by SPED Homeschool Team

Each state requires different things from homeschoolers, and sometimes that means incorporating testing in your homeschool. Other times, parents prefer testing in order to get an idea of what to focus on next. Here are our team members’ experiences with testing in their families.

 

Peggy Ployhar:

For our family we homeschooled most of our years in MN, and there was a yearly testing requirement we had to fulfill per the state homeschool law.  I was rarely surprised by the test results, and I never spent time teaching toward the test because it never carried much weight in my mind as to what my children were accomplishing in accordance with the goals I had set for each of them.

One surprise I did experience though as a result of this yearly requirement was the fact that my middle son was struggling with Dyslexia.  We switched our test and tester that year to a more comprehensive battery of tests which ended up fatiguing my son. The woman who was testing him actually caught the fact his answers were getting worse and worse as the test progressed and noted the incident to me as we finished up reviewing his results.  Her observation was one the actual test would have never caught because the test only showed that he excelled in the subjects he was tested on earlier in the testing cycle and fell short in the subjects he tested on later on during his testing.

 

Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.

 

Amy Vickrey:

I have been using testing in my homeschool to track progress.  While not required by the state, circumstances have necessitated that I track his progress through this year in a more formal manner.  I especially like the Lexile score I receive from the test. This has helped be more aware of helping my son transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”  I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of math skills he had picked up informally from watching education videos and playing educational apps!

For accommodations, we take lots of breaks when we take a test.  I help navigate the test on the computer so that my son doesn’t “accidentally” hit the wrong button due to his fine motor limitations.  I also use reminders to stay on task and to read thoroughly through the questions before answering. I like that the test I have been using grows with him, and shows growth over time.  This has been helpful in tracking his progress.

Here is the link for the test I use: https://truenorthhomeschoolacademy.com/product/standardized-testing/

SPED Homeschool community members receive $5 off with code SPED.

 

Dawn Spence:

As a formal public school teacher testing does not conjure up good memories. I have to push that to the back of my mind and take on the hat of homeschool mom. I ask myself what do I want to get out of the testing? I informally have tested my daughters in many online assessments. I also use the testing that is done with my daughter through therapy as wonderful information. I am hardly shocked at the results as I see them learning everyday and know where their strengths and weaknesses lay. There are so many choices timed, untimed, paper test, and online tests. Call and talk to the companies and many like IOWA and CAT tests send out samples for free or inexpensive fees. Just like your homeschool, make your testing fit your child.

 

 

Tracy Glockle:

At different times, we’ve been required to include testing in our homeschool. While I personally don’t see testing as the most valid way to show what a child knows, I also see the value in having my children learn to take these tests as a life skill. Test-taking is a skill in and of itself. Because I know that my kids will inevitably have to take tests throughout their lives, we focus primarily on how to take a test and what they need to be successful in their test-taking skills, rather than focusing on the academic data.

For many years when my kids were younger, we worked through different anxieties over timed activities. I timed everything as a way to help them overcome their panic. We worked on teaching them to pace themselves and to not get stuck on a single problem. My kids still have individual areas of test-taking that we continue to work through.

I also encourage parents that especially standardized testing is a trajectory, not an end result. And just as our kids may spike and plateau on a growth chart while maintaining a healthy trajectory, our kids will spike and plateau on an academic trajectory as well. We like to think of education as a steady trend upward, but that isn’t always the case. And that isn’t always a cause for immediate alarm.

 

Whether you are testing in your homeschool because of state requirements or your own preferences, finding the best fit for your child and having the right perspective can provide a more positive experience and a more productive result.

 

 


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by Shannon Ramiro

This time of year, many of us are  wondering how we could have done better this year, how we move forward the rest of this school year, and what to change for next year. The good news is you have plenty of time to figure out what to do next year as well as maximizing the benefits for this year. The bad news? There is none. Wondering if you’ve done enough for your homeschool is very normal, especially for parents of children with special needs.

 

How to know when you’ve done enough for your homeschool

 

Did you do any of the following:

  1. Start the school year choosing one curriculum, or multiple curricula based on what you had been told, or read, would be the best for your child’s identified disabilities?
  2. Create a study, or learning schedule, and believe you would be able to stick to it on a daily basis?
  3. Switch gears mid-year, or many times over the year because you answered yes to the first two questions listed here and your plans were not working?
  4. Want to throw the towel in days, weeks, months into the year because you felt overwhelmed or this year things had become too stressful?  

