By Kimberly Vogel

Students with learning disabilities need modifications. There is a fine line between what modifications are needed and when and the time to remove or lessen the modifications. Many parents of students with learning disabilities over-modify, which makes things easier, but doesn’t lead the child to overcome the struggles. The goal is to help our children to learn how to learn and overcome their struggles.

How do you draw that line? How do you know what to do and when?


Goals

If you’ve read many of my articles, a phrase I use often use is meet a child where they are at. Because, once you are operating in a child’s “zone,” they are able to learn. A great way to do this is to find out where your child is through placement tests, formal assessments, or informal assessments (such as checklists or reading levels).

Teaching your child from where they are, you can then modify each assignment based on what they can do and what they need to do. For example, in a math assignment, the objective is math calculations. Ease the burden of reading by allowing the word problems to be read to the child. In a writing assignment, if the objective is to plan for a writing assignment then you may want to implement drawing pictures, using a graphic organizer, or dictating the ideas as a way to complete the assignment instead of writing an outline.


Keep track of the modifications

An IEP is a helpful tool for tracking modifications. Once you have your list of modifications, make a goal for phasing out those modifications. For math, I do not give students a calculator. First, I have them use charts to aid in basic operations. I love multiplication charts because they give a student an overall view of how the numbers relate to each other. At first the multiplication chart is used freely. The more math facts are memorized, the chart is used only for a few of the number groups. Eventually the chart is put away and the child has to ask for use of the chart. Eventually, the chart is no longer used!


Re-evaluate periodically

As more milestones are reached, evaluations of the student need to be made to see what modifications are still needed. Students can become dependent on the modifications and find it stressful to not have access to them. That’s why phasing out modifications is recommended. It provides a level of safety for the student while also teaching them to advocate for themselves. The goal is for a student to ask for help in an appropriate manner and for them to self-evaluate.

While modifications are needed, over modifying doesn’t help in the long run. If you need help, the Thinking and Learning Center’s coaches and SPED Homeschool’s resources can help! We would love to help you in any way we can to be confident in homeschooling your child through his or her struggles.

Still looking for more ideas on how to modify your student’s curriculum? Check out these other articles on our website.

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By Jennifer Duncan

Intensity is a topic that parents of gifted children are likely very familiar with. Whether it rears its head in the form of emotional intensity or constant energy and questions, intensity is something that is a very common trait among gifted and twice-exceptional (2E) children.

A week or two ago, I saw a post in a Facebook group for parents who are homeschooling gifted and 2E children. The question presented was simple: “What signs pointed to your child being gifted, rather than advanced?”

There were quite a few different answers, but one kept popping up: intensity.

Intensity in Gifted Children

Over the past 20 years of parenting and homeschooling a gifted/2E student, I have definitely dealt with my share of intensity. Because he is my only child, at first I had no idea that his reactions and energy level were outside the norm. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why he slept less than an hour or two a day!

Looking back though, I can see many signs of the intensity that is inherent in gifted children. Here are a few of them:

  • Extreme sensitivity to sensory stimulation
  • Existential and philosophical questions at a young age
  • Analytical skills and the determination to use them (as opposed to rote memorization)
  • Constant questions – and I do mean constant!
  • A strong sense of justice that is normally found in older children
  • Setting boundaries or structure for oneself when the “rules” are not clear in a given situation

There are many other signs as well, but these were some of the most obvious. They were also some of the signs that were most often misunderstood by other adults!

Dealing with Intensity

Although intensity is common with gifted and 2E kids, it is often not easy to deal with. Not only is it difficult to keep up with as a parent, it’s also difficult (awkward, even) to try to explain to other adults.

To that end, I wanted to share some tactics that I have found helpful over the years.

Parenting through Intensity

Children love to learn. They’re inquisitive, curious, and think outside the box. Guiding them through the learning process is one of the joys of adult life – it lets us be kids again, in a way!

