By SPED Homeschool Team

To be successful homeschoolers, we need to embrace all the different aspects of our child. A big aspect that needs a lot of attention is incorporating their physical bodies into their learning. Each child will have different needs when it comes to physical movement, but they all have needs. Here are some ideas from our team on keeping our active kids learning with movement.

 

 

Tracy Glokle

We use movement a lot. One of our recent math lessons had my little guy running around the table to different “stations” to solve addition problems from his worksheet with different manipulatives. I used a stopwatch to encourage him to move quickly. We’ve also hidden words around the room to find and then read or spell. One of my favorite products to have on hand has been Ultimate Brain Breaks (by Heather Haupt). When my kids get restless, I have them choose one or two brain break idea cards. It only takes us a couple of minutes and really helps with both focus and motivation.

 

Five minute breaks to beat the punching bag, jump on the trampoline, scooter around the block, or dance to a favorite tune will also do wonders, particularly for my older kids.

 

Mary Winfield

I have some very active boys and one that has a lot of sensory needs, so we use physical activity a lot in our homeschool. We take lots of breaks to do sensory input that he needs. When it is warm outside, we try to do a lot of our learning outdoors, but we also have indoor swings that we use when the weather is too cold to spend too much time outside. We also try to do yoga for body awareness everyday.

Whenever I can set up math or reading in a way that incorporates movement, we do it! From doing addition problems using jumping jacks or racing between sight words, he definitely learns best when he is moving! I think the most important thing is to know what your child needs and when he usually needs it. My son is best at sitting still for things in the morning and needs a lot of movement in the afternoons, so we schedule our homeschooling accordingly.

 

Cheryl Swope

Some think the classical tradition produces only “bookish” children, but a classical education has always emphasized both gymnastics for the body and music for the soul. We help our children with special needs exercise, grow strong, and gain self-control over their bodies for poise, grace, and service to others. Daily movement, walks in fresh air, swimming, or brief bursts of soccer and other ball games can ease anxiety, promote calm, and refresh for further study.

 

 

Dawn Spence

We take breaks in our school day. Sometimes it’s an outside bubble break or some time to  swing in our backyard. I can tell when we need movement; that’s usually when things start to derail. Playing a ring-toss game to review a subject or jumping or dancing during learning a song all help my kiddos to learn.

 

Shannon Ramiro

  1. I would walk around the house with my son sitting on my shoulders while I asked him rhyming words, words that include letter blends, words that matched definitions, etc. Obviously, I was asking the questions as I thought of them because my hands were not free to look at anything.
  2. In a similar fashion, I would hold him like a wheelbarrow while asking questions, too.
  3. I created “stepping stones” with letters on them for my son to step on when spelling words or practicing phonics. I spread them around the living room so he had to look for the correct one, and they were not near each other.
  4. When he was younger we would play Twister sometimes as part of a break from learning.
  5. I incorporated nature walks as much as I could, and we would talk about anything we saw around us.
  6. Along with some other homeschoolers, we would tag along with a Montessori teacher on Fridays to nature preserves, beaches, and state parks around the area. Sometimes we attended naturalist talks as part of those trips.
  7. A co-op here meets once per month at a local park to participate in cooperative games led by a Waldorf teacher.
  8. There is also a parent who organizes “Nerf Wars” at a local park periodically.
  9. We have participated in a parent and child bowling league in the past.
  10. We plan on participating in therapeutic horseback riding, and my son will also be volunteering to help. (He does have experience with horse care.)
  11. I count walking our dog as P.E.
  12. There are several orchards within driving distance where we can go to pick fruit, which is good for reinforcing science as well as counting for P.E. I hope to arrange some tours and conversations with farmers in the future as career exploration in agriculture, too.
  13. Laser tag is another thing I hope to organize with some other homeschoolers.
  14. Some days we go to the mall and walk around, too. (My son will walk the whole thing more than once.)

 

In general, movement is needed to help our body be able to learn and process information. It also helps keep our kids motivated. I have always incorporated learning breaks every 15-25 minutes, especially if we are not moving as part of our activity. Jumping jacks, crab walk, walking on a curb as it if is a balance beam, jumping from one hula hoop to another placed on the ground in a row—these are all things that can be done in a few minutes and be beneficial. My son and I have played Red Light-Green Light and Simon Says as well.

 

Cammie Arn

My little boys have so much energy, and Mama doesn’t have as much as she used to. So when they need to run and play, they go outside pretty much until they are worn out. We utilize a trampoline which is great for one child in particular, as whole body stimulation relaxes him. We also have two of those $14 Walmart plastic pools on our covered porch that stay filled year round since my kids enjoy water play so much. At 8 & 4 they are through with school so quickly. I’m grateful that my children have so much safe space to run and play. In addition to these, my older children have enjoyed Tae-Kwon-Do and dancing classes.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

It is hard to remember back to those days when my kids wouldn’t sit still.  Now as young adults and a teen I find I have to work extra hard to get them moving, but I digress.  When my boys were younger we lived in MN, so for about 6 months out of the year we either bundled up and went outside or were creative about purchasing annual memberships to places that had HUGE indoor spaces.  Fortunately we lived within a mile of the MN Zoo, so we made sure to plan school around a trip every week. We also taught the kids how to ski, went sledding at the local “hill,” and employed them as shoveling helpers.

 

Other active indoor activities my kids loved were fort building, historical reenactments backdrops, and relay race courses using every piece of furniture they could scramble over and under to  increase the difficulty. Usually I would allow these “creations” to stay a day or two, and as much as I could I would incorporate our learning activities inside them or alongside them.

 

As our kids moved into their teen years we moved to the country, so chores in taking care of animals became a huge part of our lives as well as their school.  My children learned so many things living in the country, some which they remember with fondness and others not so much; but those activities have made a lasting impact on their work ethic and how much they appreciate the simple things that life has to offer.

 

As I look back, I do recall how much extra work it was to make learning active, but I am so glad that I didn’t allow myself to stick to just books and computers for instruction.  My kids would never tell you about how great their math lessons were when they were in 5th grade; but they will tell you with vivid descriptions the entire day and night they spent under the dining room table eating, sleeping, reading, studying, and talking about cold Russian winters while simulating the long sleigh ride of Catherine the Great from Poland to meet her future husband.

Conclusion:

As you can see, we love to get moving in our homeschools! Whether by including movement breaks or creative activities, learning with movement is a key part in keeping our active kids engaged and motivated. Try some some of these ideas to get your kiddos moving or check out our Pinterest boards for more ideas.  

 


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By Cammie Arn

When I was first told that my 9 year old son qualified for “hippo therapy,” I was so confused. I live in the heart of Texas, and the only “hippos” I knew of were in a zoo. Then, the Occupational Therapist politely smiled at me and explained that “hippo” meant horse. My son qualified for horse therapy or equine therapy. Now, I understood. But what would be the benefits of hippotherapy for my son with Sensory Integration Disorder?

 

That first day a whole new world opened up for my son. Having to assimilate the pungent smell, the dust everywhere, an animal he wasn’t in control of, the breeze blowing and the therapist talking was enough to either shut him down or send him into a rage. I expected the worst. Instead, he got onto the horse, backwards. Backwards? Um, what?

 

It was then explained that riding backwards caused his body to learn to balance and sift through all the other sensory stimuli at the same time. Amazing! My son loved it! Not only that but the extra benefit of hippotherapy was my son’s  pride that he was going horseback riding versus going to therapy. He was excited and motivated to go again.

 

My son continued in this type of therapy twice a week for one year. This was his turning point. Each week I watched him master the skills asked of him along with learning to  control an animal. His confidence grew in other areas as well. Soon he graduated from his OT program. I was elated to see such improvement in my son. Not only did he gain a confidence boost he was able to focus better on his schoolwork, listen to my instructions over the noises of his younger siblings, retain knowledge learned and tolerate food without vomiting. The only bittersweet thing was that he lost his routine for those afternoons until we discovered Tae Kwon Do met at the same time. Hippotherapy gave him the skills and confidence he needed to pursue other things in life.

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey

Many parents, like myself, are choosing to homeschool because our kids don’t fit the profile of a “typical” student.  Especially when your child has Autism or ADHD, or is just a very active, young boy! So, how can you make learning happen with a child who has a hard time sitting still?  You make learning active and interactive! Here are some tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!

 

 

 

Tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1- Keep lessons short and focused:

  • If my son can complete 5 problems and understand a concept, why solve 10?  My goal is mastery, not death-by-worksheets!
  • If he needs more practice – I give it to him – after a break, or the next day!
  • I focus on one concept at a time – keep things simple and focused.
  • More is not always better – sometimes it’s just more!

 

 

2 – Reward work as it is getting done:

 

  • Reluctant learners often need praise and reassurance as they complete an assignment, not just at the end.
  • Correct errors when they happen – don’t allow your child to practice incorrectly (it takes far longer to unlearn a mistake than to learn it right in the first place).
  • Change it up – use different things to reward and keep it interesting!

 

3 – Work doesn’t have to be worksheets!

  • Turn learning into a game by having them “jump” on or “tag” an answer.
  • Use manipulatives to work out problems and “see” the answer.
  • Use videos, educational apps, and other media to reinforce or introduce a concept

 

4 – Use movement to your advantage:

  • Many kids learn through movement and songs
  • Many kids need movement to help move memory from short term to long term storage.
  • Activities that cross the “midline” (right/left or top/bottom) are beneficial to activate both sides of the brain, also helping with memory.
  • Movement makes learning more fun and engaging!

 

 

 

5 – I’s okay to not sit at the table/desk! I have seen kids:

  • Sit on top of the table or counter
  • Sit under the table or chair
  • Lay on the floor
  • Lay on a trampoline
  • Sit in a beanbag
  • Sit on the grass outside
  • Sit in a tree
  • Lay under the piano bench
  • Inside a closet or cupboard
  • On a yoga ball (you can buy one with a stand for added stability)
  • Use a Wobble Cushion
  • Tie Thera-Bands on the legs of the chair for kids to be able to kick/push against while they are working.
  • And so many more!  As long as learning is taking place, location doesn’t matter.

