He overcame a speech delay through homeschooling. Now this Hispanic 12-year-old is an online chess entrepreneur

Donnie Humberto Iler is no ordinary Texas 10th grader. 

At age 12, he’s started a chess club, built an online chess teaching business, and taken two college classes. But he experienced…

Donnie Humberto Iler is no ordinary Texas 10th grader. 

At age 12, he’s started a chess club, built an online chess teaching business, and taken two college classes. But he experienced immense struggles in his childhood with a speech delay and diagnosis of borderline ADHD. 

His parents, Donald and Lariza Iler, noticed Donnie was speaking only isolated words at 2-years-old and tried to use the state’s Early Childhood Intervention program to help him. 

However, when Donnie turned 3 and aged out of the system, his therapy was transferred to the family’s public school district. 

“He was losing the progress he had made in the previous program due to the lack of organization in the public school,” Lariza said, noting the school’s therapist had a record of being late or not arriving at all. 

So she began working with Donnie herself, using educational materials and coursework to overcome his speech delay during the summer. 

His progress over three months astonished Lariza’s relatives, who had a history of school teaching and had expressed skepticism about the family’s decision to teach Donnie at home. 

“It was a blessing,” his mom said of his success, which inspired her resolve to homeschool him starting when he was 4.

‘I felt defeated’ 

The family’s homeschooling journey wasn’t always easy. Lariza had pictured a “marvelous” time with Donnie sitting next to her, listening to every word. 

“He was jumping, running, and playing upside down,” she said. “I felt defeated. Four days passed, and things were still the same. I would read, and he would be in his world.”

However, when she asked Donnie what he had learned on the fifth day, Lariza discovered he had retained everything she taught. 

When Donnie later received a diagnosis of borderline ADHD, a doctor recommended Lariza make learning accommodations for him at home. This allowed him more time for testing, and she designed a Student Education Plan or SEP to meet his special needs. 

Lariza also had concerns at first about her ability to teach correct English pronunciation to Donnie, as she was originally from Mexico and a native Spanish speaker. 

However, she found resources to help her along the way, including phonics-based reading lessons emphasizing the sounds of each letter. 

“There are ways to teach your child the English language,” she said. “You just need to think outside the box.” 

She also used Christian curriculum such as “Heart of Dakota: Little Hearts for His Glory” for Donnie to develop a love of learning across different subjects. 

Developing a passion for chess into a business 

Homeschooling allowed Donnie to pursue one of his main passions, chess, from an early age. He even named his schnauzer “Bishop” and decided to start his own Eagle Pass Rookies chess club. 

After coaching from a chess instructor, Donnie eventually grew the club to the point where he and other members could participate in competitions throughout Texas, winning trophies and medals. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, Donnie participated in the Duke University Talent Identification Program. He helped found a virtual Tipsters Chess Club for students nationwide, where they held virtual chess tournaments and weekly Zoom meetings. 

In 2023, Donnie began teaching chess to children in his Del Rio homeschool co-op. His students are only slightly younger than he is, ranging from ages 8 to 11.  

His lessons include playing with chess clocks, teaching strategy, and solving chess puzzles. He also coordinated chess competitions virtually and in-person, complete with medals and trophies to give to winners. 

This experience inspired Donnie to start an online chess business, called Legacy Chess 2023, in the summer of last year. 

He has two students so far from his co-op, which has about 150 members including students, teachers, and parents. 

“I teach my students through Zoom lessons every week,” he said, adding he plans to grow his enterprise. 

Plans for college, future competitions 

Today Donnie is continuing to thrive in his homeschool, helping organize activities for his co-op’s student council such as game nights, prom, and pool parties. The co-op also engages in community service by collecting trash from highways and parks. 

He also keeps active by swimming and hopes to participate in triathlons through the “Dolphins,” his local competitive swimming team. 

When he’s not swimming, riding his bike or building Legos, Donnie still finds time to learn how to play the saxophone and take two college classes in microeconomics and government. 

He credits homeschooling with giving him the freedom to continue his academics through various health challenges his family has experienced. 

“When my grandpa had a heart attack, we were able to go to his house and help him,” he said. “And I could do my school there.”   

Homeschool also allowed Donnie to participate in caring for his ailing grandmother before she died. 

“We were basically friends,” he said. “Even if I wanted to do something crazy like get up at 4 a.m. and watch TV, she’d do it with me.” 

‘When one of us is down, the other one is there to help’ 

More recently in 2021, Lariza found she had endometrial stromal sarcoma, a rare tumor causing her to undergo three surgeries. 

While she said her experience was “very tough and mentally draining,” she appreciates homeschooling as a way for her family to support one another. 

“When one of us is down, the other one is there to help,” Lariza said. “And that’s what we want Donnie to learn and share with his own family someday.” 

Homeschooling has given Donnie a desire to attend college early and major in mechanical engineering, business, or architecture. 

He also placed high enough on a college examination program’s Spanish test to earn up to nine college credits – a testament to Lariza’s efforts to preserve his Mexican heritage by teaching him Spanish since age 5. 

“A lot of people think you have to be an expert to homeschool,” she said. “But it’s all about finding resources and searching for alternative options.”