CM 3 Episode  #19 Charlotte Mason and Dyslexic Students with Julie H. Ross and Nicole Williams

CM 3 Episode #19 Charlotte Mason and Dyslexic Students with Julie H. Ross and Nicole Williams

Links and Resources:

Show Notes:

Nicole Williams has been home educating her three children using Charlotte Mason’s principles and methods for 16 years. She also taught four of her adopted siblings from middle school through graduation. Watching the feast of life-giving ideas restore her sibling’s innate love of learning inspired her to dig deeper into Mason’s philosophy of education and then to share her experiences with others. She does that now by co-hosting the podcast A Delectable Education, writing at SabbathMoodHomeschool.com, and teaching workshops. She is the author of Living Science Study Guides, where she helps families and schools implement Charlotte Mason’s particular way of teaching science. Beyond studying Charlotte Mason’s writings, sharing what she has learned, and homeschooling her own children, Nicole enjoys working in her garden, collecting living books, hiking with her family, and, of course, reading a good book.

Resources Mentioned:

Seeing AI app

Davis Dyslexia

Orton-Gillingham

B.A.R.D. (Blind and Reading Disabled)

“I need not waste time in attempting to convince the reader of what we all know, that a liberal education, like justice, religion, liberty, fresh air, is the natural birthright of every child.”- Charlotte Mason in A Liberal Education, No.1.Theory, “An Important Experiment”

Show Transcript:

CM EP 19



Julie -

Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. A podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool. So pull up a chair, we're glad you're here.

Today's episode of the Charlotte Mason Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at medishare.com.

The Charlotte Mason Show would also like their sponsor, Operation Christmas Child. Now, more than ever, children need hope. As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, we want to let them know that God loves them and has not forgotten them. The best way to get involved is to pack a shoebox yourself. As you specially select each item, packing a shoebox becomes a blessing for you, as well as the child who receives it. Be sure to include a personalized note and photo. If packing a traditional shoebox isn't an option for you this year, we can do it for you. Build a shoebox online. You can find out more SamaritansPurse.org/occ. Again, that's SamaritansPurse.org/occ.

Real quick, before we jump into today's episode, I wanted to give a little listener shoutout to Michelle Fitzpatrick, who left this review in iTunes. She wrote it's a great support to a new homeschooling mom. She says, hi, I find that this podcast is such a great support to a new homeschool mom. I feel this is a place where I can get motivated to keep going, try new things, and be resilient when things just don't go as planned.

Aw, thank you so much, Michelle, for saying that. Yes, things often don't go as planned, don't they? And we all need motivation. Even myself. So thank you so much for saying that about this podcast. I am so thankful that you have found it to be motivating and an encouragement for you. And I know our lives are super busy, but if you have a second and can leave a review for this podcast in iTunes, that would be super helpful. Or give it a ranking. That'll help get the word out about us. So, thank you everyone who has left a review or rated the podcast.

Alright, let's jump into today's episode.




Hey everyone. Julie Ross here. On today's episode, I'm going to be talking with Nicole Williams, and we're gonna be talking about using the Charlotte Mason philosophy with a student who struggles specifically with dyslexia. And I'm really just so thankful for Nicole being so transparent with her children in the difficulties that they've had, and just some of the ways that they have just kinda worked around and how this philosophy has helped grow their children in so many different ways. And so I think you're really gonna enjoy this conversation.

Nicole Williams has been educating her three children using Charlotte Mason's principles and methods for sixteen years. She also taught four of her adopted siblings from Middle school through graduation. Watching the feast of life-giving ideas restore her siblings innate love of learning inspired her to dig deeper into Mason's philosophy of education and share her experiences with others.

You probably know her as the co-host on the Delectable Education podcast. She also writes at SabbathMoodHomeschool.com, and she does teaching workshops. She's also the author of Living Science study guides, where she helps families and schools implement Charlotte Mason's particular way of teaching science. Beyond studying Charlotte Mason's writings, sharing what she has learned in homeschooling her own children, Nicole enjoys working in her garden, collecting books, hiking with her family, and of course, reading a good book.

So let's get into today's show.




Hello everyone. Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I am so excited today to be here with Nicole Williams. You probably recognize her from The Delectable Ed podcast from her Sabbath Mood Homeschool science guides. But today, we're going to talk about a totally different topic. And that is dyslexia and how to reach a student with that particular struggle in a Charlotte Mason education. So, thank you so much, Nicole, for being willing to come on and talk about this. I know that is a difficult subject to talk about.

Nicole -

Oh, you're absolutely welcome. I'm thrilled to be here.

J -

And, you know, just for everyone, just so you know. Neither Nicole or myself are reading specialists or special education experts. We are here to talk, really, with each other, but to allow you in on the conversation. Just as homeschool moms, just chatting about our kids, you know. Imagine we're all just sitting at Starbucks or something. And, talking through, like, what works for you? And what didn't work for you? And how, you know, how can we make this rich style of education work for students whose learning styles might be a little different. And so, I'm excited to get to talk to you about it today.

But before we get started, can you just kinda give people a little idea of you and your family and what you're up to?

