How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader: Essential Tips

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?

Moms often search the Internet wondering, “How do you help a struggling reader?”

Whether you’re a homeschool mom or not, we’re all aware of the importance of reading. 

Understandably, many moms worry when their children are resistant to books and reading.   Often these kids are diagnosed with learning difference such as ADHD or dyslexia.  Regardless of whether or not your child has a specific diagnosis, we can all agree on one thing.

When kids struggle with reading, they need help.  Period.

help for a struggling reader, dyslexia, homeschool, adhd

Characteristics of Struggling Readers

When a mom expresses concern about her child’s reading, I typically ask specific questions to tease out root issues.

  • How old is your child?
  • Can your child rhyme?
  • Is your struggling reader able to hear sounds in isolation and then encode them into a word?
  • Does your child have the ability to decode (sound out) words?
  • Can your child understand what he has read (reading comprehension)?

Again, it’s important to understand that reading is not simply sounding out words written on a page.  Reading is a process that includes multiple component skills that ultimately work together to produce a truly literate reader.

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Struggling Readers Need More Than Decoding

Here’s an unfortunate reality.  Often when children are able to “read” aloud, we think that reading has occured.  However, that is not necessarily the case.

The ability to “decode” is simply one step in the reading journey.   And each reading skill builds upon the other.

The components of reading include:

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension

Understanding the basic elements of reading will help moms best equip struggling readers.

Let’s take a look at reading piece by piece and see how it equips you to see your child’s reading journey differently.

Logic of English Tree

Phonemic Awareness- Foundational Reading Skill

One of the first reading skills is called phonemic awareness.

Words are all made up of units of sound called PHONEMES.  When a child starts to recognize that all spoken words are composed of individual units of sound, he is developing the skill of Phonemic Awareness.

Let’s use an example.  A child hears a word such as BUG.  We want him to identify the three sounds that make up this word.

  • Buh (we don’t want to emphasize that -uh sound.  I’ve included it to emphasize the “sound”),
  • short U, and
  • hard G
  • “BUG”

When a child can hear sounds in isolation, we know he is developing the skill of phonemic awareness.  This skill alone is not universal and often needs to be explicitly taught.  

Teaching Your Child How to Rhyme

Assessing Phonemic Awareness Skills: Try This

Phonemic awareness is a foundational reading skill that comes BEFORE we attempt formal reading instruction.  If your child is struggling to “read,” it is critical that you assess his or her ability to audibly “hear” sounds.

Put down the reading curriculum, and let’s figure out what’s going on.  Start with rhyming and word manipulation actvities.

1.    Assess phonemic awareness in your child by saying aloud component sounds of simple CVC words. 



       Is your child able to make sense of the word(s)?

2.   Can your child rhyme?

Cat, bat, sat, rat

Star, far, bar, car

Struggling Readers & The Ability To Rhyme

Again, many parents and educators mistakenly believe that children automatically develop the ability to rhyme. When your kid resists reading, don’t assume anything.

If your child can’t rhyme or hear sounds in isolation, this is an indication that there is a gap in phonemic awareness.  This skill must be developed in order for a child to read well and with understanding.


NEVER skip foundational reading skills in fear of your child being behind.  It’s not worth it.  Ever.

Struggling Readers Often Need Speech & Language Support

If your child struggles to “hear” isolated sounds and isn’t “getting it” with practice, it’s time to get an eval by a PRIVATE SLP.  An SLP refers to a Speech and Language Pathologist.

Here’s the caveat.  You want a PRIVATE SLP evaluation (outside the public school system).

I say this because sadly, many SLPs within the public school system are handcuffed to limited government guidelines.  What they diagnose, the school system has to pay for.  Get it?

(This is not a criticism of the amazing SLPs in the school system.  They are simply limited by constraints of government and red-tape.)

Auditory Processing Disorder

How Do You Help A Struggling Reader?  Understand Phonics

A child sees the letter sequence D-O- G and then produces the sounds “D”- “short O”- “hard G.”  This skill is referred to as DECODING and the process of decoding is involved in PHONICS.

Once he pieces together the sounds in his mind, he says the word DOG.   This is referred to as ENCODING. 

When seeking help for your struggling reader, it is important to assess your student’s phonics skills.

Letters, Letter Combos & Associated Sounds

Children who struggle with reading often need extra support with basic spelling or phonics rules.  For example, in the English language, the letter A is represented by four possible sounds:

  • the short a sound as in CAT,
  • the long a sound as in CAKE and
  • the “ah” sound as in ALL.
  • the “uh” sound as in ABOVE

All letters in the English language have sounds associated with them.  Some have one specific sound and others have more than one sound.  The sounds are all dependent on letter combinations within words.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Ever heard that English doesn’t make any sense?

While many believe that the English language doesn’t make any sense, this is not true.  Some letter combinations, called digraphs, appear confusing to many readers (including adults.)  But once explicitly taught, the patterns are easy to recognize.  

