How to Homeschool – Language Arts

How to Homeschool – Language Arts

How to Homeschool- Language Arts

So many moms have been desperately searching for answers as to how to homeschool their kids. 

Interestingly, ”pivot” is the trending word right now with everything going on in our world. I’ve mostly seen this word used in regards to businesses that are pivoting in order to meet the current needs of their customers. 

However, I believe that it’s time to consider this term in a new light.  I want to suggest that you resolve to make a pivot in your perspective of your child’s education.

A Shift in Perspective

If you are new to the idea of home education, you may be one of those moms looking to know how to homeschool. 

I am here to tell you that homeschooling is such a wonderful gift and has been the greatest blessing for my entire family. 

However, when I first started educating my children at home, I too didn’t really know the first thing about how to homeschool.  

Just like so many are experiencing now, I only knew what I knew at the time. 

I had grown up going to public schools.  I went to a public university, and then on to graduate school for teaching at that same public university.  I learned how to teach in an institutionalized system.

It took me years to finally figure out that homeschooling is not school at home.  Homeschooling is a lifestyle focused on educating each individual child so that they grow into a thriving adult.

Grace To Take It One Step At A Time

So if you are overwhelmed and searching for answers as to how to homeschool, give yourself lots of grace.  Learning anything is a process and does not happen overnight.  

With so much information out there, it is to be expected that you may struggle to know where to begin and then how to proceed. 

Practical “how to homeschool” steps

Here are some practical strategies that are easy to incorporate into your home.  Best of all, these are totally free, extremely effective and stress free. 

Think of this time at home as your opportunity to make simple shifts to help your child make huge gains in language arts.

1. Start with the 3 Rs

I consistently recommend to my private community of moms and my clients that when in doubt, focus on the 3 Rs.  Yep, I am talking all about reading, writing and good old-fashioned arithmetic. 

There is a classic homeschool book out there by this title.  You may want to check it out:  The 3 Rs by Ruth Beechick.  

Today we will focus on the first of the Rs:  Reading.

To learn more about my recommendations with math, check out this post and video here.  

2. Go Backwards In Order To Move Forward

Whether you are a veteran homeschool mom or a newbie, if you know that your child is struggling in any academic area, I suggest you get on your hands and knees and thank God!

Woo hoo!   This is news that you want to know sooner rather than later.  

Use this insight into your child’s weaker areas to find the educational gap

3. How to Homeschool… Find the Gaps

Specifically, if your child hates to read or resists reading at all costs, this is your clue that there is some sort of gap in reading skills.  Take your next step… identify where the reading gap lies.  Ask yourself:

In the end, simply slowing down to spend time intentionally focused on reading skills will be your best bet.   Ultimately, my number one tip to help your child get over the reading hump is…

How To Homeschool Peacefully

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4. Remove The Learning Barriers 

When you first begin homeschooling, it is a great idea to spend a week or so just reading good books TO your kids.  Reduce the stress-related anxiety that so many children experience when told that they must read aloud and independently. 

Unfortunately, way too many children have been forced to read independently and at increasingly difficult levels way too soon and too fast.  They then shut down and begin to hate reading often as a fight-flight-or-freeze response. For more on learning to look behind the behaviors to get the root issues, read Behind the Behaviors.

It takes time for the brain to develop the pathways that allow reading to become a natural and enjoyable experience.  We have got to back off and allow children time to develop their reading skills at their pace.  

Tragically, that reading stress response becomes the norm in so many children.  Reading is the enemy for these “pushed-too-soon” kids. 

Children simply need intentional one-on-one instruction from a loving adult.  Our kids need to be given the grace to focus on where they really are and not where the “standard” says they should be. 

5. Read to your child

With everything in life, internal motivation is the game changer that propels us forward in any endeavor.  We want our resistant readers to learn to enjoy the experience without stressing about making mistakes.   This is why it is absolutely fundamental that we give our kids opportunities to enjoy books.  One of the greatest ways to do this is for parents to read aloud TO their kids.  

