I Like Being In Fourth Grade or (4th Grade and Dyslexia)

I’m in fourth grade this year.

Not literally.
But kind of.

It all started when we were back in second grade.
Or actually long before that…

I remember the exact date when we knew…
That for the first time we were going to be parents.
And God knew
Long before that–

Who our first born would be.

Our oldest.
A child so social–
So quick to love,
So quick to notice a hurting heart.

I remember her walking up to other toddlers at the park, offering an outstretched hand–
Quickly finding a friend.
She was easy to parent, quick to respond–
So quick to notice the intricate, the details, the emotions of others.

But so slow to talk–
And sit up.
And walk.
And tie shoes.
And jump rope.

So diligent,
So hard-working…
Can’t tell you how many times we’ve read:

…she’s probably the hardest worker I’ve ever had in my class.

And it’s true.
I know it is.
I’ll never forget those lists she made in first grade:


Not lists or cards that I created, but ones she made for herself, because she wanted to
Do well.
Work hard.
Make progress.

Or the years between ages 4 and 6,
when she’d sit for an hour or more at a time–
Relearning sounds.
Pronunciation. Articulation.
Sound formation.
ay, ee, igh, oh, oo
say, see, sigh, soe, soo
Then sounds in sentences.
Then sounds in paragraphs.
Finally sounds in
Daily speech.

But it wasn’t until second grade…
That it all made sense–

The tight grip on her pencil, with thumb crossing over index.
How hat rhymed with hot.
The missing -er, -ed, -es that halted reading progress.
Rolodexing words when pressed
to “sound it out”.
The vision complaints with vision-perfect-eyes.
Pledge allegiance stance to remember Right from Left.
Cents that made–
No sense.

So thankful for the day when I came across this list or maybe it was this list
Sitting on my son’s teacher’s desk.
Inviting me to look for signs and symptoms of a child with–


That was back in second grade and it has been a long journey to this place:
Testing and discouraging answers–
Heartache at facing the scores.
Fearing labels and intervention–
Looking for help so specific.
Worrying about costs and school changes–
Then finding one that would work well.
Learning of high intelligence
But the reality of test-taking blocks.
Thankful for excellent coping skills–
Yet realizing how much time we’d lost….
Finding her Language Skills teacher–
And Orton-Gillingham methods–
And now seeing her reading–
So well.

But there are still those days…
When we face a
When we’re trying to count by two’s or five’s–just review.
Rolling along until 126–
And for some reason 128 will not come.
But instead she can only write:
And we must choose to either laugh or cry.
We do both.
But we do it–
Because this child’s heart–
Her struggle–
Her hurt–
Her effort–
Is so closely meshed with mine.

Now we’re in fourth grade.
And I say we’re…
Because that’s really how it is.
We’re learning about the moon right now.
We’re reading through chapter 4.
And I owe her this.
And I want her this.
With her and for her.
Because she smiles and feels the joy of learning.
Because I know God has these plans for her.
Specific plans.
And I know it could be so much harder…
So many other things we could be facing.
Some we have already faced.

So why share the journey?
Someday I’ll let her tell her story.
And she will write it much better than I ever could.
Because truly she has the heart of a writer.
And a reader.

And that’s one reason…
To say I’m thankful–

For this child who has more patience with our toddler than I have.
Even back then…
The doctors at the Children’s Hospital told us she was directly linked to how long Selah lived.
Our baby who aspirated with each swallow–

Because our oldest baby would patiently spend an hour on each bottle…lifting Selah’s head, patting her back at the hint of any coughing-choking…back when we didn’t know.  The patience of a little one who needs such patience.

How thankful I am for this child who completed 200-piece-puzzles when she was only 3–
But was still such a puzzle to us.
Who faithfully writes Obama
When I am faithless to even pray for him.
Who loves to read and will consistently stop to look up words she doesn’t recognize–
When I am too impatient to do more than skim.

She just came to me begging for the end of A Little Princess
This child who shouldn’t even like to read.

And then I also share because God knew I needed her.
The Straight-A-Hoop-Jumper,
Who didn’t understand the heartache of a mama-with-a-loved-baby-struggling.

This mom too focused on externals, measuring sticks–
Needing a heart-shift-transformation.
This mama lacking patience–
Who now clings to God when the voice needs to stay tender, compassionate, calm, hopeful…

She has been one of God’s big grace-gifts–
To save me from the self-sustaining, self-proclaiming one I could be–
So easily would be.
That one who shames me now.