N -

Sure. I have been homeschooling for sixteen years now. My oldest is 21. And my two girls that I'm still homeschooling are 15 and 17 right now. So, I'm getting towards the end. And before them, I actually homeschooled with my son before my two little girls started school. They're not so little anymore, but they are. They were at the time. They were just toddlers. I was actually homeschool three of my siblings and a niece as well for a while, and that was right at the beginning of my Charlotte Mason days. I had already homeschooled my son for a couple years. And, before we switched to Charlotte Mason. And they had all been foster children for many years. And then came to live with my parents permanently and came to homeschool with me. So I sometimes kinda cringingly, because I know it's upsetting to some people, but I sometimes refer to them as damaged learners because they had moved schools so many times through foster care placement. And so, moving schools around, all different public schools, they had really lost their love of learning completely. And so it was just really a beautiful curriculum to get them started with.

So, for awhile there, I had seven kids that I was homeschooling, but I'm down to two high schoolers now, so. Why is it different these days, you know?

J -

Oh, goodness, yes. And so, just tell us a little bit about, kind of, your journey with realizing that one of them... or I don't know, maybe it's more than one, that has dyslexia. How did that come about?

N -

Yeah. Yeah, actually I do have more than one. I have two that have dyslexia. My son, you know, we knew there was something wrong, but we attributed it to him not trying hard enough. He just kept...

J -

Oh, yes. That's my story too.

N -

??? Try harder, and this is important that you can remember which letter is which, and things like that. And I can vividly remember sitting at the table with my husband and my son and my kinda, slamming his hand on the table. And I was no different. We were both just in a panic place. You know? And, you know, Tom said, you've got to try harder. And I tell you, it is one of...well, I would say, the biggest regret of my entire life was that period of time where we just continued to push him. And because of that, actually, when my daughter, who's four years younger than my son, became the age to learn to read and wasn't showing much in the way of interest, I really backed off, because I thought, not only did I suspect, already, that she was having some problems, but because I knew a little bit more about it. But, also, she had seen all of this pushing that we had done with her brother, and I just felt this sense of, we have just got to take this slow and easy, and I'm so glad we did. The difference between the two was night and day.

She has a mild dyslexia, I would say. She definitely has dyslexia but has just steadily worked at it and reads. She reads slow, but she reads, and she struggles with spelling. But we just keep working on it. I'm sure we'll talk about that kind of stuff a little bit. But, my son, at 21 years old, still barely reads. I say he's probably at about a fourth-grade level. We did do some remediation. It was very successful, but he never has got...and, I should say, he's never really reached adult level of reading, but he continues to make progress. It is shocking to me sometimes to see him pick up his phone and read a meme or something. And he's reading it. So, he has continued to make progress throughout his life, and I think the key with him has been to not make him feel stupid. And to allow him some work arounds that actually do help keep him learning because when he listens to things on his phone, reads things to him, and he's reading along, it's like he's continuing reading lessons his whole life.

J -

Right.

N -

Yeah. But it...we did eventually go through David's dyslexia program with him. And that was really great. I can't speak to any other programs. I, you know, we didn't do anything else, so, and like you said, I'm not an expert in this area, but that program...it was expensive. My parents actually helped us to pay for it at the time, and we made payments to them, but it made a huge difference for him. And part of the reason was because it really played off of history. And his ability to visualize. So, that was helpful. But yeah, that's been our journey. Just, it's been...I always said that I would begin talking about this, writing on my blog and such, when we got to the other side of it. When we found the fix. That never happened, and it has been kind of an...it's been important for me to come to terms with that. And recognize them as being a whole person despite these difficulties that they have.

J -

Yeah, I really like what you said about it having this...it is a spectrum, right? And so, you know, even in a family, you can have children who are on one end and then children who are on the other end, and so, I think sometimes, folks can, you know, if they get a diagnosis or they're concerned about it, they don't necessarily realize that. Like they think, okay, well, they're probably never gonna read, or they're always gonna struggle and that. Well, then there's kids who just need some kind of intervention, and they can be kind of on the level that they would normally be at. Or, not normally, but generally expected reading levels of a certain age. And, you know, progress from there. But, it is a...as it is a spectrum, and you know, my story is very similar too, with, I have two children as well, and the first one that had the reading difficulties, it was very hard because they had older siblings who were reading very well and I thought, again, it was the attitude, disobedience thing, and there were tears and gnashing of teeth, and tantrums, every day when it came to reading and felt terrible parent. And, you know, it wasn't till about two years later that I figured out what it was and that it wasn't an obedience issue. And, I think both of us would just say, for, I know I can't speak for you, but for me, I would say, you know, parents too, if your child...you're trying to teach them to read. They're six, and they're struggling, you know, just either take a step back. Sometimes kids just aren't developmentally ready. Just cause they're six, it's not like this magical number. But that also...you know, it also might be something. So, you know, just kind of back up a little bit. Go real slow. You know? And don't wait too long. I do feel like, sometimes, too, they can...people, like, oh well, you know? They wanna push reading, so, you know, now my kid's nine and now we're just starting, and I'm like, well, there might be something there, then. You know you don't wanna wait too long and then never get some needed interventions as well. So.