Read to your child and don’t for one minute feel any guilt about it.  In fact, tap yourself on the back because you are providing your child with what they need to move forward.

When you do ask your child to read:

  • allow them to choose the book,
  • allow them the grace to read a book “below” level with confidence

Each successful reading experience adds up and they will grow as a reader.  Check out this post all about the importance of reading as a family and grab our Family Favorites Book List printable. 

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5. Reading Strategy: Narration

Narration is another great strategy that you can use to help guide your reading time and is an excellent way to strengthen reading comprehension. 

This method simply involves you reading aloud to your child.  Find a book that your child loves, and spend some quiet time together.  Allow your child to ask questions.  Talk about the illustrations. Have fun.

Conversations and dialogue between a trusted adult and a child is not only relationally life-giving but also builds up language and reading comprehension skills.  Don’t underestimate the power of conversation and the spoken word.  

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6. Don’t Forget Your Teens 

Even older children enjoy being read to and reading aloud to your teen eases the resistance to read a book “just for school”.

We want our teens to develop a love of reading as a form of entertainment that is NOT always a screen, right?    

Any extra time you spend getting lost in story with your teen is a relational win AND it is an excellent way to expose your child to greater ideas and concepts about the world.

Find a book that you know will interest your teen and read a chapter together each day.  Have deep, meaningful conversations with your teen.  Ask thoughtful questions and listen intently to their answers with gratitude.  

Bottom line, when you read aloud to your child of any age, you remove barriers to reading, increase foundational language skills and deepen relationship.  Win!  Win!

Homeschool Math Planning

How to Choose A Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum?

When homeschooling (and in life), don’t spend the time fighting with your child.  Trust me… I am preaching to myself here.  It’s just not worth it.  Let’s help our kids figure out what they need so they can move forward and strengthen their next foundational skill.   

Most importantly, let us encourage our kids to know that God has designed them with gifts, passions and purpose.  And how cool is it that we get the privilege of walking this journey with them?!  Yay!

So, now that you have the homeschool foundational principles, you may be ready to choose a homeschool language arts curriculum.  Check out these top choices as reviewed by veteran homeschool moms.  These are especially valuable options for children with learning differences.  

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Homeschool Math Planning – Part 1

Homeschool Math Planning – Part 1

Uncharted Territory

We are finding ourselves in uncharted territory. We are all, in some form or fashion, “homeschool” families now, and homeschool math activities are top priority.

And if your children are struggling with the assignments that are being sent home, and if they’re crying, and if they are acting out of frustration…THERE’S A REASON.   I am of the belief that our children are not being willfully disobedient when they are resisting school work.    However, it can definitely be exhausting for mom and dad.

Change your outlook.

This season can be an absolute blessing.  It can be the best situation that could ever happen in your child’s educational journey.  Now you can focus on what your child needs in order to progress educationally. 

If your children are typically in traditional school and this is your first time to experience homeschool life, I’d like to offer you some help.  Please know that I am giving you the best that I can under these new and uncharted circumstances. 

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you for your support to allow me to continue offering as much free content as possible. Appreciate your support.

Homeschool Math Planning

Identify Your Starting Point Before Planning Homeschool Math Activities

First, it is important to find out where your child stands in math.   If you can get your child to take some sort of diagnostic test, then I recommend you find an online math assessment to get an idea of where your child is currently. 

Check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search for a math assessment for your child’s general grade level. Let’s say that from there you may realize that your child hasn’t mastered basic math facts. 

Don’t panic.

Check out Times Tales for a way and multisensory way to learn math facts quickly.  

Set a homeschool math goal.

First, I want to encourage you to allow your child to take a step back…it’s not only OK to do this, but actually a necessary step.  It is critical that a child have a solid foundation in basic math skills in order to succeed in math. 

So if your child is stuck on multiplication facts, that’s where homeschool math activities and curriculum must begin. Because nine times out of ten, if those foundational skills are not automatic yet, it makes school work that much more challenging; it makes it that much more difficult long term. 

One step at a time.

