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Peggy Ployhar

 

One of the greatest misconceptions about teaching is that the power of education lies in the training of the individual or in the quality of the material used to teach a child. Even though both of these things would rank as highly important factors, the single most important has nothing to do with what our educational system has trained us to value most. Instead, it has to do with a very humble and natural homeschooling superpower any parent can draw from, the ability to care and to show those you are teaching you are committed to their learning process.

 

Over the years of consulting with homeschooling parents, I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship. Take it from someone who knows. Because I started our homeschooling journey with parenting anger struggles , my homeschooling superpower was deeply buried. I was not set up for my optimal teaching effectiveness, so the ideas I have to share below are from my attempts to connect with my children.

 

I have found that when a parent has struggled most with teaching their student it has been because they needed to work less on the child’s education and more on the parent-child relationship.

 

Below are 5 ways you can strengthen your parent-child relationship, or homeschooling superpower, to increase your teaching effectiveness:

 

Listening Time

As a parent we often do most of the talking, but how much do we seek to actively listen to what our children want to say? Do we dig deep enough to learn what they are thinking about and why? Setting aside regular time to just listen to your children’s ideas and thoughts with probing questions that not only show you are listening but that you want to invest time into learning about the things that matter most to them.

If your child seems hesitant to answer your questions, one idea I found very helpful was to use puppets. My son responded well to puppets, and of all the puppets we had on hand, his favorite was Lamb Chop who was made famous by Sheri Lewis. For some reason, he opened up and shared his heart with this little lamb and this back and forth conversation became a regular part of our evening schedule.

 

Play Time

Playing with your children may come easily, or it may be an excruciating experience for you to even think about, but if you put your best foot forward to delve into one of your child’s favorite playtime activities the reward will be great.

Putting on those superhero costumes, playing hide-n-seek, taking time to build a fort and then spend the afternoon in it, or assembling Legos into engineering marvels speaks volumes to your child about the worthiness of their favorite activities as well as your approval of him/her and what he/she values.

 

Reading Time

While you may already read out loud with your children, you may not go any further than the text, or if you do then you may only ask your child about the story itself. I would suggest you go a step further and ask your child which character in the book they relate with the most and why. Ask them if they feel the character was treated as he/she thinks the character should have been treated and what led them to that conclusion.

As our family was preparing to move to a farm and was living for the summer in our travel trailer, we read the book Farmer Boy as a family in the evening. While the book itself was very intriguing for all of us to read together, it was the questions and discussions we shared after each chapter that drew us all closer together, as we shared our thoughts and dreams about the new life we were all about to embark on.

 

Shared-Activity Time

Sharing a common activity with your child creates an unbelievably tight bond. I have seen parents join martial arts classes, art classes, and computer classes with their children. The beauty of sharing an activity with your child is that these types of experiences have open ends for both of you and allows not only the opportunity to achieve new goals together but also commiserate about shared failures.

 

I started doing aerial silks with my daughter last year and will attest that a shared activity has greatly increased the bond between us. Our shared activity provides the two of us not only an activity we can do together but also a new topic to add to our day that allows us to connect at a different level than the typical parent-child conversation.

 

Travel Time

Time in the car, camper, plane, hotel, and rental house puts your child in a place that is out of their comfort zone, in a more confined space, and usually further away from their typical digital input than their normal. These times lend themselves to deep conversations, curated experiences, and building long-lasting memories.

 

A few years ago, I took a three and a half week trip cross-country with my daughter. We drove from Texas to Colorado, then to North Dakota, next to Minnesota, and from there we took a plane trip with my mother (all three Margaret’s – Margie, Maggie, and Peggy – to NYC to see the slights and a Broadway show) and finally drove back to Texas. That trip was a turning point in mine and my daughter’s relationship.

 

Any of these suggestions is a great place to start building your relationship with your child. I would suggest starting with one that would work best with your schedule right now, and then over time slowly adding others as opportunity allows. Most of all, enjoy the extra time you have been given to spend with your child. It is an incredible gift that will stretch you as well as bless you both!