And finally–I share to offer hope.
For any mommy out there reading.
Who has a little one–
On a similar journey.

Courage, dear heart–
Do you hear God’s loving whisper?

He sees–
He loves–
Both of you.
So much.

I feared the knowing.
I guess I feared the answers–
Of finding out what truly might be there.
But–for us at least– the box was not a box, but a bridge…

And it opened understanding and help and healing and hope.
So much hope.

So if you read this and you read your little one in these words…
Take courage.
Take heart.
Get help and be there–
Dig in and be there–
Be there.

And right now…that’s where I am.
And I like being in fourth grade.
With this little girl I love.

What Has Helped Us (Dyslexia Related Resources):
*Our teachers–year after year–have been a huge resource on this journey.  So thankful during the crucial transition years for you–Rosalie & Annie.  I can sense your love for Laura. Your patience and encouragement has been incredible.  I thank God for you on a daily basis.
*My heart for our childI Would Take Her Thorn
*Friends who “get it” and can walk the journey alongside through the joy and the tears
*The International Dyslexia Association
*Information on the Orton-Gillingham approach
*Why homeschool a Dyslexic child?
*Understanding Dysgraphia
*The Oregon Branch of the International Dyslexia Association
*Language Skills Therapy–the Orton-Gillingham-based group (Our instructor is truly a gift from God) that we’ve been working with for two years now.
*Dyslexia and math information–it’s not just about reading
*Homeschooling children with special needs
*37 Symptoms to look for
*Bright Solutions’ signs of Dyslexia.
*Reading Rockets’ common signs of Dyslexia.
*Super Duper Publications–excellent materials!
*Our favorite talking dictionary
*Famous People Who Have Dyslexia
*Touchmath is great and we found most of ours on eBay.
*We love Math-U-See Manipulatives.
*Explode the Code phonics workbooks were helpful to all our children!
*High Noon Chapter Books are good for struggling readers who want to read chapter books.
*What I wish I’d known about phonemic awareness years ago.
*For books that encourage phonemic awareness…scroll down to the bottom of our favorite books list.
*Phonemic Awareness teaching tips.
*Starfall–and online early reading program that is free.
*Signing Time–most universities will accept sign language as a second language–this is what we’re aiming for.
*Dyslexia and stress

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  1. I struggled with the same issue my whole life but was not diagnosed until I got to college. I lived my life thinking I was stupid because of my test scores. So God bless you for all you are doing for her.

  2. This is just overwhelmingly beautiful — and knowing that God has created her this way and allowed for the struggle because of all the amazing ways that He brings redemption and beauty out of the seemingly imperfect. As one who has struggled with a disability (a severe hearing loss), I have walked the journey and am seeing the fruit in my life.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this, and how faithful God has been to walk you through this with your daughter with such wisdom and courage! I am the director of Special Education at a school for students with learning disabilities, and I come across these wonderful learners every day! It is such a struggle for them, but so many of them have such perseverance! Your little one seems awesome!

  4. Thank you so much Jen…I know you do understand…I always feel connected to the words you write.

    Shae–what you shared is exactly what breaks my heart…little kiddos feeling like they somehow don’t measure up–yet not even receiving the help that could possibly help so much. But I know your tender heart–probably so much molded by those exact struggles you faced. Thanks for sharing Shae–I didn’t know that about you…

  5. Danielle–I definitely know her personality (and work ethic was a gift from God). It would be such a hard, hard struggle and journey if she fought against the help offered. I also think we owe huge thanks to her special teachers along the way…who shielded her from negative emotions by always going above and beyond in working with her…who gave her the tools to taste success. I’m so thankful we never entered the so-common-experience of dreading school. I feel like God spared us a lot of what is a more common experience with learning disabilities. Her Language Skills is almost over, so I need to run, but will come visit your school and site soon…very interested. You’ve dedicated your skills to something so meaningful and close to my heart.

  6. Beautiful post, Kara. And you and Laura are both beautiful, too–working through this by God’s grace. Reading this really encouraged my heart. :)

  7. We struggle in different ways, but this is so encouraging. There IS hope and God has a plan for all struggling sons and daughters. Thank you!

  8. I am a special education teacher and oh, I felt your heartache and triumph through this post. You are a good mama, and your daughter beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles and heart with all of us. It’s brave to put yourself out there.