Address only one concept at a time.  You may decide: 

“We will focus on multiplication facts this week.  We will specifically target the 7s and the 8s time tables.  Once we master those, we will move to the 4s and the 9s.”  (Again, this is only an example.)

Be specific, be intentional, create a loose plan and follow it sequentially step by step.   Because when it comes to homeschool math activities, your child needs a solid foundation.  Without that, your child will continue to struggle as the concepts continue to build.  Grab the free Homeschool 101 Planning Guide for extra support. 

homeschool math, special needs, adhd, autism,

What if my child has ADHD?

Many parents have been told that their child is a wiggly worm or off in his own world.    Whether your child has been officially diagnosed with ADHD or not, know that this is likely one of your child’s greatest strengths.   If you are feeling overwhelmed with how to best navigate your child’s ADHD brain, be encouraged.  

Check out episode 25 with some of my favorite teaching tips to support your child’s ADHD genius.

Incorporate movement into homeschool math activites.

When working on memorizing and learning anything, I cannot more highly recommend incorporating movement.  

This is especially beneficial if your child is one who “can’t sit still.”  Friends, this “can’t sit still” is part of your child’s unique-wiring.  Embrace this and use it to your child’s advantage.

Using addition facts for the moment, grab a set of flash cards.   Then take that deck of addition cards, go outside, set a timer for five minutes, and practice math facts. 

Next and most importantly, you want to reduce the pressure by indicating to your child that the addition practice will only take five minutes. 

Mathskills And Your Child's ADHD Brain

Start playing and practicing.

Practical ways to incorporate movement and much needed input to prime the brain for learning include:

  • Jumping Rope,
  • Swinging on the swings,
  • Jumping on the trampoline

Hold up the flashcards in front of your student while they are engaging in the movement activity.  Start calling out the math facts and watch your wiggly student thrive.

Do what works best for your child.  However, when you have a child who is struggling to memorize facts, increase the opportunity for the brain to receive and process the information by including movement.

Make the most of this time you have been given.

Above all, I want to just give you some encouragement that you can do this, and nothing you do in this season is going to make your child go backwards.

By the time the school systems do open again, and if you decide to send your child back, he is likely to be refreshed in so many ways.  I would venture to say that your child will be thriving beyond where he may have been otherwise.

You Are The Primary Teacher

Finally, remember that you are the primary teacher both now and quite frankly, you have always been.  Your child is only to benefit from spending this season strengthening foundational skills and deepening relationship with you.  Enjoy it as best you can, Friend.

Ready to look at homeschool math curriculumCheck out this post where I offer 5 things every mom needs to know before purchasing any curriculum.  Save yourself money, stress and time and read that here.

How are things going for you, Friend?  Are you a new homeschool family?  Where do you need support?  Would love to hear from you.  Comment below.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.

Phonics Activities at Home

Phonics Activities at Home

Phonics Activities

As a homeschool family, we’ve been collecting alphabet tools and phonics activities for years.  Teaching my girls to read has definitely been a highlight in my journey as a homeschool momma.

Lucky for me, my youngest is now 6, so I’ve been pulling out phonics materials left and right as I prepare to teach him to read.  Fortunately, he’s been obsessed with the alphabet since he was 2 years old!  

Special Needs Leads To Phonics Early

My son’s special needs include a pretty significant speech delay.  Understandably, this has led to lots of frustration and severe meltdowns that started when he was around 18 months old.  You can read more about our journey with our boy here.

On the flip side, his brain differences have also given him the ability to hyperfocus.  His ability to zero-in on a subject has been directed towards the alphabet since he was a babe.  Ultimately, this is a gift which we hope to harness for his success.  Learn more about harnessing the power of the ADHD brain here.  

preschool alphabet and phonics fun activities

Simple Phonics Activities

The following phonics activities and resources are very user-friendly.  Each one can help you support your preschooler’s language and pre-reading skills in fun and engaging ways.  And of course, learning is greatly enriched when mom and dad are a part of the process.

These can also be used for any child who needs to strengthen their basic phonic, spelling and reading skills.