Wondering if you’ve done enough for your homeschool is very normal, especially for parents of children with special needs.

All of these things are OK. Keep in mind that learning is a marathon and should be a life-long journey. It is not a sprint with an anxiety ridden parent attempting to cram all the learning their child needs to become an independent, successful adult in before your child turns 18. It is so important to give yourself grace, especially during this time of year. Believe you are doing the best you can with the information you have at all times. Will you look back and wonder what would have happened if you had done “xyz” better? Probably, but again, this is common even for parents of children without disabilities.

Once you’ve accepted that these doubts and feelings of overwhelm are normal, you can actually move on with fresh energy. One of the best ways to combat the doubts of whether you’ve done enough for your homeschool is to allow yourself to reset.

So, how do we reset for the rest of the year?

  1. If you are homeschooling in a state with little to no regulations, embed creativity into your days. What does your child like to do, or is interested in? Take full advantage of that.
  2. Loosen up on the schedule. Focus on learning and celebrate small milestones. Any difficulties encountered may, at this stage of the year, be mainly due to fatigue or burnout. Make learning fun again.
  3. Take the learning outside. With warmer temperatures and sunny days, making the most of learning opportunities out in nature can help negate any attitudes that school is stressful, boring, or too demanding. This is the best time of year to see waterfalls and observe pollination, just to name a couple of learning opportunities rather unique to spring.
  4. If you must do some sort of testing to fulfill state requirements, practice test-taking strategies (i.e. skipping problems you don’t know, how to make an educated guess, etc.) and learning about the format of the test. Most of all, remind your child that the score given on the test doesn’t really matter. It is only a measure of what they know at a specific point in time.
  5. Reflect and think about what hasn’t worked and what has worked. Can the things that worked help you identify other curricula or approaches that may fit your child’s needs and learning styles better in the future?

Recognize, or remember, that our children tend to learn things at different times and in different ways. This is why so many all-in-one, or comprehensive curricula do not work for our children. Most of those types of curricula are designed to be accomplished in one year, which is normally considered to be around 180 days, with a full lesson being done every day. However, our children may learn some things rather quickly and need a lot of time learning other things, so the pacing of the curricula doesn’t align well to our planned school calendar.

A huge benefit of homeschooling is that we can customize the learning to what fits our schedule. We can also change things as needed, even if that means we find ourselves tweaking things every other week. Most of all, don’t be so hard on yourself. I believe children naturally want to learn, so letting them lead once in awhile can be extremely beneficial. You might find a new spark along the way that reinvigorates your desire to homeschool and to help increase your confidence that you really can do this!

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar and Mary Winfield

One of the biggest stressors for new homeschoolers is trying to figure out what is required of them in their state. It can be overwhelming to dig through information to find what you need to do while being sure that you aren’t forgetting anything important. You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues. Here is a comprehensive list of the bare minimum required for testing and evaluating in each state, so you can focus on what is most important: your child’s education. (States that have been omitted from the list do not have any evaluation requirements!)

You also don’t want to have to hassle with testing if it isn’t required because often testing doesn’t accurately measure what your child knows due to anxiety, poor cross over skills, or other issues.

Arkansas:

Norm-referenced testing is required for homeschooled students per state mandates for testing at students at specific grade/age levels . (Arkansas Department of Education, August 2007)

Colorado:

Standardized achievement tests must be given to homeschooled students in the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades or the student should be evaluated by an individual deemed qualified.  Norm-referenced testing marks must be above the 13% national mark or evaluations should show sufficient student progress.  (Christian Home Educators of Colorado – Homeschool Law)

Connecticut:

Homeschool programs should be deemed equivalent to other schooling options available to that student and this equivalency is determined by an annual portfolio review of the school district. (The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers Connecticut (TEACHCT) – The “Guidelines”)

Florida:

Homeschool families must be able to prove educational progress and back up that progress with a portfolio of the student’s work. (Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) – Florida Homeschool Requirements)

Georgia:

Homeschoolers are required to use standardized tests at a minimum every three years and yearly write an annual progress report.  Records of both of these requirements are to be kept by the homeschooling family and are not required for reporting. (Georgia Home Education Association – Georgia Law)

Hawaii:

Annually families must file a progress report including standardized test results, a certified teacher evaluation of the student, or a parent-written student progress report with supporting work samples.  Additionally, standardized tests are required for 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade students and can be taken through the local school or other evaluation alternatives may be requested by the parent in lieu of these tests. (Hawaii Homeschool Association – Hawaii Regulations)

Iowa:

There are some homeschooling options in Iowa that do not require annual reporting or assessment, but some options still do.  To find out more about these options and the requirements each entail, visit the Homeschool Iowa – Know the Law and Rulespage on their website to find out more.