When you parent a child whose curiosity and drive does not seem to have an “off switch” though, this can become frustrating, even exhausting. Being stuck between wanting to encourage your child and wanting to preserve your sanity is not an ideal place to be!

How can a parent deal with the non-stop intensity?

1. Communicate with your child.
Something that we often forget, especially since our gifted kids learn at such an incredible rate, is that they are kids. They don’t always realize that we’re not omniscient (after all, we’re their parents). They also don’t realize that their “normal” is worlds away from ours!

2. Decide on “code words.”
As my son got older, he started to understand how differently our brains work. He started to see that at times, his brain works so quickly that I get a little left behind. I’m trying to “keep up,” but there are times I just need a break. We came up with a code word that would let him know this – it was one that we could use anywhere, even at co-op or other public places. It just let him know that I want to hear his thoughts and discuss them with him, I just need to do so in smaller “chunks.”

3. When you set time aside to focus on your child, focus as completely as possible.
This doesn’t have to be for long periods of time, but having that “focus time” can make a huge difference. When your child knows that you will focus with them (just not right now), learning self-control and prioritization skills becomes a lot easier.

4. Advocate for your child.
When other adults don’t understand your child’s intensity, be your child’s advocate. Be willing to gently educate them on where your child’s tendencies stem from and what they can do to help. Because gifted kids don’t seem to come with learning disabilities, it is often difficult for people to recognize their learning and perception differences.

Teaching through Intensity

As a homeschool parent, you also have to deal with your child’s academic intensity. Homeschooling comes with challenges of its own, but when you add in an almost insatiable thirst for learning and the ability to move through large amounts of material in short periods of time—well, the challenge becomes that much bigger.

When I first started homeschooling my gifted/2E child, I thought that the key to keeping up with him was planning out every detail. I soon found that didn’t work so well! Here are some things I learned to do instead.

1. Have a tentative plan in mind.
No matter how organized you are, your gifted child will always go beyond your planning abilities. Always. The curriculum you thought would last a year may barely last 3 months, and the unit you thought would be a fun, short “extra” may end up lasting for months. Have a basic plan in mind, but be willing to change when necessary.

2. Let your child lead the way.
Keep an open dialogue with your child about what works, what doesn’t, and what they would like more or less of. This will allow you to adjust your plans as you go rather than feeling like you have to reinvent the wheel every couple of months.

3. Have some resources in reserve.
When you see things that your child would love but don’t have a way to fit them in right now, quickly prep them and place them in reserve. Throughout your school year, you will have times when your child finishes something faster than expected or becomes fascinated with some new subject. When you have resources, units, and studies in reserve, you can easily pull them off the shelf and work them into your plan!

4. Don’t get tied into grade level.
Grade levels are not a bad thing, but they were not designed for gifted and 2E students. Many gifted students are asynchronous, meaning that they learn on several levels at once. In other words, your 10-year-old may be in third grade spelling, 7th grade science, and 9th grade literature. While this is difficult to plan and explain, it really is ok to implement.

Allowing our children to grow up and learn in an environment that is tailored to their needs can go a long way toward helping them gain the skills they will need later in life. You’re not alone in this journey!

For more support, make sure to join to SPED Homeschool Support Group.

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

Many times I hear questions about what children need to learn at young ages. What curriculum should parents be choosing and using? At what level do they need to be reading or writing? How much math should they know?

The honest answer is…it depends on where your child is at and what they are ready for.

Many studies have shown that there is no long term benefit to pushing a child to accomplish things before they are ready. In fact, in some cases there may even be long term negative effects. A lot can be done without buying curriculum or sitting down to work in a workbook. Before your child even holds a pencil, reads a book, or does a math problem, there are many skills that need to be mastered before your child is ready for more “formalized” education. Here are some pre-academic skills to prepare your child for reading, writing, and formal arithmetic.

Reading:
Before children ever begin reading, there are many skills that can and should be worked on. Many of these skills happen in everyday conversations and when reading stories to children.

