Peggy Ployhar

When I talk about transition planning for high schoolers, one of the first things I tell parents is that a good assessment can help you hone in on those skills your student needs most to work on, thus saving you both a lot of time and frustration as you plan for a smooth post-high school transition.

 

Here are the top 3 assessments I recommend for determining a student’s independent life skills:

#1 – Casey Independent Living Skills (CLS) Assessment

The Casey Independent Living Skills Assessment is a free online test anyone can use to gauge independent living skills for students between the ages of 14 to 21. This test covers “the following areas: Maintaining healthy relationships, work and study habits, planning and goal-setting, using community resources, daily living activities, budgeting and paying bills, and computer literacy.”

The site also states that the test “typically will require 30 – 40 minutes to complete the CLSA” and “answers are available instantly for you to review with the youth in a strength-based conversation that actively engages them in the process of developing their goals.”

To learn more and access the CLS assessment, visit the Casey website at http://lifeskills.casey.org. To access the assessment practice guide as well as a 60-page resource guide that’s filled with specific goals based on testing results as well as helpful resource links to use when working with your student to achieve specific goals visit this page on their website  https://caseylifeskills.secure.force.com/clsa_learn_provider

 

#2 – Transition Coalition Independent Living Checklist

The Transition Coalition Independent Living Checklist is a 2-page list of items to review when assessing our student’s post-secondary goals for independent living. To access the checklist, visit this link on the Transition Coalition’s website https://transitioncoalition.org/blog/tc-materials/independent-living-checklist/

 

#3 – Transition Coalition Inventory Independent Living Assessment Tool

The Transition Coalition Inventory Independent Living Assessment Tool is a free downloadable inventory tool to access independent living skills is not only an assessment tool but was also designed to help to create ”a transition plan according to the student’s capability.”

The inventory covers the following areas: “Money management and consumer awareness, food management, personal appearance and hygiene, health, housekeeping, housing, transportation, educational planning, job skills, emergency and safety skills, knowledge of community services, interpersonal skills, legal issues, and parenting and childcare.” To access this inventory and assessment tool, visit this link on the Transition Coalition’s website https://transitioncoalition.org/blog/assessment-review/life-skills-inventory-independent-living-skills-assessment-tool/ 

 

In general, the Transition Coalition is an amazing resource for families who have special education learners in high school. Their website includes training, resources, and tools for families to help students with various transition needs to plan for their post-high school goals.

 

Interested in learning more about homeschooling your special education learner through high school? Check out our High School Checklist for more information on how to homeschool special education high school.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

This month we asked our team to share the top three internet resources they used in their special education homeschools. Here is what they send in and little about each site. Hopefully this list will provide you with some new homeschooling resources as well as ideas for planning homeschooling lessons.

 

Dawn Spence

Teachers Pay Teachers

To find free and affordable lessons you can use to extend concept instruction and remediation on just about any subject and any grade level.

Learning Without Tears Keyboarding

A digital keyboarding program that teaches more than typing. This program also focuses on helping struggling learners with color coding, providing cross-curricular lessons, and responsible digital citizenship.

Overdrive

Access to free audiobooks and ebooks through your local public library.

 

Jace Clark

Khan Academy

Preschool through advanced placement high school free online curriculum that allows parents to pick and choose courses as well as track their student’s progress through a separate parent portal.

BrainPop

Animated online resources for teaching students general school subjects as well as SEL and ELL resources for students who need them.

Sign Language ASL

Sign language taught by ASL professionals in a fun self-paced online environment.

 

Amy Vickrey

XtraMath

A nonprofit that is dedicated to helping students with math achievement. They offer online activities to help students master their math facts and detailed parent tracking options for charting student progress.

The Crafty Classroom

Great maze activities to use in place, or in addition to, handwriting activities. This site also has great resources for strengthening your student’s visual tracking skills.

Cathy Duffy Reviews

Great place to begin researching ideas for curriculum for basic knowledge on curriculum options before asking about personal experience with the curriculum in my SPED Strong Tribe or the SPED Homeschool Facebook Support Group. 

 

Nakisha Blain

Homeschool Creations

Educational printables and encouraging blogs for parents (homeschooling or not) on how to teach their children.