Louisiana:

Based on the homeschooling option you choose, testing and curriculum submission may or may not be required.  To find out more visit the (Homeschool Louisiana – How Do I Start Homeschooling) website page.

Maryland:

Up to three times per year a homeschool can be assessed by the local superintendent (or designee).  These assessments may include a portfolio review, discussion with the homeschooler regarding homeschooling instruction, and/or monitoring/observation of the homeschooled child. (Maryland Home Education Association – Legal)

Minnesota:

Homeschooled students are required yearly to take a standardized test that is nationally norm-referenced.  Test results are not submitted for review, but there is a requirement that any student scoring below the 30% mark should receive additional testing for a specific learning issue. (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) – Legal)

New Hampshire:

An annual education evaluation for students can be determined either through an educational progress report written by a certified teacher, by a nationally norm-referenced test or local district assessment test, or another assessment tool “mutually agreed upon by the parent and the commissioner of education, resident district superintendent, or nonpublic school principal.” (New Hampshire Home Education Statutes Section 193:A6 Evaluation & Records)

New York:

New York regulations planning, reporting and assessments for all homeschooled students in the state.  These requirements rage from mandatory oversight and content requirements of student Individualized Home Instruction Plans (IHIP), required course and instruction material submissions, attendance requirements, quarterly reports, and annual assessments. To understand the specifics of these area of regulation, visit the New York State Loving Education At Home (LEAH) – Regulations website page as well as the New York Home Instruction Regulations page.

North Carolina:

Homeschooled students are to take a nationally norm-referenced test on a yearly basis. (North Carolinian’s for Home Education (NCHE) – Helps Page)

North Dakota:

Homeschooled students in 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th grade are required to take a standard achievement test either administered in their local school district or that is nationally norm-referenced by an approved test administrator.  Test results are to be filed with the local superintendent. If the student’s score is below the 30% mark, a team is assigned to evaluate the student for any disabilities. Upon completion of the evaluation, the parent, with advisement from an licensed teacher, is to create a remediation plan and file this plan with the district superintendent. If a remediation plan is not filed, the district can revoke the right to homeschool the student in question. (North Dakota Home Education Code)

Ohio:

Yearly assessments for the prior homeschooling year are to be filed at the beginning of each new homeschooling year.  Assessments can be determined either via a norm-referenced test, a portfolio with written report, or by an alternative form of assessment.   The validity of any of the above submissions must be determined by either a licensed/certified teacher, mutually agreed upon professional with the local superintendent or by a test administer approved by a specific test publisher. If the superintendent determines a student needs remediation based on their filed assessment, then the homeschooling parent must file quarterly progress reports for the subjects covered and explanations is less curriculum was covered than in the originally filed homeschool plan.  If the student doesn’t show reasonable progress the superintendent has the right to notify parents the child must enroll the child. (Christian Home Educators of Ohio – Homeschool Regulations)

Oregon:

Norm-referenced tests are required for homeschooled students in 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th grade and some districts request for those tests to be filed. Students with learning difficulties can request other forms of evaluation if desired.  For students who fall below the 15% mark there is an allowance given to help the student improve over a three-year period. (Oregon Christian Home Education Association Network (OCEAN) – Summary of Homeschool Law)

Pennsylvania:

Evaluation of a yearly portfolio with the addition of nationally norm-referenced tests or state administered tests for reading/language and mathematics in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grade is required as well as a report which includes documentation of an interview with your student and an assessment of the student’s portfolio contents.  (Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency – Law Guide)

South Carolina:

Homeschoolers have three options in South Carolina which vary testing and evaluation requirements.  Under option one parents must keep a plan book, portfolio, semi-annual progress report and yearly testing results from their student’s participation in the Basic Skills Assessment Program. Options two and three vary in their requirements per specifics are determined by your choice of oversight agency. For more information on these options and the laws associated with them visit the South Carolina Education Association Homeschooling website page.

