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Information about how home education can benefit children with dyslexia.

Sadly, most people still assume that the cleverest children are the ones who get the best test and exam results and fail to see that some of the brightest minds are probably amongst those 'no hopers' either dreaming or misbehaving at the back of the class. Whilst primary schools still fail to teach 20+% of children how to read, write and spell and effective remediation and support is rarely provided at any stage, dyslexics will often fare better outside the school system.

The five main benefits of home education for a dyslexic child:

1. The most important benefit is the preservation or regaining of self-esteem

For dyslexic children, the daily negative experiences at school can cause tiredness and irritability when they return home. If they are then expected to focus on homework or receive extra tuition, severe resentment can build. Emotional and behavioural problems may occur, creating tensions within the entire family. The problems may spill over into school time resulting in the child becoming labelled as disruptive and difficult.

The home can provide a safe and happy environment in which to learn where frustration, humiliation and bullying can be avoided. With your support the young person can learn without fear, ridicule or the embarrassment of looking silly in front of the class and teacher. Where teasing or bullying has occurred in school this advantage is significant. Learning at home frees the child from the pattern of failure and anxiety, thereby creating the conditions which are necessary for recovery. The general organisational difficulties of dyslexic children can also be tackled sympathetically at home.

2. A quieter atmosphere - dyslexics often have poor concentration skills

Your child will find it impossible to concentrate in a busy, noisy classroom; a dyslexic's working memory is particularly affected by background speech (Macmillan p111) and they may become very tense and anxious. A quiet, orderly atmosphere at home will allow them to relax and concentrate so learning can take place. At home you can take frequent breaks when concentration wanes and activities may be changed to suit your child's mood and interests.

3. You do not need to use the National Curriculum

Education can be specifically tailored to your child's needs using appropriate teaching methods and suitable materials. This is especially true for the choice of method to teach reading. You can provide an education, which is truly suited to your child's age, ability and aptitude, and to their special needs (according to the requirements of the law).

It is particularly important to rebuild confidence if this has been damaged and one way of doing this is by experiencing success. There is freedom of choice to do what the child is good at, spend more time on the subjects they enjoy and to concentrate on strengths rather than weaknesses. Taking dictation, copying work from the board, reading aloud to the class, learning foreign languages and other tasks which are difficult for a child with dyslexia, can be eliminated. There is also time to repeat and practise skills that need reinforcing and work can be done at a pace to suit the child. With freedom from an imposed curriculum, life skills can be given the time and attention they deserve.

4. Individualised early language development and teaching

Good early language skills underpin the subsequent ease of acquisition of literacy skills. During the infant years a child's language and vocabulary will develop best if the child remains at home alongside a parent or close relative whilst the activities of everyday home life are undertaken. This is especially true of boys who are more prone to delay and other difficulties in language development (Morgan ). Research has shown that a child's own home environment, whether middle or working class, is linguistically richer than that of the nursery school or child minder's home. (Tizard/Hughes) A 1995 survey of 10 classes of four-year olds showed that out of 300 two-minute observations collected over three months, only 10 showed spoken interaction between children or between children and adults (Mills) '...the single best predictor of a child's progress at acquiring language skills is the extent to which she is exposed to adult language that is directed towards her .' (Howe '97 p151) One important piece of research (Hart / Risley) shows that the quality of parental verbal interaction over the period when a child is developing language makes a huge difference to the child's vocabulary and IQ. McGuinness points out that the problem with the Hart/Risley study is, 'That there is no way to know how much the results were a consequence of the mother's (and father's) verbal IQ.' (McGuinness 2004 p49) '50% of a child's verbal skill can be attributed to his genes...Most of the other 50% is attributable to shared environment ...largely to what the child is exposed to in the home.' (McGuinness 2004 p11)

Read more UK National Curriculum online

By being at home with their child, a parent is well placed to provide the individualised teaching that is actually recommended by educational experts but is virtually impossible to provide at school (Thomas p12-13) . 'According to research on teaching methods, individual tutoring produces hugely better academic performance than does general teaching by standard classroom methods'. (Robertson p155) Knowledge of the individual child does tell parents and others something about how he or she will experience the activities that adults make available. That is one reason why parents who can really get to know their young children as individuals are in some respects better equiped for helping them to learn than even the most expert teachers. (Howe '97 p143)

5. Access to a computer

If you intend to home educate a dyslexic and don't yet own a computer, do seriously consider purchasing one. The majority of dyslexics seem to have a natural affinity for these machines. By being able to use one freely, they will develop first-class skills at an early age and superiority in this area will increase their self-esteem.

Effective home education is facilitated by ready access to information and a home computer with a CD-ROM and Internet facilities will enable that access to be quick and easy. Use of word processing software and access to email may encourage the most reluctant dyslexic to communicate in written form. They will find it useful to learn touch-typing, which is just as important as having good handwriting skills nowadays. There are typing programmes designed for dyslexics: see Resources 15.

Research has shown benefits for children from computer use. A study reported in the Times Educational Supplement (Dec.22nd 00 'In Brief') showed that using computers could help children improve their spelling skills though it found that the effect was more noticeable in boys. Research by TEEM revealed that computer simulation games such as Sim City 3000, Age of Empires 2 and The Settlers had 'significant educational value'. The study showed that children learnt negotiation, planning, strategic thinking and decision making from playing these games.

Parents worried about 'negative effects' on their children as a consequence of prolonged computer use, will be interested to know that books were once considered dangerous, corrupting and a threat to public health! (Spender p7-8)

For independent advice on choosing a suitable home computer contact Parents Information Network (PIN) or -the UK's leading provider of expertise on computing and disability.

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Read more UK National Curriculum online

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