Digraghs include:

  • CH-  Church, Christ, Charlotte
  • SH-  Show

An Orton-Gilligham approach to teaching reading and spelling is a solid way to explicitly teach these rules in a way that makes sense to struggling readers.

There are several solid homeschool reading curriculum options based on this extremely effective teaching method.   Two excellent Orton-Gillingham based homeschool reading programs are All About Reading and Logic of English.

Check out this article for more suggestions to equip your child with a solid foundation in reading.

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The Complexity of Reading

Going back to our DOG example, the student will walk through the following steps as he decodes the word:

  • Determines that the 3 letter symbols represent 3 separate sounds
  • Creates the sounds individually
  • After saying the individual sounds out loud, he puts the sounds together in his own mind.
  • Finally, he blends them together so as to clearly say the word DOG

Note:  Just because a child says the word “dog” does not mean that the child is visualizing an image of a dog.

Visualizing: An Overlooked ESSENTIAL Reading Skill

Being able to visualize is a skill that many children do not have.  Once kids hit 3rd grade, we often see a rise in “sudden” reading comprehension issues.

Visualizing is an essential reading skill to check for as your child develops the ability to read.   Many children with ADHD, Autism and other executive functioning issues, lack this essential skill.

Adults assume that many language skills (including rhyming, hearing sounds, visualizing, etc) are automatically learned by osmosis.  This is NOT THE CASE!  These often need to be explicitly taught.

Check out this amazing series of resources by Janine Toole, PhD.  Her materials are FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 

I cannot more HIGHLY recommend her resources.  Specific to reading comprehension, Visualization Skills For Reading Comprehension, is AMAZING!!  Don’t overlook this essential skill.

help for a struggling reader, dyslexia, homeschool, adhd

Reading Fluency

As decoding becomes second-nature, the goal is for kids to become quicker to recognize familiar letter patterns and words.

Using our DOG example:

  • Eventually, the student will see the three letter symbols, D-O-G, and immediately know and verbalize the correct word.  He verbalizes the word aloud effortlessly and moves on to the next letter sequence with speed and confidence.

The ability to read with speed, proper inflection and confidence is what is termed “FLUENCY.”

Reading Comprehension

As you seek help for your struggling reader, you’ll begin to tease out where your child’s reading weakness lies.

Even when successful with earlier stages of reading, many children start to show reading comprehension deficits around 3rd grade.

It is not surprising that this skill would lag behind the other reading skills.  Understanding what is read requires:

  • A child identify how to pronounce a word correctly using his relatively new decoding skills,
  • Once properly spoken aloud, your student must move to the next word,
  • He then has to maintain the previous words in his mind (working memory) in order to process them as a whole,
  • The child to pull from his often limited vocabulary in order to understand.

Here’s the kicker.  Regardless of whether you have a “highly verbal” child, receptive language deficits can still be present.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

When Kids Hate Reading: There’s A Reason!

Language processing deficits and gaps in oral and auditory language skills are a HUGE issue for children (and adults).

Most educators and administrators are clueless to this essential issue impacting way too many children. 

Instead of seeking root language issues, many of these kids have been labeled:

  • LAZY
  • Slow
  • Much worse…

If You Want To Help Your Struggling Reader, You May Have To Go Backwards

If you have a struggling reader, it’s critical to look at foundational oral and auditory language skills.  Deficits in these essential skills appear in many different areas of life and can have devastating consequences if not addressed.

Symptoms of oral and auditory language gaps include:


  • Resist reading at all costs, 
  • Reads a book but then completely “forgets” what he/she read,
  • Cries at the thought of school work,
  • Struggles with word problems in math,
  • Consistently responds with, “I don’t know,” or “What?” when asked questions,
  • Uses demonstrative and indefinite pronouns (non-specific words) such as: “That thing over there,” (to describe a pencil on a desk),
  • Can’t follow multi-step directions,
  • And more.

Check out Dr. Daniel Franklin’s Helping Your Child With Language-Based Learning Disabilities for more information.  

Gaps In Language Processing & Development Must Be Addressed

If your child demonstrates any combination of these issues, know this.  There is likely a gap in language development.

These kids often struggle terribly with a sense of shame, feelings of never being enough as well as social issues. 

Please don’t yell at or shame them by telling them to work harder or pay attention.  Equip themGet a private Speech and Language Eval by a reputable SLP.  

All About Learning Press 20 Best Tips

So what do you do for your struggling reader?

Do not be afraid if your child struggles with reading.  Your child can read.  I truly believe every child can thrive and succeed when equipped based on their own unique needs and wiring.  

There is always a way.  By diving deep, and by being willing to think outside-the-box, you can equip your child to become a reader.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Homeschooling To Equip Struggling Readers To Thrive

One of the greatest blessings is living in a country where we can homeschool our children.  For tips for the new homeschooling mom, click here. 