South Dakota:

Homeschoolers are required to use test using a standardized test monitored by their local school, a norm-referenced test covering math and reading provided by the Department of Education, or a nationally standardized test of basic skills in the 4th, 8th, and 11th grades.  Test results are to be filed with the local school district. (South Dakota Education Association – Homeschooling)

Tennessee:

There are two homeschooling options in Tennessee. Under one option homeschooled students are to be tested in 5th, 7th, and 9th grade, while under the other option the oversight institution determines the homeschool students testing requirements. (Middle Tennessee Home Education Association – Is It Legal)

Vermont:

Annual assessment is required by one or more of the following methods:  a formal report submitted by a teacher licensed in Vermont; a student portfolio that demonstrates progress and is accompanied by a report from either a parent, teacher, or curriculum publisher; and/or standardized testing results from an approved achievement test covering agreed upon subjects and scored per publishers standards. (Vermont State Board of Education Home Study Program Statutes)

Virginia:

Homeschooled students not taught by a certified teacher must submit a yearly report that includes either testing results from a nationally norm-referenced test, an equivalence score from the ACT, SAT, or PSAT, an evaluation letter from a licenced teacher or other approved academic professional, or a report card from a “community college or college, college distance-learning program, or home education correspondence school.” (Home Educator’s Association of Virginia (HEAV) – Virginia Homeschool Laws)

Washington:

Annual testing is required and can be obtained either through a non-test assessment by a teacher certified by the state of Washington or through a standardized test approved the the Washington State Board of Education.  There is no requirement for filing testing results. (Washington Homeschool Organization – The Law)

West Virginia:

Yearly assessments are required via either a nationally normed standardized test, a testing program used in a state school in the student’s county of residence, via a portfolio reviewed by a certified teacher with a written report, or through an alternative assessment mutually agreed upon by the parent or legal guardian and the county superintendent.”  If assessments fail to show “acceptable” progress, a remedial program should be initiated by the homeschooling parent/guardian and if progress does not improve in the following year’s assessment their must be additional materials presented to the superintendent showing additional instruction remediation.(Christian Home Educators of West Virginia – WV Homeschool Law)

 

Hopefully you were able to find some clarity and peace as to what you will need to do to ensure a successful homeschool year in the eyes of your state from this list. Do you want to connect with other homeschoolers and maybe find some people in your state? Head over to your  Facebook support group; we would love to have you!

 

 

The data shared in this article is for informational use only. In no way is the contents of this article intended to constitute legal advice.

 

Also we are aware that homeschool/educational law in every state is constantly changing.  The information shared in this article was compiled in March 2019. There is no guarantee the data above is currently correct, complete, or up-to-date.

 

Please refer to the links provided in each section for further investigation into each particular state law referenced.

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Did you know a student does not need to take the ACT or SAT in order to receive a degree from a 4-year university?  For students like my oldest who has anxiety issues, this fact removed a large amount of stress when he realized his call into a profession that would require a 4-year degree.

The ACT and SAT are placement tests often used by universities to award students freshman placement into 4-year universities or by scholarship organizations to award funding. So, if your student is not looking to attend a university right out of high school or compete for any academic scholarships, then these tests are more than likely not worth the time, energy, or stress they would place upon your student.

 

Navigating College Admission without the ACT/SAT

That being said, the route to a 4-year university without taking a stressful entrance exam does not negate testing all-together.  If your student enrolls in a community college as a precursor to enrollment in a 4-year university, that school will usually require a placement evaluation.  Each community college has different regulations around these enrollment tests, but most can be taken without time limits over a multiple day period, or without penalty if there is a need for multiple re-tests.

The most commonly used community college placement test is the Accuplacer Test, but some community colleges use a state-standardized placement test or one they have developed for their own college system.  To ensure you understand the specific testing requirements of your community college, as well as the required courses your student should have on a transcript for college admission, it is best to set up an appointment with the college if your student is preparing to transition into post-secondary education via this route.

Also note that even if your student doesn’t pass the community college placement test, that does not limit enrollment in the college.  For subject areas your student has shown college competence, they are awarded the ability to enroll in college credit classes. For those subject areas where the test shows the need for remedial work, they can enroll in various non-credit courses; a passing grade in these courses would allow credit hour enrollment.

Most community colleges also offer tutoring help for students who are taking remedial courses and work with students who need accommodations.  These special services departments also help students with testing if they discover a student may have a learning disability and may need help in gaining more services for their college career.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers set by the university be met by incoming transfer students.  Each university is different based on courses that are allowed to be transferred, GPA of the incoming student, and admission requirements for specific degree programs, but none require an ACT or SAT score.

