Homeschooling (and parenting) a dysgraphic well means using all of the resources at your disposal to help your child succeed. Eventually, my son will rely on typing to communicate through writing (thank you God for technology!) but my goal is to help him to someday be able to write legibly when he absolutely needs to.
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The World's Coolest Offshoot of Silly Putty
Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty is a lot like Silly Putty, except for it is a little stiffer and the colors are amazing. We have Thinking Putty in the small sizes and in the larger sizes. The large size is a handful of putty, so the entire hand gets a workout, not just the finger muscles. Thinking Putty is great for hand strengthening and working out stiffness in hands after writing.
I used to walk my son to the park daily, just so I could get him on the monkey bars. Monkey bars are great for strengthening hands, arms, and shoulders, which are key areas to focus on in dealing with dysgraphia. Unfortunately, with his last growth spurt, my son it too tall for all of the parks with monkey bars near our house, so now we get in a monkey bar workout maybe once or twice a month.
We don't just use binders for organization, we also use them as slanted surface to write on. It's hard for my son to "hook" his wrist on a slant while he's writing like some dysgraphics do.
Graph paper is the best tool I've used for spatial dysgraphia. On regular, lined paper my sons handwriting looks like this:
Please note, he is trying to write legibly and he is not hurrying. Also, the generous spacing between the lines means that this handwriting sample is better than normal.
Simply adding graph paper later in the day and instructing him to put one letter per box resulted in this:
I just created some graph paper notebooking pages for younger elementary students with a 1 centimeter grid. They are available at Teachers Pay Teachers. I also have a set of notebooking pages for Upper elementary and middle school dysgraphic students also.
(I wrote more about how I use graph paper for dysgraphia inthis post)
My son is resistant to using highlighters, but they work. Whenever he does need to fill out a worksheet or use lined paper, if I highlight along the line, he has a visual guide on where to line up his letters. Unfortunately, he resists this modification so I use it a little as possible. Occasionally, I highlight
That's it. My favorite low tech tools to help with dysgraphia. If you teach a student with dysgraphia, what tools do you use?
One of the reasons I began homeschooling my oldest son was that, despite being a bright kid, he was shutting down in school due to his struggles with severe dysgraphia. This post highlights just a little of what I have done to help him learn with dysgraphia.
One of the biggest challenges with helping a dysgraphic student is getting him to the point where he can write legibly and independently.
While my dysgraphic son will happily write stories and comics for fun (he wants to be an author someday), it is difficult for anyone to read what he has written.
While typing is the best option for accommodating dysgphia, I consider being able to write with a pencil or pen an essential skill for learning and communicating. Keeping a notebook of research and ideas is such an effective tool for lifelong learning. No computer program or phone/tablet app comes close to the creative power of a pen and pencil.
So I am on a journey to help my son be able to write legibly enough to be able to read his own writing. The biggest success I have had helping my son write legibly was the day I handed him a graph paper notebook and instructed him to put one letter inside of each square.
In the same day his handwriting went from this journal entry on presidents day:
To this science notebook entry later in the day:
You can see that the top example is a jumbled mess of letters. His dysgraphia makes it hard for him to stay on the lines and space his letters. The second example, while he still couldn't stay on the lines, he could more or less stay in the box. The spacing took care of itself. I was ecstatic that he could write a short narration that was also readable, that I did a happy mom dance. Since then, graph paper has been a life saver for us. We use graph paper for math and his science notebook (pictured above) and a few other things. (I have found 4 squares per inch graph paper to be the best to help with handwriting.)
We have recently added a commonplace book to my son's set of learning tools, mainly because it was a part of Writing and Rhetoric Book 6. Otherwise, I would have put it off a couple of years since legible handwriting would seem to be a prerequisite to that type of book.
For his commonplace book, I decided to simultaneously work on writing on lined paper with him. Thankfully, I have figured out a way for him to keep a legible commonplace book without making him feel like I'm helping him too much.
I very lightly write out my son's commonplace passage for him in pencil and he traces it with pencil. This becomes his handwriting practice since he still has issues forming some letters and with placing words on regular, lined paper. I'm hoping this practice will help him get a feel for writing on lined paper and spacing correctly between letters and words. You can see the difference between what he traces and what he writes on his own below.