Homeschooling affords parents the ability to seek out the best possible resources and support to meet the needs of the individual learner.

Check out this series of posts here to help you in your journey to equip your uniquely-wired child to thrive academically, emotionally, and in all the things.

  1. Orton-Gillingham Homeschool Reading & Spelling Curriculum That Works
  2. Best Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum For Learning Differences
  3. Strategies For Struggling Readers

Don’t panic, Momma!  We’re in this together.  Comment below with your questions about how to help your struggling reader.

Listen To Episode 29 & Be Encouraged To Parent Your Unique Child Differently!

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Orton Gillingham Method For Struggling Readers

Orton Gillingham Method For Struggling Readers

Orton Gillingham Method & Struggling Readers

Have you heard of the Orton Gillingham method?  What about the All About Reading program?

Do you have a struggling reader in your home?

Sadly, as of 2016, roughly 36 million adults struggled with basic reading and writing skills.

This alone is tragic.  And can have devastating impacts on lifestyle, emotional well-being, access to decent-paying jobs… to name just a few.

Whether you are a homeschool educator or a teacher in a traditional classroom, we all agree that we want our kids to read.

Ultimately, child who can confidently read is on their way to a lifestyle of learning, knowledge and a brighter future.

So what happens when your own child struggles to read? 

What do we do when our kids resist reading or “hate” reading?

When a child has dyslexia, a learning difference or simply struggles to catch on, how we approach our kids’ reading challenges has vast implications.

This is why it is crucial for parents to be armed with information and resources to support their struggling student.

orton-gillingham, all about reading, homeschool reading curriculum, ADHD, dyslexia

Orton Gillingham Method

One alternative reading teaching method is the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method.   

Orton Gillingham is a teaching approach that explicitly teaches the relationships between letters, combinations of letters and their sounds.

It is multi-sensory which means it uses multiple parts of the brain in order to solidify reading component skills.  

How to Evaluate a Reading Program

Multi-Sensory: The 5 Senses?

When speaking of the term multi-sensory, this simply refers to the various sensory systems within the body.  And while we now know that the body contains dozens of sensory systems, for the sake of this post, we will focus on the basic 5 senses.  Think of the senses that you learned about in grade school.

  • Sight
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Touch
  • Smell

Basically, each sensory system is designed to allow the brain to receive and process information from the outside world.  This is what many parents of uniquely-wired kids know as sensory input.  We know that a child with ADHD or autism may need specific sensory input in order to function well in day-to-day activities.

This same concept applies to learning in general.  The brain often needs multiple forms of sensory input specific to what is being learned.  Learn about the brain and the sensory systems that impact learning and behavior in the FREE 5 Day Devotional Video Series.

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An OG Example

Using the Orton Gillingham method of teaching reading, let’s look at an example.

When engaged in reading lessons, the teacher may have a child learn basic phonics sounds in the following way:

  • the child sees a letter symbol on a card (visual), 
  • builds the letter with clay (kinesthetic or touch), 
  • hears an adult modeling the sounds aloud (auditory), 
  • the child would then repeat back the sound (oral output) aloud (auditory )

Again, this multi-sensory learning approach is often highly effective as it targets multiple parts of the brain.  

All About Reading

All About Learning Press

All About Learning is a homeschool curriculum company that uses the Orton-Gillingham method.  

They have two programs lines to support literacy with each complementing one another.

  1. All About Spelling 
  2. All About Reading

This homeschool reading curriculum is highly effective, engaging and visually appealing for both parent-teacher and student alike.  

All About Reading

Orton Gillingham Method: Outside-the-Box

Both All About Spelling and All About Reading work well for our outside-the-box thinkers.  

The curriculum materials include:

  • Hands-on letter tiles, 
  • A systematic flash card system (unlike any I have ever used) that provides explicit and incremental instruction, 
  • Leveled readers that are engaging, fun, and well-illustrated, 
  • and easy to follow step-by-step teaching guides for parent teachers.

No stress on momma!!  Can I get an amen?!!

The Power of Orton-Gillingham

Letter Tiles & Systematic Flash Card System

Speaking to the intentional design of All About Reading and All About Spelling, the sequential flash card system is brilliant.

Children learn all the letter sounds for each letter and combination of letters. 

Rather than teaching our children that the English language doesn’t make sense or follow rules, it specifically teaches the patterns within our language.  For example,

  • c says “s” before i, e & y
  • a says “a” (cat), “A” (skate) and “ahh” (all)- this is laid out right away before official spelling or reading instruction begins
  • syllable division rules are explicitly taught
    • Open Syllables (represented by an open door image) have a long vowel sound (We)
    • Closed Syllables (represented by a closed door image) have a short vowel sound (hat)

Instead of waiting until kids are “older” to teach these ideas, these are assumed foundational skills that are taught at the lower levels.  

Homeschool Reading Dyslexia

All About Learning Press in My Home

Personally, some of the sweetest homeschool memories that we have had in my home involved our time using All About Spelling.

