By Amy Vickrey, MSE

As I finish my first year of homeschool with my 6-year-old, soon-to-be “First Grader,” I am looking over the last year at all we have accomplished, and I am amazed. Just an hour or two of work most days of the week has helped him learned to read, do simple addition and subtraction, and begin into the writing process when he wasn’t even writing his name when we started. I know that even more important than meeting these goals is keeping one big goal in mind: the goal to create in my son a LOVE of learning.

I want him to become a LIFELONG LEARNER!

What does this mean? I want him to love seeking out new information and new knowledge, to never stop growing and learning. To have the tools to seek out information he wants to know.

Choose to Be an Example to Follow
To create a life-long learner, I must first be a lifelong learner myself. Children learn through examples. Here are some resources about how and why to become a life-long learner, even as an adult:

Why You Should Strive to Be a Lifelong Learner
Continuing to educate yourself can help you be more successful on the job and in business.

Learning is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life
Learning keeps your mind and body healthier, helps you create better spending habits and earning potential, and helps you become a better socialized and able to socialize person.

How and Why to Become a Lifelong Learner
Lifelong learning develops leadership potential and helps unlock skills throughout life that are not developed in the younger years.

If you are reading this blog, you probably are or are wanting to be a lifelong learner already! As a lifelong learner myself, sometimes it is still difficult to get my child to see the bigger picture of continuing to learn and grow throughout life. So I work to equip my son with tools to help him reach this goal. These tools include:

1 – Encourage the Love of Reading
With the ability to read comes the ability to learn anything. In today’s society, I would add the ability to use a computer too. We are blessed with computers that can read to us and help us with the reading and learning process. A love of reading helps make this an enjoyable experience and a desire to reach out and learn more.

2 – Handle Mistakes as Opportunities to Learn
The simple truth is everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we react to those mistakes that define us. Learn from mistakes; learn together; show how you learn from your own mistakes and help your children learn from theirs. Natural consequences are so powerful, especially when children are young. It is so much more powerful to teach a child how they got an answer wrong than to just mark it wrong.

3 – Teach Skills on How to Find Answers
When my son asks me a question I don’t know the answer to (or sometimes I do), I show him how to look up the answer on the computer, in a book, through Google, and other resources. I let him see me asking questions about things I need to learn. How to find answers is a powerful tool. It goes along with reading and a love of reading. I may not know the answer, but I know how to find it, and how to know if my source is credible.

4 – Allow Choice in Learning
I think this is the essence of homeschooling. The ability to give children the ability to have a choice in what they are learning. At my son’s young age, this means I provide books, games, and other materials on topics he likes or might like, and I let him explore them in his free time. About the time he thinks he has exhausted the bookshelf, he finds something new to explore. We go to the library, and I let him talk to the librarian about subjects and topics he is interested in. We explore TV shows and documentaries together about topics he loves. I have learned more about dinosaurs in the last year than I thought possible. But it’s what he loves and he is learning too.

5 – Provide Time for Play
Play is such an important part of the learning process. It is when children take information and make it their own. It is when they learn to seek out answers and take chances. To read more about play check out my April blog, Learning Through Play.
 
6 – Teach Goal Setting
Setting educational goals together can be a powerful tool to get your child engaged in the learning process. Start with small goals and build to bigger goals. Maybe your goal is to write your child’s name or to identify the first letter of their name. Make the goal together, work on it together, and when you accomplish it, CELEBRATE! To learn more about goal setting and healthy habits, check out The Leader in Me, 7 Habits of Happy Kids!

7 – Make Time to Celebrate
Celebrate the successes, whether big or small! When my son first started out working on sight words, we celebrated with a trip to the ice cream shop anytime he accomplished his goal. Now he is reading almost anything he picks up! By celebrating, it helped to create excitement and enjoyment. This is an important part of the process.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I am!

For more information on lifelong learning, check out these links:
6 Lifelong Learning Skills
5 Steps to Developing a Lifelong Habit of Learning
10 Simple Ways to Engage in Lifelong Learning

We at SPED Homeschool also want to help you keep growing and learning. Make sure to visit our website for new articles; our YouTube channel for new videos; and our Facebook page and support group for lots of interactive training and support so you can keep learning new ways to teach your struggling learner.

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By Kimberly Vogel 

It’s getting easier and easier to make adaptations using technology for our struggling learners. I recently found a new tool to help: Tech finder! You can put in what you are looking for and it gives suggestions for apps. There are also google chrome extensions that help with adaptations.

While technology is so great for engaging our children in learning, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Here are 3 tips to help you get the most from your technology use. 

1. The Internet is Not Safe
The rise of child predators using the internet is rising and will continue. It’s critical to have hard conversations with your child about safety. Many special needs children miss warning signs and don’t understand what information is ok to give out and what’s not. If your child falls into that category, err on the side of caution and block any communication. Also, pornography is rampant. Innocent searches such as misspelled words in the search bar can lead to dangerous sites. I’m a huge fan of only allowing devices (computers, iphones, ipads, ipods… anything with internet connection) in common areas.

2. Adaptations Can Be Overused
Modifications and adaptations are wonderful; however, there is a point where they become a crutch and overused when our child is ready to move on. When using new technology for adaptations, do so with a goal of phasing it out as the child is ready. For example, speech to text is a great resource. You could use it for anything they need help with at first. Then, setting up appropriate time frames for your child, you can move to not using it for simple answers that can be written, then phase it out for one paragraph essays, to only using it for brainstorming before writing. You will know when your child is ready to remove some of the modifications. This is also a great time to teach them to self-monitor and set their own goals of reducing modifications and the use of apps.