I leave a space after each entry so he can either rewrite the passage in his own words, comment on the passage, or interpret the passage however he chooses.
As you can see, he always chooses to write a short comic illustrating the truth of the passage.
This is just a little of what I do to help my son learn well with dysgraphia. I hope to write more about dysgraphia and homeschooling in the near future.
If you are interested in notebooking with a dysgraphic student, I have a set of 1 centimeter square notebook pages available at teachers pay teachers for young elementary students. I also have a set for upper elementary and middle school students with a smaller grid.
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Linked to Hip Homeschool Moms, Monday Musings, Mommy Monday, Keeping Company and Homeschool Blog and Tell
Classical Academic Press' Writing and Rhetoric Curriculum is, by far, my favorite homeschool curriculum. Since I began homeschooling my son in 4th grade, I have changed our math curriculum, I have changed the structure of our day, and I have changed my approach to teaching science and history, but I have never changed our writing curriculum. Writing and Rhetoric is a cornerstone in my son's education.
6/7/2017 Update: I am searching for resources to help parents and teachers implement Writing and Rhetoric. Scroll to the bottom to see what I've found.
Disclaimer: Writing and Rhetoric has been a curriculum purchase for us for the past three years. I have in no way been compensated for this post. Opinions in this post are solely my own. No one at Classical Academic Press has any idea who I am.
Writing and Rhetoric Lesson Format
Most chapters in each Writing and Rhetoric book follow the same format. Each chapter starts with an introduction and a short literary selection. The literary selections all have a theme, which I like. In book 4 of the series, all of the readings where short biographies of important people from the Middle Ages:
After the reading, students process the reading, either through a narration (written or oral) or an outline. A set of discussion questions follow to encourage students to think deeply about the reading before they are required to write about it.
The next section is titled "Go Deeper" and it is a short section that requires students to look closer at elements of the story such as the vocabulary, themes, or main ideas. The following photos are taken from the teacher's guide. The student text is identical, but without the answers, of course!
In the "Writing Time" section, students do several things. They compete a series of short guided exercise where they practice writing sentences that are more complex than they might come up with on their own. My son likes that some of the writing exercises encourage humor. In later books, they also practice writing main ideas and topic sentences.
The "Writing Time" section culminates in a longer writing assignment. Books 1-3 focus on narrative writing and Books 4 and up focus on essay writing.
As far as New Year's Resolutions go, I think that there are two kinds: the kinds we feel like we should make and the ones that we aren't really sure that we should make.
The should resolutions are ones that we hope will reverse the bad habits that we've gotten into: loose the ten pounds that we gained between the time Halloween candy entered our house and our final New Year's toast and then the ten more from the year before, organize all of the stuff that got jumbled into a chaotic mess during the chaos of the holidays, stop spending money on little things so we can save more for the important things, and the list goes on.
Funny thing is, these are the resolutions that often fail. The weeks get busy again and we fall into habits. We always know what we should do, the problem is that a new year really isn't that much different from the old year. So why not put that should off until next year.
The resolutions that we at we aren't really sure that we should make are the ones that seems bit extravagant or even self-indulgent. Last year, I decided to learn to paint so I asked for a paint set, small desk easel, and a how to book for Christmas. Once we got through the holidays and the dust settled, I began working through a lesson a day. After several years where I had given up all of my time to care for a baby and a toddler while spending my spare moments figuring out homeschooling for my oldest it really felt unnatural to reclaim that time for something other than giving of myself to my family. After all, if I had any extra time it felt like I should be spending it catching up on laundry or organizing a drawer.
Despite what I should have been doing, I decided to paint every day during my youngest's nap time. It is interesting that one of the key steps in painting is to wait for the paint to dry before moving on to the next step. While I waited for paint to dry, laundry got done, drawers were dumped out and organized, and the occasional push up and plank happened. The resolutions that I should have made happened without any "resolution making" on my part.
As far as resolutions go, I didn't learn everything about the art of painting, not by a long shot, but I started the process and I learned so much more after this year than from my previous 37 years combined. If I want to take the next step, I know where to go next. I call that a resolution achieved.
This year, I decided to make another resolution that reflected more of what I could do, and less of what I should do and so, in an effort to work on my writing skills, I have started a blog.