Topic | Help with learning to read

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  • Momoffour

    Hi Everyone, I’ve been a long time lurker and have learned a lot from all of you. We are new to Charlotte Mason and I am new to writing on forums so please excuse any mistakes I make.

        I am looking for help on what to do with my 9 year old son. We have always homeschooled him. A couple of years ago, I noticed that he was struggling with reading and handwriting so we had some outside help for him. After 2 years he is still struggling with basic phonics and his tutors decided he need a break so they said they would see him again in April and do what I can at home.

         I can get him to learn short vowel sounds but when we move to long vowel sounds or any other phonic rules, it’s like he forgets what he learned before. He can read a little but if he reads a word on one page he can’t figure it out again on the next page.  It seems that regular reading programs aren’t working for him. I’ve tried 5 different ones so far. I’m out of money and out of ideas on how to help him. His tutors say he is unmotivated and he says he is just stupid. Either way it’s breaking my heart that I don’t know what to do to help him.

         I don’t feel like I can go 5 months without any kind of reading help for him.  I don’t know alot about all the Simply Charlotte Mason  curriculm. Is there something different that can help him?  I’m looking for any suggestions. My husband says if I can’t come up with something maybe public school would be better for him. I don’t want that. Please help.

        Sorry for the long post and thanks in advance.



    MomofFour!  Welcome. My heart aches with you.  Been there!

    I just could not sleep, house was too hot, so I checked the forum and saw your post!


    Throw out your preconceived notions of what dyslexia is and then please please go and look at these free videos and see if it fits


    Orton Gillingham approach to reading and spelling is a must for dyslexics, and recently my friends and I have come to the conclusion it would really be good for ALL to learn since our language is NOT full of guesswork like we all think it is.  It follows very clear rules, just so few of us know them!

    The Orton Gillingham methods that I can think of are in no particular order:

    All About Spelling, All About Reading


    Logic of English


    I think there are 3 or 4 more out there, but it is late, and my memory is failing me.


    It is the methodology that is important, not the curriculum.  And if he does have dyslexia…they struggle in some areas, but seriously excel in others.  His feeling stupid is not uncommon… But it does NOT have to be this way.  That is a common response when learning something that isn’t making sense.

    If you find tht it is dyslexia (remember to throw out your ideas of what that is…mine were so wrong it isn’t funnny)…it will be a gift to both of you.  It seriously gave my daughter (found it at 9) and I renewed confidence and motivation.

    Since we found out, we have consistently been able to make progress!

    It is also something that isn’t found or remediated well in the public school.  

    May the Lord give you WISDOM and peace!




    I agree with what previous poster said and jjust wanted to add that I have not had my son diagnosed, but I did quite a bit of research. My son thought he was dumb too and I could tell he was trying, but things jjust weren’t connecting and he wanted to give up. It got so that his eyes would start to well up as soon as I said to start spelling or phonics etc… Surprisingly for my son, he can read fairly well, but can not spell to save his life, which means he can’t write and this is driving him crazy.  I couldn’t afford many of the programs especially since I had done so many and did not get results, so I tried some of the methods at home on my own. This is what was the clincher for us… I took a pair of kids safety glasses and blacked out the right eye. So while he does spelling & phonics he wears these. I highlight blends in a color, consonant diagraphs, vowel pairs, etc. and jjust pooint out patterns in his spelling words as we go over them. Something about the right brain needing this info not the left and dyslexics process language in the left brain so I cover the right eye so it force the information into the left eye which goes to the right brain. Anyway, it works for us. He is now making 100’s or higher on his spelling but the most important thing is that I am able to give him bonus words that he hasn’t seen or studied and he has been able to spell them corrrectly. When he reads, he is still missing catching Mr. and Mrs. it is like he doesn’t see the s. Or if he is having trouble with a word, he covers his right eye and tries to work it out. Most times he is successful. Will this work for you? can’t say… they are all different and the severity from kid to kid is different, but don’t give up hope.  Also, I say my son down and expalin to him that not only do we all lokk different but God makes all our brains different too and we just haven’t found the learning style of his brain yet for language and that he isn’t dumb. This made a world of difference with my son. Also on netflix there is a movie called Temple Grandin and she had autism, but it is a movie that shows how she was different too and everyone judged her too quickly, but in the end, once they learned how to connect with her brain, she was awesome. My son enjoyed the movie and it hleped him to get that different doesn’t mean less and it made him more open to keep trying because he was worth it. My son is 8 and he is finishing up 2nd grade Seton Spelling (this si just a catholic spelling workbook) and he is midway through 3rd grade phonics workbook. As for his reading, it has improved immensely and he progressing through the 3rd grade readers this year.  Keep at it but truly talk to him about it so he understands that you are both on the same team and that he will have to work hard, but you will be there with him. Best of Luck and God Bless.