  9. Thank you for sharing! Our daughter is struggling right now in 1st grade and we haven’t quite put a finger on what it is but it is so disheartening.

    Besides your resources, thank you for your true and encouraging words. So often I find myself crying tears of frustration–for her, with her, with myself for not being a better mother to her in her struggles…

  10. This is a beautiful post. I have had three children with dyslexia, and I have it as well. My 10-year old has it the worst and is still not reading. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. va-grown…just so I give the full picture…there have been many times I’ve let my frustration show…and we’ve both ended up in tears. I know it is so hard at times, to see them struggle and to not know what to do. I wish I’d been more willing to get help earlier. But I can sense your love for your daughter in the words you wrote…feel free to email me anytime if you want to process…

    Phyllis–Praying God’s strength for you–so far our others haven’t struggled–but with 3…wow. I love the quote on your family blog:
    “I care about what you care about because I care about you.”

  12. Precious wisdom and insight! What marvels He reveals when we are willing to see through His Eyes of Love. My precious daughter who has struggled so mightily is 21 and simply amazing. :)

  13. I don’t think I’ve told you yet how much I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for sharing as you grow!

  14. You daughter is beautiful. I have four redheaded sons, but no redheaded little girls! I’m a teacher, and I read this with tears in my eyes. You are teaching her so much about what’s really important in life, and it’s already evident in her little life. I just love that she’s a reader and a writer, too. Blessings on you, Mom!

  15. Really beautiful, Kara. She seems like a sweet, tenderhearted girl. Blessings to you as you learn together!

  16. Just soaking in this whole post!!
    Will be spending time looking through those resources at the end…thanks for the encouraging words…for the hope.

  17. AM–you should have been in my resource list…
    “Find a friend who understands and can walk the journey with you.”
    I think I’ll add that :)

  18. that is awesome…how far she has come…and so glad she has you right there to walk it with her…have some fun in 4th grade…smiles.

  19. This moved me so much!

  20. Good for you for finding the beauty and gift in this! Your daughter’s (and your) hard work will reap more benefit in the long run than easy success ever would.

    This phrase encourages me: “the box was not a box, but a bridge….” So true of all our infirmities.

    Thank you and God bless you and yours today.

  21. C. is LD and in third grade. Other than having a mom who is a hardcore advocate for the disabled (she is blind), having a Special Ed Support group at our school helped immensely.

  22. I had a youth pastor who was Dyslexic. He was one of the most influential people in my life and my journey with God!
    Your little girl is so beautiful, and blessed to have a mother like you.

  23. What a family full of love you have! And THAT is worth more than most of the rest of it all put together, isn’t it?!

  24. …her struggles and persistence inspire me.

  25. This is a wonderful story. I love how the problem is unfolded, revealed and then lovingly disarmed. Your girl is gorgeous and I love how He graciously gave her a passion to read and learn to aid her in these struggles. And the way He is working to shape and soften you in the process is encouraging to another Straight-A-Hoop-Jumper whose LORD will not allow her life to become a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet or checklist but instead conceals and reveals in His timing alone. I love that you can see refinement in this process. It gives me hope.

  26. Kara,

    This was an amazing story!

    I loved reading how your daughter had the motivation to keep going despite the struggles. This was a part of the story that really stood-out to me the most.

    Also, I liked the ending as well when you said WE’RE in fourth grade – it’s like you are the mommy to work with her with a willing heart. I think this is quite special and precious, indeed.

    At any rate, thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. :)

    -L. Rose

  27. This was one of the more beautiful things I have read. Thank you. If it’s okay – I will look forward to using it as part of my [Preserving Mondays].

  28. WhaT a great post Written with such love:) thanks for linking up to the NOBH

  29. I can’t even begin to tell you all how much these kind, encouraging words mean…and so many stories shared…so many who are pressing on in God’s strength and love, trying to focus on what really matters, what will help a child see their true value in His sight.
    This whole string of comments has lifted my heart.
    Thank you.
    And Dear Perserving the Beauty–yes–you’re welcome to share on Monday. Thank you.

  30. nice entry …

  31. Beautiful. If all children had parents who care and pursue help like you do, our children would be free to grow and be a child. Your daughter’s story will be (has been)used greatly to touch hearts.