Letter Knowledge – It is important for children to learn the names of the letters and to recognize both upper and lowercase versions, as well as the font differences in letters like a and g (older script fonts have a different style for a and g than more modern print fonts). ABC books are available on just about any topic and kids really love them.

Letter Fluency – Being able to name letters automatically without having to think about them is a precursor to reading fluency. This can be done a few letters at a time. Make a game by seeing how many your child can get the first time. Each day they will get a few more. Review any that are missed or need longer to identify (be sure to allow more time for children who have slower visual processing).

Letter Sounds – Being able to identify the basic sounds letters make (and if they make more than one sound like a, c, e, g, i, o, u, and y) is another basic pre-reading skill. To do this I have created a simple book with the letter and a picture and each day we review the letters, sounds, and pictures. As this becomes routine, my children begin to learn the letters and sounds and at least one word that begins with this sound.

Phonemic Awareness – This is a huge “buzz word” in the early childhood teaching world right now. However, you are most likely already doing it. Here are the parts of phonemic awareness and some simple activities for each.

  • Syllables – breaking words into their parts – clap, jump, stomp the syllables of familiar words like banana – ba-na-na (3 claps)
  • Alliteration – Most or all of the words begin with the same sound – Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore (tongue twisters)
  • Rhyming – words sound alike at the end like cat and hat (Dr. Seuss is great for rhyming)
  • Onset-Rime – the onset is the first sound in a word (/c/) and the rime is the rest of the word (/at/). When you put them together you get c-at, CAT! (you can give your child the two parts and have them put them together)
  • Compound Words – two unrelated words come together to create a new word, like rain and bow go together to make rainbow (you can give your child the two words and have them put them together)
  • Segmenting – breaking words apart. Say CAT, C-A-T, CAT
  • Blending – putting words back together – C-A-T makes CAT

Phonemic awareness activities are very important to learning to read by phonics and other methods. It equips children to later be able to decode words, find words within words, and perform other effective reading strategies.

Writing:
Before a child holds a pencil to write his/her name, there are a lot of skills that need to be mastered to help build hand muscles.

  • Pouring using 2 hands – pouring out of pitchers and buckets
  • Pouring using 1 hand – measuring cups and bath toys
  • Squeezing bath toys
  • Using tongs, children’s chopsticks, and other small tools to pick things up
  • Making balls and snakes out of play-doh (gluten free/allergy friendly play-doh is available for those like my son who cannot use traditional playdoh)
  • Painting – with finger paints, brushes, q-tips, cars, sponges, stamps, and a variety of other tools
  • Using a variety of tools for play – crayons, pencils, pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers
  • Stickers – great for developing pincer grip (what is needed for gripping a pencil – using two fingers and thumb)

Math:
There are many math skills that can be accomplished without paper and pencils that will prepare your child for more formal math curriculum.

  • Identifying colors ( if your child really struggles with identifying colors after age 5, and especially if colorblindness runs in your family, you may want to consult your doctor about the possibility of colorblindness)
  • Identifying numbers (0-9 to start with)
  • Counting by rote (counting with just saying numbers, not counting objects) – my goal was 20 by the time he was 5, and then to 100 before first grade
  • Counting objects (up to 10)
  • Understanding that the last item counted is the quantity represented (if child counts ducks, 1, 2, 3 – he understands that there are 3 ducks)
  • Being able to identify the quantity of objects without counting (up to 5)
  • Sorting by color, size, texture, or other feature
  • Making simple patterns (block, car, block, car…)
  • Doing simple addition and subtraction problems using objects (2 bears sat in the car, 1 more bear got in, how many are in the car now? *as your child moves the bears into the car and counts the bears*)
  • Saying/singing days of the week and months of the year
  • Identifying seasons
  • Using counting books, shape books, and other math concept books to gently introduce math concepts

Other subjects:
My son loved science. We used educational videos and apps to allow him to explore his interests in the world of science, animals, dinosaurs, and other topics. He now reads books on many topics, and we work to make books available to him on subjects he is interested in. Using “living books” is a great way to introduce them to many different subjects, topics, and interests for them to explore in greater depth later in their homeschooling career.

