SPED Homeschool Team

We can turn every activity we do with our children into a learning experience. Thankfully, homeschooling allows families to turn active learning into homeschool extra-curricular subjects. The possibilities are endless, but below you will find 50+ ideas for homeschool extra-curricular subjects based on what we, the SPED Homeschool team, have taught in our own home schools.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Scuba diving

Sewing and Dressmaking

Aerial Silks

Taekwondo

Structural Engineering

Photography

Computer Skills (including IT skills, building a computer, keyboarding, and software implementation)

Welding

Band/Instrument Lessons

Film and Cinema studies

Podcasting

Digital Art 

Starting a Personal Business

Dance

Knitting

Speech & Debate

 

Cammie Arn

Horseback Riding and Equine Care

Gardening

Landscaping

Taekwondo

Theater: acting, set design, mural painting, costuming, stage managing, lights and sound

Fine Arts/Spoken Words: poetry, producing a children’s literature book, sermons, vocal solos, short story reading 

Piano

Handbell Choir

Speech & Debate

Computer Programming

Food Preservation and Storage

Menu planning 

Food Preparation

Money Management

Horticulture

Animal care

Music Theory

Art History 

Sewing

Knitting

Ballroom Dancing

 

Lara Lee

How to draw YouTube videos

Kid’s Engineering YouTube videos

Cooking

Gardening

Neighborhood walk, bike ride, or scooter

TinkerCrate

Cardboard models of appliances

Coloring books

Busy books (downloadable pages from TeacherPayTeachers, then laminate and add velcro to the back of the pieces)

Puzzles

Board games

Self-made experience books using photos and construction paper

Photobooks/Social stories (Such as documenting night time routine or a trip to visit family)

Daily rotating busy boxes (filled with toys and activities to do on only that day of the week)

 

Nakisha Blain

Nature journals

Feeding squirrels

Online summer camps

Art projects

Hiking

Home economics

Go-karting

Building/Construction

Volunteering

Helping parents with a family business

 

As you can see, we basically turned anything our kids or family are doing into school. That is the beauty of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

 


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Michael Maloney, SPED Homeschool Partner

Teaching a child how to read and write doesn’t just open them to a world of books and papers, but to communicating with others and navigating the world they live in. Using these communication and navigation intersections allows you to continue teaching language arts as a life skill even when the books are put away. Here is an outstanding example of how to prompt your student to use language arts as a life skill.

 

Ten-year-old Sam and his dad are off to Pearson International Airport to pick up his cousin for a camping trip. They were checking the car to see that they had everything. 

Dad started the conversation by saying, “Here’s the checklist. You read it and I will make sure that each thing is in the car.”

Sam read, “Tent”. Dad replied, “Got it.  Next?”

 “Sleeping bags.” 

“Check.  3 sleeping bags.” 

Sam read each item on the list as his dad checked the supplies.

 

“While I drive, be my navigator. Watch for signs with an airplane on them and then read the name of the road that we use to exit”, Sam’s dad said. “It will take us about 45 minutes to get to Pearson.  Meanwhile, use my phone to text Erin and see if she is through Customs and at her boarding gate.  Also get her Flight number. Thanks.”

 

Sam sent Erin a text and waited for a reply. A few moments later, the cell phone beeped. He read the message. “She is just on her way to her gate. Everything is good.”

Sam watched carefully for the exit and pointed when he saw a picture of an airplane on the overhead highway sign. “There’s our exit, 3 kilometers ahead. We follow Highway 404 West.”

 

“Well done. You’re a pretty good navigator for a 10 year old.” His dad said, “Now we have to find the terminal where Jet Blue lands. Watch the signs on your side. The airlines are in alphabetical order, so look for J and read me the number of the terminal.” 

“There it is –Jet Blue. It is Terminal 3.” Sam said excitedly. He was anxious to see his cousin.

“Text her and tell her to wait on the sidewalk outside of the Jet Blue Arrival area.”  A moment later the cell phone beeped again. “She’s already there waiting for us.” 

“That’s great”, his dad said, “Now we won’t have to park the car to go and find her. Is there any room for her in one of the back seats? We may have to rearrange some of the gear.” 