  32. Oh, what a beautiful post! I would sit here and just start bawling, except that my just-finishing-third grader with dyslexia would start asking me why I’m crying and then I would have to come up with a reason to tell him.
    You have captured it all so beautifully, and far more nobly, I might add, than I often feel. I can’t tell you how I needed these reminders today–of God’s grace, of His love for ME, and of His continued faithfulness through the journey. I am so often so faithLESS.
    I would love to link to this post from my blog if you don’t mind, as I have a special needs section on there and am trying to write more posts about dyslexia, specifically.
    Again, thank you!

  33. Steph/Hope Unbroken–I’m with you–I wish this was always. I wish there weren’t the days that I made her cry and made me cry and had to leave the room to stop-up the frustration almost spilling over (that sometimes does spill).
    You’re welcome to share the post…I stopped by your site and found one of my cling-to passages:

    “But THIS I call to mind,
    and therefore I have HOPE:
    The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases,
    His mercies never come to an end;
    they are NEW every morning;
    great is Your FAITHFULNESS.
    ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
    ‘therefore I will HOPE in Him’.”
    ~Lamentations 3:21-24
    Thank YOU…that was what I needed this morning.

  34. this touched me so deeply, kara… and i loved the photos, watching your beautiful daughter grow up… thank you for sharing your heart, friend.

  35. Emily–thank you so much…

    I lost about 20 comments in the blogger-confusion so please forgive me if you asked something and I didn’t respond…or if you see your comment missing…it’s not my doing :)
    Just want you all to know much it means to this momma’s heart to hear so many encouraging words.

  36. Wow. What a beautiful way to share the journey.

  37. What a beautiful real life story you have told here. We have two adopted sons with learning disabilities and I work in special ed with a child who has vision impairment. So I’m familiar with the struggles, the discouragement. But to realize this is all intended for our redemption as parents is eye-opening. I know I’ve experienced that vision and then let it slip. Hang on to that wisdom!
    Your daughter is beautiful==like a princess in white. And so beautiful on the inside! You are blessed.
    I loved how you told the story–so encouraging to others.

  38. Thank you Kara for linking to Women of Noble Character. I don’t know anyone who demonstrates that more than you. This post is absolutely beautiful. Your daughter is blessed, you are blessed, your family is blessed.

  39. Thank you for sharing your struggle. I think you have done an amazing job!!

  40. Kara,
    This is a most beautiful tribute of love and acceptance!
    You and your sweet daughter are very precious.
    I believe the Lord allows us to have struggles for our overcoming or for learning to walk closer to Him through them.
    And He always offers hope!!
    He is at one with all who suffer and He is the source of all our strength and faith.
    Many of us have personal disabilities or loved ones who do.
    Praise God for the grace-filled ways He carries us all!
    Thank you for sharing you heart, Kara.
    It is truly a blessing!
    grace and peace..Trish

  41. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Both the child, and your mother-love for her. Big hugs for both you!

  42. So beautiful!!! It has been such a blessing to find your blog, get to know more about you, and now work with you (YAY!!) … Emailing you back in just a few, btw :)


  43. Oh Kara…my heart welled up with emotion reading this…it is never easy watching our children’s struggles. you are a beautiful mumma. Thanks for linking up and sharing your heart with us….may your story reach out and bring encouragement and strength to those facing similar struggles.

  44. She sounds like an amazing and determined little girl. I am sure she will leave big footprints in this world.

  45. Girl you are a great writter! And you little girl is precious. I love the way you did this post!

  46. I cried like a baby as I read through this. My daughter and I have been going through the same thing. She is in third grade now. We are also dealing with ADD and sensory processing issues in addition to the dyslexia. The words were very encouraging for me. I love my daughter so much and its hard to watch her struggle.

    • Oh Mandy…
      I’m right there with you.
      Some days are just so so difficult and it’s so hard to watch them struggling.
      Your heart and love for your daughter is such an encouragement to me.
      Thank you so much for commenting and connecting.

  47. Hi Kara,
    Thank you for this post. I accidentally stumbled across your website via Women Living Well, and I believe it was a God send. We’re just beginning to look into evaluation and diagnosis for our son for LD, ADHD, and anxiety. Tears come quickly these days, as I have struggled with what is best for our son and feeling like I can’t help him in these areas. Reading “I feared the knowing. I feared the answers . . . Take courage. Take heart . Get help and be there.” spoke to my soul. As I read your honest feelings and early experience as you began to unravel and then put the pieces back for your daughter, I felt as if I had written this. It is exactly how I’m feeling right now. I find great comfort in reading this post and knowing that my husband, son, and I will get through this together. Thank you.

