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Why I Homeschool

Dear Susan,

Words cannot express my gratitude for all you do for children with dyslexia.

I contacted you last fall when I was having difficulties with my two children in school. Your patience, gentleness and compassion gave me the hope that my children would be OK, and you gave me the courage to take their education into my own hands.

Levi and Abigail - small image

I read everything I could on your website, all of your links, your newsletters, and everything everyone posted. I came to realize that my children would not reach their full potential in a traditional school environment until after they completed the Barton System.

So my husband and I purchased a 20’ x 12’ shed with a loft. We turned it into a one room school house, where I spend every day educating 2 of my 4 children. We use the same curriculum that the school they previously attended uses, plus 45 minutes of individual Barton tutoring, 5 days a week.

The day we brought our children home, we made this video for our own personal benefit. I had watched and loved “Sophia’s Fight Song,” and I wanted my children to have a video like that of their own.

The progress they have made in just 7 months is truly astonishing! So today, we made a second video. If you watch them both, the progress they’ve made is undeniable.

I have NO regrets on taking your advice to do it myself at home. I have NO regrets for deciding to home school, and I have NO regrets that a 20’ x 12’ shed is sitting in my backyard instead of the built-in pool we had been saving for.

We have time again to laugh, play, and have fun! We had lost that for a little while to tears, arguments, and the frustration of (not) learning while trying to complete endless worksheets that did not make sense.

My husband and I thank you, my children thank you, and I know we are just one of many families who have been blessed by you.

Kimm Pasmore, Homeschool Parent
Spring Hill, FL

P.S. I never intended to show these videos to anyone outside of family. But so many friends have asked about my children and their progress, and  I felt like they did not believe me when I told them how far my kids have come.  So now I show them these two videos, and they can see it for themselves.

Homeschooling takes a lot of courage

It takes a lot of courage to pull your child out of public school and start homeschooling. And it requires a lot of work. But most parents of children with dyslexia will tell you that homeschooling was the best thing they ever did.

This homeschool parent’s story is so typical.

Susan, I just have to share what that my son’s (homeschool) teacher posted today. We are on Level 4 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System. He is in 4th grade.

Last year, in public school, he hit the “brick wall” and cried every day. He hated school. He hated the fact that his little sister could read better than he could. His self-esteem was nonexistent. The school refused to do ANYTHING even though we had a diagnosis of dyslexia.

So this year, in an effort to salvage whatever self-worth he had left, we decided to homeschool.

Today, I received this email from his homeschool teacher. THIS is what happens when you use EVIDENCE BASED methods that are proven to work with a dyslexic child!

Subject: Music to my ears

My son: I’m going to have to read all the way home because I want to know what is going to happen next. Can I just read it now?

Teacher: No, that’s homework.

My son: But I want to know now.

Bighinati

This is coming from a boy who has NEVER enjoyed reading in his life because of dyslexia and the use of ineffective reading methods in the past. Now he can’t put his book down. Proud teacher moment!

Susan, thank you for everything you do to help our kids, and to educate us and guide us in advocating for them along this rocky journey. You are an angel to many.

Cindi Bighinati
Homeschool parent in CT

My First Adult Student

As you may know, Susan Barton started in this field by tutoring adults with dyslexia. So emails like this make her heart sing.   

My first adult student was diagnosed with a ‘learning disorder’ in kindergarten. She graduated from high school, yet she could not read. When I met her, she was 26, fighting to recover from addiction, and had lost custody of her kids.

When I first started tutoring this woman a year and a half ago, she was in an adult literacy program at our local library. A friend of mine had volunteered to work with her using Laubach, but they were not making much progress.

When my friend had to move, she was worried about this woman, who was at such a vulnerable time in her recovery. So my friend asked me to take over. I was hopeful that the Barton Reading & Spelling System would work as well for an adult as it had worked for my younger students.

When I first met this woman, whenever she would try to read something, she would look up after EVERY word for confirmation from me that she had said the correct word. We are now in Book 4. Yesterday, she read an entire chapter in a real book with confidence — without looking up at me, and she was able to self-correct when necessary.

Long story short, my adult student can now read, and she has her kids back.

I am amazed, thankful, and thrilled with my success with such a “hopeless” case. Never ever give up on adults !!!

Barbara Suit, Certified Barton Tutor
Saratoga, CA

Proud Dyslexic Student

Many people who attended my Screening for Dyslexia course last week have asked for a copy of this letter. 

