By Mary Winfield

Teaching a child how to write is one of the biggest focuses we have in education. Children with special needs usually have some stumbling blocks in their way when it comes to learning this important skill. Understanding where your child is developmentally, and then knowing how to work with them starting where they are is integral in teaching them how to write. This is the first post in a series that will outline the major milestones in learning to write to help you identify your child’s needs.

Before children learn how to write, they have to learn a few other skills first. Most children develop these skills pretty naturally, but breaking down the writing process will help with identifying specific sub-skills and how to help children develop them.

Fine Motor Skills
The biggest obstacle to pre-writing skills is an underdeveloped set of fine motor skills. In order for a child to be able to hold a writing utensil and have control over what that pencil or crayon does, he or she needs to have developed the ability to use their fingers and hands in complex ways. There are many ways you can encourage this development with things you already have around your house. Here are some ideas:

Pinching Tools
Using tweezers or clothespins to move objects can be done in many different ways. Use pom poms, small toys, small items of food, or anything else you have around the house. Having a child move objects with a tweezers or clothespins might be frustrating at first, but keep practicing!

Stickers
Stickers actually take a lot of fine motor abilities. Having a child peel the stickers off the paper on their own and then put them on a paper (following a circle or zigzag line you draw on the paper is even better) is another way to promote fine motor development.

Eyedroppers
Using an eyedropper to fill up a small container (or even the tops of Duplo Blocks works too) is a great way to keep a child engaged in fine motor learning.

Threading
You can use actual threading cards made for this purpose, but you can also put beads on yarn, penne pasta on spaghetti, pipe cleaners in a colander, or anything else you can think of to do.

You can find more ideas on our Pinterest boards for Handwriting and OT to help you in this area.

Writing Roadblocks
Another thing that your child may have to learn is actually using a writing utensil for its intended purpose. My son had a hard time with this aspect of learning to write. There are many reasons that your child might be struggling.

Fear of Mistakes
I think my son still fits into this category. When we color or paint or write, he always just wants to dictate to me what parts of the picture need to be each color. He sees things exactly how he wants them to be in his head, and he knows that he is more likely to get outside the lines or not execute it perfectly because of his fine motor skills, so he won’t even try. We still struggle with this, but I have found printing off two of the exact same coloring pages online and having one that I do the way he wants it to be helps him overcome this problem. He knows he will get one that is exactly how he wants it, so he is more willing to try himself.

Need for Modifications
Some people need modifications made to the writing utensil to make it more comfortable. There are pencil grips that help with this, and they come in different shapes to meet different needs. There are also crayons that are bigger that are helpful for people who are really struggling to hold a writing utensil.

Lack of Interest
Some children are just more interested in writing than other kids. This is okay! Finding things a child cares about and using those interests in learning to write will help a child stay focused for longer periods of time.

Practice Activities
Understanding that writing has a purpose beyond scribbling or coloring might be another obstacle to overcome. In order for children to be able to write letters, they need to have the focus and dexterity to copy shapes. Here are some activities that might help them develop this understanding:

Push-Pin Maze
Put paper on a small bulletin board and then put push pins through the paper. Have them draw around these obstacles to make it from one side of the paper to the other.

Tracing Activities
There are a lot of free printables online with very simple tracing activities so a child can practice copying strokes.

Art Books
“Learn to Draw” books are great for writing stroke practice as long as they are very, very simple (or better yet, make your own where you draw a snake or a beach ball in 3 steps for your child to follow).

Sing & Draw
The song “Do As I’m Doing” can also be modified from gross motor activities to fit with drawing shapes. This activity works especially well with children who respond positively to music.

No matter what your child’s struggle is, don’t give up hope. Accept where they are in their process, and work with them at that stage. If you don’t get discouraged and keep working with them, they will learn to not give up as well.

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By Peggy Ployhar
 
Often when we write or talk about homeschooling in the United States, we see it through the lens of our surrounding established homeschooling landscape. Earlier this month (May 2018), I had the privilege of speaking at the Global Home Education Conference in Russia where my lens was greatly adjusted.

While in Russia, I heard many countries present on the current state of homeschooling in their homelands. Additionally, I had the chance to speak with researchers and hear about some of the latest data being gathered from all over the world regarding various homeschooling practices, laws, and trends.