3. Kids Can Outsmart Us! 
Our children are not allowed to have electronics in their rooms, but we did get Amazon Echos for music and communication. They are all connected, and I can see what they ask Alexa. One day my daughter was doing her math using Alexa instead of her brain. Watch your kids! Even when there are rules and safety standards, they can go beyond them!

Some other helpful articles:
Using Apps in your homeschool
Techie Homeschool Mom
Understood – New apps

 
What apps do you use in your homeschool journey?

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By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed
 
Some parents and educators have the misconception that classical education is only for “smart kids.” It is not difficult to understand why someone might think this way. Latin at age 8? Herodotus by 14? With such standards, one might reason, surely classical education is only for born geniuses – the brightest and best of our children. Certainly, for advanced performance at the highest levels of classical study, this theory has some merit. But what about those children who are not born geniuses? What about those who, far from being intellectually gifted, are living with cognitive challenges, language disorders, or physical disabilities? Does classical education have anything to offer them? Can classical education benefit all children?


An Example of Classical Education
No doubt Helen Keller’s concerned parents asked the same question back in 1887. Their young daughter was deaf, blind, and had a severe “behavior disorder.” Distraught and fearful for the little girl’s future, as most parents would be, the Kellers hoped that Helen might somehow receive an education. In the late 1800’s, this meant a classical education. Helen Keller began her adapted classical education at the age of six with her private teacher Annie Sullivan. Although no one could predict the eventual outcome, the Keller family embarked on this ambitious, beautiful journey nonetheless. And the world received captivating evidence that classical education truly can benefit any child despite his or her challenges.

In her later adult years, Helen Keller departed in some ways from the philosophies of classical Western civilization, but her story remains an important one as we explore how classical education can benefit any child. After all, Helen Keller’s education more than a century ago mirrors the classical education of today. As soon as language unlocked Helen’s young mind, Annie Sullivan taught Helen the same academic content other classically-educated children learn, but through patient, untiring finger-spelling into Helen’s hand. From ages 8-10, Helen studied Geography and History. She read of Greek heroes and the classical ancient civilizations. She enjoyed beautiful language through good literature. She read poetic selections from the Old and New Testaments, Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, A Child’s History of England By Dickens, Little Women, Heidi, The Swiss Family Robinson, and countless other books which could still be found on the library shelves of any classical school today. Helen treasured her books: “I accepted them as we accept the sunshine and the love of our friends.”


The Ups and Downs of Different Special Education Approaches
From the ages of 11-13, Helen learned Latin from a Latin scholar and French in raised print. She studied more advanced histories of Greece, Rome, and the United States as Annie continued to spell lessons into Helen’s hand. By age 16, Helen read works in the original Latin and German, and at age 20 she enrolled at Radcliffe where she read literature in French, studied World History, read poetry critically, and learned advanced English composition.

Helen’s only real academic failure came when she was 17. One of her teachers made some common errors with this special-needs child, mistakes which continue to be made in many educational settings today. First, the teacher determined that Helen must devote herself only to those areas in which she was weakest, namely physics, algebra, and geometry. Moreover, he taught these subjects in a large classroom without necessary modifications. (For example, he wrote visual geometry proofs on the board with no means for Helen to follow along.) As a result, Helen required additional instruction with a tutor before she could enter Radcliffe as previously planned.

From Rich Classics to Limited Options
Looking back over her education, Helen later wrote, “From the storybook Greek Heroes to The Iliad [read in Greek] was no day’s journey, nor was it altogether pleasant. One could have traveled around the world many times while I trudged my weary way through the labyrinthine mazes of grammars and dictionaries….” Helen received a remarkable classical education, because her parents and her teachers bonded together to help her, and she persevered. Although her disabilities remained with her all her life, so did her love for literature: “When I read the finest passages of The Iliad, I am conscious of a soul-sense that lifts me above the narrow, cramping circumstances of my life. My physical limitations are forgotten—my world lies upward, the length and the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are mine!”

If classical education could give Helen Keller the tools to overcome great obstacles and embrace the “sweeps of the heavens” so many years ago, why do even less-severely handicapped special-needs children fail to receive such a bountiful classical education today? Largely, the answer is simply historical timing. At the turn of the century, as special education grew in acceptance, classical education began to wane. In the 1930’s, “the height of classical study in the United States in sheer numbers,” nearly one million students studied Latin annually. By the 1970’s, so-called progressive and experimental education dominated. About this same time, just as classical education had all but disappeared, the landmark special education legislation Public Law 94-142 passed in the United States. This law mandated public education for all handicapped children. Public, yes, but often much less effective and far less beautiful.

Issues with a Misdirected Educational Focus
Today, much of “regular education” has strayed so far from the pursuit of that which is significantly true, good, and beautiful, many special-needs or struggling children who have been placed in remedial or even age-based classrooms receive little that is inspiring, excellent, or formative. In the past, even “basic” education meant purposeful instruction in the three arts of language: Grammar — including reading, Latin, spelling, penmanship, and composition; Logic – analysis, reasoning, and discernment; and Rhetoric – persuasive eloquence in both speaking and writing. A good liberal arts education also included the four arts of mathematics: Arithmetic (number), Geometry (number in space), Music (number in time), and Astronomy (number in space and time). These seven liberal arts developed the mind and provided the student with essential tools for learning. Intrinsic to his learning, the student also studied history, good literature, and art, all for the formation of a strong mind and noble character. Throughout the centuries, catechesis – teaching the faith – has also been urged alongside the liberal arts, for matters of the soul.