Home Grown Learners

Homeschooling blog with resources on LEGO teaching ideas, Classical Conversations, traditional curriculum products, and more.

Homeschool Share

Unit studies and lapbooks ideas for teaching elementary-aged students.

 

 

 

 


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Dawn Spence

During this time of COVID-19 closures and the world’s reliance on the web for information as well as learning, it all can be overwhelming to navigate what resources to use or how to use them in your homeschool.

 

One thing to consider is building time into your homeschooling schedule to try out a new product since so many vendors are offering their services for free or at greatly reduced rates while public schools are closed.

 

This is especially advantageous to special education homeschooling families as internet learning sites and mobile apps can be powerful tools for students who struggle with pencil and pen assignments.

 

Here are some of my favorite resources that are giving away free trials right now and the type of learner they support.

 

#1 – Learning Ally 

This is a great resource for children with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, vision issues, or other learning disabilities that make it hard for a child to read. With libraries being closed and long waiting lists for audiobooks to check out from your local library, this is where Learning Ally can help. If you are needing help but can not pay at this time they have a fee waiver form you can fill out. They provide audio and your child can also follow the highlighted text as they listen.

 

#2 – Audible

Another great, and currently free, audiobook resource for auditory learners is Audible. Using this service, children can listen to a wide range of books, from classics or one of my daughter’s favorites, Hank the Cowdog. This resource is free as long as school buildings are closed, so now is a great time for the family to listen to stories together and use their imagination and build those skills of making movies in their minds while listening.

 

#3 – Boom Learning-Boom Cards

Boom cards is a website you can use to create digital games and activities. Right now you can sign up for a free account and use the free premade games, create your own, or create more elaborate games with add-on items using their online store. These activities are great for visual learners as well as children who need a hands-on approach to learning. There are also speech activities you can use to fill the gap while your child’s speech therapy is on hold. Additionally, they offer videos that walk you through how to make your own boom cards. You can also share your boom cards, find them free on Teacher Pay Teachers, and download links to your Boom Learning account!

 

#4 – BrainPopJr  and BrainPop

These sites are online tools that help engage your learner and provide a unique way to teach concepts your learner might be struggling with. Both of these websites are free right now. BrainPopJr is geared to K-3 and teaches the basic concepts of science, health, reading, writing, social studies, and technology. Each concept starts with a video for your visual learner and then allows the student to apply the concept in various ways, like playing a game, drawing, acting, doing a printable hands-on activity, or even sharing jokes. The activities are interactive and can be modified to meet your child’s needs. These tools will especially support your reluctant writers and give them a way to uniquely present their understanding of the concept they have been studying. BrainPop is very similar to BrainPopJr but targets learners K-12 and goes more in-depth teaching and evaluations.

 

#5 – Boardmaker Online

This website is an online platform that supports education, communication, and social and emotional learning using PCS( Picture Communication System). This is great for children with Autism and other learning disabilities. They are giving 90-day trials right now and you have access to over 40,000 PCS. They are also providing many other resources that can be found here. If your child needs a visual schedule or behavior support you can download them. Their website provides webinars and video libraries you may access for free as well. The free activities provide hands-on themes that can be downloaded for free. If your child has an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device they are also providing free downloads.

 

I hope you find these resources for struggling learners helpful to try out while they are free. Who knows, you may find a new way to instruct your student that makes homeschooling easier for your struggling learner.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Are you looking for some ideas on how to create a unique and educational family night during this pandemic? Here are 4 that rose to the top in my search for some out-of-the-box ways to learn and have fun as a family while staying at home.

 

#1 – Learn to Cook Together

American’s Test Kitchen – Kitchen Classroom 

This website is offering cooking classes plus more that the entire family can use to learn recipes and more kitchen and cooking skills. You can pick and choose from their already published content or use the new content they publish each week which includes: new recipes, experiments, hands-on activities, quizzes, and even larger projects are published.

 

#2 – Take a Virtual Field Trip Together

Free Homeschool Deals – 3 Month Virtual Field Trip Calendar 

49 curated virtual field tips your family can take either following the days given on the calendar or as you pick and choose based on your family’s interests.

 

#3 – Explore New Worlds Together

Minecraft Minecraft Educational Content

Free new worlds including lessons, building challenges, puzzles and more based on history, science, and more subject areas. Your kids won’t even know they are learning and you can join them in creating and exploring this material. Downloads are free through June 30, 2020.

