Guest Blogger Heidi Starr, The This is Home Blog

None of us expected the “special needs parent” life to be our normal. For me, I always wanted to be a mother. I knew I wanted to be at home with my children at least until they were school age. Then I pictured myself being the active classroom mom at their school. Homeschooling was definitely not on the radar of my super-extroverted self.

 

Our Story

My oldest was first diagnosed with autism at the age of two. We are a military family and were stationed in Japan at the time. It is ironic because, the day after the diagnosis, we had actually had a tour scheduled for a great Montessori preschool. We canceled the tour, and the diagnosis led to a change of location for our family. The military moved us back to the states, where my son was to get extensive hours of therapy and to be put into a special education preschool classroom.

We went for his evaluation at the local school, which was quick 15 minutes they took him into the library with the preschool class. Weeks later, I received the paperwork, and I thought it was left blank for me to fill out. I called the school and asked if I was to fill this out before the IEP meeting. I remember the secretary’s words clearly, “ma’am no we filled it out, and your son doesn’t have autism. He doesn’t need to be here.”

I responded with several things on the list that my son was clearly struggling with (but they didn’t see it in the 15-minute library session), and I asked why they put “no diagnosis-mother suspected.” This made me very uncomfortable, because I submitted not one but three doctors’ diagnosis paperwork, along with the extensive list of therapy notes from multiple therapists.

We were left in complete confusion as to what we should do next. Do we fight the school and have them take him? Did he really have a misdiagnosis? Or do we look into private schools?

 

Another Diagnosis

We requested a second IEP meeting and observation because we had received yet another huge diagnosis since the last meeting. My now three-year-old and five-month-old boys had both been diagnosed with Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy.

But again, the school didn’t believe any of this meant he should go into special education preschool and suggested that if he could not walk, then they could easily just pull him in a wagon. That was the final straw for my husband and me.

Our doctors and developmental pediatricians were shocked by the school’s response to our situation. One doctor immediately told us to get a lawyer and fight it. But my husband and I both made the decision that even though we did believe the school was in the complete wrong with their findings and decision, this was the clear direction to homeschool.

 

Deciding to Homeschool Special Needs

During the time of our decision, we looked at private schools and other public school options. But in the end, I decided I did not want to describe his behaviors and special needs to each person my son worked with. It was exhausting. Also, when and how would he do the multiple therapies he needed and attend school? For a three-year-old, that is exhausting, and a recipe for daily sensory meltdowns.

All of his therapists always praised our family for taking the therapies and making them routine in our home. We worked diligently to implement each program and activity at home, not just during the therapy session. This gave me the confidence that I could in fact homeschool my special needs child.

 

Researching Special Needs Homeschool Curriculum

I began researching many homeschool curriculum options and activities for preschoolers and for special needs children. I have blended many of the therapies we have done to make activities educational and fun for him. We do several ABA techniques and OT and PT activities with our work. All of this helps so we aren’t exhausting him with just academics and then expecting him to do 2 hours of therapies on top of “school.”Throughout my research of the many different ways to homeschool, I have learned so many people do things differently.

 

My favorite thing about homeschooling is that I GET to cater to my son’s interests and see first hand his love for learning..”

 

Scheduling Our Special Needs Homeschool

The scheduling flexibility is probably the most obvious reason we homeschool. 

  • My son is able to do therapies in a clinic during the daytime, and we don’t have to fight extensive waitlists for “after school hours.” 
  • We can take a vacation whenever we like, which helps with crowds of large sought after places because most children are in school. This is a huge win for my sensory child. We live in Washington, DC and able to visit the museums and other attractions without crowds whenever we like. 
  • I never have to worry about a doctors note or too many absences beyond our control.  
  • We are able to go with and explore other areas without the restrictive schedule of school, which is a super fun added bonus Especially since my husband is active duty, and travels for work occasionally.

 

Individualizing Our Special Needs Homeschool

My favorite thing about homeschooling is that I GET to cater to my son’s interests and see first hand his love for learning. One of the things the school told us is that none of his diagnosis’s affect him academically. Well, I believe there is more to academic than just making “grade level.”

My son is extremely intelligent, which also might be some of the autistic behaviors we see. He is a walking encyclopedia at the age of five, and always asking questions of how things work and what things are. It’s amazing but has also been a great way for us to homeschool.

I am not limited to only grade level academics. Anything he is interested in we explore and learn at the level he can do, and then we challenge him to learn more.

 

Socialization for Our Special Needs Homeschool

With a special needs diagnosis, everyone is looking at you to answer this question: “What do you do about socialization?”. Many believe you have to send a child to a classroom for the only chance of socialization. But most homeschoolers have proven that to be very wrong.

I only have two children, both boys, so I hear it often that I better make sure they’re getting plenty of socialization. Yes, I can say that my children play team sports, go to Sunday school at church, playgroups, and are outside every evening with the neighborhood kids. But that’s not what socialization is all about either. It’s not just being around peers.

For my special needs children, it’s about being in everyday places and being able to self-regulate to the area. Being able to use their manners and know what people outside a school do all day. Those everyday places include the grocery store, post office, hospitals, and doctors offices. My homeschool children get to see museums with a docent who is able to give them one on one attention and explain things to them. I want my children to be able to communicate with all generations of society, not just peer aged groups.

 

Finding Community While Homeschooling Special Needs

Remember how I described myself as super extroverted? Well, this was a huge fear of mine when we decided to homeschool. I did not want to be alone at this. We chose to join a co-op and a community of other homeschool families.

We meet once a week, and our children of all ages are learning the same curricula, and we are there as a community for each other. This is a beautiful arrangement for my family. Not only does it fill my heart to be in community with these families, but they’re there for my children as well, knowing each child is different and caring for their needs as well. My son has the confidence to present in front of the community and has friends that see him no different than others. I have even used the community and co-op as an outlet for me to be that “classroom mom,” except now I’m also the teacher!

 

Celebrating

To be able to teach our boys and be with them as they learn new things has been the biggest blessing of all for our family. Being a special needs parent has many hard and dark times, but when we see our child accomplish something, make a milestone, or learn something new, we celebrate in such a big way! There is no way I would ever want to miss these big celebrations with my children!

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Neches Phelps

 

What was supposed to be a mid-semester break from our year-round charter school turned into a homeschool trial.  We were faced with a choice: file a Level 1 complaint and fight for accommodations that my child wouldn’t see for 6 months to a year, or homeschool.  I don’t remember much from those first three weeks. My husband and I did some google searches, downloaded some curricula samples that we thought might be a good fit, and then I started working with what we had and accumulating what we didn’t.  

 

I’d really like to say that as a former educator and administrator that everything went according to the schedule that I had planned, but that simply wasn’t the case. Some things seemed way too easy; others way too hard. And sometimes it was both within the same curriculum!  When I asked an experienced SPED homeschooling mom for advice, she simply responded by telling me to follow my child’s lead. I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

While jumping on the couch one evening, he said, “Mom, what’s your favorite Queen song?”

“I don’t know.  ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” I shrugged. 

He said, “’Bohemian Rhapsody’ is from the album A Night at the Opera and was released in 1975.”

 

I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

I realized that he had been studying the Greatest Hits Queen CD sleeve while we had been listening to it in the car.  Sure enough, he knew them all! On Thanksgiving day, he told us that this was the exact date that Freddy Mercury died.  His love for rock music had met his obsession with numbers. This was too easy, I remember thinking to myself. “When is Freddy Mercury’s birthday?” I asked. He had to find out. 

 

Conversational skills were born when he started to ask people when their birthdays were, how old they were when Freddy Mercury died, etc. He must have seen a picture of Freddy Mercury driving a car because he started to ask people how old they were when they first drove a car. That led to some very interesting conversations as he discovered that some people started driving a tractor first or that they were quite young when they first got behind the wheel.