Transferring from a community college to a 4-year university requires certain qualifiers…but none require an ACT or SAT score.

For my son who is now in his third year of studies and on track to graduate from the University of Houston’s Biomedical Engineering program in a little over a year, the ability to work towards his degree one step at a time has provided him a much more successful route to achieving his goal.  My hope is that, if you too have a child who struggles yet feels led to a career that requires a degree, neither of you will let go of that dream just because of an admissions test.

To find out more about how we can help you homeschool your struggling high school student, visit the SPED Homeschool High School Help Checklist pageon our website.

 


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By the SPED Homeschool Team

Other than choosing to homeschool, the biggest decision we have to make is choosing homeschool curriculum. This decision is filled with a lot of stress as we decide what curriculum is “perfect” for our child. Here are some thoughts from the SPED Homeschool team to help make that decision a little bit easier for you!

Cammie Arn

Initially when I started homeschooling I loved the idea of using living books such as Sonlight, but after several years and more children I needed some things that were more independent.

After that I tried everything with my first child trying to figure out what worked best for both us. It took me several years of learning about learning styles, teaching styles, state requirements, and the freedom of choice that goes with those things. Walking into my first vendor hall was completely overwhelming. The options are endless.

However, after 20+ years of homeschooling, I now choose homeschool curriculum based on the biblical worldview that will work for all of my students at the same time, such as Mystery of History. Or I like options that cover multiple subjects at the same time like Notgrass. Efficiency is my goal now as we have life to live and ministry to do as well.

Dawn Spence

The journey of how I picked homeschool curriculum has changed over the years. In Pre-K for my girls, I did self-made units. Even through Kindergarten and when my son joined homeschool, I went to more group-type work for science, history and Bible studies. We have enjoyed My Father’s World for that. The thing that I love most about it is that it is easy to modify in order to accommodate my child’s needs. It is structured, but also classical. I have in recent years made it my own and added and subtracted as I felt. I add videos and audio books and hands on activities. For individual work, we use all kinds of curriculum. My kids are hands-on and visual for the most part. We use Math-U-See, Spelling-U-See, Touch Math, Handwriting without Tears,  Memoria Press, Little Giant Steps, Diana Craft, and Equipping Minds. My three kiddos are very individual and need their own way. No one child fits in a box, and neither does their curriculum.

A lot of choosing homeschool curriculum is a matter of trial and error, experimenting with what works and doesn’t work. There is no perfect curriculum, and there isn’t any curriculum that is a complete failure; you learn something from each choice you make.

Tracy Glockle

Choosing homeschool curriculum can be daunting with so many choices available. What I have found really helps me is when I start with my child rather than the curriculum options. My first step is to look at my child’s skills and ask “what is the next step?” I then look at my specific goals and vision for my family and for that particular child. By asking these questions first, it narrows the choices. Each year, I start that process over again because I’ve learned that my kids change: their needs and skills change, their interests change, and their learning preferences have even changed over the years.

Some curriculum options have passed the test year after year, while other curriculum is constantly changing. For instance, we have loved Tapestry of Grace from the very beginning because it allows everyone to be learning the same material, it fits our worldview, and it provides a lot of flexibility since it is designed to provide you options for customizing your own study. It also allows for certain subjects to be integrated into the history studies and provides ideas for all learning styles. The flexibility of the curriculum has made it a great fit for us, though each year I may tweak how we use it or the choices I make within the curriculum. Language arts, however, has been an area where I’ve supplemented and changed quite a bit, even disregarding grade level as I look at what specifically needs to be tackled next and what curriculum choice tends to deal with a specific area best.

A lot of choosing homeschool curriculum is a matter of trial and error, experimenting with what works and doesn’t work. There is no perfect curriculum, and there isn’t any curriculum that is a complete failure; you learn something from each choice you make.

 

As you can see, there is no “right” answer when choosing homeschool curriculum, but don’t let that overwhelm you! You are never going to “fall behind” if a curriculum doesn’t work out. It is okay to pick a curriculum and find that it is not a great fit. That just means that you have learned something about your child, and that is part of homeschooling! Take your time, try different approaches, and don’t be afraid to jump right in!