I actually taught my girls to read using a completely different reading instruction approach called the DISTAR method.  We used the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.

Ultimately, my girls learned to read fairly easily using this resource.

However, once we had “mastered” reading, I wanted to give them a solid teaching in spelling and further strengthen their reading skills.

All About Spelling was an incredible blessing to us in a surprising way.  All About Spelling is chock full of literacy support that came from more deeply understanding the English language through spelling rules.

Both my girls loved physically manipulating the letter tiles.  The tiles’ color-coding of vowels, consanonts, vowel teams, etc. were highly effective.

All About Learning: Teaching the Teacher

Honestly, each lesson seemed to be an “aha” moment for me as the teacher.

Finally reading and spelling rules were no longer ambigous and without meaning.  The program provided me the key to put the puzzle pieces together.

Homeschooling and using All About Learning press’s materials have ultimately helped me become a better teacher.

Honestly, I have learned more about reading instruction through their curriculum than I ever did in graduate school.  And I earned my MA in Teaching!


Dyslexia Resource Library

Starting Over With All About Reading

This year, I will be starting at the beginning again.  While my oldest is going into high school, my middle is going into middle school, I will be starting kindergarten with my boy.

My son has cognitive differences including a severe speech and language delay.  Because of this, I have to be very intentional with my reading curriculum choice.

I’ve decided that in order to best equip him with what he needs to thrive as a reader, we will be using All About Reading this year.

I will post an update about his progress soon.  Can’t wait!

all about reading, all about spelling

Reading aloud TO your child as a reading strategy

In addition to seeking out alternative reading curriculum, I highly recommend reading aloud to your struggling reader.  Reading aloud to your child will yield incredible fruit including:

  • Language development 
  • Reading comprehension skills
  • Exposure to rich vocabulary
  • Deepened family connection and so much more…

For more on reading together as a family.

Dyslexia Resource Library

Who Benefits From Orton-Gillingham?

Kids are unique in so many ways.  This diversity includes neurodiversity… the way we think and process the world around us.  Our children (and all people) learn in different ways and develop at different times. 

I am convinced that every student can excel when equipped to learn based on who they are and their own wiring.   Therefore, teachers and parents need to be equipped with appropriate strategies for struggling readers. 

If our goal is to equip our children to become literate learners, we must be willing to think outside-the-box.   And how cool is it that we can homeschool our children in this country?   Not only that, but we can provide them with superior instruction using programs such as All About Reading.

So, Friend, what strategies and programs have you used with your struggling or resistant reader?  Do tell!  Comment below.  We are all in this together.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet
All About Spelling Giveaways
20 Best Tips

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.

How Do I Choose The Best Homeschool Curriculum? Learning Differences

How Do I Choose The Best Homeschool Curriculum? Learning Differences

How Do I Choose The Best Homeschool Curriculum?

When mommas ask me to share my thoughts about what’s the best homeschool curriculum, I tend to answer with a question.

How does your child learn, how is she wired and what is he most interested in?  

Many moms haven’t yet identified this essential understanding about their children before jumping into spending big bucks on curriculum.  And that often bites us all in the butt.  (This includes me… Many times.  In the past decade.  Took me way too long to learn.  Ugh.)   

Anyhoo… Because of this, before I ever discuss specifics about curriculum, I walk my moms through a series of questions.  Utimately, the goal is to help tease out their child’s learning style, interests and wiring.   This will save everyone a lot of heartache and stress.  And it doesn’t hurt that it’ll save cash too.

Best Homeschool Curriculum - Learning Differences

by Lindsay Leiviska | A Heart For All Students

What’s the Best Curriculum?  The Most Important Info First

I ask questions designed to identify learning strengths and weaknesses. For example, 

  • What subjects does your tend to do well in and which does he or she struggle in? 
  • Are there any subjects that your child particularly enjoys?
  • Which concepts cause tears on a regular basis?

This helps us dive deeper to establish the root cause behind why a child struggles in a subject.  With this understanding, we then have a starting point.  

By doing this pre-work, moms are armed with essential information to choose the best homeschool curriculum for their child.  This’ll serve kids academically and emotionally.  In the end, this will bless the entire homeschool dynamic. 

Disclosure: 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 which allows me to continue offering as much free content as possible. I appreciate your support.

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Homeschool is NOT School At Home

Because we are all uniquely-designed, it makes sense that many children think and process the world differently.  Often, moms choose to homeschool their kids when they realize that their children are not served well in the traditional system. 

Ultimately, the reality is that a school system is just that.  It is a system meant to serve the masses and not the individual.  However, this is not a criticism.  By virtue of being a system, institutionalized educational frameworks cannot serve each individual child.  

So when a child consistently struggles or resists school, it is often best to step back and seek out other educational options. Check out this post for 7 Tips For The New Homeschool Mom.