 

We did what I call “Freddy Mercury Math,” read Queen lyrics, and studied our family trees. Did you know that Roger Taylor (Queen’s drummer) has a son named Tiger Taylor who plays drums in The Darkness? (Neither did I.) And we talked about death.

 

The traditional educator in me still isn’t entirely convinced by the idea of unschooling.  But the mom in me says that we are going to be celebrating the Queen band members birthdays and writing their biographies this next school year.  I have a calendar filled with important dates that I don’t want to miss, and I’ve researched some reading and math curricula to help fill in some gaps.  It turns out that following my child’s lead isn’t going to be so difficult after all!

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Charl Rae Cobb

 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

The term “special needs” is a term that covers a broad spectrum of medical, developmental, congenital, and psychiatric challenges that other people might not face (or yet have identified). I’m not sure any parents ever anticipate it. We certainly did not. Yet, from my son’s birth, it became obvious that he would have significant allergies to deal with his entire life. Fortunately, he was born into a family that has multiple generations of allergic and asthmatic individuals to empower him with education, information, and support. And fortunately, homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s many special needs in a way that nothing else has.

 

Identifying our child’s special needs

We were so excited to be pregnant! We did all the “right things” to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.  I planned to breastfeed to reduce the risk of our baby developing allergies and asthma (prevalent in my family medical history). However, our precious son was born allergic to all milk proteins (even mine) and reacted to all the formulas the doctors recommended.

How ironic that I, who can’t tolerate any alcohol so I never consume mixed drinks, would be concocting cocktails (“shaken, not stirred”) containing H1 and H2 antihistamines and decongestant prescribed by the doctors in hopes our infant could absorb enough of the latest formula to maintain enough weight to stay above the “failure to thrive” designation at each check-up. He also had breathing treatments prescribed around the clock and as needed between the regularly scheduled treatments. To see him now, well developed and healthy, you would never know the battles we fought to gain each ounce for 6 years and the battle to breathe normally without needing rescue inhalers for each physical activity.

His first pediatrician told me she suspected he was having headaches. Since headaches, eczema, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, and a host of other symptoms he was experiencing are well documented to correspond with allergies, I hoped they would be eliminated as we identified and addressed the specific allergens he reacted to. What we did not know is that the headaches would continue and eventually worsen leading to a diagnosis of abdominal migraines.

 

Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

Due to our circumstances, I carried medical insurance through my work. Thus, while I worked, our child was at a highly recommended daycare or preschool during his early years as well as spending lots of time with my parents (who are very well versed in raising an allergic and asthmatic child). I was able to change departments at work so that I could take our child to all the doctor appointments (many were out-of-town) and be available when the daycare or preschool called for me to pick up my sick child or give another breathing treatment. We also wound up changing daycares and preschools due to bullying incidents. Verbal and physical bullying, the refusal of the school administration to establish/accept a 504 or IEP plan, and being told by the teacher and administrator that he needed to “just sit still while the rest of the class catches up to him” would eventually lead to us withdrawing our child from first grade and officially privately educating at home.

 Along the way, different teachers and administrators made unsolicited comments about our son’s various behavior traits which prompted me to take him to a development pediatrician. She ruled out any diagnosis of autism but stated he was “normal” if a bit anxious (which I relate to the multiple bullying incidents) and possibly gifted (but not tested at that time) and suggested homeschooling him.

 

