Dyslexia and unschooling reading

Our brains are all wired differently. I personally like to think of Dyslexia as a learning difference, rather than a disability. There is no such thing as a ‘standard brain’ to which all brains should be compared

I  think the emphasis on remediation of reading in schools in learners who display dyslexic-style difficulties tends to emphasise their weaknesses rather than their strengths.

I also happen to think that a lot of remediation in schools is a complete waste of time.

How it tends to work in school is that when a child has difficulty reading they have to do a lot of repetitive tasks, usually extra phonics or other well-meaning interventions either in 1 to 1 sessions or in small groups. Sometimes the extra sessions mean the child misses another subject, which might well be one they enjoy. This can go on for weeks, months or even years and often very slow progress is made.

With unschooling you get to bypass all these boring and stressful interventions allowing your child to focus on things they can do, until development and motivation coincide and they actually want to learn to read.

Instead of growing up feeling deficient, they can grow up feeling empowered.

In my year of training with the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, I was taught that structured, multi-sensory programs like Toe by Toe or Alpha to Omega can be great for dyslexic children/adults and can work wonders.  I have used both these programs with children in the past and they have been fantastic for the ones who are willing to have a go and progress is very motivating! However there have been other children that I have tried structured approaches with and they were resistant. If a child is resistant, there is usually a good reason. They are probably not ready or maybe just not willing for whatever reason. It might be that these programs are just not going to help them.

I personally think dyslexic children can learn to read without these programs (I have seen evidence), though it may well take longer. That’s ok though, there’s no rush although I consider that maintaining self-esteem is critical and certainly a reason to keep looking for solutions which might be continued patience and building esteem in other ways or it might mean being creative in our approaches and offering further ideas.

Offering further ideas might not mean looking for other structured or phonics based programs either. Personally when unschooling a child at home I think the most effective solutions will come from the child themselves. Spend time with your child, connect deeply and they will often show you how to help them. Talking supports reading and writing, so every conversation you have together helps build language skills. Read to them often, no matter how old they are (unless they don’t want you to), listen to audio books, visit libraries, read comics and age appropriate newspapers, play card games, board games and help them spell words in the video games they enjoy. Spend time encouraging them in all their interests because it will make a difference. A recent blog post I wrote on home education and learning to read is also completely relevant for dyslexic learners and you can read it here.

It’s worth remembering that Dyslexia exists as a condition because our society values the 3 R’s very highly. Many dyslexic learners are highly creative and imaginative, and sadly we appear to value these skills less. Medical researchers generally have a disease-based perspective regarding the brain. There is a lot of research into what is wrong with the left hemisphere of the brains of dyslexics, and far less research exists on an area in the right hemisphere which may be the source of poetic inspiration! (Coltheart, p.299-309)

Focus on your childs strengths and the weaknesses will just naturally improve.



Coltheart, M. ‘Deep Dyslexia Is Right Hemisphere Reading’, Brain and Language 71, no.2. Feb 2000