“There’s lots of room, Dad, Erin is not as big as me.”

 

Once out of the airport, Erin and Sam read the brochures about the lake they were going to. They found out about the kinds of fish they might catch. “Wow, look at this one”, Erin pointed to a large Northern pike. I’m not sure I want to catch one of those.”  They read about boat rentals, fresh bait, campfire rules and emergency services.  An entire hour passed before they had read and discussed what they wanted to catch with what bait.

 

After 3 nights in a tent, several daily swims and campfire dinners of fresh fish, the three campers were ready to return. 

“So what lesson did you learn from all this?” Sam’s dad asked.  Erin piped up, “You don’t stop reading just because you closed the book.” Sam laughed.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Do you have a student who struggles with a core subject?  Maybe math, reading, or spelling? Many parents do. But many parents also try to solve the lack of progression in a core subject by focusing more heavily on that subject to “catch up.” Unfortunately, this is actually a counterproductive move.

How? I will start by sharing a scenario I have shared with many parents over the past 15 years when they told me they were not seeing progress using the tactics I described above. But, I usually start by saying, “What I will tell you will probably seem rather illogical at first, but I want you to consider this parallel first.”

 

Here is the parallel argument I share:

What chore or activity do you dislike doing the most? (Parents responses vary, but most say cooking, laundry, cleaning, car maintenance, or any other necessary chore that needs their attention regularly.)

For me, it would be cleaning my house. I could cook all day, but I hate to clean.

Now consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

I don’t know about you, but if someone told me all I had to do (thus all I had to look forward to) when I woke up Saturday morning was clean my house, I would sleep in as long as possible. Would you feel the same way?

 

Next, let’s now consider how you have removed most of the other subjects and activities in your student’s schedule to focus most of your homeschooling time on his/her “struggle” subjects. Your child feels the same way as you do about the activity you mentioned to me just a few minutes ago. Do you now understand why your child has a hard time just doing the few subjects you have left for him/her to learn?

The solution takes us in the opposite direction. We add in MORE unconventional learning.

 

“…consider if someone were to remove all the extra activities out of your day so you had more than enough time to do that one activity you disliked?

 

We all know the concept of incentives. In training our children we often use rewards like toys, food or stickers. Those external incentives teach our children there are wonderful outcomes that come from perseverance. I am all for these tangible external incentives, but over time we want our children to move beyond external incentives to external incentives. This is where MORE unconventional learning can help your student understand the rewards of learning and using their unique giftedness.

Yes, learning can be an incentive for your student. What would that look like? Here is an example of what this looked like in our homeschool for my oldest son.

At 11 years old, my son still struggled to read. Every day we used various curriculums to keep moving forward in his progress toward learning to read independently, but I knew if we pressed in too much with just reading I would crush his spirit and he would lose his interest in learning all together. This same child loved to build. So, I incorporated his love for building into an actual school subject he would have listed in his planner each week. I didn’t know what I would use at first for this “class” until I came across a K’NEX Education set on how to reconstruct 7 real bridges. I called the class “Structural Engineering” and we spent time each week learning about these bridges and building them. Instantly, I saw a boost in my son’s self esteem. He was now seeing what I had seen for so long, that he had a knack for engineering and was a gifted learner. Now 12 years later, this same young man recently received a degree in Biomedical Engineering. Was it a surprise to me? Not at all.

 

As you look ahead to your homeschooling year, make sure the pressures of catching up do not crush your student’s potential. Add in MORE learning instead and show your student how despite their learning difficulties he/she is still a gifted learner. 

 

 

 

 


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Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Partner

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words. – Goethe

Whether new to homeschooling, homeschooling for decades, or somewhere in between, we all have one thing in common: None of us wants our child’s education to feel 100% remedial. This is not to say that we neglect the basics. We devote ourselves to shoring up our children’s reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic through steady teaching. Yet we must keep ourselves from focusing so intently on a child’s weaknesses that we cannot give him an education commensurate with his humanity.