This, my Friend, is when homeschooling shines as the blessing that it is.  No where else can one find the ability to meet the individual educational and emotional needs of the whole child. 

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Homeschooling is a Gift for Unique Thinkers

Homeschooling allows parents to provide outside-the-box thinkers the opportunities to succeed as students.  Whether a child has ADHD, dyslexia, a processing disorder or other learning difference, every child can thrive as a learner.

Working with the grain of our kids’ wiring and interests is key.  Doing so improves learning, self-worth, and creates a more joyful and peaceful educational experience.  For tips to optimize your child’s ADHD brain for the best learning, listen to this episode of the podcast.  

So What Is The Best Homeschool Curriculum For Unique Thinkers?

Sadly, I cannot tell you what the best homeschool curriculum is for your child.  However, I can offer you some great resources to check out once you have a baseline understanding of how your child is wired.  

For this post, I asked homeschool moms in A Heart For All Students community to share their insights.  They gave us their “best homeschool curriculum” choices. 

Please note that these moms are homeschooling kids with a variety of learning differences and styles. 

Today we will focus on the preferred Language Arts homeschool curricula of these seasoned homeschool moms.  Next week, we will hear all about their favorite math resources! 

data-pin-description=top homeschool reading curriculum for kids with special needs

Best Homeschool Curriculum- Language Arts

1. Master Books

Melissa Cochran, M.Ed., is a former principal, reading specialist, and kindergarten teacher.  She homeschools 2 teens with ASD, ADHD, PTSD, Anxiety, SPD, and PDD (Persistent Depressive Disorder).

She describes her homeschool as “it’s like alphabet soup around here!”  With so many nuances to how her kids learn, Master Books has been a hit in her home!

Master Books curriculum is open-and-go. The curriculum is written to the student and is easy for new homeschoolers to jump into without feeling overwhelmed.  Bonus! They have materials for Social Studies and Science, too.

Heather Purvis also enjoys Master Books with her son.  

My favorite is Master Books. It is Christ centered with a Charlotte Mason approach. I have had luck with the phonics and reading for my struggling reader.  It is not strenuous which makes it approachable for my son. 

Master Books isn’t heavy on pencil paper work, but more living education.  Their phonics and reading is focused more on letters, sounds and recognition. Not a ton of sight words. 

It’s a laid back approach with very simple reading by student with more reading to them by the parent.

Heather Shank-Purvis is mom to 5 very different learners.  Some are in homeschool, private and public school.  Her homeschooler navigates life with  ADHD, OCD, Anxiety, PANS/AE, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

Another Vote for Masterbooks As A Best Homeschool Curriculum

I am just switching to Master Books and so far I am loving the look of it!! We’re starting with the Language Arts for a Living Education.  Also, we purchased their Bible curriculum for my 11 year old.

Janelle, homeschool mom of 3, ADHD-infused homeschool life

Logic of English Tree

Orton-Gillingham Based Reading

2. Logic of English

Beckye Barnes, a homeschooling rockstar and an educational advocate, loves Logic of English.

Logic of English amazing. It is available both online and in print.  Based on the science of reading, it is a full language arts curriculum. 

Beckye Barnes is a homeschool mom of two teen boys, Autism, PTSD, ADHD, dyslexia & dysgraphia.  She just recently graduated a student with a 4.868 GPA who is entering college as a freshman with 30 college credits.
All About Reading

3. All About Reading & All About Spelling

My dyslexic son is doing well with All About Reading at a slower pace.   We are able to go at his pace.

Colleen has homeschooled four children, each with different learning styles.  Speaking about All About Reading, she continues, 

Physically moving the letter tiles, my son can now see that the ending or beginning sounds stay the same.  He was thrilled when he was able to read a story from the reader. I think that boosted his confidence that he will be able to conquer this struggle.  

Colleen Webster, homeschool mom of 4, dyslexia and ADHD

Dyslexia Resource Library

More Orton-Gillingham Homeschool Reading Curriculum Choices

The Orton-Gillingham method is systematically designed to support children with dyslexia and other reading learning disabilities.  Here are just a few more recommendations that you may want to consider when teaching your struggling reader.

Beckye Barnes offered these suggestions.

She recommends several programs for struggling readers.  Each of these employ the Orton-Gillingham method and start at the foundations of phonemic awareness.  If you have a struggling reader, she recommends checking out any of the following programs:

Beckye also recommends two online supplements Nessy and Teach Your Monster to Read as they are also based in the science of reading. 
my kid hates writing, homeschool help

Here are some other homeschool reading curriculum choices that Crystal and Kara have found helpful in their homeschools.  Both ladies have children who learn differently, from autism, adhd to language processing speed.  

Misc. Homeschool Language Arts 

4. Collections Close Reader 

I like Collections Close Reader for 6-7 Language Arts. My girl hates reading, listening, writing, etc. and this has collections of short stories.  There are short questions and vocabulary sprinkled throughout the stories. It can be done in small chunks even if a student can’t finish a whole short story.