Instead, today the ideal in special education is “individualized instruction, in which the child’s characteristics, rather than prescribed academic content, provide the basis for teaching techniques.” Worse, in some special education teacher-training programs, not only progressivism and pragmatism but also fatalistic, dehumanizing behaviorism dominates. The child’s mind and soul are forgotten.


The Whole Person Approach to Education
The special-needs child’s humanity – any child’s humanity – must determine the education he receives. Some suggest that as many as 1 in 5 children have special educational needs. Each of these children is a human being, created in the image of God. Shall we assign all of these students to a menial, servile education and deny them the riches of a beautiful, humane, liberating education? And, worse, shall we base our deterministic placements on early testing, with no regard to what the child might be able to overcome with the aid of an excellent teacher?

Quintilian wrote, “There is no foundation for the complaint that only a small minority of human beings have been given the power to understand what is taught them, the majority being so slow-witted that they waste time and labor. On the contrary, you will find the greater number quick to reason and prompt to learn. This is natural to man….Dull and unteachable persons…have been very few. The proof of this is that the promise of many accomplishments appears in children, and when it fades with age, this is plainly due to the failure not of nature but of care. `But some have more talent than others.’ I agree: then some will achieve more and some less, but we never find one who has not achieved something by his efforts.”


A Larger Perspective on Special Education
Regardless of his challenges, any child is called to do more than receive services; he is called to love and serve his neighbor. Even if he is never able to hold a full-time paying “job,” classical education can help the special-needs child bring purpose, love, or comfort to his parents. He is a student with lessons to learn, teachers to respect, and parents to honor. He is a young man who holds the door for aging members of his congregation. She is the person who thoughtfully replenishes a dog’s fresh water bowl while her neighbor is away at work. She is a sister, granddaughter, or niece with the high calling of gracious and tender service, as God works through her for His loving purposes.

We see uniquely converging opportunities at this time in history. Information abounds on special-needs and struggling learners. Classical education enjoys a re-emergence in numerous and growing pockets, for the youngest children all the way through university levels. Abundant resources now offer instruction in Latin, the history of ancient civilizations, the mathematical arts, and more, at every level and with any amount of repetition and practice the child needs. Teachers, homeschooling parents, tutors — anyone who seeks to teach any child — can find helpful curricula for adapting reading, composition, Greek, music theory, literature, logic, and rhetoric. Perhaps the child will eventually prove incapable of progressing to advanced levels in one area or in every area; however, if taught slowly, patiently, and systematically, even those children who are identified with or suspected of having “special learning needs” can receive a substantial, elevating, and beautiful education.

Classical education can address any child’s challenges and cultivate in him a lifelong appreciation for lasting Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Modifications can help with behavioral and neurological difficulties, language and sensory challenges, specific learning disabilities, and even severe mental illnesses. Be encouraged. Any child can receive the great benefits of classical education: greater self-knowledge, timeless tools for learning, a more disciplined mind, a love of study, and a dedicated life of service. Classical education is a beautiful gift to your child, and he can say with Helen Keller, “My world lies upward, the length and the breadth and the sweep of the heavens are mine!”

This article is an excerpt from Cheryl Swope’s book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child

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By Mary Winfield


You have heard about Temple Grandin, right? If not, study up! She is amazing. During a time where children with autism were institutionalized, her mother refused to give up on her even when doctors told her Temple would never speak or function independently.

Because of her mother’s persistence, Temple now has her Ph.D in Animal Sciences and works world-wide doing autism advocacy. If you want to learn more about her life, HBO did an excellent movie (it is also free to watch on Amazon Prime). She has written several books, but the one I read most recently is called The Loving Push with Debra Moore as her co-author.

This entire book is dedicated to helping parents help their children with high functioning autism learn to become independent and successful adults. There is so much good information in this book, I highly encourage parents of teens or pre-teens to read it. It discusses dealing with depression in teens with autism and dealing with video game addictions. It also talks about preparing teenagers to drive. It follows several different families with their experiences and lessons.

The part of the book that I want to focus on in this article is preparing teenagers for their post high school lives. In, The Loving Push, they interviewed a college professor who had worked with many different students on the spectrum, and he gave 4 areas where he sees the most struggle when students come to his college: household and personal care, using independent organizational aids, asking for help, and keeping a stable mood.

Household and Personal Care
The professor reference in the book The Loving Push said that most of these teens do fine with household chores and personal care when they are at home because their parent reminds them. Their parent will tell them it is time to shower, but then doesn’t teach them how often they need to shower or teach them to look for signs of dirty/sweaty skin, greasy hair, or body odor as indicators that they need to shower. Teaching them how often to shower (and giving them examples of when to shower more frequently ex: if you are involved in sports or physical exercise) will help them be able to duplicate it on their own. 

The same goes for household chores. They may not notice when something needs to be done, but explaining things to look for or even telling them how often chores are typically done will give them concrete guidelines to follow on their own.