With this in mind, we consider seven ways to elevate the education of a child with special needs:

 

1. Music

Research abounds with evidence of music education’s ability to improve working memory, auditory processing, phonological awareness, and reading. More than this, music provides a solace from struggle. “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words,” writes Victor Hugo, the author of Les Misérables. This free  playlist allows you to play pieces each week for familiarity, dancing, twirling, or close listening together for an entire year. Discuss the instruments you hear, the mood or tempo, the rhythm, and the “sense” or feeling of the music. If possible, teach your child an instrument or teach your child to sing. At even the most basic levels of mastery, this will be a gift for a lifetime.

 

2. Art

Children with sight and any ability may gaze on magnificent works of art. For children who are non-verbal or minimally verbal, no verbal response is required to learn about and gaze upon great works of art! Place his favorite art posters over his bed or on the walls of his room. Help him make crafts  if he is young or create art  if he is more advanced. In our home when teaching drawing, we regularly set a timer for a “no-talking time” or played classical music. This gave us a much-needed silence for contemplation. We started with only 5-10 minutes at a time.

 

3. Read-Alouds

Story time forges bonds and allows the child with special needs to live beyond his circumstances. Read-alouds can give us shared experiences, shared references for family life or inside family jokes, and an immediate way to enhance imagination. Consider not only fiction but also non-fiction  read-alouds to improve receptive and expressive language, enlarge the child’s fund of knowledge and gradually extend his attention span.

 

4. Nature

At a very young age, my daughter propelled herself through her days with the reckless fervor of hyperactivity, but I noticed that nature slowed her down. Whether mesmerized by a luna moth or captivated by a caterpillar, she paused. We began a nature journal  into which I scribed observations until she could write on her own. Informed nature walks and nature picture books suffice for younger children, but more advanced children may study  mammals or birds to improve awareness of the world in which they live.

 

5. Poetry

Poetry elevates language beyond casual everyday speech. Even the simplest lessons in children’s poetry support rhyming, phonological awareness, and learning to read. The timeless Robert Louis Stevenson collection of A Child’s Garden of Verses can be paired with acoustic music, such as in A Child’s Garden of Song , to aid “learning by heart” during playtime, in the car, or in the evenings. Older students appreciate more advanced poetry, such as poems told in Heroes, Horses, and Harvest Moons, to stretch the imagination and perhaps prompt their own poetry writing!

 

6. Aesop

Taught for millennia, Aesop’s fables may benefit children with autism and other challenges affecting social awareness through classic moral lessons in honesty, integrity, and avoiding deception. Something mysteriously interesting happens when animals convey these lessons to us.  Aesop’s Fables with CD allow listening over and over, as the message may not be ingrained upon a first hearing, and an Aesop copybook can allow time for personal reflection and application to daily life.

 

7. Christian Studies

To truly elevate our children beyond the mundane, we must give them truth that sets us free. Teaching the Christian faith impacts both this life and the life to come. If older children with special needs fall prey to discouragement or self-pity, we can elevate their thoughts through  thankfulness journals and meditation on Holy Scripture. How can we be sad when we ponder the LORD’s reminder, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. (Jeremiah 31:3)

 

Summary

In our home my now-adult daughter plays through her memorized piano repertoire several times a week with a delightfully simple mix of Hickory Dickory Dock, Pop! Goes the Weasel, and a modified yet lovely Minuet. The music, played in the same order every time, seems to cheer, calm, and uplift her. Her twin brother’s piano music changes each time, as his own complex piano compositions ease his mind in different ways. Both children read books at the lunch table. Both take long walks. Both enjoy helping other people, whether the person asks for help or not! As I practice playing for upcoming Sunday mornings, they join me in singing hymns. Not only does this elevate their days; this elevates mine.

Both twins are on the autism spectrum with learning disabilities and mental illness. Neither child has the capacity to master more than introductory levels of piano, mathematics, or science, yet looking back, both express gratitude for all of the elevating elements of their education. Let us strive to see our children agree with Tolstoy: Rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor – such is my idea of happiness.

 

Bio —

Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., is the author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child and creator of the Simply Classical Curriculum from Memoria Press. Cheryl and her husband adopted boy-girl twins with special needs over twenty years ago and homeschooled them through high school graduation. The family now lives together in a wooded lake community in Missouri.

 

 

 

 

 


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