N -

Right. I think there's kind of two things to think about in there, and one is that there's a lot of children whose brains just don't catch up to, you know, the synapses hooking up to make it possible for them until they're a little older. And I hear story after story of people who, their child wasn't...until they were ten or twelve when they started to read. The other thing is, is that many of us who homeschool do not have a background in education. And teaching reading and we don't remember our days of learning to read, so we don't remember that this actually took a lot of time, you know. Even the multiplication tables. We did not sit down and learn them in a month. It probably took a year or more for us to have all those memorized. So, we kinda think we're gonna sit down and teach our children to read and those first days of first grade, and that's that. It's not really gonna happen that way.

The other thing is that I didn't really realize until later. Again, I did not begin with Charlotte Mason ??? there's a lot of the prereading stuff that...

J -

Yes. Yes. Absolutely.

N -

When that child...yeah, when that child is ready, which, for some, it's well before school even starts. And in fact, my third child taught herself how to read entirely. And she was just moving steadily through those very standard things that kids do that I wasn't looking for because I had two that didn't do them. But there's a lot that we can be doing and doing regular lessons with our kids that are age-appropriate that are not including that gnashing of teeth and always being in a place where they are uncomfortable. So, we learn more about Charlotte Mason's method of teaching reading. I think that what we can do is find the right place for them to be at and just continue daily working on that stuff. I did it with a high schooler, so it's not that we are going to offend them by bullying them or doing a level that's not proper for them, but we can continue to work on these things step by step in a much more peaceful way.

J -

Yeah. And I think, yeah, that's a really good key too, is that you know, we...the way that Charlotte Mason did teach reading is so unique and I love it. Just how she had these captivating ideas and got their attention, and it's not this drudgery of boring, you know, three-letter words that don't even make any sense sometimes, and kids are like, why am I doing this? Right? But, it is beautiful and inspiring and so, yeah, I think the progress my kids did make, despite their learning difficulties, was because of the way that she taught kids how to read. And then if I wouldn't have been doing that, they would never have made the progress that they were able to make before I started to realize, like, oh, this isn't...something's, you know, going on here.

Yeah, and so, you talked a little bit about, you know, Charlotte Mason's philosophy for teaching them how to read. How about, you know, just kind of overarching, how does that fit in with the student who might have dyslexia?

N -

That...the actual teaching that reading?

J -

Yeah. Or, just the...you know, the philosophy in general. How...cause I get that question a lot. Like, well I really like, you know, Charlotte Mason, but there's so many books. Can my kid...they're dyslexic and I don't think this is gonna work for us. I hear that a lot, I don't know about you.

N -

I see what you mean. Yeah, it is kind of daunting, you know? And I remember, this is how I came to Charlotte Mason, in fact, was that I didn't know that my son was so far behind, and we were using another boxed curriculum, and it had beautiful stories and books we enjoyed so much for the first two years. And all of it came for his third year of work, and it was so dumbed down. And I thought, what happened. It was just, it was terrible. It was just terrible material. And I realized years later, that they were expecting him, at that point, to be picking up and reading by himself. And so they had made it easier for him. But because he wasn't there, I was just reading them...??? So, I dropped that and went to Charlotte Mason. And so, what I would say with Charlotte Mason curriculum is that, the child who is dyslexic, or, you know, maybe other difficulties as well, they still can function at a higher level than they're able to do reading or writing...

J -

Yes. For sure. Yes.

N -

Maybe they stumble in the area of math, but they're super creative, or something like that. So, with Charlotte Mason's big broad feast, we are hitting them at all these different areas. All these different ideas. Playing to their creativity and their interest and building interest in multiple areas. And so what happened is that, yes, I had to read quite a bit aloud to my child. But, he was really being filled and proud of himself. Confident in his ability to speak with other people, with adults. With children his age, about the books he was reading. The ideas he was hearing. Current events. All of these subjects that gave him that confidence that he was a whole person and that he was smart. And so, where, if he was in a regular school or a regular kind of curriculum that was based on a public school model, I feel like he would have felt like he was stupid. I hate...I'm sorry to be using these brash words, but I feel like that would have been his picture of himself going to special ed classes, all of the focus being around his reading class and math classes and...

J -

Yeah, well, they expect them to read so much across the board you know?

N -

Right. Right. Where, with us, I was able to fill that gap and just keep moving forward. And we did reading lessons every day, all the way through school, until he graduated, and he did do an extra year. And I can talk to you about some of the ways I got around that, cause obviously that's difficult when you're homeschooling seven kids and...

J -

Right.

N -

You know, because from one student that needs so much of your attention and stuff like that. But I would say that's the important part. It's not that it's so much reading, so we've gotta shy away from it. It's that there's so many ideas and so much creativity interests that really plays into this ??? because the deal with the dyslexia is that they are almost too creative for their own good. It's really what happens, it's really what goes wrong with the reading is that their mind does things that make it difficult to just line up all those letters, keep em in order, see em in the direction the rest of us see em in, and just read through the passage. They turn things around and look at it from the back side or underneath. It's a totally different word for just a second, and it's so tricky. But, because they have so much of that creativity, we need to be feeding them with a lot of ideas and not just the book ideas, but the handicrafts and the art and just, the music and just really filling them from all sides.