Independent Organizational Aids
Sometimes we try to teach too many things at once. Stepping back and thinking about a lesson’s goal and focusing on the goal instead of trying to group multiple skills will help a child learn quicker. Sometimes we may just need to focus on making a list of things to do and how to decide what to do next.

Talk about deadlines and consequences for not meeting deadlines. The ability to prioritize oftentimes is more important than what is actually on the list. Learning to prioritize and complete tasks is something parents often do for children with autism in setting schedules and routines. Helping them to master this skill for themselves is a necessary skill if they are going to be successful on their own. We can do this by having them help us create their homeschool curriculum and plan out the day and week. Talk with them about making a goal and then setting up steps to reach that goal. These are life skills that will follow them forever.

Asking for Help
The college professor they interviewed also said he saw so many students who could have done the assignments if they had asked for a little help, but they didn’t think to reach out and ask. Instead, they would try to accomplish the task on their own, and when they hit a roadblock, their conclusion reached was they just couldn’t do it. They opted to leave the assignment undone because asking for help wasn’t something they were used to doing.

Parents of autistic children often offer our help their child when he/she is struggling instead of teaching the process of asking for help. Another way to work on this skill is to enlist the help of a mentor for your child. This person becomes someone they learn to reach out to for help and guidance that isn’t constantly around them. This will further help them to practice the skill of asking for help instead of giving up on something.

Stable Mood
Having a positive mindset and reacting proportionately to situations can sometimes be a struggle for our children. One tip discussed in the book is to help them know how to duplicate good behavior and a positive mindset by giving specific and positive feedback. Temple says saying things like, “You are so kind” won’t hold very much meaning for teens on the spectrum. Saying, “Helping me with the dishes was so kind. It made me feel happy and proud of you” instead will help them to know what constitutes being kind, how it makes someone else feel, and incentive to repeat the behavior.

Furthermore, helping a child with autism remember that one failure or setback isn’t permanent and doesn’t mean they can’t be successful in the future is important. Reminding them of past successes when they suffer a setback and talking about solutions to their current problem will help them learn to persist through a struggle. If they struggle in one area, showing them their whole life is not a failure by reminding them of the areas they accel is also important. Be sure to show them strengths and weaknesses in other people as well.

“The Loving Push”
The title of the book explains to us how we need to approach preparing teenagers to be adults. Our kids are more likely to just want to stay in their routines and scripts instead of venturing out and trying new things. That means that we have to be the ones who give them a push out of their comfort zone and make them try new things. Giving them these pushes in a loving way so they know they have a safe place with lots of support will help give them the confidence to try new things in the future and transition into adulthood successfully.

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By Peggy Ployhar

How NOT to Transition
I wish I could say I was calm, cool, and collected when I transitioned my oldest into high school, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was a massive bundle of nerves.

To make matters worse, in my pursuit to try to turn my frenzied state into a systematic approach for the upcoming transition, I signed up to attend a “How to Homeschool High School” workshop for typical students. I subsequently left that full-day seminar almost in tears because I felt the outline I had been given to follow was a near impossible task to require from my son.

Needless to say, I have made it through the high school years now with two struggling learners and am on the home stretch in homeschooling my youngest who challenges me on the other end of the spectrum as a gifted learner.

Over the years, I have learned a lot of lessons about what is really important to know when making a transition into high school for an atypical student and what you need to throw out the window OR put off until a later day so you don’t lose your mind.

Below are my biggest transitioning tips I want to pass along so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I made.

10 Tips for Making Your Homeschool Transition to High School Successful

1 – Start with the Right Perspective and Make a Preliminary Plan
To start out your 1st year of homeschooling high school, in a much less stressful state than I did, here are 5 perspective setting points to guide you.

  1. Focus on where your child is at NOW, not where you wish they would have been when starting their high school transition.
  2. Develop GENERAL graduation expectations you and your spouse feel your student MUST accomplish before you will allow him/her to receive a diploma
  3. Include your student’s aspirations, skills, and interests in your plan.
  4. Don’t even look at putting together a transcript until the end of your 1st year. This time delay will allow you to get a better handle on what pace your child can keep, and it will put a lot less stress on both of you as you during this transition year.
  5. Each year focus on 3 main goals and make those goals measurable and relative to the items you have determined above in your preliminary plan. Fill in with other classes and learning activities once you feel your student is making progress on these critical goals.

2 – Take One Year at a Time
It would be wonderful if we and our children had a clear-cut idea of where their lives are headed once they transition out of high school, but very few do. Instead of setting your plan up for failure by laying out a 4-year transition plan before you start your first year of homeschooling high school, it is best to write your plan one year at a time with a projected outcome you can tweak along the way.

I would also warn against not having a plan at all. Check out this short video for a bit more information on how to go about creating a 4-year transition plan one year at a time, while still maintaining a focus on your student’s education. This video will take you through how I took one year at a time in teaching my oldest child.



 

3 – Develop Your Whole Child Through the Process
Too often the high school years get so overloaded with academics, we sometimes forget how important the non-academic parts of our student’s education are. Teaching a young adult how to cook, clean, do yard work, maintain a budget, develop their own faith life, drive, work with other people, and so many other adulting life skills will round out your student for everything life will require of them after they graduate.