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Many parents who homeschool children with special educational needs jump into homeschooling without much preparation.  Unfortunately many times school situations, health conditions, or other factors must be given precedence over deciding on curriculum and preparing everything needed to start homeschooling like many well-meaning bloggers suggest.

I was one of those parents.

Deschooling Before Deciding on Curriculum

We dove into homeschooling without much preparation because my oldest was sinking into a deep depression in kindergarten with yet a few months left before the end of the school year. I had to figure out what to do right away, and so I quickly decided I would use those months before summer as a testing ground to see what teaching techniques worked best for my son and his younger brother, as well as myself.

Nowadays we would term what I did as “deschooling,” but I found it was an instinctual route I took that not only allowed me to understand how to chart our homeschooling course moving forward, but also regroup as a family so we could deal with my son’s depression and help him move out of that place of despair.

Experimenting Before Deciding on Curriculum

Considering this was 17 years ago, there weren’t a lot of homeschool curriculum options, but what I could find I narrowed down into three categories.  The first category was a classical/literature approach, the second was a textbook approach, and the third was a unit study approach. I then decided in order to make it a fair experiment, I needed to eliminate bias and other factors that may sway the results (yes, that is my inner physicist coming out), so we stuck to a specific theme and time period as we tried out these three approaches.Pirates and seafaring around the time of the 16th and 17th centuries was what I finally settled on.

Over the next few months we read historical fiction, had discussions, acted out what we were studying, did workbook pages, read textbooks excerpts, built structures, created costumes, watched movies, went on field trips, and even tried out some recipes and learned how to tie quite a few different types of knots.  And, it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year—and eventually all the way through my oldest son’s graduation.

“…it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year.”

The day we were learning to tie knots I noticed how my children didn’t mind listening to the book and looking at the examples of how to tie the knots as they were explained one by one (a textbook approach). I also noticed that my kids found it interesting when they were given rope and allowed to tie the knots that the book walked them through (a more classical approach). But when I gave them 20 feet of rope and told them they were allowed to tie me up as long as they used proper knots (unit study approach), their energy and enthusiasm for the task escalated by 10-fold.  Thus, we started our homeschooling using unit studies the following year.

I am so grateful I look the time to explore our options with my children before deciding on curriculum. No matter what other things we had to tweak in our instruction to help my children overcome other learning obstacles, we always had a base curriculum that worked for all of us.

What about you?  How did you decide on the curriculum you are now using in your homeschool?  Share with us on our social media sites.  Haven’t decided on a curriculum yet?  Check out our articles and broadcasts this month that are focused on helping you make the best choice for your student and your homeschool.

 

New Resources to Help You Decide on Curriculum for Your Homeschol

Article

Steps to Shopping for Homeschool Curriculum

Every child is unique, but here are some simple steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

Article

Conquering Your Fears About Homeschool Curriculum Choices

A short description of the presentation could go here.

Video

Using Technology to Simplify Customized Homeschool Plans

Using innovative technology for customizing home education materials, instructional pace, and record keeping.

Interview

Choosing Effective and Appropriate Curriculum for Your Student

Interview with Judi Munday, Special Needs Educational Consultant and author of Teaching a Child with Special Needs.

 


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By Tracy Glockle

When my mom began homeschooling me, there were only a handful of homeschool curriculum choices available. Now, 30+ years later as I’m homeschooling my own three kids, homeschool curriculum choices fill huge convention centers and flood the internet. While all those choices provide a fantastic opportunity for customized learning, those same choices also lead to a lot of anxiety. What if I make the “wrong choice”? Where do I even begin? What if my homeschool curriculum choice makes our learning challenges even worse? Though there may be no way to eliminate all of our fears, there are a few tips for conquering our fears about homeschool curriculum.

 

 

Tips for Conquering Your Fears About Homeschool Curriculum

1. Start somewhere. If you are just getting started, there is something to be said for just jumping in. Realistically, you won’t know what you like or don’t like, what you need or don’t need until you’ve been homeschooling for awhile. Most homeschool curriculum choices will cover what needs to be covered. Just choose one and jump in. If it helps, plan for your first year to be a year of experimenting: trying out different approaches, teaching styles, and learning methods. Take notes. Keep a journal of what you like and don’t like.

