Dyslexia and World Schooling

October 10, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Stories


Dyslexia definition

noun: *dyslexia*
a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

Although the diagnosis brought us as her parents some relief, our daughter was devastated as it made her feel even more different than her friends.

A problematic system

Our 12 year old daughter is a very bright girl who just learns in a different way. She would come home from school every day crying that the work was just too hard and she didn’t understand anything. Unfortunately state school in Scotland doesn’t really allow for much diversification in the way it teaches children. This diagnosis did start us examining why we were allowing her to get upset over things like spelling and learning times tables off by heart when she was probably going to have an electronic device in her pocket for the rest of her life that would assist her with the things that she struggled with the most. This school system was making her not want to learn anything.

Learning in a different way

We noticed that she was at her most happiest during the school summer holidays when we took our annual 7 week vacation to Sanibel Island in South West Florida. Here she attends an arts camp and a marine biology camp for a few weeks every year. She was coming home in the afternoon from these camps full of stories about the activities that she had been participating in and also about things she had learned – something she never did at traditional school. Last summer one of the topics she learned about was hammerhead sharks. A year later she can still tell me the sharks head is called a “cephalofoil” and explain how they pin and pivot to eat their prey. How can it be that she can remember this but she wouldn’t be able to tell me what 2×8 equals?thumb_dsc_0817_1024-xl

She seems to be able to easily learn subjects that interest her and make sense to her. She can explain how dolphins socialise and use eco-location to find food. Not because she has read it in a book, but because at camp she has ‘been’ a dolphin. The camp kids were split into small groups in the Gulf of Mexico and recreated small pods to be able to understand the social conduct of dolphins and compare them to human social behaviours. She learns in an active manner; by doing and touching and finding things out for herself.

At school a lot of her energy is spent trying to decipher what words are in books so she is missing the meaning that the book is trying to give her. She can explain food chains and eco systems as she has caught plankton in a dip net then taken it back to camp and looked at it under the microscope. What better way to teach a child than to show them and let them see things for themselves?

Happy place

All Winter she has talked about returning to camp and seeing her old friends dsc_0240-sfrom last year who don’t judge or make fun of her because her reading might be a little slower than theirs or because she struggles with spelling. These Summer friends see a cheerful fun loving girl who can surf, catch fish, snorkel and even describe the anatomy of a shark as well as they can. This is her happy place. She can be one of the gang without feeling self conscious or worried that she is going to be caught out with tasks that she finds too tricky in the classroom.

She now knows that she comes home to Scotland full of stories and adventures that none of her class mates know anything about. This new information that she has learned at camp makes her cleverer than them in a different way – after all how many 12 year old girls in Central Scotland can say that they have done a night dive with sting rays or dissected a shark?

A bright future

Next summer she will be old enough to be a councillor at this camp, where she will have some responsibility in looking after the younger group members, enabling her to develop more life skills. She wants to work in a rehabilitation centre for injured sea life – something she would never have dreamed of if she hadn’t travelled half way around the world and grown a love for the ocean. Thanks to the experiences that travel has given us we can now see a brighter future for her and more importantly so can she.


Click here for more details on  Sanibel Sea School

  1. astridgodin said on October 27, 2016 3:38 pm:

    How great that you have helped your daughter flourish and find her way, resisting the pressures to squeeze her into the mold that the standard school system dictates.
    We also have a son with learning disabilities (and ADHD). We discovered Eaton Arrowsmith – a specialized school in Vancouver Canada – where an understanding of brain plasticity and growth mindset allow each student to grow according to their needs.
    This year, though, we are taking a break to worldschool. This is where he learns most. He is very hands on and most interested when seeing things live.
    I’ll look up the camp in Florida. Sounds like it would be up our alley as well. 🙂
    Thanks for the article.