J -

Yeah, that's just a good point. But, cause in the traditional model, it's like, you have to read for all the...even math, it's a ton of reading, you know? And it's like, where do you excel, right? Where, yeah, we're giving them this broad feast. There's so many areas to bring their creativity forth. Even in my kids with their narrations, you know? That, even if I'm the one reading the material to them. And it's at a much higher level than a reading level and comprehension level, what I'm reading to them, and they would be expected to read, you know, I am a former school teacher, so, okay, they wouldn't be reading Pilgrim's Progress in third grade on their own, right? So, like, me reading it to them is something, you know, it's challenging their intellect and making them kind of stretch to pay attention to something that's difficult, and it is growing that mental muscle, like Charlotte Mason talks about. Even if it's not necessarily working the nitty-gritty how-to pronounce these words reading. Yeah. Which is neat, because, then, you see that creativity express themselves. You know when my son's acting out the giant, you know? And the battle and all that.

N -

Right, right. Yeah.

J -

So, let's get into this nitty-gritty kinda stuff here, of some of the ways that you can kind of take, you know, Charlotte Mason's philosophy and kind of adapt it with tools and resources can we use to still incorporate it, but also help a child that has dyslexia?

N -

Yeah. I think the mom, for one, has to be a little creative. I think the first thing to think about...yeah...the first thing to think about is that the children do need to do the work of their education. That is a very important principle in Charlotte Mason's education, and across the board, that they have to show their own initiative and pay attention on their own and narrate on their own. They are doing that work of their education. So, when we have students who need some kind of remediation, we've gotta be very careful that we don't stand in that gap too much for them. That we're allowing them to do all they can do. So if you have a student. I'm speaking to our listeners here, who is a slow reader and you just keep reading for them, and you never challenge them to do some of it on their own. They may never get to where they could get if you allowed them to keep trying in that area, so, again, not the masking of peace, but always putting a time in your schedule to be working on the reading and allowing them to read maybe a paragraph of the history book, and then you read the rest of it. Or, a page, if they go up to that level, and have...cause it is a muscle. And for the children who are just poor at it, they do need to build up that muscle, and what we find is that parent's really are doing too much for their children in the realm of reading and not letting them do the work that they need to build up those skills. But...

J -

Yeah, that's a good point.

N -

So, when there is a true issue, like with Mitchell, and me, he just ??? something like he's got exquisite dyslexia, instead of like, extreme dyslexia. And Mitchell really does. It's very extreme. It'll be a lifelong issue for him to deal with. I did different things, like, well, where books are concerned, I would read aloud to him when I could. But of course, once I had the little girls, starting school, that was not always possible because I had to divide my time. So I would sometimes get up in the morning, even, you know, early in the morning, when it was quiet and I would read his book sections for that day, to him, on my phone. And then have him listen to them. Or I used to have a little handheld recorder and he'd read through them and then he would narrate either to me aloud, or he would narrate into my phone, a narration. So, we were still completing that process, but we weren't always doing it together. And I really learned through that, that that allowed him to feel a sense of independence over his schoolwork that, even though I was reading it, I wasn't sitting there with him through the whole thing, you know?

J -

Yes. I think that is so important. Yeah, they need to kinda age...yeah. Alright. To have some more of that independence. And, yeah, like, especially when you start reading to the younger siblings. The older ones, like, wait, why are you still reading to me too, like. You know, I'm not like them. Right.

N -

Yes. Exactly. And my son, in particular, my daughter does too, but my son loves books. I mean, he reads a ton of books, so, he listened to many audiobooks, and so I have about three different accounts, cause I use the read system through the library that's free. And then, eventually, we had two different series of testing with him. One, was when he was, like, eight, and they wouldn't actually diagnose him until he was ten, and then we did it again when he was seventeen. At the time, we were thinking that he would like to go to college and I thought, well then you're gonna need to have a diagnosis and get some help, as you need it. So, we did that final testing and his whole goal in the end was to get access to the BARD, which is Blind and Reading Disabled library of books. So, that is an option for people if they do have pretty severe dyslexia and there's books available on there that are not available other places. Because they can...they read books on there that aren't actually an audiobook. It's just read by readers. So, but newer books. Not just things that are in public domain like you find with ??? So, we took advantage of a lot of audiobooks, new reading. Also, he became really good at listening to, like, his phone, read a page of text, and that's how he would listen to his current events.And he also could listen to the Kindle read aloud to him. Like, that's the worst reader there, I'll tell you.

J -

It really is, yeah.

N -

And then, I would send science lessons to him and he would let the computer read the lesson and he'd go through it piece by piece. So, we just used a lot of that stuff kind of be an intermediary for the reading for him. And that helped a lot.

J -

Does the computer read, like, a pdf? Is that what it was in?

N -

MmmHmm. Yeah. Yeah.

J -

Oh, that's cool. I didn't realize you could do that. I'm gonna look into that.

N -

You can do that. And then, of course, I have access to, like, with my science guys, where I could send him the document that wasn't as a pdf, and, of course, anybody who's listening who has a need of something like, I'd be absolutely willing to help them. And then I even read, people who try, like, chemistry, high school chemistry, I had to read to him the lessons that's not been read on LibriVox or anywhere. But...so I have those that I share with people when they need it. So.

