Archives for August 15, 2013

When Reading is a Struggle

Recently, I wrote about my favorite phonics program for early learners.  Today, I want to tell you about the program that I discovered for older children, those who might be struggling to learn to read or make gains in fluency.

Last summer I found myself in a difficult spot with Gabriel.  The problem wasn’t him, it was me.  After three and a half years of trying one thing after another to help him read, I was really discouraged and not feeling very confident that I could teach him.  Between learning disabilities and the fact that Gabe speaks English as his third language, reading hasn’t come easy for him.  Watching him struggle was very difficult. and I couldn’t seem to escape the belief that I must be doing something wrong.  If he wasn’t reading after all these years, it must be my fault, because I was his teacher.  I felt like I must be missing something, but we couldn’t afford to pay the thousands of dollars that working at a private learning center (where we pursued testing) would cost, nor did I feel that they adequately addressed the English as a second language issue.

Around this time I came across an online review for a program called Reading Horizons.  The author’s son, who is near Gabe’s age and has a learning disability, was using it successfully.  I was intrigued when I read that they had a program especially for older children and adults.  I knew I didn’t want a babyish, cartoon-y program for Gabe, so the program for older children really appealed to me.  I called the support line at Reading Horizons and ended up talking a poor guy named Josh’s ear off (and that was just the first of many times.  He’s been very patient with me.)  Josh heads up the homeschooling department of Reading Horizons.  I explained our situation, and Gabe’s needs.  He felt that the Reading Horizons program could help.  He offered to let us try the online software in exchange for my honest review here.  That was a full year ago.  I wasn’t willing to try it for a few weeks and then make any public conclusions; I wanted to really see the program work over a long period of time first.  At this point, Gabe has been through the entire online program.

The Reading Horizons program is Orton-Gillingham based and specifically meets the needs of both ESL students and those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.  And while none of my children had previously done lessons of any sort on the computer when we began this program, the fact that there was an online program that Gabe could work through really appealed to me.  It allowed me to feel confident that he was getting his needs met and there weren’t gaps in what he was being taught, while removing me from the lessons to some extent.  I could stand behind him while he worked and listen, only helping when he needed it.  I do believe Gabe was ready for a break from phonics lessons with me too!  In many ways this program saved my homeschooling sanity over the past year, giving me confidence that Gabe’s needs were being met.  I helped him to navigate through his lessons just a little, and kept up with his progress, but he was able to work independently for much of the time.

Because reading fluently doesn’t happen overnight for everyone, we definitely still have work to do.  Now that we’ve had a bit of a break from doing phonics together, Gabe and I will spend the next year or so reviewing the Reading Horizons program.  We will return to working together at the table using the direct instruction materials (actual teaching manuals/and written work) alongside the online lessons.  The progress he made in the last year was remarkable, and the confidence that this program has given me in the fact that Gabe can have his needs met and learn to read at home is priceless.  If you have an older child who needs reading help, I would strongly encourage you to dig through the Reading Horizons website.  They offer free trials of the online program, free online parent training, and in my experience, they have excellent customer support as well.  So, for those of you who may be in a similar situation, whether your older child is struggling, or you just aren’t feeling very confident yourself in the face of learning disabilities, I hope that my little review of this program helps you a bit!

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