Dear Mrs. Barton,

My name is Nathaniel, and I have dyslexia.

This past week, my mom has been attending your Screening for Dyslexia seminar to learn more about dyslexia and how to help others. Each night when she returns to our hotel room, she shares a few highlights of her day. She told me about the emails and letters you are sharing to remind the group why they are there at your seminar.

I wanted to share one more.

My story is similar to many other people with dyslexia. My early school years were filled with much pain and emotional trauma. My first tears, and adding the word “stupid” to my vocabulary, started in Kindergarten. I was only 5 years old.

The phrases, “Try harder,” “Practice,” “Read more,” and “Why can’t you?” were engrained in my head during those early years by teachers.

I had bruises on my fingers from trying so hard to write sentences, and I was pulled out to attend a class for slow readers.

Recess was my favorite part of the school day until 3rd grade. I was punished and humiliated during 3rd grade. I was forced to sit on the wall during recess while all the other children were allowed to play . . . simply because I could not finish my work in class on time. I had to sit there watching my friends play with my incomplete piece of paper. Yet I still was not able to complete it because I could not read it.

After weeks of sitting on that brick wall, I snuck my papers home and tearfully asked my mom to help me complete them so that I could have a couple of days to play during recess. Needless to say, I never returned to that school – thank goodness!

After that, I was finally told that I had dyslexia, and I began homeschool. In fourth grade, I was reading and spelling at a very low first grade level.

But today, I am proud – MORE than proud – to share that I am just weeks away from completing Level 10 of the Barton System. Not only can I now read and spell, but I know LATIN !!!!

I just finished 8th grade at a public school where I received awards in Academic Excellence with a 3.9 GPA. I won first place in our social studies history project, and I have been accepted for high honor classes in high school next year. My test scores show that I am proficient (and even advanced) in math, comprehension, and yes, even reading !!!!

While writing is still not my strong area, mostly due to dysgraphia, my computer sure makes it look like I am a whiz. I still hate to tie my shoes, my “other right” is a common joke, and I occasionally reverse my numbers and letters when I am tired. At times, the Franklin Spelling Ace is still my best friend, and my favorite inventor is the man who created the digital clock.

Now I can spell words like “purely exhilarated” and “euphoric joy” to express my gratitude, but my word is “happy.” Those first spelling rules, like the Happy Rule, changed my tears and fears into a HAPPY, confident and successful dyslexic student.

Thank you, Mrs. Barton.

Your forever grateful and proud dyslexic student,

Nathaniel Porter
Colorado Springs, CO

Never stop doing what you’re doing

This private Facebook post from an adult shares the trauma of going through school without the right type of help — far better than I can. 

I just wanted to say thank you for all of the work you are doing for kids with dyslexia. I just finished watching Embracing Dyslexia. You were in it, and I liked what you said.

I was one of the unlucky ones. In the 80’s, they had no idea what was wrong with me. I did not hear the word dyslexia until I was in junior high. By then, I was fighting the best I could just to keep up.

My home life was not great. There was no caring or support from my parents.

Some teachers made fun of me to my face. Others called me lazy. I was accused of not trying or being stupid.

Starting in fourth grade, the school put me in special ed classes. But they put everyone with special needs in the same room. The teacher had to help one kid who was in a wheel chair, a different student who was mentally retarded, one who had behavior problems, and a small group of us in the corner who seemed to be “faking it” because we were bright and smart, but we could not figure out how to read, spell, write or do math.

We did not belong in a class with really handicapped kids. We needed help, but not the same type of help. Friends would ask, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you in the class with the handicapped kids?” I had to answer, “I don’t know.”

Needless to say, my childhood was not fun. I was beaten down mentally and physically.

Mrs. Barton, never stop doing what you are doing. Make sure no other kid has to go through what I went through.

Make sure everyone understands what dyslexia is, and how they can help kids through it.

Which is worse?

If you struggled in school, going back to college as an adult is scary. But it is even worse to watch your child or grandchild struggle in school the same way you did – as this grandmother shares.

I am 57 years old with a BSN in nursing. After 30 years of being out of school, I am applying to graduate school for a MSN in nursing. I am terrified.

My early school years were just horrible. No one knew what to do with me, so they just passed me through each year.

I had to attend summer school EVERY summer. I hated it.

I grew up thinking I was just stupid and that I must be lazy because it took so much time to read, study and retain information.

