Dyslexic 8th Grader – new to writing and aiming for engineering school. Help!

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  • TabbyandTomato

    A little background: after a few years of CC, starting our ds at age 4, (it pains me to write that!), we started with CM about 3-4 years ago using SCM history and enrichment guides, etc.  I had to abandon a lot of it due to a health issues which sapped my energy causing me too tired to continue doing much.

    We are finally getting back into CM!  Oh how I wish I had known about CM from the get go.

    Our son is going into 8th grade, and although we have done read-aloud’s for years, when we started CM, I would try to do narrations with him, but he really struggled with being able to form his thoughts or think of anything at all to say.  Even though he is very chatty and can normally describe anything in great detail, his mind would go blank with narrations.  This past week I tried again, and he showed promise!!  (Been doing Dianne Craft the last several months.)

    As a result of our ds’s unbelievably poor spelling, I just didn’t know how to navigate through writing so I kept procrastinating.  I started doing Dianne Craft’s method of writing last year, but quickly abandoned it because it was just too vague for me and I felt helpless.

    I am completely sold on using CM’s methods for writing, but considering that our ds hasn’t had years of narration, which I am guessing is a huge component of writing success with high schoolers, I just don’t know if CM is enough for him at this point, (or in the higher grades) due to his lack of narration experience.

    A friend offered to loan me her IEW videos, but I’m on the fence since it’s Classical and formulaic.  After pouring over writing forums here the last several days, I understand that many CM’ers do like IEW, but also that many do not.

    The Jump In writing program that I’ve heard many here use in middle school, looks too advanced at this point.  I need something that starts from scratch.   Literally.

    So the million dollar question is…. are narrations without years of previous narrating experience enough to eventually make a future strong writer out of a very dyslexic soon-to-be 8th grader?  One likely heading toward the monumental task of studying engineering?  Heavy math, heavy science, etc.  (Oh my head.)

    Or should we just try IEW?  (My friend lives many hours away so seeing her materials isn’t practical and getting them will be a little work.)

    No matter what, I know it’s probably going to continue to be a very steep uphill battle.  Our ds is terrible at math, but showed greater understanding by using Rightstart, and I am now planning to start him on VideoText, hoping that it will be a good fit as well.  (He very likely has dyscalculia.)  I also just purchased Dr. Wile’s Discovering Design with Earth Science, in order to ease our ds slowly into the world of textbooks.  I’m so nervous!

    So I am positively stumped on what to do with writing.   Any ideas or experience with a very dyslexic dc heading toward a very profoundly academic load?

    I can’t wrap my mind around him even completely high school math, let along collage-level, plus I’m a total right brainer, former theater girl and feel abundantly out of my league!  I just don’t want to fail him and feel that I already have.

    Thank you in response for any replies!


    Karen Smith

    I can’t speak to the dyslexic side of things as I don’t have experience with that. However, I can tell you that even a child who starts narration later can progress to written narration. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend Karen Glass’ book Know and Tell: The Art of Narration. Know and Tell is a thorough look at narration, what it is, how to do it, how to turn written narrations into formal essays, and much more. It is chock full of useful information and encouragement for you. Also, if it helps, let him type his narrations.

    Discovering Design with Earth Science is not your average boring textbook. Dr. Wile’s style of writing is very conversational and he writes as if he is talking to the reader. Because your son also struggles with math, feel free to spread Earth Science out over more than one year if needed. Chemistry and physics both have prerequisites for math in order to complete the courses, so spreading out Earth Science and Biology (if doing) will give him time to learn the math needed for those courses.



    I just wanted to encourage you not to despair. The Lord will equip you to help your child accomplish all of the amazing things God has planned for him. It doesn’t all have to happen at the same speed or in the same style as another child.

    I really, really liked Susan Wise Bauers Writing with Ease when I had kids who were struggling with narrations. It really handholds mom through guiding the narration. It may not be totally CM in that is asks too many leading questions maybe. But it really helped one of my kids. If you get the hard cover book (not the consumable workbooks) it guides you through  4 levels I think. You can select your own literature for the copywork and narrations, making it suitable for older children.

