Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Partner

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

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

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


1. Music

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


2. Art

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


3. Read-Alouds

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


4. Nature

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


5. Poetry

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


6. Aesop

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


7. Christian Studies

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



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

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


Bio —

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






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SPED Homeschool Team


Dawn Spence

My first year of homeschooling, I allowed myself a lot of grace and just had fun. We used unit studies to grow and learn together. Learning both about the subjects we were studying and how homeschooling worked best for each of us. We were all on a new learning curve and needed to have patience with each other. I based success in the daily victories; on how well we were adapting. Now seven years into our homeschool journey, that first year is still my favorite. We all have many fond memories as we launched out on this fresh adventure and laid the groundwork for our version of school in our home.


Cammie Arn

My first year of homeschooling was while the army had stationed us in Germany. I was so nervous. I had no clue what I was doing. The concept of reading to my children and having it count as school was more of a foreign concept to me than many of the customs I had adapted to while living in a foreign country. I had much to learn.

Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned that first year, now over 20 years ago. Homeschooling looks nothing like public school. I didn’t need to know everything to teach my children. Instead, I learned alongside them. I discovered that when you are up all night with a baby; it is okay to count a bedtime story to my five-year-old as that day’s reading. We didn’t follow a syllabus, we just learned when we could. It seemed to work well.

Over the years I have learned many more lessons that have also reduced my homeschooling anxiety. One is that it is okay to skip lessons if your children have already mastered the concept.


Peggy Ployhar

Homeschooling was something I said I would never do after I attended my first homeschooling conference when my oldest child was still a toddler. A friend from church invited me to this small gathering in 1999, hoping I would catch the vision. Instead, I decided I did not fit that mold and pursued private education for our children. Fast forward to 2003. My oldest child was halfway through his kindergarten year and the principal of his school suggested my husband and I independently pursue testing for this child who was struggling so much in school that a regular part of his day now involved at least one trip to her office. It was after this testing we added an unfamiliar word to our family vocabulary, Autism, which eventually convinced us of the best educational choice for our son, homeschooling. 

Looking back at that pinnacle moment in our lives, now 18 years in the past, I am grateful I could move beyond my idea of who I needed to be or look like to teach my son. My narrow vision of homeschooling in 1999 almost kept our family from the most amazing journey in which I have had the privilege to learn and grow alongside my children and develop deep and lasting relationships with them that probably would not have been possible if I had sent them off to school.


Is this possibly your first year homeschooling? We hope our stories have encouraged and inspired you.  Want to hear more stories from our community? Join one of our Support Tribes or hop onto our weekly Special Needs Moms’ Night Out, every Tuesday evening from 9pm to 10pm CST.






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Ashly Barta


I never thought I would homeschool. I was a public school teacher and believed wholeheartedly in everything the public school offered children.  As a teacher, I knew what I was capable of and what I knew in my heart to be right.  I saw teachers and administrators working day in and day out to help the children in our school district thrive.  Then I had my oldest son.

They diagnosed my son with epilepsy before he turned one-year-old. Our life in those early days after his diagnosis are a complete blur to me.  We tried medication after medication, seeking specialists out of state and more testing than I can remember.

My husband is active duty military and with his job it became clear I needed to step down from my full-time role as teacher and manage my son’s care.  We enrolled in Early Intervention and received occupational therapy and speech therapy.  I fell into a rhythm and we thrived.  I was in an area that I had many colleagues and I knew how to find the services we needed.  This helped so much! 

We were fortunate my family was available for extra support since this epilepsy diagnosis was not but a minor blip on our radar.  Then we received news from the military we were moving across the country! 

My mind was flooded with unanswered questions. How do I handle preschool enrollment in an unfamiliar state?  How would his IFSP transfer? So many questions we needed to find answers to.  Luckily I enrolled our son in a special education preschool in our district, and at first glance it seemed like a wonderful program. 

That preschool year started out great, but as the year progressed the classroom added more children until it became clear the teacher had become overwhelmed and needed help.  This situation frustrated me with the lack of services that were not being given to my son, even when his needs were clear on his IEP. 