As I watch my almost 7 year old transition into more formal academics this year, I am excited to watch how the foundation we have laid for him is helping him accomplish great things in his work and help him pursue his interests. My 2 year old wants to be involved and doing “big boy school” too, so we are just beginning to gently guide him through the beginning of these types of activities. He is drawing, playing with stickers, doing play-doh and puzzles, “reading” books and having books read to him, exploring alphabet books and letter sounds. When the time comes for him to learn more formally, he too will be ready.

For more information please check out the SPED Homeschool Preschool Pinterest board plus these topic specific links:

Reading:
5 Quick and Fun Phonemic Awareness Activities
Phonemic Awareness Activities for Kindergarten

Writing:
Pre-writing Pointers
The 3 Steps of Forming Letters
Spacing, Sizing, and Alignment

Math:
299 Ways to Help Your Child Develop Early Math Skills
Preschool Math
15 Hands-On Math Activities for Preschoolers




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Whether or not you have taken advantage of the many seasonal adventures only available during the summer months, there are still a few weeks left to use these warmer days to get your children ready for the school year ahead without them even knowing your sneaky intentions for gearing them up the school year. After all, isn’t it the best feeling when you know you have squeezed education into the day without your children knowing it?

Here are 8 ways to sneak in some learning adventures into the last few weeks of summer.

Camping
1. Get creative with storytelling around the campfire. Have one person start the story and allow each person to add to the story. The key here is to allow people to add to the story, but if someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking, allow them to simply listen. It is a terrific way to develop story-writing skills (character development, setting, and plot) without the pressure of writing as well. It also improves public speaking.

2. Bring games and a deck of playing cards. Picnic tables can be the ideal place to have a competitive round of Spot-It or Uno, especially while waiting for dinner to be ready, or during the afternoon under the shade of a nearby tree. A family favorite of ours is Cribbage. These activities improve problem-solving, fine-motor skills, and critical thinking.

3. Have a talent show. A couple of years ago some cousins decided they wanted to put on a show for the rest of us. They spent much of the afternoon creating a dance, a song, and a short play. They were focused on developing not just one act, but several. Of course they also invited some of the rest of us to join in. The type of learning skills practiced depends on the talents shared, but allow creativity to flow and be willing to be an enthusiastic audience. Besides the acts, some time could be spent creating set pieces, tickets, or a promotional poster, especially if the trip will include a few days.

Amusement Park
1. Play an impromptu game of I Spy while waiting in line. The time spent waiting in line can be enough to make even the most patient of us become irritable, especially under the sweltering sun. One solution is to play I-Spy. One person scans the crowd and surrounding environment to pick something that can be seen by the others, and then the other people in your group ask questions attempting to reduce the possibilities until they figure out what the first person saw. Besides being a good way to pass time, it also helps develop keen observation and deductive reasoning.

2. Do you have someone in your family who is a big fan of physics or math? I know we have one person like this in our family. This is a great place to allow them to indulge and share their insights with you. Don’t be surprised if they are already doing calculations such as the speed of a roller coaster, the time it takes for another ride to descend, or something similar! While you may bore of hearing about such knowledge at home, this is a perfect setting to show them that who they are and what they enjoy matters. It might help you forget how long you are waiting in line somewhere too. This can also be a good activity to share if your geek doesn’t like going on rides and you find yourself sitting with them while other people in your family ride.

3. What is most important? There is often too much to do during one trip. If someone has their heart set on doing more than can be reasonably accomplished during the available time, or a member of your family finds themselves overwhelmed by possibilities, help them prioritize what matters most. Whether this involves the game-plan for the whole day or making choices in the gift shop, budgeting time and money are both important life skills, and an amusement park provides the perfect real-life scenario for practicing these skills.

