Resources for Struggling Learners

photo by zaxl4

Are you honest with your struggles? Do you openly share with other homeschoolers when things aren’t going exactly as planned?

Sadly, I’ve found if your child wins the local spelling bee quiz, or gets 1st place in the support group science fair, you’re eager to spread the excitement with all your friends and family about those accomplishments, but are you likely to share when your 10-year old child isn’t reading? Or that you are concerned that your child may have a learning disability? Do you openly and honestly share those struggles?

Sadly, the answer isn’t always yes.  After all, why open ourselves up to criticism from those who don’t understand? You may even receive well meaning advice from someone that doesn’t have a clue with what you are dealing with. The words that are intended to help may really hurt. I know. I’ve been there.  After sharing many of my struggles with my own local support group, I would have mom’s approach me “privately” to ask my opinion about a certain program, only to remark that there is nothing “wrong” with their own child.

I‘d like to point out that I don’t consider anything “wrong” with my own children either. They just learn a bit differently.  Over the years we’ve learned to compensate and deal with some of the issues they’ve had and though some of that meant seeking outside help, I have found resources that we were able to use at home that I’d like to recommend to other parents that may have children struggling as well.

Straight Talk Volume 1 by Marisa J. Lapish is a speech therapy program that is completed at home. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve recommended this program over the years. It’s very user friendly, has detailed instructions  and comes with a DVD that shows you, the parent, exactly how to use the manual and conduct a typical lesson. At around $55, less than what we paid for an hour of speech therapy each week, if you are seeking a do-it yourself program, I’d whole heartedly suggest Straight Talk.

If you have a child that has a difficult time verbalizing their thoughts, then Straight Talk 2 may be more what you’re looking for right now.

When I found the website of Joyce Herzog nearly ten years ago I was thrilled! I’ve enjoyed several of her books but my favorite of the titles she offers would be Learning in Spite of Labels. If you think that your child may have learning disabilities, this book has some great ideas that are easily incorporated throughout your child’s studies.

She also offers several other resources that we’ve used that proved very helpful.  School in a Box is available in preschool to college levels and has been a well loved resource in our house. Essentially a collection of small toys and trinkets, this intriguing box comes with a small teaching guide that shows you how to work with your children to develop various concepts and skills from language development, visual and auditory memory, math, analogies, and more.  If you’d like to create your own box personalized towards your child’s interests, you may purchase the guide separately for only a couple dollars.   While visiting her website be sure to check out the Mental Fitness Cards too.

In my opinion, Handwriting Without Tears is the best handwriting program available! Unfortunately, I’ve known other moms to pass up this fantastic resource because it is suggested for children who learn at a bit different pace. This program is great for all learners and if your child is going to be one that struggles, I believe this product can reduce some of those early on!  (You can read reviews of Handwriting Without Tears at Curriculum Choice.)

Do you have a child that commonly reverses letters or numbers? The Ball, Stick, Bird program teaches children three basic shapes, a ball, stick and bird, essentially eliminating letter reversals that are common among dyslexic children.  The stories are especially appealing to boys because the main character Vad is a space creature and they are all written in a science fiction theme. The print is large, which is important for those dealing with vision problems. You’ll find many articles and samples of this program, Ball, Stick Bird developed by Dr. Renee Fuller, who is also a dyslexic,  here.

Another great resource is the Dianne Craft website. She also often speaks at homeschool conferences and if you have a chance to hear her don’t miss out! I watched her videos with friends of mine who had children struggling in public school so don’t think her products are just for homeschooling families.  If they help you, suggest them to everyone! Make sure you read the articles she has posted on her website. We’ve used the Right Brain Phonics program with sight word cards and The Brain Integration Therapy Manual.

Other resources I’d like to mention:

A Must Read! Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World: Unlocking the Potential of Your Add Child by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons.

The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…  and How They Can Learn by Ronald D. Davis really helped me to realize how my boys think. I’m convinced that many children, not just dyslexics could benefit from some of the exercises in this book.

Like  the above book, The Gift of Learning uses many of the same concepts to help children that struggle with math and handwriting. Again, I believe the concepts taught in this book would benefit many children.

Home Schooling Children with Special Needs (3rd Edition) by Sharon C. Hensley is another helpful book full of practical ideas.

Heads Up Now! is a great resource for those with children affected by ADD/ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s, Sensory issues, speech problems,  social issues, and much more. I’ve purchased several items from them including, Seeing Clearly, a small book full of fun and practical ideas to improve your vision skills.

Dragon Naturally Speaking is helpful for children that can communicate effectively but have a hard time when it comes to capturing and writing their thoughts on paper. This voice recognition software does all the thinking and typing for your child taking all the frustration out of misspellings and poor handwriting. You can view a demo of this product here.