We had two IEP meetings before Thanksgiving and each time I left defeated and in tears.  The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.  The school was not offering anything to make me feel like public school was a better fit.  My husband and I agreed that he would come home and we would try preschool at home. 


The teacher and staff were only concerned with what my son could not do, and not one time did they mentioned a positive achievement.  Why?  He was a brilliant little 4-year-old and deserved to be celebrated despite the difficulties he faced.


Then, before we knew it, we were moving again. Another unfamiliar state and new schools.  I again started the enrollment process only to find our district in this new state could not find the right school for my son.  The school close to our new home did not have a school nurse, the school in the opposite direction was at capacity.  The solution was to enroll him across town.  I just could not believe we were fighting to enroll our son in kindergarten. 

Then it hit me. It does not have to be this hard.  I went home and started researching.  I was a kindergarten teacher before I was his mom. How hard could teaching our son at home really be?  No one I knew homeschooled their children and no one I talked to really understood how I could even consider this crazy idea. But I was a determined mom. 

What I found was that our current state did not require an affidavit until age 6, so my rationale was that if I messed up this year, we could try kindergarten the next year in the public school.  My son could work at his own pace.  We could customize his education and set goals meaningful to his unique needs. 

Fast forward to the current school year. We are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling.  We actually homeschool our daughter too.  She has always been a homeschooler and when you ask if she would be interested in attending public school she replies with a “no, thank you.”

The joy and peace homeschooling has brought our family could never stand up against the fear I felt that first year.  Epilepsy has taken so much from our family, but it gave us the gift of homeschooling. Our children are closer than ever, we have freedom to explore and travel, and when the military shakes up our lives we have consistent education in our home.

I believe my children have been able to blossom because we do not place them in a fish bowl of only children their same age, which is unnatural if you think about actual life.  They get to interact with children and adults of all ages.  They are not compared, rather they are celebrated for the individuals they are.  They are 100% comfortable with who they are.  They are free to express themselves without the fear.

Thinking about homeschooling?  Research your rights, services available to you in your area within your budget, school district or insurance based.  I also suggest sitting down and making a list of strengths and weaknesses that your child has. This will help you find curriculum and activities to fill your day. 

The best part of homeschooling is the flexibility you have at your fingertips.  Home environments offer flexibility that a classroom never can.  You can take breaks as needed and create your schedule to work around things like doctor or therapy appointments.  Find friends in the homeschooling community that you can lean on and learn from.  Therapists are also a significant source for activities and help.  Isolation and exhaustion in special needs parenting is a real threat, so finding that community whatever it looks like is key. Lastly, celebrate!  Create moments to celebrate every day.  Dance, make pancakes with sprinkles, and clean up that mess later!  We get to stop, slow down and enjoy the adventure with our children. 






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SPED Homeschool Community Member Nick H.


Last year I became a homeschooling father to a 7-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy.  My son’s mom had already started the home school process with him, but as circumstances dictated I took over from there.

At first, I assumed homeschooling would hold a kid back from the sped up progress that traditional school settings achieve.  I could not see how a few hours of school work at home compared to 8-hour traditional school days could equate to greater learning outcomes.  This year has taught me that equating time to learning was wrong.

Being a father who homeschools has given me an alternative view on homeschooling and the advantages it provides my son like one-on-one teaching, reduced distractions, and individualized accommodations. 


…I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.


Homeschooling has given me a new appreciation for education.  As a parent of a child that has Cerebral Palsy, I have learned how much easier I can accommodate for the needs of my son at home versus the process an equivalent accommodation would require in a traditional school.

Teaching as a homeschooling parent isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. The way my son interacts with his mom and I during his schooling is amazing. He seems so much more focused and confident in doing his schoolwork. Watching him grow and learn has been the biggest highlight on my new homeschooling dad journey.






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Dyana Robbins


Whether your homeschooling years are ending because you are launching a graduate into the world or leaving homeschooling for reasons as varied as the ones that brought you to home education, there are adjustments and feelings to reckon with when your homeschooling season comes to an end.