In high school, I worked so hard to get good grades. I would read a chapter (of course, that took forever), then I would go back and outline the chapter and write it down in my notebook (that also took forever), and then I would reread it every night.

I did not know that everyone did not have to do that.

I am embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to learn the alphabet or the multiplication tables.

Spell check is my godsend, but you’re right. It often does not work for me.

You’re also right about having to write a hand-written letter. It makes me sweat!

I am pretty sure my seven year old granddaughter has dyslexia. I see myself in her. She is struggling with reading in school and is starting to say that she hates school.

I will do anything to prevent her from going through the torture that I went through as a child.

Susan replied with:

If your granddaughter gets the right type of tutoring now — every day during the summer, and at least twice a week next school year – her reading will greatly improve. And her spelling and writing will also get better.

I will send you some tricks for learning math facts.

Until her skills reach grade level, her parents should provide 3 accommodations during homework time, and her teacher should provide some in class, as well.

If that happens, your granddaughter will NOT go through the same “torture” in school that you did.

Do not listen to them

Parents, do not let anyone at your child’s school lower your expectations.  If your child has a dream, ignore the naysayers – and support your child as she follows her dream, as this mother did.

In elementary school, Lisa was in special ed because of her severe dyslexia, dyscalculia, and ADD.  She also had buck teeth (the kids called her “beaver”), so she was a walking target for bullying.  Lisa had very few friends, and extremely low self-esteem. The bullying became so brutal that I switched her to a more caring private school for junior high.

At the transition to public high school IEP meeting, I was shocked by her low achievement test scores.  The IEP team asked Lisa to come in and share what she wanted to achieve in high school.  Lisa said, “I want to earn a regular high school diploma and be a cheerleader.”

The team members told Lisa that due to her low scores, she would NEVER earn a regular diploma (a modified diploma was the best she could expect), and they shared that no special ed student had ever become a cheerleader.

Lisa hated her special education English class.  It took half a year and countless meetings, including one with the head of special ed for the district, to convince them to give Lisa a chance to be in a regular English class.  They warned her that she would have to prove she could handle the material to remain in that class.

The next year and a half was a real struggle.  Lisa put in extremely long hours of study and work.  She even made up the first semester credit of that Freshman English class by going to night school at a local community college (a 2 hour commute) because the high school said it was not a “credit recovery” class.

Something amazing happened at the end of her sophomore year.  Lisa was selected to be on cheer, and it changed her life forever.

She learned her cheers, learned to do the stunts, learned that people could like her, and started to believe in herself – all while maintaining a high enough GPA to stay on cheer.

In her junior year, Lisa became her own advocate at her IEP meetings.  She insisted she had what it takes to earn a regular diploma.  The IEP team did not believe her, but agreed she could try.

Fast forward to this year – her senior year.  Lisa is doing extremely well.  She has a 3.6 grade point average.  She has just passed all 3 of the required graduation tests, so she will get a regular diploma.

Yesterday, we had her final IEP meeting.  Not one of the people who had originally told her she could not be on cheer, or get a regular diploma, showed up to congratulate her.    I realize they are busy people, but I so much wanted to tell them NOT to give up on students – and to give them a chance to follow their dreams.

Lisa is proof that through hard work and dedication, dreams really can come true.

Warning signs in adults

Since dyslexia is inherited, any adult who has dyslexia should watch for it in their children.

But adults with only mild or moderate dyslexia may not know they have it because they were never tested for it. But they will recognize these classic warning signs.

Lifelong trouble with spelling is one classic warning sign, as this college graduate shared:

Before the invention of the computer and “spell check,” it would take me forever to write a paper. I NEVER wrote letters to friends.

When I asked my mother how to spell a word, she would tell me to go look it up. How the heck can you look up a word if you don’t know how to spell it? I never did understand that. But my mother was a 1952 spelling bee champion, so she had no understanding of my difficulty.

I would spend HOURS going through all of the G’s trying to find the right spelling of jaguar.

Then an English teacher in college took me aside and asked, “Alice, you can’t spell, can you?” I sheepishly admitted I could not. He then asked me how I would spell jaguar. I replied that I wasn’t sure. He asked me if I could spell cat. I said yes. He then handed me a thesaurus and told me to look up cat. And there, under cat, was jaguar.

He then told me he never again wanted me to hand in a paper that was “dumbed down” because I couldn’t spell a word. He was the one who started the ball rolling to get me tested for dyslexia. I was 20 years old and in college.