J -

Oh that's great. Yeah, that's good to know.

N -

Yeah, so that's...those kind of things. That's really important. But then, also, like I said, him reading into the phone was another step that we took on, at first, just to get an audio narration down. But then eventually, he began to use more of the speech to text, and then, figuring out how to change it and how to add punctuation and that was a really important step for him. And a life step, you know. Something he would need... he came home from visiting with his grandpa and I noticed that, instead of just sending a text, that he spoke into his phone, he would listen to it back. And then he would change it if needed. And I said, oh, where'd ya learn to do that? And he said, grandpa. And I said, oh does grandpa do that. And he said, no, but he should. It was so cute. So, he learned to go back and start editing his text.

J -

Yeah.

N -

So. And that was really a big step for him.

J -

Now, we're blessed that we live in a time where we do have all those tools, right? That, yeah. So, the fact that there are a lot of books is not daunting at all when you have the audiobooks. Now, do you have him follow along in the actual text, or does he just listen?

N -

He mostly just listens, but I...there are certain things he would follow along in the text. My daughter, she follows along in the text. There's just only so much reading she can do in a day without just wearing out. So. what she does is that she reads the things that she can and then usually there'll be one or two things a day that she will read along with it. She'll listen to an audiobook and read the text along with it. But for her, that is really helpful for her to understand it, make it more meaningful, is to read along. But she's just in a different place then, then...

J -

Right. Yeah. That's a good point, yeah. Both of my kids, they follow along with the text as they listen. And I see that that helps tremendously with their spelling, because they're seeing the words at the same time they're hearing them. That has helped a ton, as before, where if it was just, like, me reading it to them, them following along in the text, I think, has really helped as well. But they don't do that for everything, like you were saying. But, yeah, so, certain subjects like, like history or science, where there's these bigger words that I want them to see what they look like and hear them pronounced, you know, I think it's really helpful for that. Whereas, opposed, if it's like a story, or something like that, they could just listen to it, you know. They don't need to see all the words. Right.

N -

Right. And it actually had that benefit, that they do see how things are pronounced, so there are certain things that they pronounce better than I do. Because they have this kind of added layer, you know?

J -

That's true. That's a really good point. And I like what you said about, yeah, we do the voice to text narrations. And I think that is a really great life skill. You know, I have a friend who's in the medical field, and he uses that for, you know, his paperwork. It makes it go faster just to do the voice to text, you know? So, you know, I think it's...

N -

Also, it says that... yes, yes, absolutely. I'm looking, if i can find it really quick. Oh, there is an app that is fairly new, that people might like to take advantage of too, it's called Seeing AI. The word seeing, and the letters AI. And actually, Liz, who's blind, turned me on to this. Her sister uses it, she's also blind, to get down a street. It'll tell you, like, where things are and things like that, but one of the things it does is you can scan a page of text, and it will convert that to text on your screen, and then it will highlight each word it's reading as you go through.

J -

What?! That's amazing. Oh, that'd be so helpful.

N -

Yes. And it's free. And we had paid, I think, about a hundred dollars for an app that was similar to this, and then this one came out afterwards that was free, and it does a better job even, but Mitchell still uses it in the grocery store if he's having trouble with, say, ingredients on a package, or if a book...and my daughter uses it too, when it's a book that we don't have an audiobook of it, but she's really struggling to read it. She'll use that. And highlight it. And even if she doesn't read it on screen, if it's reading it and she's looking at the book, it helps her to read along sometimes. So, that's a resource that I love.

J -

Wow. That's great. So, is it kinda like a Kindle voice. Like, is it a computerized voice?

N -

It is. It is, yeah. What I've found with that, though, is that my kids who have dyslexia, they can handle that without any problems. They're, you know, their attention just gets so honed in, I think, because they have to. And, so, like I said, my son never had any problem, even listening to a Kindle read to him, and that was the worst, or I thought.

J -

Yeah. So, did you let them continue the oral narrations the whole time? Did you start to have them do written ones? How did you transition with that?

N -

Well, I just did the same with them as I do with the other kids. Like, now my girls who are in high school, I always have them do at least one oral narration a day. It's kind of a flip of when they first started... you gotta do at least one written one every day. Now, I tell em they have to come and do one oral one because it is still a very important skill to be able to speak and speak clearly and get your ideas out and I think that is one of the things that this curriculum works so well for students who are dyslexic, because they do have that ability to very well communicate their ideas eloquently, clearly, and it makes them feel and seem very intelligent when they speak to a person. And again, it's not just about their reading and the difficulties they have in that area.

So, I do have them do an oral narration. But the...when they got into high school, I had em do most of their written narration ni this way. Now, my daughter, again, she does not have it as bad, but she will write her narration, you know, just, full of spelling errors and, no punctuation, and things like that. But, through the years, she's getting better, and I would just mention that that's not a place for us to be doing correction. So, yeah. So, we worked on that, and in our literature lessons, in our dictation. And that's another thing, is, as they get older, dictation leads the schedule. Copy work leads the schedule, but if you have a child who is really in need in this area, you need to keep that kinda stuff in a schedule and drop something else out. Rather than just dropping it. And rather than having just a longer day, too. You know, I found a second foreign language was probably not as necessary as continuing to learn to read.