Crystal, homeschool mom of 2,  Autism 

5. Rod and Staff Grammar

Kara, a homeschool mom of two adopted sons with multiple learning challenges, offers her favorite grammar curriculum.

For grammar we love Rod and Staff for GrammarI like that it’s traditional and gives clear examples. 

I love that they include sentence diagramming and start it early.  It really forces kids to learn the parts of speech and how to use them.  This is something I wish I had learned earlier as a kid.  I really only learned them through taking Latin. 

She continues by emphasizing the bite-sized approach that is often helpful for kids with executive functioning issues.

I also like that they give short exercises that are to the point, not just busywork. I also like the teacher’s manual- it gives easy to understand examples and uses concrete things within my kids’ realms of experience.

Kara, homeschool mom of 2 adopted sons, ADHD, Aspergers, Sensory Processing Issues

6. Classical Academic Press- Writing & Rhetoric

Kara continues about her favorite writing curriculum for her boys.

We love Classical Academic Press’ Writing and Rhetoric. It seems more comprehensive and we can go at our own pace, which right now is important.  If we cannot finish an entire one in a day, we can break lessons into two smaller ones. It’s concrete, but also allows my kids to think about things in depth, but in smaller chunks they can process. 

Kara points out that her son will often write long, involved “paragraphs” with tons of words, but without any cohesive meaning.

Writing and Rhetoric is forcing him to use the concept and main ideas of the stories to create his own.  It gives him a good example of appropriate length and level of detail.   Being able to cut lessons down and spread them out keeps them focused while  working in-depth, with good quality. 

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Two of My Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Choices

7. Christian Light Homeschool Language Arts

Christian Light Language Arts is a program that tends to lie low in it’s advertising, but it packs a mighty punch.  I was introduced to CL several years ago after teaching my children how to read.  This was a godsend for a number of reasons.

This homeschool curriculum is:

  • Student-driven: It’s written for the student to work through on their own.  There are small check boxes throughout each lesson to guide the student.  Who doesn’t love to mark off checkboxes?  (Wait?  Is that just me?)


  • Small Chunks of Teaching:  Each grade level is broken into 10 smaller workbooks which allow kids to have small attainable goals throughout the year.  Kids love to “finish” each workbook.  This helps with motivation.


  • Complete:  Once your child is reading, this program can stand alone for several years.  Includes grammar (with simple sentence diagramming beginning in second grade), spelling, vocabulary, and penmanship.


Note that I absolutely love teaching English grammar.  Christian Light does an EXCELLENT and thorough job of teaching English grammar in a way that is not overwhelming.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

What Is the Best Homeschool Curriculum?

If the ultimate goal is long-term learning, it only makes sense to use materials that will support each child (and family) best.   Like all things, however, no homeschool curricula is perfect.  A resource may be an excellent fit for one season, but not another.  This is to be expected as kids grow.  

When it isn’t working, feel the freedom to pivot in order to best educate your unique child.   While you are planning, grab a copy of the Homeschool 101 Planning Guide below.  I’ve included some of the questions I ask homeschool coaching clients to create targeted plans for their unique children.  

What would be on your best homeschool curriculum list?  

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.

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homeschool planning guide
Strategies For Struggling Readers

Strategies For Struggling Readers

Strategies For Struggling Readers

Are you looking for effective teaching strategies for your struggling reader? 

Are you fearful that your child will become one of the tens of millions of US adults who don’t have basic literacy skills?

Reading and writing open doors to a better quality of life on so many levels.  

For many children, traditional reading instruction strategies are effective. 

Unfortunately, however, those same strategies are also just as ineffective for others.   This is when parents and educators need to take notice.

Same lessons and methods 

When we insist on using the same teaching methods for all kids due to convenience, we set them up for a lifetime of failure. 

Often kids who learn differently can easily be led to believe that they are inherently bad students and readers. 

Understandably, they mentally give up due to frustration.    

Think about it.  Who wants to repetitively engage in an activity that causes tears, anxiety and frustration?

I know, I don’t.

Of course, the last thing we want is for kids to struggle with and hate reading. 

We know the value and importance of reading, but often hit a wall when we run out of strategies for our struggling reader.

The Value of Reading

Fortunately, as a society we espouse the importance of literacy for all children. 

That statement is definitely true on the surface.

However, when we dig deeper into how we equip children to read, many begin to think differently.

It is not uncommon in our educational culture to determine that a child is “behind” in reading at ages as early as 6 or 7.

This message is communicated to Mom or Dad with an urgency that reading needs to improve quickly in order to be “ready for the next grade level.”

Arguably, we are standing on a dangerous precipice when we make these judgement calls based upon one modality of reading instruction and age alone.

We must begin to view effective reading instruction with the child’s “wiring” in mind.