Although it took forever to write papers, even with a thesaurus, I did get a college degree.

Another classic warning sign is being a very slow reader and having to guess to figure out the longer words – as this man shared:

At 78, I still struggle with dyslexia. Growing up in Tennessee in the 30’s and 40’s, I was viewed as dumb or lazy.

I may not seem as bad as others because I learned how to cheat, and how to avoid English and other courses that required lots of reading or writing. So I made good grades in college – graduating in the top 20% of my engineering class, and then getting an MBA.

But reading is still a lot of work.

And if you are a slow reader with terrible spelling, and you are also unable to master a foreign language, the odds are pretty high that you do have dyslexia – as this woman shared:

My brother’s kindergarten teacher suspected he might have dyslexia, but it took 2 years before he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia.

When I was 12, I attended a Susan Barton presentation on dyslexia with my parents. During her lecture, I realized I was also dyslexic – but I did not struggle as much as my brother. I was just a slow reader and a terrible speller.

It was not until I had to take a foreign language class in college, and failed every language I tried, that my parents finally realized I might also have dyslexia, and had me tested.

If you know or suspect that you have dyslexia, please watch for it in your children – because it is an inherited condition. Not all of them will have it, but about half of them will.

Warn the parents

If you combine the emails I get from teachers with those I get from parents, you can see why so many students with dyslexia drop out of high school.

A caring teacher asked:

I am a first-year 3rd grade teacher.

I have one student in my classroom who is very bright. She does extremely well in all of her subjects, except reading and spelling. Her spelling is atrocious, and so is her handwriting. When she writes the required sentences each week, her sentence structure and words are simplistic and not at all similar to how she speaks.

When reading aloud, she runs over punctuation marks, and she doesn’t even try to sound out unknown words. Even when I help her and eventually tell her the word, she will often not know that very same word when it appears again a page or two later.

Parent-teacher conferences are coming up, and I was wondering if I should warn her parents about the possibility of dyslexia.

Yes,  if you suspect a child may have dyslexia PLEASE mention it to their parents.   They know their child is struggling because they fight the nightly “homework wars.”

If dyslexia is not discovered and dealt with during those early grades, teachers in junior high often complain:

 I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful presentation I attended about 2 weeks ago at my school. I was moved to tears and then later, I became quite angry!

I am a teacher at the school that hosted your presentation. I teach 7th grade English Language Arts, and I’ve been searching for an answer to this question for years by going to conferences, holding discussions with my colleagues, and asking administrators: “What do I do with the students who read at the 2nd grade level in 7th grade?”

I will never understand our approach to education. How can it be that effective reading systems exist, we do not employ them, and yet we are expected to raise their scores and close the gap? (And we call ourselves educators.)

How much longer are we going to allow this farce to continue?

But the real tragedy is what happens to these children in high school.  Their parents send me heart-breaking emails, like the following:

My son has dyslexia, he’s 17, and I don’t know what to do.

He can barely read, he can’t spell, and his special education teacher isn’t helping. He’s slipping away, yet he really is a good kid.

He is giving up. He wants to drop out of high school.

Help. I’m desperate!

Or:

I am dyslexic, but I did not know it until my 6 year old son was diagnosed with it. I suspect 2 of my other children also have it, and ADD as well.

My oldest is 16, and he’s the one I am most concerned about.

The school has always labeled him a “problem kid.” Over the years, I tried everything the teachers suggested. But when their ideas did not work and I went back to them with my own suggestions, I became the enemy. Nothing I suggested was ever tried or accepted.

He is a junior in high school, but he only has the credits of a 9th grader — so he may not graduate. His teachers give up on him and just push him through. He has very low self-esteem, has been in a lot of trouble, and I just discovered he is starting to use drugs.

I feel like I have let him down. I worry that it is too late to help him. What can I do now?

Or:

My nephew, who is 20, has dyslexia but never knew it. School was so awful for him that he dropped out.

He tried to get his GED through a local college program, but it was way over his head. One of the teachers called him “stupid,” so now he will not go back. That is the last thing he needed — as he already had very poor self-esteem.

He has always wanted to be an engineer, but he says he is too stupid to be that — or anything else in life.

I want to help him. If I don’t, he may never be able to get a job, and he will live at home with his mom forever.

All of that pain is preventable if teachers would warn parents when a student shows many of the classic early warning signs of dyslexia, and if parents then got their child the right type of tutoring.

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