 

#4 – Create and Play a Board Game Together

Make Use Of9 Free Printable Board Games

Here is an interesting family activity that will get you away from the screen – make your own board game and then play it. Just print out the free downloads and add some simple “extras” from your junk drawer or other games you already have in your house.

 

Looking for more ideas? Our community is sharing them every day in our Facebook resource sharing group. Feel free to just check the posts from outside the group or join the group so you can post resources you would like to share with others. 

 

Have fun and make sure to share your adventures in one of our SPED Strong Tribes. We look forward to seeing pictures and hearing about your stay-in family night activities!

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

Cammie Arn – Avoiding Burnout by Creating Space

Creating space in my life to avoid burnout happens in my life usually through one of these methods.

  • Taking a bubble bath. I’ve been known to use all the hot water in the house and reheat the bath multiple times during a particularly stressful season. I usually add to this space some dim lighting by having on hand some electric “flickering” candles. 
  • Listing & Reading. Music and books help me create a space to escape to when I can’t change my environment. In those times I listen to praise and worship music or read a good book. 
  • Swinging. Drinking a cup of coffee while sitting on my porch swing is an amazing escape from the chaos inside the house. I love watching the leaves wave at me in the breeze, hearing the birds chirping or taking in the starry sky in the evening.

 

Dawn Spence – Avoiding Burnout by Slowing Down

Slowing down is the opposite direction of where my life is usually taking me, so when I look for ways to avoid burnout I put myself in a mommy time out using one of these methods.

  • A relaxing bath with an iced coffee
  • A pedicure(when funds allow)
  • Grabbing a salad by myself
  • Scheduling some friend time

I love being a mom, and a homeschool mom at that, but my life is demanding and I need the therapy these timeouts provide for me so I can be my best when caring for my loved ones.

 

Jace Clark – Avoiding Burnout by Being Creative

Allowing my creative juices to flow fuels me when I am headed towards mommy burnout. All I need to do is schedule some crafting time or even time to go shopping to look for more crafting ideas. These outlets provide me with what I need to keep going.

 

These outlets provide me with what I need to keep going.

 

Peggy Ployhar – Avoiding Burnout by Getting Active

I have learned I need to be moving to “rest” and fight burnout. The hardest part of accepting activity as rest has been learning to not stress over the fact that my husband or extended family think I need to be sitting down to be rested instead of doing on the following activities:

  • Aerial silks: Exercise is my biggest form of rest. I exercise every day, and most days it is on the aerial silks I have tethered to the ceiling of my two-story foyer. I turn on some worship music, pull out my crash mat and workout until I lose myself in the activity.
  • Power napping: Napping may not sound active, but my family will attest to my ability to get all the rest I need in a 5 to 10-minute nap. I wake up refreshed and with all the energy I need to to finish my day strong.

 

Amy Vickrey – Avoiding Burnout by Reframing Moments

As a single mom, “me time” is hard to come by so instead of figuring out how I can do something else I have learned to reframe places in my life that lead to a more restful state. 

  • Coffee in an adjoining room: I have found a cup of coffee in the next room while my kids watch a movie or educational show that can help a lot to refresh the body, soul, and mind.
  • Reframing life. Reducing demands on myself and my children, usually set by my own priorities can greatly reduce my stress. 
  • Adding to our environment. A day at the park, a fun activity for the kids to engage in while I just put my feet up or turn on music while my boys ride bikes around the yard can make me feel more rested. 
  • Centering on faith. Bible study, prayers and singing bible songs at bedtime also helps us after a rough day to set our hearts and minds on a better day the next day.

 

No matter who you are or what type of rest works best for you or your family situation, we hope and pray that in sharing how we each uniquely work in our lives at avoiding burnout that you can glean some ideas and develop habits to help any possible burnout scenarios in your life.

 

 

 

 


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Amy Vickrey

Single mom, working mom, homeschool teacher, mentor, friend, chauffeur, online teacher/tutor, student, and the list goes on.  Being a mom with special needs children is hard. Being a single mom is hard. Being a working mom is hard. Add to these roles an autoimmune disorder and the stress of going back to school and …. and … and … it can get overwhelming quickly.