J -

Yeah. So, ya have to kinda have priorities. And I think with dictation, too, I've seen the benefit of, you know, they don't have to have a whole page. You can adjust it to where your child is at, and you know, start with a sentence and then add another one, and now that...you know, my one daughter's grown but has done this practice consistently, every week, you know. But we've added on a little bit at a time, you know. Now she's at the age where she can do a whole entire page of dictation and it just a miracle. I mean, that's just huge, right? It's like, woo! I never thought we would get to that point, but it was just slow and steady progress, and, you know, not feeling like you have to check off all these boxes and do everything.

N -

Right. That's what we found with all of the reading programs and you know, we'd get to halfway through the book, and we couldn't go any further. We'd stall out. And, Matt felt like a failure, and then he'd say, well, what do we do now? And we'd go back to the beginning till they fit something else, and start from the beginning. But with Charlotte Mason's method of reading and dictation and copy work, all of these things, even recitation, which really does play into this, all of these things are allowing that student to continue progressively at their pace, so they're always able to be successful with the effort that they put into it. It's always a positive experience, well, obviously, not always, cause... we have, you know, we have little personalities of our own in our children, so there's that aspect of it. So, it can be successful, even if they're doing reading lessons in high school. So, and like you said, little by little, they make progress and you look back and say, wow, look at what they're doing now. At the end of my son's, like his last year, which, as I mentioned was an extra year, he became, like, one of the beta testers for Jonathan Kiser's living literature course that he was putting together at the time. My girls are taking it now, but he asked the kids to write a sonnet. And I had never asked them to write any kind of any poetry of any kind. I just, in my mind, I thought, well, that would just be way too hard for him to do. And, he did it. And he did it by himself. And the only thing he asked me to help him with is, to come in and read the screen that gave him words that would rhyme so that he could try to pick a different word. He couldn't get the screen to read it to him. So, he would just have me stand there and read lists of words until he picked one, and he wrote a sonnet. And sonnets are the most complicated poetry you can write. See and meter and this length of the lines, and the rhyming that has to go into it, and he did it, and he was so proud of himself, and I was so proud of him. But it really brought to light something that I didn't realize I was doing, and that is that I wasn't allowing him to progress by continuing to challenge him with the new thing and new things. I was assuming he couldn't do it and then, you know, that, of course, just left him never to try. So, I...

J -

Yeah. That's a good point, especially when it comes to, like, composition in high school writing, you know. I'm like, that could be a really hard thing. You know, and if they are interested in going to college and learning to write an essay and a research paper and all that, it's a huge undertaking.

N -

Right right.

J -

For a child who struggles like that, yeah. And so, but, it doesn't mean that, yeah, they, you know, with some help and with some modifications, you know, can accomplish them.

N -

Right. Right.

J -

Yeah. I bet that was really encouraging for both of you to see that. And I see that with copy work too, you know, like, they don't have to copy a whole entire passage. Like, just start with a word. Like, work it out on this one...we're gonna spell this and it's gonna look beautiful. We're gonna try our very best. And then, as they get...you know, just adding on a little bit each time, to what they're copying, so they can really, you know, hone in on what does the word look like? And what does this letter look like, and like, they're having to copy, copy, copy, all this huge big part of something as well, so.

N -

Exactly.

J -

Yeah. That's a good point. And, you know, using those tools where they are able to talk through paper into the computer and then go back and edit it and, it's really helpful too. And praise Jesus for spell check, that's all I have to say, so.

N -

I know. I know, I know. I...it's been kind of interesting cause i have learned that...well, I've learned that dyslexia is a very likely, a genetic thing that's passed down, hereditary, anyway. I guess I would say. And more and more, I see things that I do that I've overcome. That I very likely have a low level of dyslexia myself. And, I...it was never was even on my mind. I just did what I had to do and got through things. But things like spell check helps me so much.

J -

Oh, me too.

N -

Immense progress.

J -

I'm like, how did I get through college without this? Because...

N -

Yes. Exactly. Can you imagine what professors were reading?

J -

Oh, my gosh, I do and I'm like wow. So much better.

N -

I know, I know. So it is helpful for the kids. And then I actually, I use grammarly just business, and so, my daughter will use that and that helps her some with her grammar and just questioning her. It's not perfect, but it does help her a lot, when she is trying to write a paper.

J -

Yes, that's a great tool. Yeah. And my kids, we did end up doing, ??? we had a tutor at our church and, you know, she was certified in that. And they did, they only needed it for about a year and made huge, huge, progress. And also, too, a lot of times, there are different conditions that kind of pair with that. So, both of mine that are dyslexic both have ADHD, and so, once I was kind of able to get that under control, and for us, it ended up being medication was a huge help and I resisted it for years. And, but, like, literally, like, two days after one of my children started it, the tutor was like, what happened. I'm like, uh oh, what are you talking about. She's like, um, she went from being able to read one sentence during our lesson. She read this entire page. And I was like, oh, okay, wow. Awesome. That's stuff's working, thank you.