(Ultimately, age doesn’t matter.  Always focus on the next step in your child’s educational journey.  That next step is always based on YOUR child’s needs and NOT artificial benchmarks.)

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(I receive a small commission when you purchase through my Amazon link.  This helps me in providing more free content on my page.  I appreciate your support.) However, I will only ever recommend high-quality products that I have used and found effective.  

Leap Frog Series

These DVDs are educational screen time at its best.  I was introduced to this little series about 10 years ago when I was teaching my oldest to read.  She’d hit a wall in her motivation to read (probably because she was too young to have mommy pressuring her into academics).

In first-time mom desperation, I headed over to my local homeschool store to seek advice.  One of the veteran homeschool moms who worked there wisely told me that it was time to “back off” my child.

“She is so young.  Give her a break and make learning fun.”

Among other ideas, she suggested the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVDs.

I took that sweet lady’s advice, and took a step back from the formal instruction.  My daughter and I played with magnetized letters and read fun books (think Dr. Suess).  And while in the car, I popped in the Leap Frog Series.  Both of my daughters ended up loving these, learned all of their letter sounds and my screen-time guilt dropped significantly.  Winner! Winner!  Chicken dinner!

So when my son came around 4 years later, it was a no-brainer to use them again.   This series originally began with the Letter Factory DVDs.  Now you can stream them on Hulu.  

Here’s why I always recommend the Leap Frog series to support phonics instruction.

Leap Frog & Multisensory Phonics

Leap Frog provides a multisensory approach to preschool learning.  Using multiple areas of the brain to receive and process information is key to retention of new information.  Leap Frog Company does a great job to provide this!

1. Visual Input

The use of imagery allows the child to receive phonics information visually.

2. Auditory Input With A Focus on Rhythm

Song and rhythmic chants hit the the musical and auditory areas of the brain.

3. Kinsethetic

If your kiddo is anything like mine, the dancing alone will support longterm memory.  

Leap Frog Has Expanded

The Leap Frog Series has since expanded their DVD series to include many more subjects including numbers, shapes, vowel-teams, digraphs and more.  The story lines engage and support your child’s early learning.

All About Reading Pre-reading

Melissa and Doug Alphabet & Number Sticker Set

I love this sticker set of ABCs and Numbers from Melissa and Doug.  It contains multiple sheets of letters designed in a variety colors, font styles and prints.  These sticker sets can be used in a variety of phonics activities.  Here are a few ideas.

  • Spell words aloud (or simply say the phonics sounds) and have your child choose and stick the correct letters
  • Spell your child’s name on a large piece of paper.  Then have him identify the letters, peel them, and stick them on top of the hand-written letters.
  • Have your kiddo choose his own words to stick and spell

These stickers peel easily without ripping making these a great choice for littles needing fine motor skill practice.

Melissa and Doug Letter & Number Stamps

The Melissa and Doug resources can withstand the beatings that often come from being used by young children.   This alphabet and number stamp set is another tool that can be used in phonics activities.

My son loves using the stamps to “spell” his name and the names of our family members.  When he was into trains, we spelled the names of the Thomas & Friends trains. 

Always use your child’s interests to drive learning.  

I also like these stamps because the set includes basic punctuation marks and numbers.   Therefore, it can be used for years and in a variety of ways.  The numbers are an added bonus for obvious reasons.

preschool phonics activities

Fine Motor Skills & Phonics

Strengthen your child’s fine motor skills when using the Melissa & Doug stamps.  Simply gripping, inking and imprinting the stamps on paper strengthen those fine motor skills.  The options are endless with this stamp set.

 

  • Practice Letter Name Identification
  • Practice Letter Sound to Letter Symbol Correspondence
  • Word Building by Copying
  • Spelling By Sound (once simple sounds are mastered)
  • Number Recognition
All About Reading Pre-reading

All About Learning Press

When your child is ready for formal reading instruction (don’t rush), you’ll definitely want to check out All About Learning Press.  This company supports phonics, reading and spelling instruction using the orton-gillingham method of instruction.