    Just a plug for the BArton reading and spelling program.  We’re finishing up Level 2 and Level 3 is on its way to us.  My daughter is beginning to really enjoy reading now.  She still isn’t up to grade level (she’s 8yo, so 3rd grade), but she can spell now!  (Level 2 is all the consonants, 5 digraphs, and all short vowel sounds).

    My daughter was 8 (the beginning of this school year) when we started with the Barton program and she’s made such strides.  The first level was way-easy for her, but she needed that level to get into the method of how they ahve you do things.

    The Barton program is very specific about what to say and do – and it’s important!  I don’t understand quite all the reasoning behind the exact steps you follow in each lesson, but they work.

    The Barton people are also fabulous at support, no matter where you buy the Levels.  (I buy mine used from Evelyn Smith – she’s listed on the Bright Solutions or the Barton Reading website as the authorized re-seller.)  You MUST watch the DVDs before teaching the lessons.  That has caused me some very late nights – but the DVDs are so helpful for fixing problems, the hints for helping the b-d confusion, etc. 

    I do find the DVDs a bit tedious to watch because Susan Barton talks so slowly and carefully.  But then, I remind myself that she’s speaking carefully so that she’s understood.  I speed up the DVDs on my laptop to 1.2x the normal speed and that’s about perfect for me! *L*

    Best wishes! – and don’t feel guilty about not discovering your son’s problem until now or anything like that!!  Just remember, that had he been in school (any school where there were more than a handful of kids in the class), the same thing would have probably happened.  As it is now, you can get him up to speed because you are his mother and love him like no other.  You also can skimp on some other subjects so that he can concentrate on reading. 



    I think that he is at about the normal age for finding these types of problems, so don’t blame yourself or him. 

    In addition to looking into dyslexia as talked about by the previous posters, you might consider processing disorders. My sweet dd struggled for years with learning to read because she couldn’t remember words from one page to the next. She was in public school and she didn’t get the individual help that was necessary to help her progress (the teachers do not have time for individual help!) That came after I started researching and pulled her out for homeschooling. I found a lot of ideas that have really worked and helped my daughter from Dianne Craft’s website. Read the articles first. Then you will have a better idea of what you need to look for/do. Here’s the link:

    One thing that I would STRONGLY recommend is that you spread the whole feast of ideas for your son as taught in a CM school. He needs the chance to find areas that stimulate his mind and interests and give him confidence. History, science, literature read alouds, music study, picture study, poetry, creative art, outsdoor time, and especially Nature Study are wonderful ways to develop his memory, his enjoyment, and his interest in learning. It helps his ability to think, to remember, to want to know more, and most importantly, will help him realize that he is NOT stupid…that he can excell somewhere in his school subjects. Drawn/oral Narrations as done in a CM education are vital to struggling learners – it proves to them that they CAN learn and enjoy it. Spreading the feast and using drawn and oral  narrations was the turning point for my daughter as we implemented the things we were learning from Dianne Craft.


    Another person who agrees that it is dyslexia, or another problem that gives dyslexia symptoms. Give your son some grace, he is probably working very hard for the meager results. Putting him in school would be horrible – he would get the message that he is stupid even stronger than he has. His current reading tutors obviously don’t recognize the dyslexia or use methods effective for dyslexics, so I would stop using them.

    Orton-Gillingham is the most recommended method to teach reading to dyslexics – there are a few less expensive methods that work with some dyslexics…. Dancing Bears from the UK is one that workswell for some.

    Research Dyslexia. Let him know he is not alone…. that made a huge difference for my son…. knowing there were others.

    Give the rich education of CM through reading aloud to him and audiobooks while working with him. Dyslexics are usually VERY intelligent, and they need that chance to learn at their comprehension level.

    Btw – dyslexics often struggle learning math facts too, as well as spelling and writing. It can all get frustrating for the teacher/mom as well as for them. Be patient, even when you think you have none left.


