Most parents faced with a child with a physical or learning disability would leave the education process to the “experts.” Valencia Tupper has chosen a different (and more profitable) path.
Valencia’s 11-year-old son, Alex, actually has two conditions — dyspraxia and dysgraphia. Often called the “clumsy child syndrome,” dyspraxia is a motor skill issue affecting things like holding a pencil or using scissors. Dysgraphia, a related disorder, affects transcription disability and is associated with impaired handwriting.
“My son often finds himself the last to finish copying something from the board,” Valencia explains. “Even when he finishes, it looks like a 5-year-old wrote it. He has trouble with coloring and even tying his shoes. All these take twice as long as other children his age, and often end up looking sloppy.”
Homeschooling, though, has enabled the Tuppers to find ways to work around these issues. “We set up a non-Internet-capable computer in his room,” Valencia says. “We turned off any spell and grammar checks so as to give him the opportunity to learn those things as he writes. In [homeschool co-op] classes, I take notes and do the copy work in case he does not finish during the time given. This way he has practice in note taking and we still get the information if he runs out of time.”
The Jacksonville resident credits the 2010 FPEA Florida Homeschool Convention, the first Convention she attended, for providing a breakthrough in identifying Alex’s condition. “I went to a lecture on learning disabilities that changed our lives,” Valencia recalls. “I had long suspected what issue my son had, but in that lecture, I was floored as [the presenter] described both my son and my husband to a T. Then when she explained the why, and then how to deal with it, I was in tears. That experience made a huge impact in our lives, and I will forever be grateful to the FPEA for providing the opportunity.”
Though the Tuppers belong to a local Classical Conversations homeschool group, Valencia describes her approach to homeschooling as “eclectic and eccentric. I approach homeschooling as a progression of learning phases, however I have always been a bit of a free spirit, so much of our learning has been unconventional. I pull books and curriculum from whatever publishers seem to work for us, and sometimes will use books I found at a garage sale or used bookstore in our study.” For the Tuppers, the “classroom” is really a glorified storage area. “My son and I are more often than not laid out on my bed with our heads hanging off reading,” Valencia says, “or he is doing his math work while sitting on the trampoline with one of his cats.”
Proof positive that successful education can take place at any time and under any condition — whether it be on a trampoline or in the face of a learning disability.