4 – Follow the Checklist
We at SPED Homeschool have developed a SPED Homeschool High School checklist to help parents easily remember all the important things to keep in mind or know when homeschooling a student with special educational needs through high school.

5 – School However Long It Takes
High school for many students with special needs or learning disabilities goes beyond their 18th birthday. In most states, you can homeschool your student as long as you deem necessary for their transition into post-high school life. You will want to check with your state homeschool laws or HSLDA to ensure this is the case for your state, but also keep in mind that the IDEA allows for students to receive special education services up to age 21 (22 in some states), so many states allow the same at least for homeschooled students.

To further encourage you on this point, I suggest watching this video entitled “Is 18 the Magical Graduation Age?”

6 – Don’t Be Afraid to be Creative
One thing too many parents do without even realizing it is move towards a more formal approach to education when their student enters their high school years. Just because high school is taught in traditional schools with a more compartmentalized approach, that doesn’t mean you have to force your homeschool to mimic a traditional school for your student to receive an adequate education.

I used unit studies all the way through high school with my oldest child, and doing so offered him the hands-on approach he needed to stay engaged with his learning. If you want to find out more about how to homeschool high school using unit studies, watch this video.


7 – Don’t Let the Transcript Hold You Captive
The high school years can be a great time for your student to discover what they love to do and what they don’t. Taking a less rigid approach to homeschooling in high school will allow your student to learn some new skills without feeling like a slave to them if they end up not being his cup or tea. At the end of the year, it is much easier to clump a series of related learning activities into a creatively labeled class instead of forcing your student through an entire year of learning a particular aspect of a subject he lost interest in back in October.

8 – Derailments Happen
In some cases, things happen during your student’s schooling career that keeps her from obtaining all the plans you had hoped she would achieve during her homeschool high school career. When this happens you must remember this derailment doesn’t mean you have failed your child or her future will be bleak because her education has been derailed.

I say this all calmly now, but when my second oldest told me he was done with school at age 16, I was anything but calm. To read more about that story and how God has been working out his plan through that derailment, read my article “When Your Student Derails Your Homeschool High School Plan.”

 
9 – Keep the Bigger Picture Always in Front of You
When you start to stress, take a step back and make sure you are not stressing over the small stuff. Pray, ask God for a renewed perspective, and remember to give the most attention to helping your student achieve his main three yearly goals. The rest will fall into place when you keep your focus and trust in God to help you through each step of these homeschooling years.

10 – Stay Connected
You can’t do this alone because it is too easy to think you are the only one struggling to teach your student day in and day out. You need fellowship! The SPED Homeschool Facebook support group is a great community to come and connect with other parents who understand what it’s like in your homeschool because they live out the same scenarios in theirs.

If you follow these 10 tips you will be able to transition into these wonderful years with your student much more gracefully than I did. I have to say these were my favorite years of homeschooling my boys because I was front and center in their lives as they moved from being children to adults. I pray your years ahead will be equally blessed as you persevere forward into your own homeschooling high school years.

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By Peggy Ployhar

Recently I received a call from an exasperated mother who was desperately trying to find a way to teach her son. After homeschooling for 14 years and graduating her oldest, who was also a struggling learner due to a brain injury, she felt she had exhausted her teaching arsenal and was still coming up short in being able to teach her younger autistic son.

Questions to Revelation
Our conversation started with this mother asking if I knew of any different curriculum options she could try. But, instead of offering my best advice on curriculum, I led her through a series of questions to find out what teaching techniques had worked with her son and what his main interests and hobbies were. At first, her responses to my questions centered around all the curriculums she had bought in the past that were now filling her shelves, no longer being used for one reason or another. But, as I continued my questioning, she started deviating from talking about curriculum to talking about her son and the success he had experienced through their homeschooling endeavors. Eventually, our discussion moved into ways she could use the curriculum she already had, employ the services of her local librarian to find books focused around her son’s interests, and start building learning around those interests.

As our conversation came to an end, this mother confessed to me, “Maybe I just need to change how I teach my son instead of trying to find another curriculum.” Of course, this conclusion had been the main goal of my questioning.  But, if I had just told her to change her way of teaching at the beginning of our conversation, she wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about. It was only after leading and letting her discover the importance of individualizing her son’s education, that she truly understood how teaching her son was more about what she did instead of what she used.

The Homeschooling Advantage of Differentiated Education
Did you know in a survey done in 2002 of special education homeschooling parents “the majority of survey parents (58%) designed a curriculum for their children.” As a matter of fact, this same study reported that “All the parents in the case studies designed the curricula for their children based upon their ability and interest levels.” And, “most of the mothers criticized packaged curricula.” Now, you must understand that back in 2002 when this survey was conducted, there weren’t many homeschool curriculum options specifically targeted to teaching children with learning challenges.

It is interesting to note though, that in 2012 when special needs homeschooling curriculum was starting to abound across the country at homeschool conventions and book fairs, Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI summarized in an exploratory study of homeschooling outcomes the main advantage of homeschooling both learning disabled and gifted children was “The informal environment that homeschooling provides allows ‘differentiated instruction,’ not a one-size-fits-all version that is typical in public schools where teachers must meet the varied needs of twenty or more students in the classroom. The personal approach of schooling at home provides a natural environment to customize the curriculum for learning disabled and academically gifted children alike.”