Disclosure: 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 which allows me to continue offering as much free content as possible. I appreciate your support.

reading help, dyslexia, adhd, homeschool

Adults Who Hate To Read

How many children do you know who think they “hate reading”?  

Now think about the many adults that won’t even think of picking up a book. 

Read a book as a form of entertainment?  Heck no. 

When we dig deeper, it is often because they think they hate reading.

Many adults explain that they were never good at reading when they were in school. 

I argue that these adults were likely not equipped in a way that they could process and understand.  

If we want to prevent the next generation from falling into the reading is the enemy trap, then we must be willing to explore alternative teaching strategies for struggling readers. 

Unrealistic expectations of our children

One of the side-effects of educational and developmental benchmarks is the inherent message that all kids should fit into this box.

When kids don’t respond to the traditional teaching approach and on the benchmark timelines, trouble ensues. 

Parents are under so much pressure to make their child read just like everyone else

When mom or dad aren’t informed about optional teaching approaches and learning styles, they lean in harder.  

Children struggle even more when pushed to read using strategies that inherently conflict with the way they learn.

Additionally, parents often make themselves crazy in the process in a desperate attempt to keep up with the student Joneses

  • Running their kiddos to various academic interventions  
  • Engaging in fights with their struggling reader as they push for them to read more

Unfortunately, when this occurs early in a child’s education or becomes the pattern, our kids learn the wrong thing. 

These kids learn to hate learning and worse, they begin to believe that they are dumb.  

Consequently, the idea of picking up a book causes tears, anxiety and frustration for the child (and mom or dad).

Very few adults have the capacity to fight an uphill battle every day. 

So why do we force kids to learn such a crucial life skill in a way that often times conflicts with the way they learn?  

homeschool reading, adhd, anxious child, dyslexia

Think Long-Term

Life is a gift given to us by God Himself and it is a journey. 

No two people are exactly the same.

Ultimately, a child who grows up feeling “behind” can easily believe himself incapable of learning.   

Forcing children to push through reading material based on grade level benchmarks is not good.  It can often lead them on an unintended detour of a lifetime of reading aversion.  

By taking this detour, kids miss the basic foundational skills of reading in the name of “keeping on grade level.”    

Sadly, Learned helplessness is a real force that creates its own set of mental health issues. 

This ultimately costs far more than whether a child reads on grade-level at age 7 or 8 or even 10.

Neurodiversity: Strategies for struggling readers 

Our brains, like our bodies, develop differently and at varying times.

  • Would we ever shame a young 14 year-old girl because her body isn’t as developed as other girls her age?  
  • Would we tell a young man that he is not achieving his potential if his voice was still an octave higher than his peers?

Of course not.

Why then do this to our children when it comes to brain development and its impact on their reading skills?

reading, family, read aloud, children's books, homeschool

Strategies For Struggling Readers- The One That Works

There are many variables at play in the effectiveness of any one teaching strategy. 

And we know that reading can be the gatekeeper to a life of success.

This is why it is critical that adults seek out alternative approaches for the struggling readers in their lives.   

Check out Part 2 of this post where we explore an alternative reading methodology.  The Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction is a systematic approach to reading instruction.

It has been shown to be a very effective teaching method for kids with dyslexia and many other learning differences.

I also share one of my favorite homeschool reading programs that is based on this awesome reading method.

Could it be the right approach for your child?

Read on and let’s find out if this alternative reading instructional strategy can support your unique thinker.  

Do you have a struggling or resistant reader in your home?

Did you grow up thinking you were a bad reader?  

What has worked and what hasn’t?  Comment below and share.

We are in this together, Friend!

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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.

The Struggling Student & Visual Clutter

The Struggling Student & Visual Clutter

Meltdowns at the thought of “school”?

What does a sticky note have to do with meeting the needs of your struggling student?

Oftentimes, when a child resists school work, they often display their hesitation by shutting down, melting down or worse.  Parents can easily confuse this outward behavior as a willful act of disobedience or “laziness.”   If you are familiar with the mission at A Heart For All Students,you know that I have a different perspective.  I believe firmly that a child’s outward “negative” behaviors are a symptom of an internal problem.  

If a child repeatedly resists learning, I am convinced that this is an indication of a struggling student.  Our kids need us to equip them with what they need in order to learn.  Taking the time to seek the root cause of “poor” behavior is crucial.  Finding the real issue allows us to equip our kids with what they need to succeed.

visual discrimination, learning disabilities, learning challenges, dyslexia, adhd, homeschool

Algebra, word problems and two struggling students

Earlier this week, my daughter and I were working through some word problems in her online Algebra course.  We had just been introduced to a new concept and were slowly putting the pieces together. As we began to attempt to tackle the problems, she and I both began to feel frustrated and overwhelmed at the screen full of text.  

She and I had become, in that moment, two struggling students doing our best to navigate a new concept, read text and then correctly integrate the new material with the element of reading comprehension.

Enter in… a HUGE Post-it note.