    Suzukimom – you mentioned that dyslexics often struggle with math.  This was true for my daughter.  She’s half-way through her 2nd grade math curriculum (she’s 8yo, and by age would be in 3rd grade).  But since we’ve started with Barton (the beginning of this school year), I’m noticing that she’s reading the word problems better; she’s retaining facts better; and she’s even able to do nearly a whole lesson at one sitting.  (She used to just do 1/4 of a lesson, and then we got her up to 1/2 a lesson, and we’re slowly getting to a whole lesson at one time.)

    I’m not saying that the Barton program helped her with math – there’s nothing math-y about it.  However, I do think that having her do the steps in her reading lessons (Barton) have carried over to math.  She recognizes that she has to do things slowly and in order.  I also think the confidence she’s gained from the Barton program is helping her be more successful at math.

    All that being said, she still asks me to write the answers for her math work sometimes.  And I do it.  I really feel like sometimes writing is hard for her (Another thing dyslexics often have trouble with), if she’s willing to tell me the answers, I can write them down.  The important thing is that she’s learning math.



    I used Times Tales DVD with my son and we have had no problems with him learning his times tables and of course that makes division so much easier!! I highly recommend.


    Hi everyone, You all are so fantistic. I spent most of the day study about dyslexia and Diana Craft and Susan Barton. I have learned a lot.  I am thinking my son does have dyslexia.

         I gave him the student test on the Barton Reading and Spelling website and he did not pass it. According to the website he isn’t ready for Barton and has auditory discrimination problems.  The website said that the LiPs program may help but his speech therapist is away on maternity leave for the next three months. Any ideas on what I can do to work on auditory discrimination?

         I am taking all of your suggestions to heart and am going to try to implement them. I do like the ideas that everyone suggested. Do you all think he will pick up a lot if I read. read read to him? Do you think it will hurt if I continue to do most of his writing for him? I’m even more lost and confused now.

         He wants no part of school right now. would you give him a break from it?  Giving him the test today was like pulling teeth. Tears, anger and frustration were the order of the day for him during it. Thank you all so much for your suggestions and your kindness. I’m so glad I stopped lurking and started writing.


    Ok, here is my 2 cents. Put away all schoolwork for a while. At least a week or two. During that time let him do stuff he enjoys – sports or physical stuff? Music? Drawing? Whatever his thing might ge if he has one…. the ones I mentioned are sometimes strong points for dyslexics…. Do a couple of field trips, do some basic nature study…. during this time you can do more research. I recommend looking at to help you on what type of accommodations are available if reading is always a struggle, as well as how to help your son feel better about himself and to speak up for himself.

    Btw, if you can, I’d look into teasting. There are other things that can mimic dyslexia, as well as differences in dyslexia. That said, we haven’t as we can’t afford it….

    After a couple of weeks you could start adding in the riches of CM. Picture study, composer study, etc. Then you could add in literature and history etc – with you doing the reading to him. (My son LOVES history… he can’t read it on his own, but listens to me or audiobooks, or sometimes text-to-speech). Possibly math, with you doing any writing for him if that frustrates him.

    I probably wouldn’t start on any reading stuff until January… let there be time for the frustration to lessen. Same with writing. Spelling isn’t even on the list at this time of course.

    Your son will not likely learn anything about reading by your reading to him (as a dyslexic), but by reading to him he will learn other subjects at his comprehension level. My son is 11 and I am reading real Shakespeare and Plutarch to him and he is getting it…


    Oh, and I did find a couple of videos on Youtube explaining dyslexia that I’ve let my son watch. I told him beforehand that although he hadn’t been tested, I thought that he probably had it. It made a big difference to how he felt about himself.



    I have one, my eldest dd10.5, I am doing Barton with, and 3 who are not yet ready.

    My 7y/o son is one of them. I cannot afford a lips tutor. Period. Can’t! So after much prayer and supplication, The Lord provided (through an ‘expert’ in the field, some recommendations. Zoo Phonics, the home program, is one of the very few phonics programs that deals with phonemic awareness. And all the children love it dd,10.5 included. Dyslexia is about hearing sounds not necessarily seeing them. For example…out of 4 children ages 4 to 10.5 only one of mine can say the sound sh, and that is child #3 who is 5.5. The 10.5dd can hear it, but her braces make it very challenging to say. But the ds7 can not even hear a difference between s and sh. He never says sh. It is as if it doesn’t exist. So fish is fis. And if I try to get him to identify which sound I am saying alone or in words he can’t. He’s had difficulty w j and ch…but did finally hear it and began to replace all the ch w/ j in a game, chin=jin , church=jurj, char=jar, etc. This was a great breakthrough that had him giggling wildly. But we are still working on sh vs s.