Picnic at the Park
1. Lawn games are a great way to improve gross motor skills. Whether it includes horseshoes, ladder ball, lawn darts, or simply tossing bean bags into hula hoops set on the grass at different distances, many muscles of the arms and legs are exercised. They can often be helpful for improving eye-hand coordination too, depending on the game. Many of these games involve keeping tracking of points, so math skills are practiced as well.

2. Introduce your child to relay races. While some of us may not have great memories involving potato sack races or balancing something on a spoon while we attempted to run-walk from point A to point B as quickly as possible, relay races offer a great way to practices many different skills important to learning, as well as teamwork and good sportsmanship. While you may not have potato sacks readily available, a pillowcase will work just as well. Hula Hoops can be set up in a line to hop in and out of, and there are different ways to incorporate partnership without involving the dreaded three-legged race. One example of a partner activity would be the wheelbarrow where someone “walks” using their hands while the other person is behind holding their feet. Something as simple as a race with three or four stations can be sufficient, but you can get creative and come up with something that resembles a miniature version of American Ninja Warrior. Just be sure to consider the ability levels of the people involved and make it accessible for everyone to be able to participate and have fun. 

As you dive back into learning using activities, you may even stumble across some fun activities that can be adapted during your homeschool year to include your topics of focus For example, you could simulate a campfire in your own backyard and encourage your children to come up with stories including vocabulary terms or set in a particular setting. One summer, while filling water balloons using a hose, I came up with the idea to create a bar graph on a whiteboard using the colors and quantity of water balloons as data and then created questions such as: “How many balloons were filled with water?” and “What color was most prevalent in the balloons filled with water?” I admit my children kind of groaned about it at the time, but I think it would have been more appreciated if I had written the questions down and asked them about it during our “school year” rather than when they were anticipating going outside to throw the water balloons at each other quickly. The possibilities are endless. Let this be a springboard for you to develop your own idea and feel free to share some ideas of your own.



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By Dawn Spence

A new year is just around the corner and with it comes new IEP goals and objectives. Sometimes your goals may be continuing from the year before, or you may have new goals. As you start out a new year with new goals, you want your child to embrace those goals and enjoy the new challenges. Here are 4 ways to start out your year with new goals.

1. Break Down the Goals
All your goals do not have to be introduced at one time or even in the same week. Let your child get comfortable working on a new goal before introducing more goals. You can do read-alouds or play games so that there is something to look forward to after working on a challenging activity.

2. Take it Slow

IEP goals are usually set for a school year or a physical year, so you have plenty of time to work on meeting goals. You could work on language arts goals on Wednesdays and Fridays, and then work on math goals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Make the schedule work for you and your child.

3. Make it Exciting

If you are excited and have joy about teaching the goal, that will go a long way to help your child look forward to the activities. You can take their goals and make a game. If a goal is hard for the student, make the challenge something that they will look forward to tackling.

4. Be Flexible

If you introduce a new goal and the method that you are using is not working, you can always change it. You might realize that writing with pen and paper will not produce that paper but typing it will. You can even ask your child what would help him or her to achieve the goal.

IEP goals are a great way to organize your academic year and show progress. Allow yourself the space and grace to learn alongside your child.

If you would like more help in establishing an IEP for your homeschooled student, check out these articles:

4 Things to Prepare Before Writing Your Child’s IEP
How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives
Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
How to Track IEP Goals 

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By Tracy Glockle

Getting started in homeschooling is like sitting on a roller coaster, waiting for it to lunge forward. You know there will be twists and turns, ups and downs; yet, there is no way of knowing exactly what those will look like. Even after seven years of homeschooling my own kids, my stomach turns somersaults with excited panic as I look over my well-laid plans and anticipate the beginning of another year.

My school space is organized, my curriculum is purchased and lining the bookshelves, and our supplies are neatly stored. Our routine is thought out, typed out, and neatly hung on the wall. I’m ready, I think. But really, after plenty of my own rough starts and bumpy beginnings, I’ve learned that the most important part of preparing for the school year is not necessarily the supplies, the curriculum, or the routine.


