Homeschooling a Struggling Learner: Where Do I Find the Time?

By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

 “What is God thinking?” Doesn’t He know that you are already stretched to find the time in the day to teach all the subjects (heaven forbid we should skip one), to all four of your children, while still keeping the toddler and baby happy? How can you find the time needed to work one-on-one with this child who is struggling so hard to learn? You go through the day often thinking to yourself (but afraid to voice aloud), “Would the public school do a better job with him or her?”

If you are faced with one of these challenging situations you are not alone. Rest assured that homeschooling a struggling learner in a large family is being successfully done by hundreds of parents. Some important ideas for a homeschool mom to embrace, when embarking on this journey, are:

  1. Enabling a child who is struggling with a learning disability such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, etc., to obtain a one and a half to two year growth in a year is both necessary and possible. To achieve this, different methods need to be employed.
  2. This remedial teaching process requires more intense and individualized teaching sessions than many moms have been doing in the past. This usually involves two individual and tailored teaching sessions, four days a week with this child. This child cannot be effectively remediated by working in a group setting.
  3. Regular reading, writing and phonics programs, while good, work for “typical learners,” but not for children who have significant learning blocks.  You will need some specialized reading strategies and materials to accomplish these leaps in learning, versus just “progress” each year.  This does not need to be expensive, but it does need to be different than the regular curriculum you are using with the other children. These materials and teaching ideas are readily available for homeschooling moms.

One mom’s story

A homeschooling mom of six children I recently spoke with, who faced this challenge recalled her fear when faced with the need to spend one-on-one time with her daughter who was eight years old and had Dyslexia. Up to the time she began homeschooling her daughter, this mom thought she was a pretty amazing teacher, and homeschooling was “so easy” as her first two sons whizzed through the prepared curriculum. Since her daughter was as smart as her brothers, she was surprised when she began noticing her daughter having difficulty grasping even simple things. She could not say the alphabet (even with the song), write her name, or remember any of her letter names or sounds. She wanted to read so badly, that she would take a book and “pretend” to read. This almost broke her mother’s heart when she saw this.

This mom scheduled a consultation with an educational consultant. Her daughter was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Her daughter had one of the more severe forms of Dyslexia, affecting all three learning gates (visual, auditory and writing). That explained why her daughter even had difficulty singing the alphabet, much less remembering the letter names or sounds. But the consultant assured her that with daily consistent one-on-one teaching sessions, she could get her up to grade level at home. The consultant outlined a daily schedule for her to follow, and taught her specific teaching methods designed to open all of her daughter’s blocked learning gates.  But, this mom’s day was so full that the thought of spending and hour to and hour and a half with just one child seemed overwhelming to her.  As she prayed about this, bringing her fears to God, she came to realize that God had brought her answer to her daughter’s learning challenges, and that this one-on-one time was crucial for her daughter’s progress.

The mother told me that, frankly, at this point educating her daughter had become so frustrating for both of them (using the old teaching methods and regular curriculum), that she had drastically reduced the amount of time they spent on it each day. But she was determined to help her daughter, even though she did not know how she could possibly give her daughter the individual time she needed and continue her older sons’ education, plus manage her four year old, two year old and newborn’s schedules.

Time Management Suggestions

Using the mindset of “whatever it takes”, this mom came up with several methods to get this job done. The following are her suggestions for other parents who are working with this challenge/opportunity at home:

  1. Set your priorities. The biggest realization she had was that teaching her daughter to read was the most important thing to focus on. Her two older brothers, who were working at grade level, could afford to take a break if necessary, while she concentrated on her daughter for a while. She found that her children who were not struggling with a learning disability could catch up in a short time. She reduced the amount of curriculum she covered during the school year. If needed, she would play some “catch up” during the summer.
  2. Realistically look at your daily schedule. She closely looked at what daily family outside activities she could drop, or at least put on hold for a while. Music lessons, sports, field trips, even extra church activities needed to be set aside for a period. It is often more difficult for mothers to give up the extra activities than for the children.
  3. Create time in the day. She decided to have her daughter get up an hour earlier than the others, so that they could have their first forty-five minute reading one-on-one tutoring time. This worked very well.
  4. Extend your teaching time.  She also made sure that the other children were up, breakfasted and ready for the school by eight thirty. (After her first tutoring session with her daughter). She found this extra time enabled her to get in the second forty-five minute teaching session for a tailored writing and spelling instruction in the afternoon, since the others were finished with their work.
  5. Delegate outside the family. She found a teenager in her church who wanted to earn a little money, and came over for an hour a day to do some of the teaching with the other children. She found that it was important for her to work with her struggling learner, and not delegate that task, since she knew the special teaching strategies that worked best with her daughter to keep the progress going. If funds are tight, a parent might consider instead, just checking out history, science or literature videos from the library to keep the other children productively entertained during the one-on-one session with the struggling child.

It’s All Worth It

This mom reported that the individual time invested with her daughter was invaluable. She realized that she would not have been able to accomplish this progress with her daughter by keeping her in the family teaching setting. She had to have some time to receive very specific teaching strategies and curriculum. After about six months of more concentrated time with her, this mom found that her daughter had made incredible progress and was now able to work alongside the other children more of the time. This was not the end of the daily tutoring sessions, but a very encouraging beginning!

She said that this was definitely a labor intensive process, but now, no one would ever know that her daughter ever had dyslexia.  Her daughter is now a Junior at a four year college. To their amazement, her daughter received a scholarship because of the good essay she wrote for her entrance requirements. She even tested out of freshman English course. This is the same little girl who, at age eight, could not tell you the letters in her name, much less write even one word!

So, be encouraged! It is work, but you definitely can do it. God will help you every step of the way!


The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.

Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado. More articles and information are available at diannecraft.org.

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