    Using the mirror is also very important…

    All the children were having difficulty with hearing the difference between w and r, even dd10.5. So in Barton she needed to spell twig. She wrote trig. After working the Barton way a while, I stopped and said listen carefully. Do you hear the difference?…and I said it slowly carefully twig and trig. Exasperated, she said, Mommy you are saying the exact same! At that point, I regrouped. The next day we all sat in front of the mirrored closet door after listening to the ZooPhonics video go through the alphabet, with their animals, sounds, and corresponding kinetic movements, and highlighting and repeating the r and w. We practiced the following sentence until all even the 4 yo could say it correctly. Robby Rabbit runs, and Willy Weasel wiggles. It was quite riotous as you can imagine but very successful.

    Another thing is to help them see where their tongue and lips are placed. There are many pairs that have the exact same placement in the mouth…the only difference being whether you vibrate you throat or not. This is call voiced and unvoiced.

    Examples: p and b Say both sounds with hand resting gently on throat. B vibrates, p doesn’t. B is voiced, p is not. Teeth, mouth, tongue all the same. Make sure when say sounds you are not adding the uh sound at the end. Just say the b sound not the buh sound!

    T and D are pairs.

    G and K are pairs.


    So your goal needs to be to get him willing and as eager as possible to learn…that is going to take communication, honesty, and gentle understanding and a lot of patience! And to get him to hear the sounds well. Sound discrimination, phonemic awareness. Lots of games suitable.

    ZooPhonics home program might work. Logic of English might work…either their early program for preschoolers…which my friend loves. Or their school age program – covering quite a range- which my other friend loves. Nice thing about both programs…they are mastery paced. Very important. And Logic of English will teach you about Phonemic Awareness, voiced, unvoiced, etc.

    God Bless you, and may you and your son and your husband begin to see what a gift this knowledge can be for you all!



    Agree with Suzuki

    Let him rest and enjoy the riches out there while you regroup and prep him/enroll him to join you in mastering this. And yes, be his scribe if needed. My daughter composed an amazing 7 page letter with me as her typist scribe. She was so articulate and fast, I had to type to keep up! It took her a month to write it all correctly in her own handwriting without mistakes, but she was determined! Her handwriting is beautiful, by the way, art. Art is one of her gifts. She tries to write on her own more and more. Word boxes/lists are very useful. During science the other day I offered to scribe, oh, no, thx Mommy and she copied the spelling of the answers very very carefully from the text I had read to her.

    Give this time. Love him, lift him up, pray over and with him, show him his uniqueness, gifts, talents, etc…and equip him to succeed by teaching him in a way that helps dyslexics meet and exceed in all these troublesome areas.




    Maybe this video will help. Denise Eide gives many practical tips in this informative video. She wrote the Logic of English Essentials curriculum that may be a possible solution for your child. She embraces literacy difficulties. 🙂 We do her Foundations curriculum and I just can’t speak highly enough of it. I also sent you a private message.


    Hoping not to cause more confusion, but my current, favorite programs are from I have one of the math books and just ordered the reading program. My daughter is in Kindergarten and struggling with reading. I also have a highschooler who is dyslexic.

    I like Child 1st because she was a teacher who studied children and found methods that worked, versus an educational elitist trying to cram every child into their sacred method(not saying all other methods are bad, but they don’t work for every child). I am learning a lot from her blog posts. She uses visuals, stories, body movements, etc. I hope to learn the methods and apply them to other subjects.

    She was homeschooled by missionary parents and played outside a lot, so she gets the Charlotte Mason ideals.

    I found Child1st by Googling right brained math.

    I got a book called “The Right Side of Normal” by, Cindy Gaddis from our public library. It is about right brained learners. I learned a lot from it and feel that we are on the right track now. She leans towards unschooling more than I do, but she uses some curriculum. She is a homeschooling mom who has multiple children who are late readers.

    She said that many right brained learners love to learn but hate to be taught in the traditional way. That is my dd. She also needs to know the big picture and what the learning objective is for the lesson.

    We have a long way to go, but at least she stopped saying she is dumb and her stress level has lessened. I stopped reading lessons for a few weeks, and we will start with the Child1st kit soon.

    Don’t give up, and hang in there. I know how awful it feels to hear your child say they are dumb.

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