Post-it notes & Learning?

Many children and adults struggle with visual discrimination. 

In layman’s terms, visual discrimination is the ability of the brain to tease through all of the input that it receives through the eyes. 

In any given moment, the brain has to process through and zoom in on that which is most important in the particular scenario.

Every decision takes mental effort

By covering up the majority of text on the screen, we were set up to succeed. 

Why?  We did not have to tease through unnecessary visual information in order to focus on what was crucial to the goal.  The goal at that time was to learn the new math concept.  In order to do so, we needed to set ourselves up for success.

In this picture, you see the accommodation that my 14-year-old and I made when having to process and learn a new algebraic concept.

christian moms and teens

Visual Discrimination & Learning

In the case of our algebra lesson earlier that week, when my girl and I became frustrated and snippy at one another, I took that as my cue that we both were struggling students and needed to pivot in some way.  

I grabbed a large post-it and covered the entire screen except for the first line of the first word problem.  

“Read it aloud and let’s process what it is saying,”

I took a deep breath and offered this suggestion to my girl.  Game changer!!!

All About Learning Press

Minimalism in Learning

How many blog posts, books and TV shows cater to this concept of minimalism?  Decluttering? Organization? The answer? Too many to count!

Why are these concepts so popular with adults, particularly adult women and more specifically moms?  

Because by simply removing visual clutter, we as adults find ourselves more peaceful and less anxious.

Visual clutter increases the need to tease through all of the information our brain receives from the environment.  This is an exercise that requires mental capacity.  Every mom knows that mental capacity is a limited resource that must be used wisely.

We must transfer this understanding over to how we equip and support our struggling students.

Homeschool ADHD Cheat Sheet

Remove the barriers

When a child is overwhelmed or feeling even slightly anxious about having to focus on a new or harder concept or skill, the last thing we want is to do is add barriers to learning. 

In the case of a child learning a new math concept or skill, having lots of text or math problems on a page can be a huge barrier to learning. 

What do we do to help our kids improve their skills, acquire and learn new information?  How do we help struggling learners to progress academically?

Take it one step, one line, one problem at a time.  

Instead of an entire sheet of 25 math problems, grab a blank piece of paper and write out one math problem in large text.  That one math problem on a clean sheet of paper is less threatening and now more accessible to your child. Anxiety lessens and the brain is then more available to learn.

I would rather a child do five math problems and learn for the long-term, than have a student fight through tears and stress to finish twenty-five and get only 70% correct.  Small chunks of  intentional teaching over time yield fruit, Friends.  

Our Journey Westward

Equip your struggling student 

The next time your child starts to melt down at the thought of reading or doing math, remember, “Remove the barriers.”

Grab a sticky note and cover up the majority of text on a page and read line by line.  

Write multiplication problems one at a time on a small whiteboard in LARGE text. 

Open The Doors To Learning By Removing Visual Clutter

Remove the barrier and don’t drain your child’s mental capacity by forcing his brain to wade through a bunch of visual clutter before he even attempts the new concept.

Your child innate fight or flight response will be lessened.  Her ability to receive and process new information will be freed up to actually learn and receive the concept. 

Before a child can ever do hundreds of math problems they must be given the opportunity to succeed at a few.  Slowly over time, you can increase the workload if necessary.  

Goals for our Struggling Student

In the end, always remember:  What is my goal?  What is the most efficient and peaceful way to hequip my child to learn and move onto the next level?

Do you have a struggling student?  A child with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia or other learning difference?  A child who may need a more outside-the-box approach to education?

Your child can succeed when equipped based on his or her God-given wiring.  You will be blown away at how far your child can go when provided with targeted and intentional teaching.

He has a mighty plan for your child.  Never forget that.   You can do this, Momma! 

For extra support as your support your child’s education at home, check out this post of my top teaching tips.  

All About Learning Press
Dyslexia Screening Checklist

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 Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Instruction with IEW

Homeschool Writing Curriculum That Works

Homeschool writing instruction does not have to be painful for the student or the homeschool mom.  So many homeschool moms worry when their child hates to write because she often hears…

I can’t do this.

My hand hurts.

I hate this!

Please.  No!!

Don’t fear, Sweet Momma.  Today I offer up some stress-free writing strategies to help reluctant or resistant writers build confidence in writing.   No more tears and stress!  Check out the podcast episode and find relief from the homeschool battles.

While you can use the strategies I provide without purchasing a curriculum, I do share my absolute favorite homeschool writing program.

Hint… Andrew Pudewa… Institute for Excellence in Writing.   Can I say amazing??!!!

When in doubt, remember your goal.    Think outside-the-box with me and let’s equip our kids to thrive!

Also, for a more in-depth explantation and guide to remove writing barriers for our kids, listen to Episode #20.  Or, if you prefer to read it, check out the blog post My Child Hates to Write! 7 Homeschool Writing Tips

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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.

20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling