Sarah’s Mom Tips: Reluctant Writers

Don’t worry about having children write before they are ready. The Thinking Tree spelling books are really good for children who are not ready for writing, they color the words and write the specific words and they also do a lot of drawing. As the books advance some of them give the child an opportunity to do creative writing. If your child is not ready for the writing the BEST BEST BEST thing to do is ask the child what YOU should write for him. When the child sees you writing it stirs something up in their minds and they begin to develop the ability and desire to write.

If I am writing a story for my child (think 3 sentences) and I arrive at a word that I know that they know, I would say, “How do you spell cat?” They giggle and are happy to tell me how to spell. Next I will stop writing when I get to a word that they can write, and just say “Your turn!” and hand them the pencil so they can add a simple word. One nice thing about this method is that the child will try to mimic your letter size and style. Another fun way to get a child writing is to have the child DRAW a small picture of the nouns in the sentence.

If you do get to a place in any of the Thinking Tree Spelling books Or Dyslexia Games where the exercise is too advanced (for example the spaghetti lady causes dread) I would be an example and say, “You don’t want to do the spaghetti lady? That’s GREAT because I WANTED to do that one! Can I PLEASE do your spaghetti lady?”

This advice may go against everything you have learned from being in school yourself. If your child complains that something is too hard or too boring – DARE to do it yourself. Say, “Oh really? Can I give it a try? It looks interesting to me!” But if it is super boring, agree with the child, give it a try, and have fun. It’s okay to say, “You are right this is SOOOO boring. Let’s have a snack, and turn on some music! Don’t you think that music will make this more fun?” Now, if the schoolwork is totally irrelevant, and you are unwilling to do that kind of work yourself, maybe you should pitch it. I know we worry about the money we spent on nice curriculum – so put it on the shelf and tell your children they can use those books to “play school” with their friends or stuffed animals. If you are trying to FLIP to FUN-Schooling and spent all you had on something boring, and it’s not in your budget to buy a homeschooling journal – let me know. I can help you with a PDF version of a journal.

When I was a kid in 1st to 5th grade I HATED spelling tests. I got Ds and Fs on my report card in Spelling. No one knew it was dyslexia. I could not memorize; but when I would take a spelling test I would forever remember the spelling that I came up with on the test – WRONG or RIGHT. I was so emotional while being tested that the negative feelings burned the misspelled word into my brain. I would have 45% correct on the test, and the teachers NEVER worked with me to correct the mistakes. That is why I now create spelling books that work for visual thinkers. I would advise you not to give spelling tests to a dyslexic child. Just look at their creative writing projects when they are 11 years old – and take notes of all the words that they need to learn. If they write, color, trace and say the letters WITH the correct spelling SEVEN times they will remember the correct spelling…by the time they are 14 years old. Most spelling problems do self-correct by age 14 if the child does a lot of reading. That’s why we have just a few spelling books that cover the words that are foundational to learning to spell – AND are commonly confused or misspelled.

Take a look at some of our beautiful journals, sure to inspire your child to write:

Take a Break!

Sometimes a break from school really gives parents time to help a child with a problem area so she can go back to school with new skills and confidence.

How do you do it? I would just let them play most of the time but spend about an hour focusing on the problem area. It’s a great time for dyslexia therapy or some multiplication games.

Sometimes the school schedule is so packed that a break like this offers us a chance help our kids grow in a specific area so they can go back to school stronger in the problem area.

Also, some kids have passions that they don’t have time for during the school year. I have a daughter who was obsessed with parrots and endangered species. It was a perfect time to let her “major in parrots” and learn to dig deep into a topic she really loves.

So we put together a Fun-Schooling basket full of stuff that helps her research birds and Endangered Species. It’s easy to focus because she’s so passionate.

So, during a break from school I would suggest only two things:

1. Zero in on just ONE problem area so the child can overcome some of her struggles.

We use DyslexiaGames.com for reading, writing and spelling problems. It’s so easy to use.

Try Math Craft for problems with basic math and multiplication.

2. Give the child resources based on their passion, and really make time for that passion. What is your child passionate about?

It’s exactly what we would do on summer vacation since this is a chance to focus on strengths and weaknesses, letting everything else go.

Besides that, the kids can have a blast and stay busy being creative, playing video games, watching movies, cooking their own meals, exploring nature, training a pet, learning new skills, and being together. The possibilities are endless!

Example of a Horse Lovers Fun-Schooling Basket

Inspiring Your Child to Read

I don’t worry much about reading before age 9. The longer they play the better! When my children start asking me “Mom, how do you spell…?” That’s when I know they are ready for reading. When a child is ready to learn to read it’s so easy to help them.

When it comes to learning to read there shouldn’t be a struggle. Dyslexic children and creative kids struggle because we are trying to teach them too soon. Dyslexia Games helps prepare the mind for reading and writing without stress, and helps to teach reading in a self directed way that works for creative kids.

Still, sometimes the brain just isn’t ready for the job of reading before age 9. For some it may be age 11– kids who learn to read late tend to be very artistic and creative.

The first key to inspiring a child to read is to find out what the child wants to learn about and be attentive to what he is passionate about. Provide books on ALL levels about those topics. Look at the books together, and use books with a Fun-Schooling Journal. Allow the child to do a lot of drawing in the Fun-Schooling Journal if they can’t write, and please do some of the writing for him or her while the child watches and dictates (writing for your child once a week is enough).

The second key is to model a love for reading real books and writing on real paper – in front of your child – that’s what Mom-School books are for. When a child sees a parent reading and writing (not on a computer) they automatically desire to do it too. The brain is wired to give children a drive to do what adults do. (One big problem with classrooms is that all the kids are the same age, and kids are not getting an example of how people learn at a higher level.)

Curiosity will drive the desire to read, and the brain will begin to wire itself to read, write and spell. When a child is curious about reading they are going to learn quickly and efficiently. When a child feels the need to read, they WANT to learn.

When you try to force kids to read, write, and spell before they desire to do it naturally you are going to face a constant struggle. If the child desires to learn, they are going to be active in the learning, and actually teach themselves – it’s beautiful and joyful.

So, precious homeschooling mom, if your eight year old can’t read, don’t worry, just remember the two keys!

His Story: The Musical

Most people didn’t believe me when I told them my teenage daughter wrote, composed, and professionally produced a full-length musical. Now I tell them that as a young adult, she’s seen her music workshopped and produced in New York City by a Broadway Production Team.

This child was profoundly dyslexic as a little girl- we thought she might never be able to read

Overcoming Dyslexia and Pursuing Her Passions

How does a child with severe Dyslexia go on to write a musical? I need to rewind a bit and tell you about the life of Anna Miriam Brown. She is my second of 15 children. Even before I had children I knew would homeschool. Anna’s older brother started reading with ease at age three. I figured she would follow suit and teaching her to read would be quick and easy. Learning to read was anything but easy for her.

We tried reading program after reading program. Nothing stuck. One day in frustration Anna said she was never going to learn to read and she didn’t need to anyway. She wanted to be an artist and a mommy so she wouldn’t need to read much. We came to realize she had Dyslexia and would not learn in the same way as my oldest. I started to come up with a way to help her learn to read. I created art games for her that incorporated letters and basic reading. You can read more of the story in the article about Dyslexia Games. 

These games worked and my eight-year-old was able to read. My husband and I like to say that Anna was born dancing. She’s always loved music and watching musicals. Her primary focus in school has been music and she began composing songs at a young age. This passion for music has grown as Anna has become a young woman. (click here to read the story of His Story!)

Math Craft: Not Just for Dyscalculia!

Not Only for Dyscalculia! 

Math Craft has proven to be a fun way to introduce math to young children, not only those with Dyscalculia. Children who struggle with math in school also enjoy the games. They are an entirely different way to learn than what is taught in classrooms. It has also been a good way to ease children into homeschooling after leaving a school setting or for kids who had a negative experience with math. Older siblings love to do these games with their younger siblings too! 

Helping Adults to Stop Counting on Their Fingers

Moms who played the games with their children also saw benefits for themselves. Many had always counted on their fingers and struggled with basic math. It is likely some have Dyscalculia and were never diagnosed. Schools also tend to pass children along with levels in math before they’re ready, especially with girls, so bad habits develop. We’ve been thrilled to hear from adults who have seen progress and gained confidence in math after playing the games with their kids. Plus the kids love to see their parents being good examples and learning too! 

After Math Craft

Parents often wonder what the best path to take is after a student has completed Math Craft. We suggest one of our Math journals. They are written in a similar style and will be a good way for students to practice their new skills. Math Mysteries, Comic Book Math, and Math for Minecrafters are especially good options. Multiplication Games is a good journal for students who need help with memorizing their Multiplication tables. 

Families can use our journals exclusively for a few years or combine them with a math curriculum of their choice. Life of Fred is a popular option among many Fun-Schoolers and seems to be Dyscalculia-Friendly because Math is presented as a story. There are many other options out there too! What’s your favorite?

Dycalculia and Math Craft!

While most people are familiar with Dyslexia, Dyscalculia is much less well known. It relates to the ability to understand math and to properly identify numbers. Sometimes folks call Dyscalculia Math Dyslexia. While the two have similarities, Dyscalculia impacts things such as the ability to differentiate between concepts like biggest and smallest, remembering math facts, estimating time, judging distance, retaining numbers, and more.  Children may outgrow Dyslexia- this is rarely the case with Dyscalculia. Those with this learning challenge need to develop skills to properly process and understand math. 

Dyscalculia Statistics

The official numbers state 6%-7% of the population has Dyscalculia. Experts estimate it could be closer to 15%-20% because it is often overlooked. Teachers may think a child is struggling to understand a concept when in reality they have a learning disability. It’s not as easily diagnosed as Dyslexia because of the wide range of progression of math skills among children. Countless adults have spent a lifetime thinking they were bad at math when in reality, they needed to be taught a different way. 

Creation of Math Craft

After Dyslexia Games took off and gained popularity, we started getting requests for a Dyscalculia therapy program. Parents were seeing some Dyscalculia improvement and wanted something deeper. My Mom, Georgia, and I started working together to develop Math Craft.

We developed a series of hands-on games, tactile lessons, abacus work, and logic games like Dyslexia Games. They were tested on my 15 children as well as dozens of children with Dyscalculia. Children stopped counting on their fingers, retained math facts with ease, and were able to understand math concepts for the first time.

The creation of these games has involved extensive testing and research. We wanted them to be effective and fun. They engage the brain in a relaxed state through the games. This removes any mental blocks a child (or adult) may have to math. When we’re having fun, we’re able to learn easier. 

Math Concepts Covered

At the time of this writing, we have five Math Craft books. They are:

  • A-1 covers quantity, matching quantity to numbers, numbers and their numerical symbols, and basic addition with no counting required. 
  • A-2 focuses on addition up to ten without needing to count. 
  • A-3 begins introducing subtraction.  
  • A-4 introduces double-digit addition and subtraction, carrying borrowing, and numbers up to 20 and beyond. 
  • B-1 is for basic multiplication and introduces skip counting.

We suggest all children start with book A-1 unless they have a strong foundation in addition and subtraction and do not count on their fingers. Then they can start with B-1. Children who have a strong addition foundation can start on book A-3, most will need to start with book 1.  More Math Craft materials will come in the future. 

Dyslexia Games: The “Brass Tacks”

Three Series of Dyslexia Games

Anna was young when I created Dyslexia Games. Older kids with Dyslexia felt the games I’d created were too easy. I set to work at creating more advanced games. These were helpful both for Anna as she grew and for older children.

Series A is best for children ages 5-8. It can also be used by older children who are profoundly Dyslexic. This series is primarily art-based and introduces a bit of writing and spelling. 

Series B for children aged 8-12. The art-based games become more advanced and more reading skills are required. We also include spelling and copywork in this series.

Series C is for ages 10+. We continue with intricate art-based games, add in some math, and work on cursive writing skills. 

Not Only for Dyslexic Kids

Families began introducing their early readers to series A- regardless of if they showed signs of Dyslexia. Parents realized they made learning to read fun and engaging and that children thrived. Older kids saw Dyslexic siblings working on series B and C and wanted to try them out. It became apparent these games were not only helpful for Dyslexic kids. 

We’ve heard from thousands of families who share remarkable stories about the benefits of Dyslexia Games in their homes. Parents have used Dyslexia Games with:

  • ADHD/ADD kids to help them focus and relax
  • Asperger’s 
  • Autism 
  • Dysgraphia 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Non-Verbal learning disabilities
  • Visual Processing Disorders
  • As “brain breaks” before working on a more focused/difficult task
  • To de-stress and relax a kid when they were frustrated
  • For relief from Brian Fog
  • To help develop executive functioning skills 
  • Memory support 
  • And more!! 


This was certainly not something I ever expected. At this point, we think we’ve had about as many non-Dyslexic kids use Dyslexia Games as those with Dyslexia. Especially series A for new readers. I began to incorporate pages from these games into some of our Fun-Schooling journals and students have loved having them there.

Click here to continue reading.

All About Dyslexia Games!

“She’s almost 9, why can’t she read yet?” After yet another day of watching my daughter Anna struggle to read, I expressed my frustration to my husband. We would eventually come to discover she was Dyslexic. I watched the light go out of her eyes and her love of learning begin to die out. This was something I knew I couldn’t let happen. The journey to help my daughter with Dyslexia would end up helping thousands of adults and children. 

Dyslexia Statistics

Dyslexia is not a struggle unique to Anna. An estimated 20% of children are Dyslexic. The numbers seem to be growing. It’s hard to know if this is because of more awareness or another reason. Regardless, you know and interact with many people who have Dyslexia. Some children will “outgrow” Dyslexia while others will be lifelong Dyslexics.

Dyslexia Games Creation

My quest to help my daughter kept ending at dead ends. None of the products for Dyslexia worked for her or fit our family. I began to think about how Anna noticed b/d/p/q looked exactly the same. As I thought through ways to help her, I turned to her passion- art.

I was homeschooled myself and struggled in school. It’s likely I would have received an Asperger’s diagnosis myself. Awareness of Asperger’s was much lower when I was growing up than it is now so I was overlooked. One of the gifts of Asperger’s is the ability to think outside the box and be creative. Nobody knows their child better than their mother. I knew the answer to helping my daughter learn to read was one I could find.

One afternoon I sat down and started to draw. As I drew, I incorporated letters and words into my artwork. I wanted to see how Anna would respond to words and letters if they were presented as art instead of as a bunch of words on a page. I created puzzles for her to complete and pictures to copy. After I had a few done, I handed them over to her.

Anna loved them and eagerly completed them. But would they help her Dyslexia? After completing several more, she began to read! I made an entire set with different games and activities. Her reading ability increased and she was soon an avid reader who loved to read. Plus she no longer had any symptoms of Dyslexia.

We began selling the PDF version to print at home on our website DyslexiaGames.com and had physical copies printed and shipped by a local print shop at first. When we published Dyslexia Games Series C we switched from the local Print Shop to CreateSpace to drop-ship our books for us.  We also listed the books on Amazon as well. Thus, Dyslexia Games was born. 

Today Dyslexia Games have been used by thousands of children worldwide. We have families on every continent (except Antarctica!) and in dozens of countries. Dyslexia tutors, therapy centers, and schools are using the games with results unlike anything else out there. 

With this post, the journey began…

The Fun-Schooling Story: The Branches of The Thinking Tree Spread Out!

What The Thinking Tree Offers

As we’ve grown our tree has branched into several different offerings. Today we have six “branches” on our Thinking Tree. 

Fun-Schooling Journals consist of our core journals, the first journals we created. We also have dozens of smaller “single subject” journals on standard school subjects like Language Arts, History, Math, Science, Art, and Geography. Single-subject journals on “elective” topics have also been created such as Dance, Foreign Language, Animals, Sports, and even Minecraft! There are about 300 Fun-Schooling Journals.

Dyslexia Games is our art-based Dyslexia therapy program. It was created a few years before the first Fun-Schooling journal. There are three series for different age groups. Throughout the years we have found it helpful for students with ADHD/ADD, Asperger’s, and other learning challenges too. Interestingly, we’ve also found children without learning challenges or disabilities benefit too. It helps children with creative thinking, problem-solving, handwriting, spelling, art skills, math, and more.

Click here to continue reading.

The Fun-Schooling Story: The Thinking Tree Grows!

The Thinking Tree Grows

At first, we weren’t sure any of “this” would catch on beyond our circle of friends. As we were contacted by families asking for journals with different themes, we knew something special had come. I got to work creating more journals. Each was based on the same concept with different covers and interior artwork to appeal to kids’ interests. These core journals became the foundational journal for Fun-Schooling families.

 

We named our new company The Thinking Tree when we published Dyslexia Games. My kids got involved in creating journals based on themes they were interested in and subjects they wanted to cover. I created smaller journals to use as an in-depth study on a single topic.

A Facebook page and group were started. We got the attention of a few Mom Bloggers who shared our journals with their audience. I added in Math and Spelling journals. Thinking Tree was invited to homeschool conferences. A few of our journals became available through Barnes and Noble. I created a series of Mom School journals so moms could pursue their interests and be a good example. Word kept spreading about our Fun-Schooling journals and I became an unintentional entrepreneur! 

The Thinking Tree grew by leaps and bounds during the Covid 19 lockdowns…read about it in this post!

Read the beginning of the story here!