How do I manage all of this? It’s not because I’m SuperMom.  Far from it. It’s taken me many years to figure out how to balance everything with relative peace.  I still have days where my life is overwhelming. However, I would like to think I am learning each day on how to improve.  Here is what I’ve learned I have needed to do to keep the scales from tipping too far off-balance in my own life as well as in the lives of my children.

Scale Balancing Practices:

  1. Fast meals and sandwiches are okay.  My kids have certain things they can grab and eat first thing in the morning and for snacks during the day.  This helps me when I am not able to stop and get food for them right at that moment. One trick for us, due to food allergies, is I try to cook up extra (especially breakfast foods) and freeze them so they can be taken out later for another meal.
  2. Time versus money for setting priorities.  I earn less money because I work part-time, but this means I have more time with my boys, which is important to me.  Finding the right balance between the money you need to earn and the time you need with your family is essential. It may mean some decisions and choices have to be made, but deciding what you can and cannot live without goes a long way in prioritizing smaller decisions.  This goes for curriculum as well when deciding how much time I have to put together a curriculum versus buying something ready to go (new, used or a combination).  
  3. Kids come before work.  Sometimes it is tempting to just sit and continue working on school or work.  However, I find that putting my kids first, whether it’s taking them outside, reading a book, or just giving some snuggle time, helps them to be calmer during the time I am working.  This allows me to get more done.
  4. Take my days off.  I am still working on this one, but this year, I have worked hard to take a day or week off when I could.  This has allowed me to rest, focus on my kids, and be ready to go back to work and school when the time comes.
  5. Find a balance between work and play.  This year I have been mindful about scheduling playtime for my kids and me.  Going on nature hikes, trips to the park, lunch dates with my 2 favorite boys, and other opportunities to play and be away from work have become an important part of our lives.
  6. Rest and sleep.  I am the type of person that has to have rest.  So, whenever possible, I go to bed when my boys do.  Even if I don’t go to sleep, I go to bed, put my feet up, have some “me” time, and recharge my batteries.  This has helped me feel more rested and ready to go for the following day.
  7. Taking advantage of downtime.  With having classes I need to study for, I have to schedule time to work on my schoolwork.  I have found time during my son’s therapy, evenings while the boys are watching a movie and other times when I can focus on my work. By taking this approach, my study time doesn’t take away from time with my boys.  This has allowed me to not feel so stressed about trying to get everything done at the expense of not spending enough time with my boys.
  8. It’s ok to have help.  My sister-in-law helps watch my boys while I work, my parents help at times, and my boys attend therapy at an awesome clinic that works on specific skills.  Could I do all I do and parent and homeschool well without these things? Possibly. But, it’s also okay for me to have a team to help me carry the burden. This help keeps me from getting overwhelmed and worn out.  Each person helps in a specific way and in unique ways, which allows me to focus on what is most important to me and be okay with letting others help me and my boys in the areas they can bless us best.

Yes, every day, it is best to remind myself that being a mom is my first and foremost calling and when I do my best at that everything else falls into place so I can best balance being the mom I want to be for my kids.

 

 

 

 


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Cammie Arn & Peggy Ployhar

Just what is homeschooling? I have asked myself this question a lot as of late.

When you boil it down, homeschooling is an active schooling choice.

As I think about what I just penned above, I can’t say Isolation schooling, the non-choice schooling option many are finding themselves doing right now can truly be called homeschooling.

Isolation schooling is a non-choice schooling option affecting all public, private, and homeschooling families right now.

The interesting thing is that no matter what our school choice was before this pandemic hit, all families still have many choices they can make while maintaining isolation. The key to seeing these choices is looking beyond what you may have to leave behind. And instead, focus on what you can do and how those choices will impact your family’s story during this pandemic and in the years to come when you look back at how you utilized this time together. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

Choices for families who were already homeschooling:

 

Choices for families who had children attending public or private schools:

  • Online classes or therapy too overwhelming for your student? Ask the school/teacher/therapist to send you a packet of class materials he/she can finish at their pace and submit when completed.

 

“…no matter what our school choice was before this pandemic hit, all families still have many choices they can make while maintaining isolation.

 

This is a different season for our country that none of us have ever charted. I am hoping that my public and private schooling friends will enjoy this opportunity at home with their children as much as I enjoy my time at home with mine. I also pray they will take a closer look at homeschooling as a choice in the future.  