Meeting our child’s special needs by homeschooling

  • Homeschooling has allowed us to better control his environmental allergens and exposures, improving our son’s physical coordination (including eye tracking), attentiveness or focus, and occasional hyperactivity. 
  • Homeschooling has allowed us to identify additional special needs. We have identified symptoms of dysgraphia and have taken steps to help him cope with that. (I found the  dianecraft.org website to be helpful in understanding dysgraphia and some strategies for addressing it.) 
  •  Homeschooling has allowed us to find support from other parents. Our local homeschool support group was invaluable in providing insight from experienced veterans who informed us of resources like the various co-ops, curriculum, and clubs in our area. “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Ulrich Tobais was another resource that helped me structure our homeschool program.
  • Homeschooling has created a better learning environment for our child. We are able to answer questions when they arise (rather than having to wait to get home because the teacher would not answer them or steer him to a resource). We can  share successes and frustrations in learning new ideas, understand how various mathematical concepts apply to real life situations, take field trips and create projects to reinforce history or science, and master content before moving to the next level (vs moving on because administration dictates). The flexibility of homeschooling our special needs child at home has also eliminated the stigma and penalties our child was stressing over when his multiple doctor appointments were criticized by teachers and administration of traditional school and documented on his report cards. 
  • Homeschooling also provides more opportunities to grow together as a multi-generational family unit. 

 

As parents of a child with multiple allergies and asthma, we had to move from denial to acceptance with lightning speed because the very life of our child depended on it. Did we ever “go back” and experience the other stages of grief—denial, anger, sadness, guilt, etc.? Of course, we are human. As Christians, we also constantly trust our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Lord who created this child to provide the resources to meet his needs and the loving support to meet ours so that he can live the fullest life possible and be the unique individual he is designed to be. We are thankful that homeschooling has allowed us to meet our child’s (indeed, our family’s) physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs in a way that is unparalleled with our previous personal experiences.

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Teaching a child how to hike parallels the larger tasks of homeschooling and parenting.  Hiking, as well as homeschooling and parenting, may have many technical pieces of instruction, but never should we dismiss the greater benefit of the journey itself. There is a greater benefit of the homeschooling journey too, and it has more to do with walking the path with our children each day than how well any of us masters the hiking itself.

 

A Family that Hikes Together

Our family has been hiking since before we had kids. My husband and I both came from hiking families. Plus, within a few days after each of our children were born, as an initiation into the family, we introduced them to hiking.

As an infant, our child would ride in a front-pack when we would take off for a nearby trail.  As each child grew bigger, the transition from facing towards one of us in the front-pack to facing out happened around the second or third month.  Next, the child graduated from our front-pack to a more sturdy hiking backpack.

But we did not leave each child in the backpack stage. Instead, we observed that child’s walking acuity.  We paid particular attention to how well the child mastered uneven terrain and how resilient the child was to the occasional fall.  Our oldest was a natural pack mule on the trail and thankfully so because he was as solid as one too. He became rather difficult to carry early as a toddler, and we were all too happy to let him take that stocky frame and carry it on his own two feet.  But his younger brother was completely different. Our second child had difficulty mastering uneven surfaces. He hated walking on grass and especially when he needed to transition from the grass to another type of surface. Thankfully he was extremely light, and we managed well in the need to carry him much longer than his older brother when we went out on our hiking adventures.

Each child’s readiness considered, we still did not transition right away to multi-mile hikes as soon as each started putting their feet to the trail.  Instead, we had each walk part of the way and ride the other. At first we continued to carry an empty backpack and allowed the child to ride when walking became too difficult or was slowing down the rest of the party, but eventually, we transitioned making our shoulders available for the occasional rest.  

 

Hiking Milestones

Not until each child had built up enough personal stamina did we remove the option to ride.  But, getting our children walking on the path by themselves was only the first milestone in teaching them to hike. In the years to follow, as our family hiking continued, we continued to teach our children lessons on the trail.  

Our children learned how to:

  • Plan wisely and pack enough supplies.  Acknowledging your unique needs and properly preparing to address those needs dependent on the conditions of the trail and the length of the hike is extremely important if you are to get the most out of the trip. Ill-preparation can lead to uncomfortable situations and the potential need to make otherwise unnecessary changes.
  • Be considerate of others. No matter who is on the trail with you or who will follow your path consideration is appreciated.  These lessons involved making room for others who are slower or faster than you are and making sure to “leave no trace” so the hike will be equally appreciated by those who follow.
  • Look out for dangerous conditions. Being observant or taking appropriate action when necessary is essential to hiking safety.  From determining an animal and it’s probable proximity from droppings and prints to knowing when to make noises to warn animals of your approach, when to stand still to avoid getting attacked or trampled, and how to protect yourself if caught in a storm are all invaluable lessons to keeping safe on the trail.
  • Enjoy the journey.  Taking time to look up from the trail to watch the wildlife, smell the flowers, take in a scene, or stand in awe of the magnificent beauty that God alone can create so flawlessly has to be cultivated and encouraged. Looking beyond the trail to be immersed in the experiences is the greatest reward a hiking experience has to offer.
  • Cultivate relationships.  Talking on the trail or even sharing long periods of quiet pondering when walking side-by-side with others strengthens relationships.  Hiking parties naturally bond on the trail and these bonds have strengthened relationships in our immediate family and with extended family and/or friends we have hiked with.
  • Never give up. Hiking can be very tiring especially in high-altitude, dry, and steep conditions.  The determination to finish the trail before you start, unless conditions cause a necessary detour, helps for keeping the course when the trail gets the hardest.

 

Greatest Benefit of the Journey

Why do I share these things with you?  Because over the years as our family has taken countless hiking trips from short half-mile hikes in quaint campgrounds to grueling hikes down into the Grand Canyon and up again, there is a wonderful parallel for how teaching our children to hike has mimicked our 17 years of homeschooling and 22 years of parenting. Little by little we have trained our children not only to hike but also how to hike well, and still at the ages of 22, 20, and 14 they continue to do a lot of “hiking” alongside us as we teach them how to best follow the trail God has set before our children in the way they should go. Thankfully they still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

“Our children still desire that we keep hiking with them through the ups and downs of their daily lives which has been the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey.

Our children at the beginning needed us to help them with everything.  But, teaching them the mechanics of life was only the beginning of teaching them all the knowledge that my husband and I had acquired over the years. In fact, we are still teaching our children as they actively navigate much of their trails now on their own. The same is true for homeschooling and parenting.  We teach our children reading, writing, math, and other life skills, but if we stop walking alongside them once we have taught them these things then we miss out on the greatest benefit of the homeschooling journey – the deepening relationship.

 

Path Yet Ahead

My encouragement to you as you look back at your homeschooling and parenting journey so far, and then look forward towards what yet you have to teach, there will always be enough path and time for the lessons that need to be taught as long as you plan wisely and determine to never give up. The key is in teaching the technical lessons that build on mastery and allow time for integration: enjoy the journey, cultivate the relationships, build awareness of potential dangers, and teach your children the importance of the impact God desires to make through them on the world around them.

Thankfully, God provides the trail as well as a continuous stream of supplies. So, as long as we follow His directions every day, we will not get off track or lose our way and our relationships with our children will only grow more strong and beautiful as we walk alongside them on this journey we have the privilege to share.

 

We at SPED Homeschool are so glad you have allowed us to take this journey with you, and we would love for you to share snapshots of what your homeschooling journey looks like.  Feel free to share a picture or story that makes your homeschool unique and beautiful, and let us know if you would allow us to share your story with the SPED Homeschool community.  When we share our stories, we not only gain a greater understanding of one another’s path, but those outside our community will also gain a greater understanding of what homeschooling looks like when a family works to help their child succeed beyond their struggles.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

There is no one right way to keep your children learning during the summer. For this reason, we thought we would give you a glimpse into what the summer looks like in each of our homeschools and how we each uniquely continue homeschool learning in the summer.  Hopefully our examples will help you embrace the specific needs of your family as you develop the best way to keep your children learning and growing.

 

 

Our Unique Homeschool Summer Learning Paths

 

Amy Vickrey

For the summer, we continue on in our schooling.  We take some days and weeks off as we have family events and need some time off.  However, my son does better with some structure and routine, so keeping up our academics helps.  This also keeps him from having any lost skills over long breaks. We tend to focus on the basics—math, reading, and such.  We also enjoy time outdoors and going swimming!

This summer will be a little different as I will also be working.  It will be interesting to see how everything lines up and if our plans change some.  However, I love the idea of continuing year round so that I don’t have to worry about needing to take time off during the school year for any reason.  If that happens, we won’t be behind because we have spent time together learning as a family throughout the year!

 

Peggy Ployhar

Summer learning for our family has always been more of an unschooling approach between lots of planned activities at camps, church, and classes offered locally in our community.  I guess you could say we spent a lot of that time working on social skills as my children dove into delight-directed learning which made them push through the social barriers they often found inhibiting. Additionally, our family is also big into camping so sometimes over half of our summers were spent at one or more campgrounds living in our RV while exploring God’s great creation and the lessons that awaited us outside our door each morning.

For me I needed a large chunk of down-time from teaching just to make it through the rest of the year, so this yearly break was not only good for my children but also for my mental well-being after been closed up in a house in Minnesota most of the 9 months we were homeschooling. Yes, we did end up having to do some catch-up on forgotten skills over those summer months, but on the flip side my children expanded their learning in many areas that they would not have been expanded if we had not made time for them to participate in very different learning environments during the summer.

My children have so many fond memories of our homeschooling summers. As we finish up our homeschooling years with our youngest in high school, we have plans to keep this tradition going.  Our youngest is already signed up for 2 teen art camps, a week long camp with our church, and a week at iGoven run by Generation Joshua this summer. It will be busy, but as always we are all looking forward to the change of scenery and pace in our homeschool learning.

 

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year.

 

Cammie Arn

We school year round but our activities change. For example during the typical school year we are involved in a homeschool co-op, a Speech and Debate club and homeschool handbell and vocal choir. We utilize our co-op for history, science and various electives. At home we add in math, Bible and lots of life learning. All in all 4-5 hours per day

We do school in the summer by continuing math, reading, art and a mini-course. Since our co-op ends at the end of April. I do a mini-course for the month of May and 2 weeks into June. This year we are knocking out Government and Personal Finances. This lightens up the pressure of finishing everything during the school year and gives us something to do on the scorching hot Texas summer days.

 

Tracy Glockle

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year. For many years, we tackled hands-on science, art, music and some of the subjects that didn’t get as much attention during the school year. Other years, we’ve focused on motor skills with lots of physical activity.

One thing I do every time we have an extended break (Christmas or summer) is to have my kids fill out a “bucket list.” These lists include any projects they want to tackle, skills they want to learn (painting, computer coding, bike riding, scooter tricks, etc.), crafts they want to make, and places they want to visit. I limit how many of the activities they can write down that depend on me, and the rest of the ideas are things they can initiate on their own. Our “bucket lists” serve several purposes. First, it’s my reference point for the “I’m bored” complaint. Anytime my kids come to me looking for something to do, I send them back to their bucket list. Also, it gives my kids a chance to work on some executive function skills of self-managing their time and tasks. These bucket lists also give us an idea of our priorities for our break to be a satisfying one: if we can’t get to everything on the list, the kids decide which activities are most important.

 

The freedom that homeschooling offers, allows each of our families the ability to make accommodations which can also be extended into our summer months for what works best for each of our children as well as our families as a whole.  Whatever that looks like, embrace that path and all that awaits you as you take on homeschool learning in the summer with your children.

 

 


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Dawn Spence

 

When I was a public school teacher I taught summer school to make extra money. I know the kids dreaded coming to school in the summer when they could have been swimming! I saw though the value as I knew some of my students never cracked a book over the summer. So I taught in units that students would enjoy learning and I would enjoy teaching.

 

Fast forward as a homeschooling mom and I still see the value of summer learning activities or even what can be called year-round schooling. Having a child with special needs I learn that if we walk away from learning for three months, she will have regression. Don’t get me wrong; we play a lot and swim a lot. What else can you do in Texas heat? But I do try to have fun or do units during the summer to change things up.

 

However you decide to structure your summers, have fun and enjoy the journey.”