2. Remember there is no perfect curriculum. Most of our fears about homeschool curriculum stem from this one myth: that the perfect curriculum is out there somewhere, and it’s our job to find it. Like a needle in haystack we try different products, always hoping for that elusive “perfect one” that will meet all of our needs and expectations. It doesn’t exist. Every homeschool curriculum choice has pros and cons. Instead, find a curriculum that has most of what you love and make adjustments along the way when things aren’t ideal.

3. Approach curriculum choices with a growth mindset. A fixed mindset sees failure as the end, but a growth mindset sees failure as a single step in the learning process. Even the “wrong” curriculum teaches us something. If you’ve purchased a homeschool curriculum that is absolutely the wrong fit for you and your family, you’ve learned something about yourself, about your child, about your family, about what your priorities and most urgent needs are. Every decision you make, for better or for worse, teaches you something about yourself and about your child. Learning these things is not a failure; it’s an important part of growth.

4. View curriculum as a tool, not a master. You teach your child, not a curriculum. You lead, and the curriculum follows. You create the IEP goals and select the best tools to help you meet those goals. Curriculum is simply one tool in your homeschool toolbox.

5. Don’t expect a curriculum to solve your problems. Your homeschool curriculum choice may help you to create some fun learning memories with your child. It may lead you on great adventures and help your child to overcome some of her challenges. But we can’t expect one product, one therapy, or one person to be the final solution. Only God can meet our needs in that way, and He is sovereign over every choice and circumstance, capable of using it all for our good and His glory. Your homeschool curriculum decision cannot thwart His plan for your child or for your family. But He will use both the best and the worst of your homeschool year to shape you and your child into His image.

How do we conquer our fears about homeschool curriculum choices? We realize that no decision is final, no failure is permanent, no choice can overturn God’s good plan. When we trust Him for the outcome, any homeschool curriculum can be the right one. We’ve just got to take the first step and keep moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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By Kathy Kuhl

Parents often ask me to recommend curriculum for their children with special needs. But it’s like asking me to recommend shoes. I have questions: what size, width, and activity? Any color you can’t stand? What have you tried and how did that work—or not?

 

 

Every child is unique, but here are my steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

1. Study your child first,
and make a short list of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. With a child with special needs, we parents are tempted to focus on weaknesses in basic skills and academics. List them, but also notice strengths. Passing math or spelling is something to celebrate! Being able to explain 27 kinds of horses, rocks, or locomotives is a strength—even if you hear way too much about it. Note those passions. If your child loves music, drawing, storytelling, or talking to people—even if they aren’t good at it yet—write that down. Build your plans around their passions, strengths, and weaknesses.

When you’ve got that written (keep it short), you are ready to:

2. Set goals for the year
Not too many. One new homeschooler showed me her goals for 3 months. It was much more than could be done in a year. You might hire a special education consultant to help you be realistic.
Don’t neglect basic life skills, whether it’s learning to wash hands, fix dinner, balance a checkbook, or deal with a disagreement with a friend. If the child is doing something that drives you crazy, like not putting away shoes, even that is a candidate for your list.

3. Network
Now that you know what you want to focus on, ask friends with kids with similar issues what they use. Don’t know anyone homeschooling a child like yours? Join SPED Homeschool’s Facebook Support group. Search the groups’ archives, in case someone asked your question last year.

4. Please touch the products
If you can go to a convention, go. Handling the materials, you learn things a catalog or website won’t tell. How big is the type and spacing? Is it colorful? How many practice problems? Are they alternate versions of quizzes and tests? (Some of us need second and third chances.) Talk to the representatives—many know plenty. Remember, these are often small businesses and homeschool families, so support them by purchasing from them. If you need time to go home and think, do it.

5. Watch for bargains
Sometimes you’ll find something marvelous that doesn’t fit your plans. Perhaps you had other plans for science, but then you saw something you know your child would love. Does it fit your larger goals?

Last month I was looking for a pair of ivory pumps. I never imagined I’d buy pink slings. But I saw a cute, well-made pair, marked down. I realized they fit my wardrobe. I changed my plan, kept to my goal, and kept under budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By studying your child, setting goals, networking, handling the merchandise, and thinking creatively when you find unexpected bargains, you can turn the chore of shopping for curriculum, into—if not fun, at least a satisfying shopping experience.

 

This is adapted from a guest post that originally appeared on Jolanthe Erb’s blog.

 

My favorite source for reviews of individual curriculum is Cathy Duffy. My review of her book and online search tools is here.

 

Original blog was written on learndifferently.com. Author has granted permission for this article to be reprinted.

 


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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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