I called my mom from college: “I finally have a name for all my school struggles: dysgraphia.” After nineteen years of struggling with my handwriting, spelling, and writing, I finally had a (self) diagnosis. At that point, I had made it from second through eighth grade with an IEP, then came up with my own adaptations through high school, and was finally a successful college student receiving no accommodations.
If your child is struggling with writing or school in general, I have a few tips that may help.
1. Learn how to touch type.
I had to take a typing class in high school, and it was probably the most useful skill I learned in all thirteen years I spent in public school. The ability to write without worrying about legibility and spelling allowed me to demonstrate what I knew.
2. Learn how to use a planner to help with executive function issues.
I love lists and planners; they keep me on track. In elementary school, we had seven folders, one for every subject. Every day I forgot to take home at least one folder I needed to complete that night’s homework. This led to anxiety, which led to some serious stomach issues for third and fourth grade. In middle school, I was down to four folders (one for each class) and could easily pack my backpack with what I needed to take home after every class. Let your child experiment with planners, lists, and ways of organizing to see what works best for them.
3. Break down spelling words.
Spelling is still my nemesis. Even at 34 years old, I am still embarrassed by my lack of spelling ability. Thankfully, I have a strong vocabulary, and that usually lets me come up with a synonym I can spell. One trick I learned was to break my spelling words down into small words, “together” becomes “to-get-her”; “island” becomes “is-land.”
4. Learn how to write an outline.
An effective way I found to organize my notes and my own writing was to outline. Textbooks are great for teaching kids how to outline because the headings and subheadings are already there, and the vocabulary words are in bold to draw attention to the important information. Once I learned how to outline someone else’s writing, I could transfer that skill to organizing my thoughts before starting a paper.
5. Learn what writing utensil works best for you.
I was in middle school before I realized that my handwriting improved if I used a mechanical pencil instead of a traditional pencil. Maybe pens, permanent markers, or something else works better for your child. I see this as one of the great benefits of homeschooling, that as the parent, you can let your children use whatever writing
instrument works best for them.
6. Play to your strengths.
Reading comprehension and computer knowledge were two skills I used to compensate for my writing struggles. I was very active in class discussions because I understood what I had read, even if I could not always put it on paper. Whenever I could, I did all projects on the computer with PowerPoint or Publisher.
7. Engage in self-talk.
I find the older I get, the less I need to self-talk. I think there is confidence and humility that come with getting older, and you realize that people are nowhere near as focused on you as you are. Some phrases I used to help me calm down were, “After this, I get to …,” “This is not a big deal,” “I know this information, just relax.”
This is the most important. It did not occur to me as a child to pray about my struggles, but I know my mom covered me in prayer. As a homeschool parent, you have the wonderful opportunity to pray with your children over their hardships and ask God to give you both wisdom.
When your children learn how they learn, it will make a world of difference. As a homeschool family, you have the unique opportunity to make accommodations for your children to help them succeed. Your children have the freedom to make mistakes and move at their own pace without the fear of how peers will treat them. Have patience and grace for your children and yourself as you walk through this journey together.
Copyright 2022, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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