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Communication is more than just speaking; it is the underlying framework that determines how well we relate with others, the wider community, and the world we live in. It also affects how well we learn. After all, the majority of education involves either written or spoken communication. So when a child struggles with communication skills, learning can become particularly frustrating. However, not every child’s struggle with communication is the same, and thus how we address communication skills in our homeschools is as varied as our children.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Over the years of homeschooling, we have focused on communication skills from many angles to help our children master various aspects of communication.

 

Social Communication
Since our oldest struggled with understanding social cues, we often used role-playing or acting in our homeschooling lessons so he would grasp more than just the facts about what we were studying. It was often crucial for him to see and experience the cause and effect relationships between one person’s actions and the community those actions affected. These activities were essential in helping my son realize the world involved the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others as well as himself. Immersion learning in the homeschooling environment was something we took advantage of to the fullest when it came to teaching social skills and social outcomes.

 

Pronunciation
Our middle child struggled with pronouncing certain letters with accuracy from a very young age. Integrating speech therapy into our homeschooling schedule was important to help him work on these skills with a trained therapist. Over time he overcame his struggle and even went on to compete in speech and debate during his high school years as well as publish a podcast with a friend.

 

Descriptive Communication
Our youngest was speaking in full sentences and conversing with adults before she turned one year old. For this reason, we didn’t suspect she would experience any communication deficits, but as she worked on writing projects or created presentations she started to discover how much she struggled to use words to elaborate her ideas. As an artist, she has incredible visual-spatial skills and can draw just about anything described to her, but in reverse she has a hard time putting together words to describe what she did to create a drawing or to teach someone else how to draw using her techniques. To stretch her in this area, part of her homeschooling curriculum has involved writing creative short stories, teaching art lessons to her peers, and presenting research reports.

 

Little by little you can stretch your child in your homeschool in the area of communication skills; and as you do, your child will gain greater confidence in navigating relationships, learning environments, and opportunities for greater self-discovery.

 

Tracy Glockle

To join us at our dinner table for a meal, you wouldn’t suspect that any of my kids have problems with communication skills. At our house, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. However, for one of my children, in particular, language-based disabilities have made communicating rather difficult.

 

Communicating emotions is particularly challenging for this child and often results in more aggressive behaviors. We spend a lot of time working through those emotions and finding the words to help her express how she is feeling healthily. After she has calmed down, we will revisit the situation and role-play how it could have gone differently, coaching her with words to use to express things. It hasn’t been an overnight success, but through the years we’ve seen her grow in her ability to express things.

 

Academically, the communication challenge has shown up in writing. We have not gone the traditional route of teaching writing at all. For most of her schooling, I have not used a curriculum at all. We’ve merely practiced writing together as part of her other subjects, and for many of those years, I scribed what she orally dictated to me. Eventually, she has taken on more of the writing herself. For this child, nonfiction writing is a much more natural realm for her to learn how to put words and thoughts together because it does not involve the added challenge of creating something original. She can research facts and retell true stories, learning all the same elements of writing and gently scaffolding her communication skills.

 

Dawn Spence

Being a teacher and then a homeschool mom I have experience with all kinds of students. Children communicate in many different ways and learning to listen to how they communicate is key.

 

My eldest son was an early talker and still is very verbal. This helps me when homeschooling him. He would rather talk about what he learned than write it down. That is a great skill to have to summarize his thoughts out loud but becomes a struggle when it comes to writing. Though he is a reluctant writer, allowing him to see that his words have meaning and that writing them down gives them more power gives him the nudge he needs. We do a lot of brainstorms and use graphic organizers to help in his writing.Blocks provide you with everything you need to build a larger page. They contain a variety of content elements, such as images, buttons, headings, and more. These elements are arranged in rows and columns, which provide a useful structure, as well as a sense of balance within the overall composition. You can modify this structure using our intuitive drag and drop interface, which allows you to rearrange content to your heart’s content.

 

My twin girls are very different in their communication as well. My girls as twins have always had a special non-verbal communication between them and still do to this day. My oldest twin has a speech delay which has, of course, affected her communication. Her sister always wants to interpret, but we’ve had to discourage this so she could work on her speech. We used sign language, pictures, games, and therapy to help her communicate. As her communication grew she became less frustrated and began to try more. She is 10 and can verbally communicate her needs and her wants. She continues to grow and excel.

 

My youngest twin is very inquisitive and wants to know about the world around her. She communicates best through her writing and her art. She has dyslexia but is an avid reader which helps her communication immensely.