It would be impossible to share with you all I learned, especially since I will probably be processing much of it for a long time into the future, but I have decided to specifically share some trends that surfaced during the GHEC 2018 conference in relation to special education homeschooling.

5 Worldwide Special Education Homeschooling Trends

1 – 35% Special Education Homeschool Rate in North America
In speaking with leaders and policy makers, many leaders shared with me they were seeing a special needs rate between 33% to 37% in their homeschooling population. And although these figures didn’t surprise me, the fact these leaders were throwing these numbers out without me asking communicated how pressing this issue was with the homeschoolers they were seeking to support.

2 – #1 Reason to Homeschool in the U.K.is Special Educational Needs

As the representative from the United Kingdom presented the state of homeschooling in his country, one of his slides gave percentages his organization had gathered relative as to why parents in his country choose to homeschool. The number one reason given was “Lack of provision for child’s SEN (Special Educational Need).”

3 – Special Educational Needs are the 2nd Most Influential Catalyst in the Russian Homeschooling Movement
Homeschooling in Russia is on an explosive growth pattern for many reasons, but one presenter at the GHEC 2018 stated that “Just behind the lack of proper education for remote village children, the second most influential factor had to do with inadequate means for the Russian schools for teaching children with special learning/behavioral needs.

4 – Canadian Homeschooling Trend: Special Needs Rates One of the Top Three Reasons to Homeschool
In the report given on North America’s homeschool status, the Canadian representative pointed out that the top 3 reasons parents in Canada are choosing to homeschool were because of bullying, special needs, and the public schooling agenda being taught.

5 – Research on Homeschooling’s Differentiated Education Continues to Be an Optimal Choice for Children with Learning Challenges

The largest segment of data presented at GHEC 2018 in relation to special needs came from the researchers who presented new and past studies on the how love, differentiated instruction, child­-paced lessons, interest-focused learning, and teaching with immediate feedback create an optimal learning environment for any child, but especially a child who struggles.
 

The Increase is Evident
There is no doubt that the shortcomings of institutionalized special education are causing the increase in parental choice for homeschooling. Add to this increase the current rise in learning and behavioral issues among children, coupled with the inability for schools worldwide to provide the specialized instructions needed by these students, and we better understand why homeschooling is increasing in the special educational realm.

As this population grows, so does the need for reliable and consistent support, resources, and training. This community covers a vast spectrum, from gifted and 2E learners to children with extreme challenges who progress so slowly in learning new concepts that from the outside it may not seem like they are progressing at all.

Coming Together to Support More Families
The need is huge…no it is colossal. But, thankfully those burdened to help these special needs homeschooling families are also increasing in number. It is the goal of our organization, SPED Homeschool to unite those burdened to help these families so we can save their time, energy, and money while teaching to the specific needs of their child, no matter where in the world they live or what means they possess to teach their children.

How about you?

Are you homeschooling a child with special learning needs and in need of support, encouragement, and resources? Then we would love to have you join our support group, check out our website, our podcasts, our videos, and our Facebook page on a regular basis for new content, use our Pinterest recommendations, and sign up for our newsletter.

Or maybe you are looking to further support the special education homeschooling community through your experience as a veteran sped homeschooling parent. If that is the case, I would ask you to prayerfully consider joining our team and then filling out this application if you feel led to do so.

Other ways you can help our outreach is by becoming a donor partner with a one-time or on-going gift; partnering with us in prayer for our needs and outreach through our new prayer calendar; or become a partner organization so we can tell our community about a service or product you provide that is beneficial to special education homeschooling families (It is free, just fill out this short-questionnaire and upload a logo or image we can use on our website.)

 
Looking Ahead
The growing number of special education homeschooling families around the world does not need to be a concerning trend. Instead, this movement is creating learning environments for children that really work…one child at a time. My prayer, as I look into the future and what kind of report will be brought to the Global Home Education Conference in two years (GHEC 2020) in the Philippines regarding special education homeschooling is that the concern currently felt for these families will be replaced with the excitement of a growing movement that is unified and empowered to teach each struggling learner in the manner they were designed to flourish and reflect the image of God into this world.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

In my last article in this series, I stated, “Instilling truth into a child’s heart depends completely on how prepared his/her heart is to receive truth.” Therefore, my next six articles in this series will focus on practical ways to cultivate a child’s heart for truth. I will be basing everything I discuss in this cultivating section of the series upon the previous methods I have shared in the earlier articles of this parenting anger series.