 

Here are some of my favorite summer learning activities:

 

  • Unit Learning– One summer we spend the whole summer studying all things Rainforest. We read, made hands-on projects, and celebrated by going to the Rainforest Cafe. I usually ask my kids what we want to learn about and go from there.

 

  • Character Building- Do you see some character training that needs tweaking? It is the perfect time to slow down and focus on their hearts.

 

  • Field Trips- Summertime gives us time to go on field trips and mini trips while dad is home from teaching public school. We enjoy learning new things as a family.

 

  • Reading Programs- We sign up our kids for summer reading programs at local libraries, Barnes and Noble, and Half Price Books. It is a great way to keep them reading while earning free books.

 

  • Finish A Subject– I find that every year we are needing to finish up math. It gives us time to finish and not rush. We summer school and then do something fun, such as swimming. It’s a great motivator to finish up your fractions.

 

These summer learning activities allow us to keep a routine and structure because my kids need that and I need that! However you decide to structure your summers, have fun and enjoy the journey.

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Have you ever wondered how your approach to summer homeschooling compares with other special education homeschooling families?  We did too, so we asked our community how they approach summer learning and this is what they told us.

 

Summer Homeschooling Poll Results

From our poll, here are the results we received:

 

46%

responded that they homeschool year-round and do not make any changes in the summer months.

 

23%

responded that they homeschool year-round but they make an effort during the summer to do more hands-on and play-oriented learning activities.

 

8%

responded they take the summer months off from formal schooling, but still incorporate lots of hands-on and play-oriented learning into their schedules.

 

8%

responded they continue with their delight-directed or unschooling methods as usual.

 

4%

responded they do their version of delight-directed or unschooling during the summer months.

 

And,

11%

responded that they were still in the process of figuring out what they were going to be doing for the summer months.

 

Summer may be a good time to try a different approach or even to make a switch to a new approach for the coming school year.

 

Choose Best for Your Situation

No matter what approach you decide to take, if you have considered what your child needs,  what types of breaks you need as a teacher, as well as what works best for your family, then you will find the best summer homeschooling approach for your unique situation.

 

One of our parents shared this great example of her summer homeschooling approach:

My son is 6 and right now we’re putting a heavier emphasis on non-academic skills (aka activities of daily life that he needs to learn to do to care for himself – like dressing, hygiene, etc). Unschooling as always in our school fits the best at this moment since formal academics are not our focus yet.” Lisa P.

 

Lisa’s comment is a great reminder that being flexible in your homeschooling approach can also extend into the full school year. Summer may be a good time to try a different approach or even to make a switch to a new approach for the coming school year.  

 

No matter how you choose to extend your homeschool learning over the summer we hope you enjoy the time with your children and create lots of great memories while learning together!

 

 


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by Peggy Ployhar

 

You don’t have to be creative to take advantage of the many hands-on and out-of-the-box learning opportunities that summer affords us with our children.  Below you will find a blog round-up of some of our favorite articles that provide over 100 different ideas you can adapt for teaching your children this summer. Just click on the colored links below to get to these great articles.

 

Learning Adventures: Learning ideas to take on the road with you this summer to the campground, amusement park, and your local park.

Gardening Math: Ways to practice math skills while spending time with your kids in the garden.

Get Outside and Learn: Get outside with your kids this summer and boost their learning with these mostly free learning activities.

Field Trips and Stay-at-Home Learning Ideas: Take advantage of learning activities either out of the house or by just staying in by using these creative ideas to get the learning started.

Water Activities: Cool off and stimulate your child’s summer learning by using these creative activities.

Keep Active and Work on Developmental Skills: Keep those muscles in shape by doing some of these gross motor, fine motor, and visual motor activities every day.

Fun Family Unit Study: Create a unit study around anything your family wants to dive into learning about this summer and enjoy the theme-based learning fun all summer long.

 

Still looking for more ideas?  Check out theSPED Homeschool Summer Teaching Ideas Pinterest Board for even more creative summer learning activities and have fun this summer learning with your children.

 

 


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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.

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

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!

 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today