I started showing signs of dyslexia and auditory processing disorder early in life. I was a late talker, would sometimes place my hands over my ears when I heard loud noises, and often misunderstood words. For example, I would say “spiber” for “spider.” This became such an area of concern that my parents had my hearing checked, but I had perfect hearing.
My preschool teacher told my parents that I was very bright and in the top 5 percent of the class, but I was delayed in some areas. I struggled with things like tying my shoes and staying focused.
I had the hardest time learning to count from 1 to 100. I remember how it took my mother a month of working with me every night before the numbers finally “clicked.” I was a walking contradiction of smart but struggling, and my parents weren’t sure what to do.
Some of my teachers weren’t too sure either. I remember my first-grade teacher getting frustrated with me for asking another student to help me tie my shoes. I just didn’t want to trip!
Another teacher wouldn’t tell me how to spell the word violets for a “Get Well Soon” card to a classmate. She suggested I use the dictionary. I think she wanted me to be self-sufficient, but using a dictionary was a nightmare for me because of my dyslexia.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to look the word up, and I was too embarrassed to hand in a card with a misspelled word. So when my teacher wasn’t looking, I crumpled up my card and hid it in the trash can. No one ever found out.
When I was little, I thought people were being mean to me. But looking back, I think they just didn’t understand me. People sometimes said I was just being lazy or acting spoiled. But in fact I was trying extremely hard, and I was angry at myself.
In second grade, the school formally identified me with auditory processing disorder. After that, the school decided to give me an that included therapy for my speech issues. My mother asked for me to be tested for dyslexia too, but the school said no. She then decided to take me to a private evaluator who diagnosed me with dyslexia.
It was a tough time for me. I was getting some services, but no support for my dyslexia. Around the same time, a teacher I’d bonded with ended up leaving the school. I was crushed. My parents talked to an outside advocate, but it didn’t seem like I was going to get any more help for my dyslexia.
So my parents decided to pull me out of school at the end of third grade. We lived in an extremely small town in Illinois that didn’t have other school options, so my mom decided to homeschool me.
We had a rough start. During the summer after third grade, I focused on relearning second- and third-grade math. Then my mother repeated all of third grade, but with a homeschool curriculum.
There were moments when I’m sure my mother wanted to give up. She’d never gone to college and wasn’t an expert on dyslexia. She worried she wasn’t doing the right thing.
But she turned out to be an excellent teacher. She also sent me to a dyslexia tutor to help supplement what she was doing.
Sometimes, when I was watching shows like Boy Meets World, I envied my old classmates. School lockers seemed so cool on TV. But both my mother and I knew that going back wasn’t the right choice for me.
Homeschooling turned out to have some perks. We could be very flexible with our schedule. We weren’t limited by hours, and I sometimes learned a week’s worth of material in a single day. My mom didn’t have to take roll, and we didn’t have to rush to do back-to-school shopping every year. I also didn’t have to eat those terrible school lunches with the soggy green beans.
Most important, I had freedom to just be me. I didn’t feel like I had to hide my weaknesses. Homeschooling made me a more secure kid because I got to pick the learning method and environment that worked for me. No one could tell me to page through a dictionary for some obscure word.
And even though I was homeschooled, the public school let me take band lessons, which I loved. Social life was also never a problem—I had a lot of friends from church, community theater and babysitting. And in high school, being homeschooled allowed me to do a lot outside the classroom, like working at a local bed-and-breakfast and at local trade shows.
When I graduated from my homeschool program, I applied to college...and got in! The transition was tough because I didn’t have the support of a public school with counselors and IEP documents. But I made it through college and in 2016 graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in communication and writing.
I sincerely think that without my mother’s sacrifice to homeschool me, I wouldn’t have gone to college. I’m forever grateful to her for what she did.
And so to whoever is reading this, I hope you find the best type of learning environment for your child—homeschooling or not. I hope you use all the tools Understood provides. They’re sharing knowledge I wish my parents would have had access to 15 years ago. I hope you learn to focus on your child’s strengths as much as you focus on working on weaknesses.
After all, I used to be a little girl hiding her misspelled card in a trash can. But today, I’m a confident college graduate with a bright future ahead of me.
Read more about the pros and cons of homeschooling. Learn about the difference between dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. And find out what a mom wishes other people knew about parenting a child with auditory processing disorder.
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About the author
Shaynee Sherwood graduated from Oral Roberts University with a bachelor’s degree in communication and writing.