In looking over many studies and surveys, including those cited above, as well as drawing from my decade of experience in consulting with special needs homeschooling families, it is easy to conclude that differentiated instruction, utilizing student specific accommodations and modifications, is not only the best way to homeschool a struggling learner but a homeschooling freedom that’s particularly advantageous to utilize with children who do not adapt well to traditional teaching methods.

A Widening Gap
I apologize ahead of time to anyone I may offend with my following remarks, but the reason I feel many special education homeschooling parents have moved away from implementing specific differentiated instruction has to do with special needs homeschooling curriculum developers who market products towards a specific diagnosis or learning disability. Now, I love curriculum and do feel parents can benefit from using both regular and special needs homeschooling curriculum, but when a parent believes a specific curriculum will teach to their child’s specific need to the point the curriculum itself provides the necessary differentiated instruction, that is a problem.

Too many homeschooling parents have reasoned themselves out of providing specific and individualized instruction for their child because they believe their special needs curriculum is providing enough learning variation on its own. Unfortunately, with the vast spectrum of learning disabilities and challenges confronting special needs homeschooling families, it’s impossible for curriculum providers to create materials able to meet the specific needs of all these unique children.

The Missing Link From a New Approach
Ultimately, parents who homeschool children with special educational needs will find the most effective way to teach their child doesn’t come in a package. Rather, it comes from being a student of their child, learning how to implement specific teaching strategies and methods and figuring out which ones work best in teaching to their child’s needs, locating resources that work with their child, and coaching their child one-on-one through the learning process.

We at SPED Homeschool have started the process of creating resources that connect parents to the training and support needed to properly modify, accommodate, and adapt curriculum and teaching methods to better fit the unique needs of their students. Our articles, live training broadcasts, podcasts, and support group are already helping hundreds of families every day in their special education homeschooling endeavors.
 
We are continuing to dream and pray about SPED Homeschool’s future impact. Our ministry started because we trusted God would lead the way and provide the means to make the dream He gave us come about. If you feel God is leading you to partner with SPED Homeschool as a donor, team member, or partner organization, please reach out and email us today. Together we CAN link special education homeschooling families to the necessary resources, training, and support that leads their children to success.

This article was originally written for Schoolhouse Rocked. The author approved editing and reprinting of the original content.

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By Mary Winfield

In my last post, I covered the basics of the DIR Method and why I think it is important for homeschoolers. One of the parts of DIR is to understand the developmental level of your child and how to use that knowledge to set attainable goals. So, in this post, we are going to dive a little deeper into this specific area of the DIR method.

The Nine Developmental Levels of Communication
When I worked in a private school for children with special needs, I was placed in the classroom that specifically focused on helping children with communication problems. We were taught nine different developmental stages for communication because communication is the basis for all learning. Here are those levels.

1 – Self-regulation and Attention
Typically reached between 0-3 months, this child can use their senses to stay calm, focus for short periods of time on one particular activity, and interact with another person.

2- Social Engagement and Relating
Typically reached between 2-7 months, this child can develop a relationship and attachment and interact with affection with another person.

3- Reciprocal Interaction
Typically reached between 3-10 months, this child can open and close circles of communication and express intentions, interests, and needs

4- Purposeful Problem-Solving Communication
Typically reached between 9-18 months, this child can use more complex circles of communication by combining gestures, actions, and words to gain a sense of self and problem solve.

5 – Creating and Elaborating Ideas
Typically reached between 24-30 months, this child can create ideas, pretend play, and convey emotional intention through play.

6- Emotional Thinking
Typically reached between 36-48 months, this child can make bridges between different emotional ideas.

7 – Triangular Thinking
Typically reached between 5-7 years, this child can start to process the idea of multiple causes for emotions or events.

8 – Gray Area Thinking
Typically reached between 7-10 years, this child can understand that emotions can be felt in varying degrees.

9 – Self-Reflection
Typically reached between puberty and early adolescence, this child starts to define who they are and to have an internal standard to relate back to their experiences.

Keep in mind, the given age markers are when typically developing children are likely to reach these milestones. So, in working with a child who has special needs and developmental delays you should not hold them to these standards; it is only a marker for your reference. Even typically developing children don’t reach all these markers by these indicated age ranges.


But now, what do you do with this knowledge?

Have you ever seen anyone pull taffy before? It is pretty mesmerizing to watch. When it is done by hand, a hook is attached to a wall. Then the candy maker takes a big ball of taffy and hooks part of it to the wall and stretches it. Then he puts it all back together in order to hook it in a different spot and stretch it again. It is a constant routine of stretching, relaxing back to normal, and then stretching again.

That is how you should think of these milestones. Your student will have a developmental step that they are comfortable staying within. That is a good baseline. You should then try to expand and stretch their capacities to the next step while still allowing your student to come back to what is comfortable before things get too frustrating. To read a more in-depth post about how to effectively teach using this combination of stretching and resting, visit this post.

 
One Day at a Time
It is also important to keep in mind that some days are going to fall below what is normally comfortable for your student. That is okay! We all have bad days or days when we don’t feel like ourselves, and your child will have those too. Work where they are and expand as much as they can take. The taffy puller doesn’t break the taffy, only stretches it. You want to do the same for your child. Stretch them, but don’t cause them to break with frustration. Knowing where your child is, what the next step is, and how you can work with them to reach that next step will allow you to help your child reach new goals in their communication.