We can do this! We just need to be flexible with the choices we do have.

Need some help? Check out our  COVID-19 emergency at-home schooling page for more ideas and resources.

 

 

 

 


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Nakisha Blain

Here are my top homeschool mom burnout avoidance tips. I have to say, some are harder to do than others, but I do my best to make them happen because I know in the end if I do what I need to take care of me then everything else has a time and place to be taken care of as well.

Homeschool Mom Burnout Avoidance Tips

  • Seek to actively incorporate peaceful practices into your routine. When I follow this tip, I feel much more centered and balanced throughout my day.  It’s way easier said than done, but I try my best every day and then give myself grace at the end of the day in the places I have fallen short.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A well-fueled body will work better and keep you more energized through your busy, busy day.
  • Go outside. Get some sun and breathe in some fresh clean air.  Whether it’s a hike in the woods, a trip to the beach, or a simple walk around the block—being outside can be incredibly therapeutic.
  • Ask for help. You are already superwoman for being a homeschooling mom, so go ahead and let others know how they can support you and your family. 
  • Treat yourself to something occasionally—even if it’s very small. Small personal treatments are much deserved and something you should not talk yourself out of. A delicious piece of chocolate, a new book, a manicure…whatever you consider a special treat. My favorite things are watching auto racing and having a bonfire so I make time for these occasionally in my schedule.
  • Do something fun. Not everything in your day has to be from your to-do list. It’s okay (and encouraged) to do something just because it’s fun. Spending time unwinding while doing a fun activity will allow you to feel more energized when you do get back to tackling your to-do list, which will, in turn, help you knock those tasks out faster—and for that reason, the “unproductive” things may be way more “productive” than you think!  
  • Focus on what you do accomplish. There is always time tomorrow or another day for the things that don’t get done on your list today. It is okay to legitimately put things off because something else came up or you didn’t have time to fit it in.
  • Share responsibilities. Try setting up a system to share responsibilities within your home. Not only will you remove tasks from your plate by sharing responsibilities, but you will also be training your children to do important life skills.
  • Make sleep a priority. Do your best to go to bed at a decent time. Avoid trying to get things done late at night if possible, and sleep the amount of time your body needs to feel refreshed and ready for a new day.
  • Trust in your intuition or gut feelings. When making decisions instead of mulling over them for hours, days, and/or weeks that could be used better on the other things in your life go with your gut and move on.

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

Are you a homeschool mom looking for some encouragement? Here are 20 articles on our website that provide homeschool mom encouragement for just about any situation or struggle you may be currently facing.

 

Purpose

Living Out Your Calling While You Homeschool 

Do you ever wonder if you will ever accomplish your life’s purpose? Does it feel at times like homeschooling stands in the way between where you are now and the dreams that God has laid on your heart?” Read more here 

 

Marriage

Thriving in a Special Needs Marriage

Reading this, you are likely a special-needs parent and/or married to someone with special needs. You might need encouragement or strategies for marital happiness in the face of trials. Well, my prayer is that this article will provide both.” Read more here

 

Patience

Growing in the Shade

Sometimes we pushed our young children more than we should have, and invariably we then witnessed…behaviors … I knew that our children would not thrive in…overbearing pressures. “ Read more here

 

Forgiveness

5 Mistakes I Made as a New Homeschooler

“…factors set me up to embrace homeschooling like a drowning person grabs a flotation device. Some great things resulted from those bumpy beginnings, but eleven years later, I see my mistakes during that time too.” Read more here

 

Endurance

Pressing Through the Hard Places

When I think of hardship, I think of special-needs moms. Parenting is difficult, but parenting with special circumstances… that’s excruciating at times.  These words are for you. Soak them in and walk through this year – through the challenges – bravely.” Read more here 

 

Uniqueness

Uniquely Fitted for Your Calling as a Homeschool Mom

Coming together in our uniqueness is what sets us apart from the world. We choose not to fall into comparison traps or in judging others on their walk with God.” Read more here

 

Teaching Challenges

The Peaks and Valleys of Our Special Education Homeschooling Journeys

“…the lessons we learn in our valleys are what propel us to our peaks. The special education homeschooling journey is not without its challenges, but the rewards are well worth it!” Read more here 

 

Inadequacy

Am I the Best Teacher for My Child?

