?
Certainly it isn't by making students memorize a list of words and their definitions for a test on Friday. Just because they can match a word in one column to a definition in another successfully, doesn't mean they know the word. Nor is it by making children search for new words in a dictionary. Years ago when as a high school teacher, I did one of those curriculum required traditional dictionary assignments, one of my students came up with the word pilgarlic an archaic word not found in many dictionaries other than the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It came from a spelling (misspelling, perhaps?) of “peeled garlic” which was used to describe a bald headed man.

One of the ways I have rather successfully used with students, including my own children and grandchildren, is playing with words and malapropisms. Part of American political lore is the Smathers "redneck speech," which Smathers reportedly delivered to a poorly educated audience. The "speech" was never given; it was a hoax dreamed up by one reporter. Smathers did not say, as was reported in Time Magazine as a “yarn” during the campaign: "Are you aware that Claude Pepper is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert? Not only that, but this man is reliably reported to practice nepotism with his sister-in-law, and he has a sister who was once a thespian in wicked New York. Worst of all, it is an established fact that Mr. Pepper, before his marriage, habitually practiced celibacy." The Smathers campaign denied his having made the speech, as did the reporters who covered his campaign, but the hoax followed Smathers to his death. This hoax has often been elaborated on using such phrases as: Claude Pepper matriculated in public, as prominent homo sapiens are wont to do. He further prided himself as being an autodidact and once masticated in a hotel restaurant with pedagogues. Of course, if one knows the meanings of all these words, these accusations are simply true and harmless. However, they can be totally misleading and completely misunderstood as being terrible activities.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sequential Spelling 4 DVD

Sequential Spelling 4 DVD is in the building.

Special bundling pricing is available.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teaching Readings for Comprehension

Teaching Readings for Comprehension

Before we can teach “reading comprehension” we must first understand what it is we want to teach. It certainly is NOT teaching kids to answer a list of ten questions after reading a story or even just a paragraph. What we want to do is to teach our children to THINK as they are reading. Merely hearing a a dull monotone voice in our heads does not constitute thinking. It’s merely hearing as opposed to listening. Listening is thinking as we are hearing. Comprehending is thinking AS we are reading.

One way to develop the habit of thinking as we are reading (not after!) is to every day have your children read at least one funny cartoon, one joke, one riddle, one good pun , (or even one really bad pun) as in #20 on the web page where it reads: “And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did. “

If your student doesn’t at least break out in a grin (or groan!) chances are he doesn’t understand what he has just read or he might not know the meaning of “intended” or isn’t familiar with the phrase “No pun intended.”

A pun such as “I went to a seafood disco last week...and pulled a mussel” is funny only if the child knows the difference between a muscle and a mussel. And by the way The spelling (actually a misspelling) of Muscle Shoals was the result of a clerk making a “correction” in a bill before Congress and not one of the congressmen who voted on the bill caught the misspelling. So now an incorrect spelling is the legally correct spelling. Only in America!

Many parents (and teachers) seem to think that Bible reading is strictly a religious activity. It shouldn’t be JUST a religious activity. In fact, it should be a method of teaching THINKING or reading comprehension.

Short, short stories with lots of morals or insights—better even than Aesop’s fables (which should be part of any curriculum). How else will our children understand the concepts of crying wolf, sour grapes, or a cat’s paw? AVKO recommends that you at least read with your children of any age the following

Another way of teaching comprehension is by teaching “real” history. For example, did you know that in 1906 the maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph and the average wage in the U.S. was 22 cents per hour? And would you believe the population of Las Vegas, Nevada, was only 30! For more on how life was just a hundred years ago, spend some time on:

For more ideas on how to teach reading comprehension without spending money on booklets that claim they teach comprehension go to: