What about homeschooling a learning disabled child? To clarify, learning disabilities are a little bit different than special needs. Learning disabilities are things that are in the way of our learning. My wife, Jody, has dyslexia. As a young girl, she struggled with it and had to go through special training, and still managed to finish school with really great grades and a Master’s degree.

I almost want to rename “learning disabilities” to something like “learning hindrances.” These are just obstacles in the way. Sometimes these “disabilities” are not genuine disabilities. Oftentimes what matters is the environment that you put your student in. Let’s consider someone who is highly distractible. They’re the kind of person that you actually want to put into a context like working in an emergency room, if they have the skills for it, because they can be interrupted. There are other people who don’t like interruptions; they’re not good in emergency rooms. They need to be in a more manufacturing or more consistent office kind of context where they’re working through their data sheets and getting things done.

Sometimes our culture labels biases and personalities as disabilities, so I think that’s something you should consider and appreciate regarding your student.

From there, all you’re trying to do is figure out three things for your child.

1: Where do they want to be? Or where do you want them to be? What are you trying to get them to?

2: Assess where they really are. What exactly is their challenge in this disability?

3: Think up a plan.

We’re trying to move from: where your student is—to where you’d like them to be—using a plan. Very simple process. In other contexts, we like to call that Here, There, and Path. There is where you’re headed, Here is where you are now, and the Path is your plan to help your child with these challenges, these hindrances, to get to a new place.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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Dr. Lybrand and his wife (Jody) of 40 years homeschooled their 5 children from birth to college, where they all excelled in academics and community (University of Texas & Abilene Christian). Dr. & Mrs. Lybrand have combined degrees of 2 BA's, 2 Masters, and 1 Doctorate), Fred and Jody have stuck with their faith and their obsession with practical learning. As a result, the overall theme of "Teaching Them to Learn How to Learn" invades everything they offer. Dr. Lybrand pastored for 25 years and currently coaches, consults, and trains leaders in businesses, churches, and non-profits. Among his client list are the U.S. Air Force, CRU, Be Broken, Continental Resources, State Farm Insurance, and Pioneer Natural Resources. Of course, one of his favorite interests is helping homeschoolers excel, and he does so with the 10 Courses of The Independent Homeschooer Curriculum & directly mentoring parents who belong to the tribe. Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand Jr. www.fredraylybrand.com

    3 replies to "Learning Disabilities & Homeschooling"

    • Fred Ray Lybrand

      Hi Nicole,

      Great question(s). This would be good for our Friday With Fred live discussions we are currently having on our YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/c/FredRayLybrand at 10:30am on Fridays.

      What you are sharing is complicated and you are right to realize the significance of setting the wrong goal (including setting no goal). I think the solution starts with have a goal for the skills you want him to develop. If he goes to college, he will need to read and write and do an acceptable level of math. Thinking this way allows you to focus on PROGRESS (success) rather than PERFECTION (or some unrealistic goal for the moment).

      In other words, I think you want to figure out where he is and see to it that he is improving from that point each week. Constant improvement will get him there if it’s possible. I believe our reading course (and the others) would help him a lot, as we have had dozens and dozens of LD kids testify.

      One thing I would suggest about reading is to practice Narration (Charlotte Mason technique) with him…but especially, have him read out loud to you a few minutes every day. Reading out loud tends to help hook up the language game in our heads. Also, if he isn’t good with phonics, back up and conquer that.

      Anyway, this is a start. What are you thinking now?



      • Nicole Clifford

        Hello Dr. Lybrand, and thank you for responding to my questions so quickly.

        I agree with you that setting no goal would probably be the wrong approach. I appreciate that you mentioned that because sometimes I can hesitate so long when I’m trying to make a plan that I end up starting a project with no goal in mind. That’s never a good experience.

        I am glad you can see the complexity of the task I’m facing. I had not considered setting short term goals that are progress minded. I had sort of imagined that setting goals and being progress minded had to be on two separate playing fields. Since I wasn’t sure what grade level of math I wanted my son to finish high school with, or whether I should even be measuring his math skills by grade levels, I didn’t know how to map out his short term goals. But I think what you said makes a lot of sense. I appreciate how you often emphasize the importance of correcting their work and keeping records so we can measure their progress. That is something that I could not get from the other education options we have tried so I am looking forward to homeschooling and to feeling a more confident that I know where my children are academically.

        Thank you so much for your time and valuable advice. I’m feeling a bit more confident in what I need to do now.

    • Nicole Clifford

      I am interested in your thoughts about goal setting for children with ADHD or other learning “hinderances”. My son has ADHD. He is 11 and going into 6th grade this year but by public school standards he is doing 3rd grade math. To give you a little background on our situation and context for why I’m seeking your advice… My husband and I sent our kids to public school up until the beginning of last year. We have always worked closely with our children’s teachers, principals, and guidance counselors. But it just wasn’t working. Despite my son’s 504 plan he just wasn’t getting the help he needed. And he was gone so long throughout the day that it just wasn’t an option to get him help after school. We had tried charter school already, so when we pulled them out, we decided to try Prenda (which is kind of like a 3rd-party-organized co-op). That was okay but I’m still not sure that they made as much progress academically as they could have. So here we are. Over the last year I’ve kind of felt like I was having an education mid-life crisis. Hahaha! I am questioning everything I thought about what education should look like and particularly with my son who has ADHD, I’m not sure what to think anymore. I want to set goals for him or help him set his own goals… but that’s the hard part. I don’t know what I want for him in the short term… long term, yes. I want him to be able to get into college if he wants to when he is old enough. I want him to be a life-long learner. I want him to be happy and able to teach himself. 😉 But in the short term, I am not sure what his academic goals should look like BECAUSE he has a learning hinderance. Should I be trying to “catch him up” to the state standards so that he will be prepared for college someday? Should I focus more on making sure he is making progress at his own pace? How hard should I push him? Is it fair or healthy to compare him to other children his age (which is essentially what the state standards do) who don’t have learning hinderances? I’ve heard so many opinions and theories about what the best mindset is for education. Some of them address learning differences/hinderances and some of them don’t. But so far, they all feel incomplete. They either don’t address learning differences/hindrances at all, or they talk a lot about how our educational system is flawed but fail to acknowledge that our children will likely have to be part of that system at some point, whether they like the way it is designed or not (i.e., College.) I want my child to be growth minded. I am afraid to set goals based on the state standards because I don’t want him to feel like a failure if he can’t learn that fast. But I also am afraid that he will get to be 18 and may not have all the math skills he needs to get a good score on his SATs and ACTs. I appreciate all of your videos and I value your advice because I feel like we kind of think alike, and a lot of what you say makes sense to me. So… all of that said, here is my question. What are your thoughts on how to decide what a short-term goal SHOULD look like for your child specifically if they have a learning hinderance?

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