My homeschooling years ended abruptly two years ago when my oldest son asked to attend school for his 9th-grade year. Making the decision to send him to the large public school behind our home wrenched my heart. There were good reasons to send him, but my heart struggled with the possible consequences of that choice. I consoled myself, knowing my youngest son was still home and that I had more years homeschooling him. And then, we took a job opportunity in Singapore and my homeschooling years were suddenly over. I’ve grieved those years learning at home together. Thankfully the Lord has greatly comforted me through this time of transition. In light of the wisdom I have gained through this transition in our lives, here is some encouragement from one mother’s heart to yours.


Homeschooling is Only Part of the Plan

When my son went to public school, it posed many challenges for him. His learning challenges meant that he was not at grade level and required an IEP. He had never had to navigate large groups of same-age peers alone. His first day was truly terrible in almost every way. Fear and pain made me want to pull him from school immediately.  But, by spring, he had found his place; succeeding in his classes and finding a group of great friends.

Our son graduates next year from an international school and I marvel at all he has accomplished. He gets the credit for his work ethic and resilience, but I know that homeschooling helped him develop both. The years we spent laboring together over reading, writing, and spiritual formation have borne the most wonderful fruit. As I mourned and worried about our son starting school, God was unveiling new horizons for our family.

However long your homeschooling season was, you can trust that good will come from the investments you have made in your children. If homeschooling ended before you were ready, know that God is not surprised or unprepared. He knows what the future holds for you and your family.  His love is providing for all of you even as you make unexpected changes.


Life After Homeschooling is Wonderful Too

Honestly, many days of homeschooling were not wonderful. There were times I cried, prayed, and believed I could not keep teaching at home. But the whole experience was wonderful. Life is like that; we have pain woven through our routines and joys.

Two years after homeschooling, I have reclaimed parts of myself that were willingly laid down so I could homeschool my children. I have more time for friendships and am resuming a career I love. My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.


My life now is filled in different ways than when we homeschooled. I still miss those sweet years but rejoice as our family moves forward together, embracing new opportunities.


Releasing and Resting is Part of the Parenting Process

The bonds we make through teaching our children can be lifelong. My sons still listen to me and my husband carefully and they respect our guidance. I know other families who credit homeschooling with forging spiritual and family bonds that have lasted generations. What I have observed is that these families also let their children go well.

By encouraging teens to make their own decisions, even when you don’t agree with them, is part of this letting-go process. Trusting God and the truth that has been planted in your child’s soul, not the ability to make perfect choices, is how to successfully navigate this transition time as a parent. The examples other parents have provided in this area have helped me navigate our family’s unexpected changes.  I hope they encourage you too.


As I write this, we are living in some crazy times that have put us all through various transitions and have us considering many different educational options for our children. Ultimately, there are very few things we control.  But, God is still on His throne. His love for His people is unfailing.  As we release our children and other beloved things in this season, remember that He is always making things new…our children and us too.






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Cammie Arn & Amy Vickrey MSE


Are you worried about teaching high school math for a struggling student? Before you start stressing, it is important to understand that many of your fears can be easily averted before your student even starts high school.  How? By answering 6 key questions that will help you take more confident steps forward based on what your student needs and how to meet those needs by choosing the right curriculum and/or setting the proper goals.


What math skills will my student need to know for life?

When considering math, one strategy is to focus on the skills your child needs to know for life. A program that teaches money management, cooking math, math skills for fixing small things around the house, and other daily tasks is just as important as completing algebra and geometry and sometimes is more important than completing these traditional high school math courses.


What are your student’s post-high school goals?

To determine what kind of math your child needs, first consider where your child is headed after high school. What are their plans? What are their goals? Is your student planning to go to college? Or, are they planning to attend a trade school? What kind of entrance exam is needed for the career path they are choosing?  


What requirements are necessary to match your student’s aspirations?

Talk to various colleges or trade schools in your area to determine exactly what math courses and math testing skills are required for admission. If your student will be requesting accommodations it is also best to talk with the disability services department, as well as the admissions department, to determine what additional documentation your homeschool will need to provide at the time those accommodations are requested.  