N -

Yeah we did the same thing, and we found it helps a lot. We also found that glasses helps a lot, for an astigmatism that, he would say, now I can see, I'm fine with my glasses. Doesn't make any difference, but when he put them on, I would notice a difference in his reading. And...

J -

Yes. And in visual therapy, I've...some kids, like, they have that kind of going along with it too, where they just, yeah, they need...

N -

Right.

J -

...help with their eyes.

N -

And...

J -

Not just seeing...yeah.

N -

And food was an issue for us too. We found that certain foods really affected him ability to concentrate and read, so, I definitely would recommend people to kinda test out some of those things, just the only thing that I would say, as a caveat to that, is don't spend all of your time doing that.

J -

Right. Yes.

N -

Do get the whole space in because there's so much that's going to grow your little people into, just, really interesting and magnanimous people if they can get that whole feast. And when we spend os much time going through lessons or in mediation, we can miss a lot of that, and that's really unfortunate, because, like I said, these kids who...and you just gotta wonder about that link between ADHD and dyslexia and creativity and all that. I think these people make really good engineers and artists and things like that. But if we are not bringing in that creative aspect, we're really selling them short. Or kind of robbing them out of an important aspect of their curriculum and their life. My son, in particular was just, he still is, he's the most creative person. And now, with YouTube. Oh my goodness, you can learn anything. And... all these things, I'm so amazed all the time. A kind of an interesting story, when we did take him to get him tested, at seventeen, we were driving home and we had been seeing this natural doctor for years. And, we just happened to see somebody different in the office, and I...we...he had this opinion that he could, like, fix Mitchell. And we're driving home and we're kinda shaking our head. I said, what do you think about that? And he said, he can't fix me, you know, that's just silly. And I said, what if he could, would you even want him to? And it just made us stop and realize that, no, you know, they are really great. That's how they are. And just because they have a difficulty in this area, and my son would also have to do math. So, I think sometimes that goes along with it.

J -

It does. Yeah.

N -

But, we still, we really need to honor them as the people they are too, you know?

J -

Yes. And you had mentioned, you know, I always ask for a favorite Charlotte Mason quote. Did you wanna share what you were thinking about that?

N -

Sure. Yeah. I know, I have a little trouble with this just because I was, you know, I do so much around science and I've got pages and pages of my favorite science quotes written down, but when it comes to this topic, the one that just really stands out to me is Charlotte's Mason's first principle, that children are born persons. And, I know that just seems so, so obvious, I guess. And, maybe even a little contrived sometimes, but when you have a student who has the difficulties they have, I think every year you learn more and more what that means to be a whole person or recognize your child as a whole person. And, that they are made by God the way they are, and he has a plan for them, the way they are. He doesn't need us to fix them. Just to have their plans go forward in life. You know, we just have to come alongside them and come alongside Him, the Lord, to be their teacher and work with them as they learn to kind of get through this world. And, I said, in front of that counselor, something like, we do some work arounds and he was like, you don't need to do work arounds. I mean, it's kinda...he wasn't a counselor, he was a psychiatrist and he was just awful. Horrible. The worst experience we've had throughout this whole of my son's life as a dyslexic. And he said, well you don't need to work around, you just, you gotta push through it. And later, when we came back, and he had his diagnosis, he began talking about work arounds. It was like, no really, you're gonna have to do something.

J -

Okay. You're right. You know your child, what? Yeah.

N -

But it is just so important for us to recognize them, I think, as parents, and again, I mention, you know, you were a teacher, I was not, and I think many of us were not. And maybe even it's worse when you are a teacher, because you still, like, you have something to prove. And I did. He was the first child. He was the first grandchild on both sides. I had teachers on one side of the family, and people who did not approve of homeschooling on the other side of the family. So, I had a ton to prove. And if I am not careful to see this child as a whole person, just like he is, created in the image of God, I can end up, either, like, smashing out part of his curriculum because I'm so obsessed with getting him up to speed, so to speak, or making him feel like he is not good enough or not worthy, or not gonna capable of getting through this life, and things like that. So, I think just to calm down and remember that first principle of hers. It's so important, on a regular basis.

J -

Yes. Definitely. For sure. That...yeah. Our kids can sense when we are stressed and anxious and fearful. And that creates anxiety in them and it makes it harder for them to learn and focus. Cause they pick up on that. But it also does affect their view of themselves. And so, yeah, when we hold a high view of them, and we're not comparing or pushing or prodding to get them to what we think they should be at this age or this level. But also, challenging their mind and recognizing that, as persons, you know, our minds do feed upon ideas and so we're still constantly providing those ideas and providing challenging books and way more than they would get if they were in a traditional system. Especially if they were in any kind of remedial special ed classes. You know, they would not be reading the quality of literature and material that they read in a Charlotte Mason education. Their minds would not be stretched in those ways at all.

N -

Right. Absolutely.

J -

And I think that's one of the benefits of, you know, people ask, like, aw, I think my kid has dyslexia or some other learning difficulty. I don't know if Charlotte Mason will work. I'm like, yes, and it will probably be the greatest blessing that you could give them.