The program is created for the homeschool teacher in mind, so there is never a need to worry about “not being a teacher.”  Any homeschool parent can pick up this program and teach reading and spelling with confidence.

Check out this post to know more about why you may want to try this in your homeschool.  

Fun Phonics Activities In Your Home

What about you, Friend?  What phonics activities do you enjoy using with your younger student? Do you find it challenging to get your child interested in learning?  

For tips as to how to engage your preschooler or younger child in learning, check out this post.  Tips For Teaching Preschoolers.  

(Hint… this principle works for all disinterested students and adults.  Goes back to interest-based learning.)

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Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham & Struggling Readers In Your Homeschool

Today we are discussing struggling readers, dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.

We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.

Take it away, Karee!!!

dyslexia, orton-gillingham reading instruction method, homeschool reading curriculum

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I “get it.”  There is so much contradictory information regarding how to teach struggling readers.  It can be so overwhelming. 

So let me start with my three guiding principles for struggling readers.

1.    This is my child.   

I believe this child was sent to me.  My husband and I have the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends.  But at the end of the day, this is my child.

2.    There is no “one” solution for every child.

Every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.

3.    To help any child improve in reading, focus on building self-confidence.  

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The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological Awareness & Dyslexia

Phonological awareness refers to the ability to manipulate sounds.  A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 

Related Post: How To Help A Struggling Reader 

The book Equipped for Reading Success by Dr. Kilpatrick is Karee’s favorite resource for phonological awareness.

It gives you tests and interventions for phonological awareness.

Karee says,

I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Dyslexia Resource Library

Knowledge of the Alphabet & Sounds 

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.   If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

  • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Orton-Gillingham: Spelling rules and phonics 

It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.   Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
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Syllablle Division

Syllable division and morphology are Karee’s favorite things to teach.   

If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.  

Speaking to her own dyslexia diagnosis,

I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.   Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a bit frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier.  

dyslexia, orton-gillingham reading instruction method, homeschool reading curriculum

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & Morphology

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  It’s just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.  Structured Word Inquiry.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Foundational Reading Skills: Syntax & Semantics

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the Orton-Gillingham approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? If so, then why is Orton-Gillingham so much more effective?   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements.  To learn how to tease out root issues of reading struggles, check out this post.  

Logic of English Tree

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for dyslexia because of the way it presents the information.

It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.

1.  Success is achievable with Orton-Gillingham

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Orton-Gillingham lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student.

They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together. 

Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

2.  Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s masteryWe do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is successful.

3.   Diagnostic

OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again. 

If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, we use that learning strength in all future lessons.

Ultimately, the Orton-Gillingham approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic.  And most important of all, it is focused on the success of the inidividual student.

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Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

Dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  We have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of my children.

I’ve navigated dyslexia in many ways personally in my own schooling and as a parent supporting my children.

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

RELATED POST:  2020 Best Homeschool Curriculum Choices Chosen By Veteran Homeschool Moms- Language Arts Edition

Dyslexia Resource Library

Struggling Students Need Adults To Believe In Them

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves.  

RELATED POST: 7 Homeschool Tips For Beginners

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child.  There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed. 

At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.   Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia: Every Child Can Learn To Read

A big thank you to Karee for lending her expertise in the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction.  More than anything else in her post, what speaks to me most as a mom, educator and lover of kids, is this.  Her heartbeat for the success of every child.  

You may or may not know the mission of AHFAS.   

Here it is:  To equip moms to empower outside-the-box thinking kids to thrive as exactly who God has created them to be.  

When a child is equipped based on who they are and how they are wired, they will thrive with confidence and purpose.  

Join us in AHFAS Private community for more support.   Together, one mom at a time, we can change the narrative for kids with ADHD, ASD, SPD, Dyslexia or no acronym at all.    We’re in this together!

Logic of English Tree

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  

To contact Karee about her services: dyslexiasolutionsfortmill@gmail.com or  call her at 801-455-2402

All About Learning Press

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.