Don’t push. Don’t move ahead too fast. A solid foundation in math is more important than gaining little bits of knowledge about higher-level math concepts.


What remediation does my student need for basic math skills?

The best strategy for remediation is to work with your child at his/her level of mastery. Don’t push. Don’t move ahead too fast. A solid foundation in math is more important than gaining little bits of knowledge about higher-level math concepts. When choosing a curriculum, look for programs that help break down the concepts into concrete steps and provide visuals or hands-on ways to help you and your child “see” solutions. It is also important to find a math program that fits your teaching style and your child’s learning style. 

Some great programs to look into:


What alternative math programs might work better for your student?

If your student doesn’t need or desire to take Algebra or Geometry, many different types of math can be supplemented during the high school years.

Some great alternatives are:


What higher-level curriculum options accommodate students with learning needs?

For some students, instruction in algebra, geometry, and high levels of math might be needed and/or wanted to meet post-high school goals. Do you feel comfortable teaching math at this level? If so, pick a curriculum you like and start teaching. If not, here are some alternatives and helps:

  • Online or video instruction, either private or self-paced
  • Co-op or online class that will work with your student’s needs
  • Multi-sensory based instruction (making it visual, hands-on)
  • Using a graphing calculator or graphing program
  • Private tutoring through an online service, friend, or local college student





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Kathy Kuhl


A woman told me her son had been accepted into a good college even though he had the handwriting of a six-year-old. Happily, this sharp young man and his mother knew how to get accommodations to get his thoughts on paper.


Can you imagine the effect on this child if his mother had said: 

“Sorry, dear. Until you stop reversing your Es, I’m not going to teach you to write.” or “Until you pay attention and print more neatly, I’m not teaching you any new words.”


Many gifted people have dysgraphia, dyslexia or other learning disabilities. We should work on the problems, as I discussed last week. But we also work around them. That means you accommodate the student’s areas of weakness.

Accommodate doesn’t mean coddle. It does mean you give help that gives them a fair chance to develop their abilities. It means you don’t let a disability hijack your homeschool.

Though we work hard to strengthen weaknesses, it is vital not to focus on them.

We build lives based on strengths, not weaknesses. We don’t look at  Charles Schwab, Richard Branson, or  MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award winner Mimi Koehl, and think of learning disabilities. They built their careers on their strengths.

We don’t build our lives on what we do poorly. Neither should our kids.


Accommodation #1: Learn to Type

The first accommodation you may think of for a child who struggles with writing is teaching your child to type.

How do you know if your child is old enough to touch-type? Pediatric occupational therapist Laurie Chuba told me this trick: ask your child to close her eyes and see if she can touch her left thumb and each of her other left fingers in turn. Then repeat with the right hand. If she can, she’s ready to learn to touch-type.

Not every keyboarding program is well-suited to children and teens with learning disabilities. For instance, the first one we tried used a small font size on the screen. It was hard for my son, who has dyslexia, to read.

There are many typing programs, but Keyboard Classroom is unusual. It’s a typing program designed at the Ben Bronz School in Connecticut, a school especially for students with learning disabilities. It keeps practice exercises to one minute, building fluency without as much stress as longer exercises. [Disclosure: I was given, but have not used, a sample of Keyboard Classroom and the finger guides. My review is based on trying a free demo. Typing programs vary and kids vary. I recommend trying demos and reading reviews to see what’s best for your child.]

It was researched with students with learning disabilities for twenty years. By keeping its plastic finger guides between the middle and ring finger of each hand, the learner’s hands don’t drift out of place.

I met Keyboard Classroom President Carrie Shaw at LEAH Homeschool Convention a few years back and got to try out the program. I was intrigued. You can see a demo and explanation of Keyboard Classroom here.

Carrie wrote, “I reduced the prices on all my licenses so it would be more affordable for homeschoolers.”  At their site, you can contact Carrie Shaw and learn more.