“… I am right I am not doing it perfectly and I never will, but that is okay. I am learning that my kids don’t need a perfect mom or teacher. Instead, what they need is for me to keep going and never give up on them or myself.” Read more here

 

Hope

Finding Hope Despite Your Struggles

“…one of the most common heartbreaks I see lies in having no hope. It’s a tough thing to bear when your daily struggles of life have no foreseeable end.” Read more here

 

Support

Vulnerability and Staying Connected When You Homeschool

“…we were designed for community, and there’s simply a gap in our lives without it.” Read more here

 

Expectations

Homeschooling Lessons Cultivated by Looking Up and Beyond Circumstances

Over time their difficulties have not lessened but increased. We have learned to relax our expectations, but not the quality of our courses or methods.” Read more here

 

Doubting

How to Homeschool Amidst Your Imperfections

“…many days prompted several overarching concerns that sounded like this in my mind: “Am I hindering my child? Is there a better way to teach this? Are my children picking up my bad habits? my husband’s? “ Read more here

 

Anger

Why We Should be Talking About Parenting Anger

I would love to tell you my struggle with parenting anger was not destructive to my relationship with my children when it was at its worse, but I can’t. I vividly remember the days when my children feared me..” Read more here 

 

Setting Aside the Books

Field Trips ARE School

“When I went from public school teacher to homeschool mom, I decided that it was my chance to provide as much hands-on learning as possible.” Read more here

 

Anxiety

Just Breathe

“…as a homeschooling mom I find myself sometimes thinking of all the things that I think I should be doing as a mom and a teacher. These thoughts of inadequacy take over and I lose sight of all things that I am doing…”Read more here 

 

Tempted to Quit

Never Give Up as a Homeschool Teacher

“At some point, we all have visions of the clean, organized, quiet house we could have if we’d just enroll our kids in public or private school. Homeschooling can be challenging at times.” Read more here

 

Worn Out

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

“…one constant that I’ve seen in most parents who homeschool their children with special needs is that most do not have a lot of time to themselves.  Because of this, our “cups can be empty” before we even realize it.” Read more here

 

Family Crisis

5 Homeschooling Tips When There is a Crisis

“During times of crisis, it’s okay to take a break from homeschooling….especially if you know you won’t be able to teach adequately.”Read more here

 

Depression

Looking into the Face of Childhood Depression

“It was tough enough realizing my son was struggling with depression at such a young age.  But, what made the road ahead seem even more bleak, was since I had been his age I’d silently battled the same enemy.” Read more here 

 

Relationship Issues with a Child

Your Greatest Homeschooling Superpower

“…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.” Read more here

 

We hope these articles have provided you the encouragement you need to keep going. Our goal at SPED Homeschool is to empower you to homeschool your student successfully and we do that by making sure you have access to quality resources, top-notch training materials, and on-going support. Click on these links to see how we can continue to equip and encourage you on your homeschooling journey.

SPED Homeschool Resources

SPED Homeschool Support

SPED Homeschool Tribes

SPED Homeschool Partners

 

 

 

 

 


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Jan Bedell, PhD, Master NeuroDevelopmentalist

If you are a parent of young children today or you teach your children at home, chances are very good that phonics is your exclusive go-to approach to teach reading. A conviction that phonics is the ONLY way to teach reading, and success with other children with this approach, leaves you purchasing one phonics program after another for a child that just doesn’t seem to “get it” with the current phonics program. Yet still, a satisfactory result eludes you. Sound familiar?

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school, reading instruction was a whole word approach. Definitely showing my age now! This method did work and I got through college while maintaining Dean’s List status. After graduation, my first job was teaching kindergarten where phonics was required. I learned right along with the students and I still find it very helpful in decoding unknown words to this day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love phonics as a way of teaching reading! I “taught” both of my girls to read in our home school with an intense phonics program. Well, to be perfectly candid, I only successfully taught one of my girls to read with phonics. The other one, labeled as developmentally delayed, struggled to read anything past a three-letter-word even though she mastered all 70 phonograms in isolation. I was perplexed, to say the least!