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

I am not a handwriting expert nor an occupational therapist; however, in my 11 years in the classroom and in teaching my own son, I have learned many things about teaching a child to write. A lot of people worry about which hand their child should use. And the answer is….whichever is most comfortable for him/her. To begin with, I work really hard when a child is little to place objects in the middle to allow the child to determine on their own which hand to use with a tool. This allows a child to develop their own sense of handedness.

As a teacher in PreK classrooms in multiple states and settings, I always worked to allow and encourage children to experiment with using both hands to do activities. Most children pick a dominant hand between the ages of 4-6. However, my own son, who is now 6 ½, still has not picked a dominant hand. While he is right eye and right foot dominant, he still has not picked a dominant hand. Knowing that we have a family history of left-handed and ambidextrous people on both sides of the family, I decided to work with him on developing his left-handed writing and cutting skills as he seemed SLIGHTLY more proficient with his left hand. However, when I did this, I did not consider the accommodations he would need to be left-handed in what is essentially a right-handed world. As a result, I have had to learn to make some accommodations and changes to curriculum as well as visuals we use.

Simple Changes that Make a Big Difference
When I made my son’s first school work checklist, I put the checkboxes on the right. That’s where I, as a right-handed person, would have wanted them so I can see what I am checking off.



Soon, I realized that for my left-handed son, this was not going to work. So I tried to modify it to see if it helped…



However, my son, who is ASD, took issue to the fact that I was modifying his schedule to create boxes on the “wrong side” as he saw it. So the following week, we started with a new checklist, including a new picture picked out by my son…


Left-Hand Accommodations Expanded
In talking with other parents about accommodations they have made for left-handed children, simple things such as binding a notebook on the right instead of left-hand side can make a big difference.



When we do handwriting, sometimes the way they set up the page doesn’t work for my son, so I copy the page, cut out the list of words and tape them along the side so he can copy from the right instead of the left.



I also learned to stop and think about the shape of writing tools. I bought some awesome rock crayons from a company started by an Occupational Therapist, only to discover that they lend themselves to right-handed individuals rather than left-handed. I was disappointed, but it made me realize that not everything is designed for left-handed use. I even bought left-handed scissors, which made a huge difference. Fiskars brand scissors can be used for either hand, but left-handed scissors are still more comfortable for left-handed use. Also, when we sit down to work together, I always sit on my son’s right side so his left hand is free to write and move without bumping into me.

More Information to Explore  
Want more information on how to determine handedness and how to accommodate left-handed students? Check out these links:


Left-Hand Teaching Help:
5 ways to support a Left Handed Student
10 Objects Left Handed People Struggle With
Teaching Left-Handed Children
Tips for Teaching Left-Handed Children to Write 

Determining Handedness in Kids:
How to Determine If Your Child is Left or Right Handed
Spotting a Left-Handed Child
Activities that Can Help Develop Handedness

And remember, the most important thing is how comfortable your child is with his/her tools. Play-doh, paper tearing, playing with stickers, pouring sand or water in and out of containers, and just scribbling are all important parts of building muscles for writing too. So have fun, and enjoy exploring handedness with your children!

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By Peggy Ployhar

Do you ever wonder if you will ever accomplish your life’s purpose? Does it feel at times like homeschooling stands in the way between where you are now and the dreams that God has laid on your heart?

Encouragement From Experience
A while back I interviewed Melanie Wilson, an author, speaker and homeschool mom of 6 and talked about “How to Not Lose Your Identity as a Homeschool Mom.” During our discussion, we touched on how God tends to use the crazy things He takes us through to actually lead us towards our purpose, not away, even when we don’t understand how all of it will come together in realizing the dreams He has given us.

Here is that segment of the interview:

Encouragement From the Word of God
During this segment, I also touched on the fact that I had recently shared a devotional with the SPED Homeschool team and board along these same lines. So, to further encourage you in this area, here is the devotional I was talking about:


How Do I Live Out My Calling?


I think many Christian books inaccurately elevate what God’s purpose for our life should look like, twisting God’s purposes into worldly standards of a lifestyle with a purpose.

This past week while I was reading through Jeremiah 1, I was reminded that God’s call is very different than a vocational call or a means of employment. Look at what God tells Jeremiah about how He has called him:

“I knew you before you were born” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I consecrated your purpose before you were born” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I have appointed you” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“I send you” (Jeremiah 1:7)
“I command you” (Jeremiah 1:7)
“I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8)
“I have appointed you [at this specific time for this specific purpose]” (Jeremiah 1:10)

Just like Jeremiah, before you were born God knew you, He had plans for your life, and He appointed you to have a purpose in His kingdom. That purpose was not a single thing, but rather an appointment your entire life will eventually reveal when your days are finished. It is not something you can put in a box and show off to others, rather it is a humble walk of obedience.

Since we can’t see the big picture of what our life is going ultimately accomplish like God can, we can only guess at what our life’s ultimate purpose is. Spending too much time focused on what our purpose is takes away from our current appointment, and EVERY appointment is a critical part of the bigger picture…EVERY walking, trusting, and obedient step.

The reality is God sends us and commands us (Jeremiah 1:7) and no matter what we face while being obedient in our following, He will also deliver us (Jeremiah 1:8)…and it is in living in that obedient trust wherever life takes us day by day, or even moment by moment, we are living out our purpose.

