When I made the decision to homeschool my now 16-year-old son just prior to his second grade year, my main goal was to fix his academic problems, and the sooner the better. I quickly came to see that, beyond remediating academic weaknesses, equally important was the opportunity homeschooling offered to develop his academic strengths. What we created in the process was a child that, for a time, would in no way fit into any sort of traditional classroom—advanced, behind, on level—and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Though I didn’t know it when we first started homeschooling, my son is twice exceptional, and in his case this means that he is gifted and also has dyslexia. But at the end of first grade, he presented as somewhat less than bright—slow to understand, slow to respond, just plain slow—with isolated flashes of brilliance. He could barely read a handful of CVC words and was unable to count to ten reliably.
I worked with him during that summer between first and second grades and somehow got his math to the point where he placed into a second grade math book. But the reading was coming along at a glacial pace, and I knew he needed long term, intensive help if he was ever to approach grade level. So, in August, I withdrew him from school and embarked on a journey that lasted close to nine years.
My first clue that my son might actually be gifted was the speed with which he blew through the second grade math book. He finished it in two months, though one reason he could was that I read everything aloud and scribed for him, accommodations he needed to be successful. I would continue to provide these accommodations for math until he was halfway through Algebra I at the end of fifth grade.
As for reading, each day we did a phonics lesson, followed by reading practice. And then we practiced some more after lunch. And still more at bedtime. My son’s stamina for reading was low and splitting it up into a several sessions seemed to work better.
And writing? Well, that first year we didn’t do any.
I think my son peaked on asynchrony, at least in the academic realm, somewhere around the end of third grade. At that point, he had finished the fifth grade math book but could barely write a coherent sentence, and he certainly couldn’t spell. His reading had finally taken off; the dysfluent sounding out was a thing of the past, and, to everyone’s great joy, he started reading for pleasure.
His achievement test scores over the years echo these observations: Prior to homeschooling, we had some testing done, and all the scores were similar and well below the 50th percentile. At the end of third grade, the spread was close to 70 percentile points, with the math being at the 99th percentile. From there, the gap began to close: 30 points at the end of fourth grade, 15 at the end of 5th, and so on, until finally, at the end of 9th grade, our last full year of homeschooling, the big three—reading, math, and language—were all at the 99th percentile.
Twice-exceptional kids, at least the ones with a learning disability as the second exceptionality, need intensive remediation to be sure, but they also need to be given the ability to fly with what is easy for them, even if they need to be extensively accommodated to do so. Simultaneously remediating and accelerating is likely to produce great asynchrony for a time, and that is exactly what you want! But this process will not happen in a traditional school setting. Traditional schools cannot facilitate the extreme acceleration 2E kids need in areas of strength and the extreme accommodations they may need to get there. Traditional schools will also drop any efforts at remediation once the child approaches average—and in the schools around here, average apparently starts at the 16th percentile! In addition, it is critically important to remediate weak areas until they are in line with a child’s innate ability—and, by definition, a 2E child’s innate ability will be at the 99th percentile.
Homeschooling my 2E son was the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It is truly not for the faint of heart. But the results—a confident, competent, and knowledgeable young man—have been worth it. For us, homeschooling not only made sense, it was the only option.