If your child is not ready to touch-type, let her record answers with a digital voice recorder or into your phone. You can also have her dictate to a sibling who can type.


Accommodation #2 – Word Prediction Software

Dictation software is notorious for goofy transcribing errors. WordQ does a superior job, providing a drop-down list of words to choose from. Even better, at the end of each sentence, WordQ reads the sentence aloud, which can help your student notice when words are incorrect or are omitted. Get a free trial of WordQ from Quillsoft here.


Accommodation #3 – Dictation Software

SpeakQ dictation software is an add-on for WordQ that turns it into a powerful dictation program. Designed for folks with learning disabilities, it is easier for your child to train to his or her voice than other programs, like Dragon. WordQ and SpeakQ both offer a free trial. Dragon Naturally Speaking also takes diction from you or your student. See for details and a demonstration.[The advantage of SpeakQ over Dragon is that to train the software to recognize your child’s voice, Dragon provides paragraphs that may be difficult for your challenged learner to read. But SpeakQ lets you upload anything your child can read well, and use that text to train the software.]

Not everyone who struggles with writing struggles with handwriting. Other writing problems require different solutions. Next month we’ll look at some. This series continues here.


This article was originally written on Learn Differently at


Some of the links in this article are affiliate links.


This article is part 3 in  a in a series of articles aimed at helping struggling writers. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here .





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Kathy Kuhl


What if you didn’t know your child was dyslexic until they hit high school? This happened to a family I learned about yesterday.  They just discovered that their bilingual high schooler is dyslexic. For years, the experts kept saying, “She’s only struggling with reading because she’s bilingual.”

It’s an easy mistake to make, but it wasted valuable time. Now, while taking high school classes online, the girl’s frustration has soared. She is very discouraged. My heart aches for this student and her parents, who have been trying to get her help while living abroad.

This can happen with an online curriculum, in a school, or a homeschool. This frustration and discovery often happens when the pace of education picks up. The transitions to harder level work are times when we notice disabilities. Sometimes students can overcome their learning challenges for years on their own, often by being intelligent and working harder than everyone else. But at some stage–when they start middle school, high school, or college-level work–they can no longer overcome their disability without someone customizing their education.


#1 – Understand

  • Educate yourself and your teen about dyslexia. Visit the Dyslexic Advantage website (see the link below) and watch some of the videos. This will help you see how dyslexia is the flip side of intelligence in one of several distinct areas. This site offers practical help and an online forum. It will help you and your teen to take heart and begin to build on their strengths. 
  • Read the book, Dyslexic Advantage by Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide. These medical doctors (and former homeschoolers) work with the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, speak around the country, and run the Eide Neurolearning Clinic outside Seattle. The last third of the book is a very practical look at accommodations—ways to work around dyslexia in school. But the first two-thirds are just as important and interesting. They will transform how you see dyslexia. See below for a link to my review of the book.
  • Understand and be sympathetic to your teen’s struggles. It is hard for non-dyslexics to understand how painful reading can be. I know two adults with dyslexia (one with an M.Ed, the other an MD) who both say reading hurts.


#2 – Curriculum

  • Reading instruction for dyslexics comes in varying types and strengths. The main thing to keep always before you and your teen is that there is hope, so don’t give up. Here are a few options that can work long-distance (these are only a few suggestions—I’ve listed others at the end of this post):
    • Barton Reading trains parents to teach dyslexic students. Granted, no expert visits your home to see if the parents are teaching correctly. But Sue Barton is very knowledgeable and has helped many families. Her company, Bright Solutions, provides many videos on its website. (See below.)
    • Alphabetic Phonics by Aylette Royall Cox is another Orton-Gillingham-based program that can be offered at home by a parent. (Please note: this is not Alpha Phonics, nor is it Alphabet Phonics.) This publisher also offers webinars (see below).
    • All About Reading by Marie Rippel is another program to consider.
    • Lexercise is a more intensive and pricier option that comes with online tutoring. With Lexercise, a trained therapist tutors your dyslexic student online through a secure link.