    • I wish I could just give you a hug.

      Your words bring back so many memories…
      It’s so so hard to watch them hurting and to be in that phase of trying to figure out what will help…

      Just know–
      There is SO SO much hope and so much that can help and we are in such a different place, even this year, than we were when I wrote the post…there is so so much hope.

      God’s love for your little guy is so great. So complete.
      My prayer is that somehow these struggles will pull his little heart closer to God in a way you couldn’t have imagined…
      Because I often remind myself, that while school is important…deep down, deep-deep-deep-down…what I want most is for each one of our little guys to love the Lord wholeheartedly and lives out His purpose for their life.

      I pray this will be true in your little guy’s life as well.

      • Hi Kara,

        Thank you! You are such an encourager!!! I wish we lived closer so that I could take you out for a coffee and say thank you in person.

        My son was diagnosed with anxiety and ADHD last week. There may be some learning difficulties; although, this hasn’t been determined yet. My son may be struggling with some of his academics (primarily writing and spelling) more so because his brain is running like a “race car engine” as his doctor said.

        Have you always home/univesity model style schooled? My son currently attends a 2-day school program and then homeschools the other 3 days. One thing the doctor advised was that we may want to have him in a 5-day school program for more support, but my husband and I aren’t sure about this. From what we’ve heard and from my husband’s own experience (he has ADHD too) the school system isn’t really set up for those with ADHD. And we don’t really want him attending “special needs” classes. He is very bright and sensitive and would feel very hurt and distressed to attend special needs classes. Any experience or advice?

        Thanks again!!!

  48. I can so relate to this – made me cry many tears. We have a child going into 5th grade who struggles as well, and as much headway as we make, we do have our days where it feels like we are at the beginning (we are home schoolers). I am ever grateful that while he fights me at times on his learning, he is one tenacious little guy – a trait that is surely a God-given gift. It is refreshing to read someone else’s experience and thanks for the resource page.

  49. Thank you a thousand times over. I saw this on Pinterest and clicked through, bawling while I read it because I recognized so many things I’ve been dealing with while trying to teach my son. Looking into all the resources you’ve listed at the bottom. Thank you again & God bless you. <3

  50. What a beautiful story! So glad you shared this with the West Coas Christian Bloggers.

  51. Such a beautifully written post! We’re still in the diagnosis and testing stage for Caeden (he’s 5) and it’s so frustrating. At first we thought maybe Asperger’s + Dyslexia, because he has a lot of symptoms of both. But then the doctor decided he thinks Caeden has high-functioning autism, which can affect language (where as Asperger’s typically doesn’t), but I’m still really confused because he has all the symptoms of dyslexia as well…it’s all such a mystery. Like you, I want to find out what his challenges are, not so he can be defined by a label, but so that I can be empowered with that knowledge to know how best to help him and teach him.

  52. Debbie Gurley says:

    Dyslexia is truly a gift, it’s hard to explain to friends who have kids who make all A’s that my child isn’t stupid, he just has to work harder and more and even then may not get it. I love my kids, both boys, both with dyslexia, me too, we live it each and every day. Some days I want to throw my hands in the air, but most I know how lucky I am to have 2 of the most compassionate children you will ever meet. They don’t want anyone to feel bad about themselves, for any reason, they learn different big deal, it may take them longer to understand something, but watching my 3rd grader “RAP” to me the 2x table tonight because he got it, he really finally got it put it all into perspective.

    I so appreciate what you wrote, it made me wish we lived closer, we are so lucky and you made me feel so blessed having 2 children with this Gift!


  1. […] you Laura… For your joyful spirit and love for others. For the way you work so hard and are willing press on through hard things. For what an incredible big sister you are. For how  the heartaches that […]

  2. […] So much of what she wrote was an echo of our family’s experience as we tried to understand and appreciate our daughter’s dyslexia. […]

  3. […] is the first summer in three years that our daughter won’t have language skills therapy for dyslexia, but usually I’m looking for a way to find help with the early morning driving.  This year […]

  4. […] found under friends’ cars ~ ~ for wonderful Language Skills teachers who have helped with dyslexia ~ ~ for annual Nerf Gun Wars in the park ~ ~ for good books like Endurance ~  (Fortitudine […]

  5. […] What special needs, social or health issues, specific gifts, or learning styles does each child have? What school […]

  6. […] gift of our Laura’s and for all of the ways God has used, and continues to use, her in my […]

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