The most important part of getting started in homeschooling is setting the right expectations.
No matter what your situation, there are some things you can expect.

Expect a slow start.
Ease into this lifestyle change slowly. Read books together. Play learning games together. Take a hike and explore nature together. Expect to spend some time getting to know your kids. Watch them play and take some mental notes about how they choose to learn and what they choose to learn about. Expect to spend some time getting to know yourself. Do you like to homeschool in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you like a scripted plan to read and follow to the letter, or do you like to create your own learning plan? A slow start gives you an opportunity to find out the answers to these questions.

Expect to make adjustments.
In fact, a good goal for your first year in homeschooling would be to try new things. Experiment with different routines and with different learning approaches. Take notes on what you liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t work. Also, don’t expect your kids to like everything you try. They will need a period of adjustment, too. If you approach your first year as an experiment, you automatically give yourself (and your kids) the space to try new things, to make mistakes, and to try again. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”


Expect obstacles.

Life is messy, parenting is messy, and homeschooling is messy. We don’t expect to get everything right on the first day of any other job, and we can’t expect to get everything right on the first try in homeschooling either. Expect that it’s going to take some time to get the hang of this. It’s going to look messy for a while, and that’s okay. Realize that the obstacles are not because you’ve failed. Sometimes the tools we are using aren’t getting the job done the way we’d like. Choose a different tool. Do some trouble-shooting. Reach out to others in your support group. (Don’t have a support group yet? Join us at SPED Homeschool Support Group.)


Expect a unique homeschool.

In other words, don’t expect your homeschool to look like the school you just left, your best friend’s homeschool, or your experience in the past. Homeschooling is not an institution; it’s a family learning together. Your homeschool is going to look just as unique as your family. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.


Expect success to surprise you.

Success never comes when I’m expecting it, and success never looks exactly like I’m expecting it to look. Instead, success surprises me when a child mentions a fact from a story I was sure he wasn’t listening to, when a child tries something new for the first time without a meltdown, or when we both realize that a skill that has always been so difficult is suddenly easier. Look for success each day, in the small things.

Expect a future harvest.
Our kids are not educated in a day; it takes years to get the job done. Today is planting a seed. Tomorrow is watering and weeding. We may not see the benefits of that hard work right away. There will be days when we feel like we are watering fallow ground. Some seeds take much longer than others; some plants grow much taller and faster than others. But those seeds will sprout and grow.

You can’t prepare for everything, but you can be ready for anything if you’ve set the right expectations. Getting started in homeschooling is thrilling and scary, but it’s worth the ride.

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By Mary Winfield

Once you have worked on sizing, alignment, and spacing, it is time to help your child put their thoughts together into sentences and paragraphs. For me, this is the exciting part! Teaching a child that they can use their imagination, think of anything they want, and then communicate that to others is almost magical. There are a couple different ways to help them do this.


Journaling

Journaling is a great way to start. Having a notebook that they write in a few times a week is a low stress way to start learning to write longer concepts. When your children begin journaling, they can write just a single sentence about something they have done, something they have learned, something they want to do, or a place they have visited. You can even have them answer a question about themselves every day if they need somewhere to start.

We often learn best by doing, so journaling is also a great way to work on spelling, grammar, and vocabulary. You can also have writing prompts that focus on spelling or vocabulary words you are currently working on. Learning concepts as they write will help them to be able to do it in the future.

Letters
Having a pen pal or writing a cousin or grandmother is a great way to work on their writing. Your child will have to write legibly so that the other person can read it without assistance. Your child also has to be able to group thoughts together. Writing letters is also great way to work on social interaction in a way that takes the pressure off of your child. Since there is no physical interaction, a child can learn concepts like responding to the stories of others, answering questions, and practicing empathy. Learning these skills through letters is a great way to solidify concepts that can then be used later in person.