#3 – Experts

  • Trained Academic Therapist. Working with someone trained in teaching dyslexics  your student may find that reading can get easier. My son made progress at age 20 with the help of an academic therapist, that is, a Certified Academic Language therapist. Other experts include Orton-Gillingham practitioners or Wilson tutors with Level II certification. This sort of tutoring is expensive. But I wish I’d understood this sooner. Then we could have used the money we were saving for college to work with an academic therapist all through high school.
  • Online Learning. Because of living abroad, the family I mentioned above has been using an online academy, but it has become very frustrating for this teen. One possibility is Time4Learning. I don’t know anyone who used it at the high school level, so it may not be a good fit for a struggling teen. Time4Learning does offer free trials, though, and may be worth investigating. 


#4 – Tools

  • Use audiobooks. I list several below. Additionally, did you know that any PDF can be read aloud by a computer using Adobe Acrobat reader? (The read-aloud option is under the “view” tab, oddly enough.)
  • Use assistive technology.  Find someone to walk you through all the tools you already have on your PC or Mac to help—all under the accessibility tabs, but not always easy to figure out. Your state agency for helping folks with disabilities probably offers free webinars or seminars on this. In Virginia, there are eight regional Training and Technology Assistance Centers (T/TAC). These centers lend equipment out. Check out what your state provides. Your local chapter of the ARC may also help you. Additionally, Joan Green knows a lot about assistive technology—her website, listed below, has webinars and resources.


#5 – Strategies

  • Strategize your teen’s time. I would devote the majority of each day to the  strengths of your struggling learner. In the case of a teen who is already frustrated, morale is a primary concern. Also, I would spend a chunk of each day working on reading, but with one of the therapies listed above–not with traditional methods.
  • Rethink your current learning approaches. For instance, if your situation requires you to use an online curriculum, can you use something more hands-on for at least some subjects? What is your student good at? What does he or she like to do? Try to find or adapt your curriculum to your student’s interests. For example, I have a friend whose teen shut down at age 15 during a family crisis. All this teen wanted to do was read and watch Japanese manga and anime (cartoons). My friend built a year’s homeschool around anime: Japanese history, an online class for the language, drawing, etc. Later, the teen caught up in her academics, and graduated from The Pratt Institute, a prestigious art school in New York City. Now this graduate is supporting herself as an artist. You may not have the time or resources to do that, but realize that an out-of-the-box curriculum won’t be a good fit for many students with learning challenges. At least a good part of your teen’s education may need to be more customized. I’m not only talking about remediating the area of weakness or accommodating it by working around it. Provide something that builds on the student’s strengths or interests.


#6 – Resources


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Peggy Ployhar

Most high school students have no idea what career or even possible career fields would interest them, so don’t get frustrated if you have asked your teen for some suggestions and all you have received in response is, “I don’t know.”

Below I have shared my top 3 career assessment tools that can help steer your student in the right direction for career exploration as useful guidance for you in helping them in this exploration process.


#1 – My Next Move Interest Assessment

My Next Move is an online questionnaire that profiles a student’s interests and aligns them with possible future career choices. To access this free career interest assessment for your student, visit the My Next Move website at


#2 – Holland Code Career Test

The Holland Code Career Test is a free online career assessment that “uses the scientific Holland Code model to show you which jobs will suit your interests, talents, and aptitude.” The test takes about 10 minutes. Basic test results from this assessment are free, or you can choose to receive a full report for just $19. To access the test, visit this link on the Truity website


#3 – Career One Stop Assessments

Career One Stop is a website sponsored by the U.S.Department of Labor that offers a few different tests parents could use to help with assessing their student’s interests, skills, and work values. Here are the assessments you can find on the Career One Stop site. Below are three resources Career One Stop provides.

Career Interest Assessment – This test is a 30 question assessment that takes about 5 minutes to complete and provides a broad overview of your student’s basic interests. 

Skills Matcher Questionnaire – This test rates a student’s abilities across 40 workplace skills.

Work Values Survey – Use the cards provided in this section to identify what you student values in a working environment and then follow the links provided to find careers that match these values.


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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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 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


#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


#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 


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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