 

The beauty of addressing communication skills in our homeschools is that we can look at our children as individuals. We can help them to learn through their preferred communication and help them to grow in the areas where they struggle.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

When babies are born they communicate in cries to get their needs met. We lovingly meet their needs and wait to hear their first words. Sometimes those words take longer to hear or may come in a different form. My daughter has a global developmental delay, and even though we know why she has a communication disorder, waiting for her to be able to communicate was frustrating for her and us as well. Finding strategies to help your child with a communication or language disorder helps lessen their frustration.

Strategies for Helping with Language Disorders

 

Sign Language

When she was younger, my daughter had a speech delay and needed a language and a voice. We started using functional sign language with my daughter such as more, finished, work, all done and stop. Then we moved on to colors, animals, and everyday language. Giving my daughter a way to communicate her needs helped her to have a voice. We used Signing Times, and she would watch the videos and learn to sign the new vocabulary. The songs and the characters made learning enjoyable, and it kept her attention.

 

Pictures and Schedules

To a child with language deficits, the everyday life and busy schedules of the day can be overwhelming. My daughter would be overwhelmed with activities and expectations, which would then lead to a meltdown. I had to learn that her frustration with the difficulties of communicating and understanding our day led to her meltdowns. She needed structure and an order to her day. We made picture schedules of her day from therapy to meals. We took pictures and laminated them and had them posted around the house. Her day in pictures and what was expected of her became a tool and gave her day meaning. I also took pictures of her doctors, therapists, and places that we would visit frequently. If our schedule would be different or involved a doctor visit, seeing the picture would help with her anxiety. I used hands-on tools in anticipation of going to the dentist. I found that situations where new things that she may not expect needed more tools of preparation.

 

 

 

She practiced brushing off her sugar bugs to help her get prepared with the unexpected and the anxiety. The more we talked and practiced for the doctor visit the more relaxed and successful it became.

 

Giving Time

My daughter has both an expressive and receptive language disorder. This basically means that she struggles with understanding what others say to her and with expressing herself. I know that she needs me to give her time to respond to what I say and time to put her words together. When I ask my daughter a question, I give her extra time to answer. Using verbal and visual cues helps her organize her thoughts and her language. I can see on my daughter’s face that she knows what to say but needs help getting it out. I have learned that I need to stop and allow her the time to gather her thoughts. If she still needs help, giving her options or verbal cues helps her to produce her answer.

 

Having a communication disorder has no time frame and it takes patience for everyone involved. Give lots of praise and give your child grace and time and love. Using these strategies to give your child a voice and the opportunity to work through the frustrations of learning to communicate gives them more than just tools for language; it speaks to them a language of love.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Assistive Technology, or AT, is defined as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities” by the Assistive Technology Industry Association . For individuals who struggle with communication disabilities, AT solutions can greatly increase accessibility and educational success, as well as improve other important life functions. Below are some great resources to help you find the perfect communication assistive technology for your homeschool student.

 

Communication AT Guides

Download or read online this free PDF Communications Guide from the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. Included in this 62-page guide is everything you need to learn about the various types of communication devices available, how to access your child’s needs as well as his/her ability to utilize various AT devices based upon functionality, sensory, implementation, and even environmental considerations. Additionally, this guide breaks down specific tech providers, their products, compares features, and provides links for viewing these AT products online.

Another similar guide can be found in a series of articles from iCommunicate Therapy starting with this article on this page. These articles provide a summary of communication AT devices from high-tech to low-tech devices as well as breaking down those categories into specific device types and what individuals benefit most from using them.

 

Communication AT for Children with Autism

Communication difficulties for children on the Autism spectrum includes some unique variables, therefore it is best when looking for communication AT for a child on the spectrum to take those considerations into account. This article by the Autism Parenting Magazine, Assistive Technology Devices for Children with Autism, does a great job of walking a parent through the various reasons children on the spectrum can benefit from using communication AT as well as what AT works best for certain communication issues. 

Autism Speaks has also developed a 2-page PDF,   Assistive Technology for Communication Roadmap. These pages provide an overview of assessing a student for a device, choosing a device, device funding pathways, and training a student for successful use.

 

AT Communication Apps

If you are looking for an app that is iPad or iPhone specific, this article from Friendship Circle provides a list of their Top 7 Assistive Communication Apps in the iPad App Store. This article includes general descriptions of the apps, pricing, and customer ratings.

On the other hand, if you are looking specifically for an app to put on an Android device, the first 4 of the 6 apps listed in this article by Easter Seals Tech,  6 Android Apps for Special Needs, are great communication AT apps to consider. 

Finally, if you are still trying to wrap your mind around what incorporating assistive technology for your homeschool may look like or if your child is interested in how other children use AT devices for their communication needs, I would encourage you to check out the Pacer Center’s YouTube Channel. Their channel has lots of videos highlighting personal stories of children and how they use AT for greater accessibility.

For children with communication disabilities, assistive technology may bridge the gap and allow them greater opportunities in homeschool and life.

 

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

The United States Department of Health states that “approximately 7 to 8 percent of children in kindergarten” struggle with a language disorder of some type. Why then does an article on MedicalExpress.com refer to “language impairments” as “one of the most common childhood disorders that you’ve never heard of”? Likely it is because terms and diagnoses used to classify children who struggle in this area change depending on how issues exhibit themselves and at what age their impairment is detected.  

 

Language disorders can exhibit themselves when a child talks late, when a preschooler is unable to follow explicitly given instructions for a simple task or pick up on social cues, or not until a student starts struggling to learn to read or memorize facts. Most children with language disorders have no intellectual disability. Instead, they just can’t utilize language properly to receive information, express information, and/or process information. Thus, the main classifications of language disorders are Receptive Language Disorder, Expressive Language Disorder, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, and Language Processing Disorder.

 

 

Key Indicators a Child is Struggling with a Language Disorder

 

Children with Receptive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understand what others are saying
  • Following simple directions
  • Picking up on the meaning of gestures
  • Learning new words
  • Completely answering a question
  • Describing an object

Children with Expressive Language Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Building their vocabulary
  • Using complete sentences
  • Completely expressing their ideas, feelings, and thoughts
  • Using descriptive words
  • Using words in context properly
  • Telling stories
  • Repeating a poem or song
  • Identifying objects

Children with Language Processing Disorders generally struggle with:

  • Understanding jokes or sarcasm
  • Word sounds
  • Sequencing in words and decoding
  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding long or complex sentences
  • Figuring out the main idea of a reading text or discussion
  • Joining in on conversations
  • Following spoken or multi-step directions
  • Rhyming
  • Loud environments

 

 

Strategies for Homeschooling a Child with a Language Disorder

 

Strategies for working with children with Receptive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide outlines of reading material using charts, pictures, or an organizer
  • Break down reading into smaller parts
  • Act out what the child is reading
  • Break down complex tasks into smaller sub-tasks
  • Encourage questions and asking for clarification
  • Check a student’s understanding of a lesson frequently while teaching a new concept to ensure there are no gaps
  • Use the same words to refer to the same thing. Keep language consistent and understandable
  • Talk at a slow and consistent pace when providing instruction
  • When giving directions break down sequence order and if needed provide a checklist for steps
  • Accommodate with word lists, term glossaries, or a customized student dictionary

Strategies for working with children with Expressive Language Disorders are:

  • Provide communication tools or assistive technology to aid communication
  • Be a good communicator that your child can mimic
  • Use prompting to gently guide your child to help them express what they want to say
  • Don’t rush an explanation or answer
  • Ask for clarification to ensure you understood what your child was communicating when needed
  • Occasionally repeat your child’s words with an additional descriptor word added in

Strategies for working with children with Language Processing Disorders are:

  • Use pictures and other visuals to expand upon language-based lessons
  • Provide extra time for a child to process a concept and understand the information
  • Use a collaborative approach to learning that requires back and forth interaction between you and the child to ensure understanding is taking place
  • Make lessons shorter, allowing for time in-between lessons for the child to process information while playing or doing a non-learning activity, and then return to the subject to

 

Overall, it is important to understand as a parent that you can’t teach these language disorders out of your child, nor can you find a curriculum that will “catch your child up” to a norm. Your child needs to be taught at the pace he/she can learn and you have to do your best to be encouraging and patient with whatever progress he/she is able to make.

 

Additional resources for language disorder teaching strategies

 

 

 

 

 


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