Storytelling
Storytelling is another great way to teach writing, allowing your child to explore his or her imagination and think outside the box. Later, storytelling can also help with problem solving and understanding different points of view. If your child needs some encouragement to write stories, here are some ways that you can help:

  • Print some pictures and have your child write a story that includes them all.
  • Have a character jar, action jar, or first line jar that your child can choose from and then include in a story.
  • Have a story notebook that gets passed around the family. Each person contributes a little bit to the story, and then the next person picks up where the last person left off.
  • Read several similar books (ex: the classic story of The 3 Little Pigs, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig). Then either have your child write another version of the story, or use one of the parodies as a template to write a different version of another fairy tale.
  • Most importantly, have fun with it! Have everyone write a story to share with the family one night or have them share it with a friend.

If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here:
Pre-writing Pointers
The 3 Steps of Forming Letters
Spacing, Sizing, and Alignment

For more writing ideas, visit our Writing Resources Pinterest boards


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By Cheryl Swope, M.Ed
 
In the book Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child, I share how my two children, despite their significant special needs, benefited from the Christian education that strengthened their minds and impacted their souls. Too often we create a false dichotomy between academics and faith. We need both. One recent event underscored what this kind of education can do for our children, and what it can do for the people in our children’s lives.

My children’s 90-year-old grandfather had been hospitalized for weeks. We were concerned that though he had been quite distraught at times, he had not received consistent spiritual comfort. His shoulders slumped. His face fell. “Pop” concerned my children.

My daughter decided to bring him the Sunday morning readings from Holy Scripture. In the hospital’s gathering room, she began reading loudly and clearly to him. One day she read to Pop from Isaiah 12:1-3:

I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.


Seated in his metal wheelchair with a jacket still drooping over his shoulders, his head lifted. He looked at Michelle. He raised his eyebrows. Pop grew quiet. Then he surprised us by speaking. He asked to see a copy of the readings.

Suddenly my father-in-law straightened his body. Lifting his head, Pop read the Isaiah verses out loud. Peace softened his worn-weary face.

Joy warmed his gray eyes. Pop paused. Then he smiled.

That day in a hospital my daughter Michelle shone brightly because the Words she brought to a lonely soul:

Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever
.” (Daniel 12:3)


Let us continue to share God’s Word faithfully with our children that they may share such comfort with others.

This article first appeared in The Classical Teacher, summer 2016 edition.

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE


After you have gathered your documents, written your goals, and decided on your accommodations, you are ready to start working towards those goals, right? Let’s look at some frequently asked questions.


But how do I know what progress is made and when my child reaches his/her goal?

Tracking goals is just as individual of a process as the actual goals. Some goals can be tracked through a portfolio of work that shows the student progress over time (be sure to date the work sample and write down any accommodations you have used to help your child complete the work). Other times, a tally sheet or checklist might be useful. The most important thing to do is document it so you can see the progress!

What happens if my child is not making progress?
If your child is not making progress after working on the goal for a significant period of time (for some children this may be a few weeks, but for others it may be a few months), look at how you can change your approach to the goal or offer more support so that your child can achieve the goal with help. Check out my article on levels of support: Is it cheating when I help my homeschooled child? Over time, you can gradually lessen the support and help your child be more independent with the goal. You can always re-evaluate the goal and change it if you need to make it more achievable. The same goal can also carry into a second year.

What happens if my child progresses quicker than I expected?
First, you celebrate!!! Then, you write a new goal for the next skill you want him/her to accomplish. Even though these are commonly referred to as “annual goals,” children grow at different developmental rates and at different times. Sometimes by focusing on a skill, your child will pick it up quicker than you expect. In that case, move on to what comes next, but always take time to celebrate!

How do I report these goals with report cards?
If you are keeping grades or report cards every 6 or 9 weeks, you can write a quick summary for each goal and/or the objective. This will also help you summarize all the data that you have gathered and give you a nice single page to keep as documentation at the end of the year. This will help you look at where you need to set goals for the next year.