 

6 – Ways to include movement:

  • Trampoline
  • Park play
  • Riding bike/scooter
  • GONOODLE.com
  • Obstacle courses
  • Answering questions with parts of the body
  • Playing with blocks
  • Sit/bounce on a yoga ball
  • Sit/jump on a trampoline
  • Stand at an easel/table
  • Nature walk
  • Exploring local parks, ponds, streams, deserts, etc., for animals specific to your area
  • Count birds, squirrels, or other animals as you walk (you can also make up word problems – two birds plus 3 birds is 5 birds; 5 squirrels, two run away, that leaves 3 squirrels).
  • Write with sidewalk chalk outside
  • Go to the zoo, museum, and other places where you can walk and learn about things
  • Bring learning to “life” through unit studies and acting out your learning.
  • Answering questions while using a hula hoop
  • Using playdoh, clay, and or therapy putty (allergy-friendly playdoh is also available)
  • Throwing bean bags, ring toss, or kicking a goal while answering questions

 

 

 

 


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By Mary Winfield

We have all chosen to homeschool because we felt like it was the best option for our family, especially our child with special needs. While there may be many reasons, I am sure that a big one for most of us is wanting our children to be able to learn in the way that is best for them. And for many of our children, the best way is by incorporating movement into learning.

 

 

I have spoken about the DIR/Floortime method before (developmental levels, individual preferences and needs, and relationship based learning), but I wanted to stress the “I” and talk about individual preferences and needs and how we can use that to help incorporate movement and interests into learning. Everyone learns differently, but one thing is the same: we learn best when we involve our whole body and multiple senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incorporating Movement into Learning as Motivation

When I was working at a private school that used the DIR Method to teach children on the Autism Spectrum, we used movement as much as possible in the classroom. All of our students had different sensory needs, but two examples come to mind when I think about movement based learning. (Names have been changed).

Cody loved to ride on a scooter. He had several at home and would bring one to school almost every day to play with when we went outside or to the gym. Since he loved to ride on it so much, we would use that passion as motivation when we taught him. He was working on simple addition, so when he would work on a problem and get the correct answer, he could ride his scooter around the gym that many times. Then we would move on to the next question and repeat. He stayed engaged with learning for much longer than just sitting, doing multiple problems at once this way. He also learned to concentrate on the problem because he knew he would get to ride his scooter as soon as he figured it out.

Nick was another boy who loved movement, but he preferred to swing. We had a sensory swing in our classroom, often we would work  on lessons while he was in the swing. One time I remember we had to do some testing with him, and that was becoming a struggle. When we tried the testing again, this time with him in the sensory swing, we were able to finish much faster than we anticipated.

With my own son, I have found that the more ways we can use his body in learning, the happier he is. We have been working on the concepts of fractions lately, and using a play dough pizza set has really helped him a lot. Being able to touch and squish and get that sensory input while learning helped him to understand a concept much faster than he would have without that body involvement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incorporating Movement into Learning with Breaks

Each child has a different sensory profile. Your child may love to spin in circles, while other children can’t stand to move that quickly. Some children love to watch lights move around, while others will close their eyes to block it out. Your child will seek certain sensory inputs while avoiding others. Knowing what these needs are for your child is crucial to their success.

Along with the types of sensory they like or dislike, you have also probably noticed that your children have certain times of day or certain activities that require more sensory attention. The flexibility of homeschooling means that you can schedule learning during their sensory “down times” or times where they are most regulated.

If running outside helps to calm them down, then do school right after outside time. If it tends to wind them up, then you should do school before physical activity. Make sure that they have the movement breaks they need at the times they need them. This will make your learning times go much smoother.

 

 

 

 

Incorporating Movement into Learning with Therapy

Another great way to incorporate movement into learning is to use it with therapy. We obviously see movement worked into gross motor and occupational therapies, but you can also incorporate it into other areas as well.

When I was working with a nonverbal 10 year old girl, we were trying to teach her to use PECS and she was struggling to pick up the concept. She liked to swing outside, so we spent a lot of time outside with “yes” pictures and “no” pictures. I would push her on the swing for a while, and then I would stop her. I would ask, “Do you want to swing?” and then hold up the two response pictures. She learned very quickly to pick the “yes” picture! Using her body and her favorite activity helped that concept to snap into place, and then we were able to use it other places as well.

There was another boy who would have a full meltdown if someone didn’t finish a sentence or if he didn’t hear them finish it. Repeating the sentence or finishing it later wouldn’t stop the meltdown from happening. We used a calming swing that he really liked and once he was calm, we would play the “what if” game. I would say the first part of a sentence, and then ask him to guess what I was going to say. He would make a guess, and I would say, “That would work, what if I was going to say something else? What else could finish that sentence?” After a few weeks of playing this game when there was an incident, he learned to play it in the moment and guess what other people were going to say and then ask them what they were really talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

Each family is different, so each homeschool is different, but you can see how paying attention to what your child’s body needs is an important part of their learning and regulation. What are some of the ways that you already incorporate movement into learning in your homeschool? What do you think would be a great addition?

 

 


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