I guess this post has grown beyond what I’d planned and I know there is a lot that I haven’t covered. If you have a resource that you’ve found helpful in your own homeschooling experience, why not leave a comment with the name or link so we can all stop by and have a look for ourselves?

Tonya is now thankful for the struggles she encountered early on with her children. It has taught them to persevere, be diligent and to empathize with those facing struggles of their own. You can read more about Tonya’s family at Live the Adventure.

Tonya Prater


  1. says

    Thank you so much for this list of resources. I know that it will be helpful to many people. I plan to look into the speech program you mentioned. One of my sons stutters, and years of therapy have not helped him….we finally just stopped. I would love some resources that I could use at home.

  2. Riceball Mommy says

    Thank you for the resources. I’ve noticed my daughter has a few problems with things and I’ve been worried about her speech for awhile. Though from what I read online, as long as she is improving she is fine. She’s not as clear as some children when she speaks and sometimes she says things a little backwards (switching two words around), but she’s getting better. I noticed with her that sometimes when she first learns something she’ll know the concept but she’ll get the words mixed up. She did it with colors, you could say “point to the green circle” and she would, but if you asked her what color it was she might say blue. Now she has no trouble with her colors. I’m not sure if any of that would be classified as a learning disability, but I’m just seeing it as the way she learns.
    .-= Riceball Mommy´s last blog ..Splatter paintings and feeding the ducks =-.

  3. says

    This is a great article. I have a 17 year old son with Asperger’s who is attending college part-time. This is possible only because I adapted his schooling to him. I also have an 11 year old daughter that has quite the developmental delay, which affects everything from large motor to sensory systems. My youngest has sensory integration issues, which makes teaching him interesting. They have taught me more, than I could have ever learning without them. I have new eyes because of them. I am indeed blessed.

    You’ve listed some great resources, might I also recommend ? If your child is struggling with reading be sure and check it out. It has truly been a life saver for us.
    .-= Dana♥´s last blog ..Putting Together Our Nature Backpacks =-.

  4. Kim says

    Thank you soooo much for this post. As the mom of two children with developmental delays (one of whom has many learning differences), I often feel alone within my local homeschooling community. I sometimes feel that moms who do not have struggling learners often feel that I must just be doing something wrong. Thank you too for your endorsement of the Straight Talk manuals. After over 4 years of private speech therapy for my daughter, we have been considering stopping the therapy and just addressing the issue at home. I was aware of the Straight Talk program, but haven’t run across any reviews of it. I will definitely be buying it to use at home. Thanks again for helping me feel not so alone in working with my struggling learners!

  5. says

    Thank you so much for posting this, Tonya. I’ve used many of these resources with my own struggling learners, including Straight Talk and Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World. Like you, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve recommended those two resources alone. I’ve also been blessed to hear Joyce Herzog speak a time or two. She is so encouraging!

    Yesterday, while at the doctor, I was totally caught off guard. When I mentioned to the nurse and student nurse we were seeing that we homeschool, I was pleased that they were both very enthusiastic about and supportive of homeschooling. I was caught a little unawares, though, when the nurse gushed, “Oh, I bet they are SO smart.”

    It was a nice compliment, but my kids are not the homeschoolers you see winning the Scripps spelling bee. I have a dyslexic 14 year old, a ten-year-old who still isn’t reading independently, and a high-average 8 year old. Yes, they’re smart, but probably not the SO smart the nurse was thinking.

    While definitely better than the negative stereo types, the super positive ones can carry a level of expectation that it can be hard to live up — or, at least, feel like you measure up to. I think we homeschooling parents owe it to ourselves to be open and honest with each other and supportive of learning differences while realizing that they’re just that — differences, not deficiencies.
    .-= Kris´s last blog ..Review: Olde World Style Maps =-.

  6. says

    Thank you so much for posting this. We just started homeschooling our son with autism and while he is doing very well, there is still so much I want/need to know!

  7. says

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. My girls are 8, 2, and 6 months. My 2 year old has a speech delay due to an elevated lead level when she was 1 year old (thanks, lead paint on toys made in China!). Anyway, I’ve been running the gamut of emotions as we find resources to help her. I had not seen the Joyce Herzog stuff before.

    I would also suggest Super Star Speech Therapy and Small Talk (from Five in a Row). Both are written by Speech-Language Pathologists who also happen to be homeschooling moms. They have lots of great ideas for doing speech therapy at home.
    .-= Sara @ Embracing Destiny´s last blog ..Homeschool Blog Hop: 10 Random Questions =-.