Check out our IEP Tools Pinterest board or check out these links for more ideas:
SMART IEPs
Setting Annual IEP Goals: What You Need to Know
IEP Goal Tracking Sheet
Progress Monitoring for IEP Goals

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By Tracy Criswell

Many parents hear the word assistive technology and automatically think that it will be expensive. This is not the case though. According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. There are two types of assistive technology: low tech assistive technology and high tech assistive technology. For this article, I will be focusing mostly on low tech assistive technology, but will briefly address high tech assistive technology.

Low Tech Assistive Technology Explained
Low tech assistive technology, according to Tools for Life, are devices or equipment that do not require much training, less expensive, and does not have complex features. For many homeschooling families, low tech assistive technology is an inexpensive item that can be used to help educate their children with a variety of needs. I have personally used low tech assistive technology with my three youngest children with ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. In reality, you may be already using a different type of low tech assistive technology without knowing it.

Examples of Low Tech Assistive Technology
You might be wondering, what are some examples of low tech assistive technology. Things as simple as using a dry erase board and marker for the student to write their answers to a math problem or an exercise ball to bounce on while reading or completing other homeschool tasks to help your child focus are both considered examples of low tech assistive technology. The great thing about low tech assistive technology is that the item does not cost a lot of money. As a homeschooling mother of four, every penny counts.

Here are more examples of low tech assistive technology that can be used while homeschooling your child:

  • Large font worksheets
  • Audiobooks
  • Use of a binder as a slant board (to elevate the paper so it is at a better level for the child to see)
  • Rubber stamps with letters and/or child’s first and last name and inkpad (to use for spelling, etc.)
  • Refrigerator magnetic letters to use for spelling words
  • Stress balls for children with anxiety and/or needing sensory input
  • Sandpaper to place under writing paper to receive sensory input while writing (and also very helpful for children that place too much pressure on their pencils while writing)
  • Pencil grips
  • Raised lined paper or highlighted paper
  • Graphic organizers,
  • Reading guide highlighter strips
  • Highlighter tape to assist with note taking
  • Colored transparencies to use for reading
  • Sentence strips (you can make your own or purchase them)
  • Grid paper for math (assists children with making sure their numbers are in neat rows while doing math)
  • Kitchen timer
  • A visual schedule
  • Velcro that can be used for folder activities or visual schedules

There are many more examples of low tech assistive technology items, but these are items that I have used either with my own children or students that I have tutored.

High Tech Assistive Technology
In addition to low tech assistive technology devices, there is high tech assistive technology. High tech assistive technology devices, according to Tools for Life, are the most complex devices or equipment, that have digital or electronic components that will possibly require training and effort to learn how to use them as well as cost the most money. This type of assistive technology is normally used to help with communication, mobility (getting from place to place), reading, safety, etc.

The following are some examples of high tech assistive technology:

  • Electronic augmentative communication devices (technology that is used for children that are nonverbal to communicate with others)
  • Hearing aids
  • Electric wheelchair
  • Computer
  • Various computer programs (text to speech, voice recognition, word prediction, etc.)
  • Electronic home alarms (provide a different way to let those with hearing or visual impairments know when there is a fire, someone at the front door, someone calling)
  • iPad

More About Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can be very helpful when we homeschool children with special needs. Low tech assistive technology is very affordable and can be used in a variety of ways. This is a huge plus when it comes to homeschooling. It is also important to note that there are ways to obtain high tech assistive technology.

In some states, if your child is a dual-enrolled homeschool student with special needs, the school can provide the high tech assistive technology. Other options to obtain this type of assistive technology is to check with your insurance, check with Medicare (if your child is on Medicare), contact the assistive technology manufacturer, etc. It is wonderful as a homeschooling parent of a child with special needs to have so many options. Every day, it seems, there are new forms of assistive technology being used and developed. 


Also, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Assistive Technology and Ed Tech Pinterest boards to discover more ways you can implement both low and high tech assistive technology in your homeschool.

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on GuideStar

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