N -

Exactly. Absolutely. I mean, I just look...I mean, I have the benefit, now, of having this...the four older kids who've graduated. Well, Mitchell also, so, five who've graduated. And the two that are in high school. And, so, I have that benefit of all those years behind me, and looking at them now as adults, or I say, adult people, and seeing them think through topics. Seeing them be able to talk through topics. That the general public is not doing a very good job with right now. And...

J -

Right. Yes, yes, yes. Grown men can't have a conversation. Right.

N -

Exactly. And they have strong thoughts and ideas, but they're also listening and considering these things. I'm thinking, oh, gosh, you know, at their age, I was no where near this level of being able to think, just htink, you know. And then communicate. And so, this is a huge gift that we are giving our children. And, it's actually a pleasure. You know, once you get settled into it. I know we went through a really hard move just a few months back, and as we were trying to prepare and finish school, and I was trying to meet several deadlines for work...

J -

And COVID.

N-

And COVID, yeah. And all of this at one time was just something that had slowed down our life that did not whatsoever...I somehow take it on as the time to catch up on all the things I've...??? what I was thinking, but. We would sit down to school in the morning, and it would be the one time of day where I had complete peace. Because I knew exactly what we were gonna do. I knew the time frame for all of it. We weren't going to be behind. We weren't gonna be late. We weren't...nothing. It was just, it was just set in stone and we were going to be filled up that day. And I realized, wow, you know, all these years, I'm always trying to do a little bit of everything at the same time, and just letting your mind focus on school during those hours was such a pleasure and really kind of a relaxation. Of course, they are in high school now and they're doing...you know, I'm not teaching anybody every lesson. ??? But...

J -

That does make a difference. And I think the beauty...another aspect of this philosophy that makes it so beautiful with children with learning struggles, is that you are coming alongside of them, right? It's not this, here's all the stuff you need to go do. Come on, why can't you just do it? You know? That you are with them in it. We're growing together. You know, I'm always saying that to my kids. Like, I'm learning at this stuff the same time that you're learning this stuff. And this is so neat. And they see this process of what...I don't just arrive one day, when I get to be a certain age. Like, I'm always going to be learning and growing and I'm always learning and wrestling with this stuff. And, too, you know, and so it makes them feel like, I'm not behind. I'm not wrong or I'm not different. I'm learning and growing, but I'm learning and growing at my pace, which is what I'm supposed to be doing, you know? It's just a totally different mindset.

N -

Right, always being stretched, but never being behind. And I just think, yeah. I think they learn to live that lifestyle just by doing it, you know? And, like I said, now, seeing the adult children in my life continuing on that process in their own life, and talking to me about the books they're reading, and ??? Yeah. It's awesome. And none of them were just scholars, you know? But they're just, they're great people. That's that born persons. They are who they are, and its' just... and they are going to be their best person through a curriculum like this, no matter what their story is. They're, like, a leap to this, or they are behind in everything. It just doesn't matter. They're gonna be their best person.

J -

Yes. Yes. And that's a really good point. And it's so, just freeing as a parent to be able to trust in that. It does take something out, a step of faith, to do that, 'cause it's not, like you were saying, people are like, wait, you're doing what with your kids at home? Like, what? Huh? And you kind of feel this need to, like prove everything. But, you know, when you can step back from that and enjoy the slow process, and trust when you hear people like us that are like, no, there is fruit. You don't always see it, like, the next day, or the next week, but through the years, you know, this growth does happen and occur. That long, long view. So, do you have any final words of encouragement for moms who might be working through this?

N -

I would say, just stay the course and do the next thing. It's really the most important thing I...you know, I harp on people about creating a schedule and filling it up with things that you're supposed to be doing, and working your way through it. It takes all of the, like, decision making fatigue out of it. You're just steadily moving through. And then, maybe just adding to that that if you do exams every term, and you're taking stock each year of the progress the kids have made, you'll just be so surprised at how much you accomplished and how much they've been exposed to and how much improvement they've made. And it kinda gives you courage for the next time around. Because it does seem like a very slow process, but it just can't really be, because when you consider how far they come over the course of their education, it's so far. Yeah. And I think that we're just maybe, we're maybe just judging the wrong thing. You know, we're not...and that's why sometimes these exams are good is that it allows them to tell what they know and we start seeing that thinking process, and how, what they're thinking about htese difference subjects, and you know, of course we've gotta ask the questions well so that we allow that, rather than it just being taking stock of what they know and don't know. But, an ability for them to talk, but yeah. Just stopping once in awhile and reflecting on what they've done and other than that, just staying the course. Keep doing it year after year and you'll just be so surprised as though the people, the grownups they become, that you're just so proud of.

J -

And...yeah. And just the way that they can communicate and think and they have this beautiful pageant in their mind of all these historical people they've interacted with in these literature characters. And the places they've gone. I mean it's just amazing to me the, just the richness that they get that have through this beautiful feast.

So, thank you so much, Nicole, for taking the time to talk to us today. I know that was super encouraging and helpful for me as well.

N-

No problem. It was great to be with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.




J -

Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in person. All of the Great Homeschool Conventions have been rescheduled to 2021. Go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to find a convention near you.

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Thanks for joining me today. Until next time, may your home be filled with books, beauty, and Biblical Truth.


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