Reading is complex. The individual has to gain meaning from a string of symbols making up a word and then combine that with other strings of symbols to gain an understanding of what is written. Let’s explore from a NeuroDevelopmental perspective, the skills that make a successful reader?

 

Skills of Successful Readers

1. Visual Skills:

    • Acuity – a reference to 20/20, is the eyes giving a clear picture to focus up close or focus at a distance 
    • Tracking – the eyes moving smoothly across a horizontal line without darting back or forth that would give the wrong feedback to the brain about what is seen
    • Convergence – the eyes working together, placing the image of one eye directly on top of the other so there is no distortion of the letters or swimming of word on the page
    • Central Detail Vision – the ability to see directly in front of you – children that didn’t go through the proper developmental steps to gain good central vision often don’t have good eye contact, they don’t write on a line well and often skip little words or parts of words on a page while reading. Consider this video from the  YouTube Channel – Brain Coach Tips for information about checking the eye function at home.
    • Visual Discrimination – the ability to see subtle differences between very similar words like “then” and “them” can be developed with practice – consider this  Visual Discrimination Game to advance that skill

 

2.   Auditory Processing:

A prerequisite skill to reading in general and for phonics, in particular, is auditory processing (auditory short-term memory). You may not have thought about it but phonics is an auditory approach to reading. You have to hold pieces of auditory information (sounds) in sequential order and sometimes even a rule together in your short-term memory to decode the word. The capacity to hold auditory sequential pieces of information together is called your auditory processing ability.

Without the foundational skill of auditory processing, phonics is a painful, frustrating and often ineffective way to learn to read. The good news is that with practice, an individual’s auditory processing can be raised and then phonics can be effective. An individual needs a strong level 5 or better yet, a 6 auditory digit span for phonics to work well. To get a free test kit to discover processing levels for your whole family visit  www.BrainSprints.com (scroll down to the “Tools” section). This information will give you a clue as to whether low processing is a root cause of an individual’s reading struggle. When you accelerate this skill, you accelerate success in reading. Learn more: Auditory Processing-Best Kept Secret in Education

 

3.  Information Storage:

From a NeuroDevelopmental perspective, the efficient storage of information or being able to get what is in that little brain out into a functional form requires proper placement of the information. It is a bit like a filing cabinet. If you put information in the 2nd drawer in the proper folder, it is easy to get it when you need it. Improper filing of a piece of paper in the 2nd drawer with no folder can be frustrating, time-consuming and energy expending to find. The same can be true of storage in the brain. For more understanding of dominance that is key to storage, watch “You Knew It Yesterday!” 

 

An Alternative Approach

Many families have found help with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach.

While you are working on the child’s auditory processing for two minutes twice a day, teach “sight words” by flashing cards and telling the child what the word is. If your child is an emerging reader, consider  3Rs Plus with the accompanying flashcard and detailed instructions. Beginning readers are very encouraged when they tell dad, “I read this whole book!” Granted the book is only 12 pages long and contains one to two sentences on each page but in their mind, they did read the whole book.

Children reading at 1st-grade level, I recommend Pathway Readers and the flashcards developed for the first few books in this series.

You can also read a sentence or two and in some cases a paragraph or a full page and have the child read the SAME selection after you. This is called Echo Reading and is a temporary but very effective approach to building reading confidence! For leveled books that will work on reading recognition as well as comprehension, just search “Reading” at the  Brain Sprints Store.

 

Bringing This Information Together

So how do you square up your belief that phonics is the best way to teach reading with this new information? First, you realize that we are all sight-readers. Let me ask you this – Do you read all the words phonetically when you read? No, absolutely not. After you learn a word, you never sound it out again as it would be extremely slow and laborious to do otherwise.

Secondly, rest assured that as soon as your child’s auditory processing is at a level to handle phonics, you can go back to the phonics approach. In the meantime, your child has developed a really good sight word vocabulary and will feel encouraged by a new ability to read. The best of both worlds is now achieved! Your child has a head-start on identifying a word immediately and then will master an ability to phonically decode unknown words. 

If a phonics approach or the sight word approach is not effective in teaching a child to read, one must explore other root causes by looking at how the eyes are working or where information is being stored in the brain. For more individualized direction consider a  Free 15 minute Consultation with a Brain Sprints’ coach.

 

 

 

 


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