My prayer is as we slowly work through each of these steps, you will find how practical and healing God’s way of handling our parenting anger can be when we use it towards building godly character in our children. Also, as you apply each of these cultivating steps, you will see how they work to bridge relational gaps that parenting anger may have created in your home. So, we start with ourselves: parental integrity.

Integrity and Trust
The reason I start with integrity is because a child only accepts a parent’s instruction as much as they can trust that parent. Also, integrity is essential in breaking the protective crust a child builds up when situations have trained them to distrust…which often happens when a child lives with a parent who has a short fuse.

If a child can trust their parent, they will gladly absorb what that parent has to teach. Everything we teach our children hinges upon how much they trust us. If we fail to work on this basic foundation of our relationship with our child, much of our homeschooling and parenting instruction will be for naught. We are also more likely to see our children look to other places for truth instead of looking to us. Over time the relationships we were hoping to so tightly control with our misdirected anger will be the first things we lose the ability to influence.

An Integrity Check
A person of integrity is someone who can be trusted to do what they say they are going to do. They are not someone who uses excuses and their actions and lives are aligned with the priorities they say they value. Day in and day out, no matter what, a person with integrity can be trusted. This doesn’t mean they are perfect, but it does mean they are really trying all the time.

Let me ask you, is this how your children see you? Do you live in a manner consistent with your public persona? Or, do you change your character once you get behind closed doors or within the safe sanctuary of your home and family?

Children will determine how trustworthy their parents are based on what they see them do and how they live either according to their word or apart from it. What a parent says about who they are holds very little weight if it differs from how their child sees them behave.

Reversing Your Parental Integrity
I admit that as a young parent I did a very poor job of establishing integrity with my children. My anger was the biggest obstacle to developing integrity with my children because while I would tell them I loved them, I would not act in accordance with my words when I blew my top.

As I started sorting out my anger issues, I decided to make a concerted effort to build up my integrity in the eyes of my children. To do this, I first created a mantra, “I love you no matter what.” And then I lived it out, by God’s grace, one day at a time…praying a lot along the way. I followed the process of taking steps to work through my anger episodes just as I talked about in the previous articles in this series (see the listing below at the bottom of this article).

My oldest son tested this new approach more than his siblings because he and I shared many ugly battles where I was not able to keep my integrity in check. Yet, every time he did something to push me, I followed the pattern of identifying my trigger, keeping myself busy and praying, looking for God’s escape door, shifting my focus, and seeking the lessons that needed teaching while at the same time telling him, “I love you no matter what.”

I wish I could say my son started believing me right away, but it took months of repeating this cycle and him testing the boundaries of my ability to act towards him just as I said I would. But, then the day came and the memory of this transformation in his heart still brings tears to my eyes.

It was a beautiful summer day and we were outside playing in the yard when my son again tested my integrity boundaries. I can’t even remember what he did, but what I do remember was what he did and said after I told him, “I love you no matter what,” and followed through with my anger in check.

He put his chubby hands on his hips and looked straight into my eyes and said to me, “You really mean it don’t you?” From that day on things started to change in how I was able to speak into my son’s life. No, he didn’t stop testing my boundaries, but he did start trusting me.

I encourage you if you feel like all hope is lost with your children because of your past inability to handle your anger, there is a way to repair those relational gaps and instilling integrity is the first step in the healing process.

Stay Connected with SPED Homeschool
Next time I am going to talk about authority and how to practically work on establishing a godly form of authority in your home that will strengthen the integrity bridge you are working on.

Until then please make sure to connect with us at SPED Homeschool on our  weekly live Facebook broadcast, in our support group, or by emailing us with any questions you would like to have us help you walk through as you homeschool your child with special educational needs.

 

 

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By Dawn Spence

Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.

One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.

Here are 4 Examples:

Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.

This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.

Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.

One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.

Motivators Matter
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.

When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.

Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.

Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.

An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?

 


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