Encouragement From Prayerful Consideration
As I prayed over these verses, here is what I ended up writing in my notes the morning God put these scripture verses in front of me to study:

Your life is NOT your own, it never has been. Fear is not an option if you are wanting to live out your purpose…you MUST trust and obey ALL the time.

The choice before each of us is this: You can spend the rest of your days living in God’s victory being what you were made to be by living for Him, trusting Him and following Him as an anointed tool in His kingdom. Or, you can walk away from that anointing and never accomplish what your life was designed for. If you choose this second path you will always live in conflict knowing you are not fulfilling God’s desired anointing. You will never truly experience rest, and peace will always be fleeting.

Encouragement From Looking at Life from the God’s Perspective
The night after I had written these things down in my journal, I was at the grocery store and the cashier for the line I was in was having a conversation with the woman ahead of me about living the perfect life on a tropical beach. He decided to continue the conversation with me, which unfortunately for him didn’t get the same response as it did with his previous customer. Instead, I asked him if he would really be happy doing nothing for the rest of his life. I know it wasn’t nice to rain on his parade, but in the end, he did confess that it would sure be an empty life if he didn’t do something with purpose.

God’s purposes are all around you today. Look for them, ask Him to reveal them to you so you don’t miss a single one. It is living out these daily purposes that you will accomplish the ultimate purpose God designed you for…and it will be way more powerful of a testimony than just doing a few “great things” in the public eye before your numbered days have been lived out here on earth.

Encouragement From Others
I hope this devotional has encouraged you to keep up a faithful walk before God. Homeschooling is NOT an easy calling, especially if you are homeschooling a child with special educational needs. But, you can always trust that if God has called you to homeschool He did not make a mistake or give you dreams He can’t work out amidst you teaching your child.

If you want to be further encouraged in this area, make sure to watch the full interview with Melanie Wilson. And, I recommend becoming part of our SPED Homeschool Support Group to receive daily encouragement in your special education homeschool calling.

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By Tracy Criswell

Homeschooling a child with different needs can be overwhelming, especially during the junior high years. Then when you get to eighth grade, you and your child have to start thinking about high school. I have already been through this once with my oldest son and am ready to start this journey with my oldest daughter next year. Both children are different and unique learners. My oldest son is a very traditional learner with anxiety. You can give him a computer program or a textbook and guide him; however, my oldest daughter is a very non-traditional learner. She has ADHD, anxiety, an undiagnosed learning disability, and scoliosis. Even though each child is different, there are many things you can do to make the journey of crossing the bridge into the high school years easier.

Bridges are Unique
It is important to remember each child is different. Each child has his/her strengths, weaknesses, and different learning preferences. It is important to identify these and not compare your child to each other. This has been a struggle for me. I have to keep reminding myself that my daughter will follow her own path during her high school years. She might take a different path to follow her postsecondary goals than her big brother, and that’s okay.


Bridges Lead to Different Places

Ask your child what they are interested in. They don’t have to be 100% certain at the end of his/her eighth-grade year, but it is important for your child to have an idea of what he/she is interested in. This information will also provide as a guide of which jobs your child might be interested in. When you have discussed this with your child, it is important to provide opportunities during ninth grade to explore those careers and possibly do some prevocational job visits. At these job visits your child would have the opportunity to find out what is required for each job, what type of postsecondary education is needed, and whether or not the job is truly a great fit. If you have any family or friends that work in those interested career fields, your child could interview them too. The more information and knowledge that you provide your child will help him/her make a better-educated decision about what he/she wants to do after high school.


Bridges Designed Well, Last

It is important to sit down with your child to create a plan of which classes to take for ninth grade. These classes should include the basic subjects (English, math, science, social studies, etc.), especially if your child is planning to attend a two or four-year college. Electives (classes that allow children to explore different interests and life skills) are just as important as the basic subjects. For example, my oldest daughter that will be a ninth grader next year will be taking the following classes: English I, pre-algebra, Biology I, World History, Spanish I, Concert Band, Pep Band, Career Exploration, Introduction to Art, Computer Skills, and P.E. It is important to note that homeschooling secondary children with special needs will not take the exact classes that my daughter is taking. At this point, she is interested in becoming a makeup artist, which might require a two-year degree and/or apprenticeship. Many children will change their mind several times during high school in what they want to do for a career. My oldest son, who will be a senior next school year, has changed his mind many times and now has narrowed it down to two different careers that he is interested in. Remember that nothing is set in stone.


Bridges Take Time to Build

I would also suggest you purchase a four-year planner and a grade book (unless you choose to use a portfolio where you keep samples of your child’s paperwork, projects, etc.). During high school, as a homeschooling parent, you will need to make sure to record grade for a transcript, find a curriculum, compile books read, organize volunteer activities, find extracurricular activities (church, scouts, 4-H, band, choir, sports, etc.), record awards earned, and help your child apply for part-time jobs. For my oldest son, I shared the four-year planner with him since I used it to inform him what his assignments were. My oldest daughter I am planning on purchasing a 4-year planner for my records as well as a yearly student planner for her. This will help her learn time management and scheduling skills.


Bridges Transport from One Place to Another

Finally, it is important as a parent of a soon-to-be high schooler to remember to take a deep breath. Everything will work out. Remember you are there to help your child work towards his/her postsecondary goals (after high school education and career). At the end of your student’s high school journey, you will be amazed how your child has changed over the past four years. It goes by too quickly.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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Donate today on GuideStar

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