    I have tried several times to love IEW, but it is definitely not our cup of tea.


    My oldest likely has dyslexia as well though more moderate. He’s going into 7th and good at oral narrations…but struggles mightily with spelling. We are having slow success with All About Spelling.

    Whatever writing you do, I would encourage you to start oral then scribe for him then have him write with out worrying about spelling or punctuation. This process could take a whole year to have him write push but gently. Also if he is diagnosed then even a college will give him accomodations. I know there is speech to text software that he could perhaps always use …then he could always use oral composition!

    I have not been very good at getting written composition done….I might try WriteShop this year, but maybe just make sure to do more written composition too….with 5 children and a baby coming very soon things sometimes drop here.

    Dr Wile has audio flash sticks for his books. I am getting that for atomic age for my son. He will also follow along in the textbook but it will likely help him get more out of it.

    Ditto here to RightStart we’re partly through G. Everytime I try something else he struggles. We’ve used it mostly all the way through.

    My husband is an engineer. He hated college and was not “good at school” like his grades were not that great. He has an engineering job now and is good at it. He understands how stuff works and keeps the manufacturing side in mind. This helps him be a lot more practical than some of his college comrades (who made A’s) were and helps him in the office.  I have no idea whether he would be called dyslexic or not now. His mother homeschooled him and coached him through his college writing classes. She is a good writer…..All I know is this, his spelling is atrocious (mine isn’t much better without spell check;) and he askes me arithmetic problems regularly:) But he understands calculus and differential equations! Though he disliked the classes greatly. He says no math is ever harder than the last class. It just always stays the same amount of hard as long as you understand it. He took aerospace engineering.

    Another encouragement…I took Greek in college and a fellow student was dyslexic. He really wanted to learn Greek though and got a tutor and did it. He worked very hard and put hours into it!


    Thank you all for the comments and suggestions.  Very, very encouraging!  I am also looking into each recommendation that has been made here.  🙂


    Ruralmama, I just noticed you said you’re using All About Spelling.  AAR worked great for us, but AAS not very well.  I thought I would share some of the things we’ve been using in case they might help down the line –  I know your hands will be full with a new baby though.  🙂

    Sequential Spelling has been moderately helpful along with a pneumonics spelling program by Christine Blance called Spelling Success.  I find approaching spelling from a few different directions really helps.

    Plus, we’re barely into Spelling Wisdom (2 pages lol) but so far, it seems promising.  Just will have to go slow.  DOUBLE PLUS!  I saw some videos about IEW’s Phonetic Zoo and have now been using it for two weeks.  It looks very promising and our son is actually enjoying it!  There are samples on the IEW’s website if you wanted to check it out.  It’s completely different than anything we’ve ever tried.  For now I’m going to use that in place of Sequential Spelling.  All tools in our survival toolbelt.

    From the writing standpoint, I just bit the very expensive IEW bullet, and now wish I did it years ago.  Our son LOVES watching Andrew Pudewa teach, and the step-by-step approach is very understandable so far.

    It is so encouraging to hear about your husband surviving college. 🙂  And his math perspective that no class was ever harder than the last… that helps my heart as well.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I also love how your husband’s mom coached him through college.  I never thought of that as a possibility!

    I’m a wee bit petrified about the high school years and college and know it will take a lot of leaning on the Lord to get through!


    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Thanks tabbyandtomato.</p>
    I’ll certainly look into those other spelling ideas if AAS starts not helping. He just finished level 3. We go slowly with extra review and we days where he just self studies the words either orally or with color coding.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>My son did not like it sample of IEW at all….he adametly wants me to teach writing not a video…</p>
    His oral narrations are good and organized so I’m trying written ones this year again as well as a little book called Write with the Best. I have IEW in the back of my head also thanks.


    I know this post is a little old, but I wanted to share what was a good fit for my dyslexic kiddo.

    We loved Essentials in Writing (EIW, not IEW) and spelling workout for spelling.

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