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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Amy Vickrey, MSE

Some children seem to learn new skills quickly and effortlessly, almost as if they were born doing them. For other children, it’s not so easy. We push and push and teach and teach, and eventually, they might do one of the steps on their own. It can be exhausting! How do we get our kids to do tasks on their own? What is the key to teaching independence? The answer is creating routines and gradually teaching each step of the process.

Tips for creating routines and teaching independence:

  • Break it down...Think about each step in the routine or task you want your child to do. Teach one step at a time. By the time you get to the last step, they should be able to do it independently.
  • Keep it simple. If you want your child to be successful with much, start with little. Start with putting just the forks away. Then the spoons, etc. Keep just a few things in their room for them to put away and keep organized.
  • Reward progress. Start with big rewards for little progress then slowly start increasing the expectation and decreasing the reward. Eventually, it will be a habit.
  • Give it time. All the steps should not always be taught at one time. This can be frustrating, overwhelming, and create more dependence than independence. You may have to teach Step 1 of a process multiple times until it is mastered; then go to Step 2.
  • Use a checklist or visual. (Pictures work great for kids that are not yet reading!) Follow the checklist with your child, whether you are completing the tasks or they are. This helps builds the routine and the process for them. When your child becomes more independent, you can have them check the schedule/routine themselves to see what is next. Be sure to keep your checklists visible. When you walk around my house, you see checklists everywhere—in the bathroom, on the doors (reminders to knock), for schoolwork, for Morning and Bedtime Routines, and much more.  
  • Life Skills are Homeschool Skills. We include therapy and life skills such as putting laundry away and other “jobs” as part of our homeschool day.  
  • Sheet Protectors are Your Friend. As our kids grow and change, so do their schedules and routines. I use smooth sheet protectors and a wet erase marker (Crayola also makes dry erase crayons) to mark off our schedule as we complete tasks. Laminating works too. Whichever works best for your family is the key.

 

Recently, I needed my 7-year-old who has Autism to be more independent. I needed him to take on some of the responsibilities of helping put laundry and dishes away. I needed him to become more independent at getting dressed in the morning and getting to bed at night. Within each of these responsibilities lies a list of smaller skills that have to be taught to him because he does not just “pick them up.

 

For example, when putting away laundry, I first helped him sort his clothes into the different types of clothes (underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, etc). I put labels on his drawers to help him know where things went. Now, I hand him the pile and he puts them away by himself. He can even put away his brother’s clothes, but I do still have to sort them by person.

 

For morning and evening routines, I created “checklists” of things he needs to do. Sometimes he follows the checklist in the exact order I have listed. Once he mastered each step in the process (some of these we have introduced individually over time), I work on switching the order at times to build flexibility in his thinking and routine. I even created a thermometer to help him know what type of clothes are appropriate for the weather, and have him check the weather each day.

 

Now I am beginning to work with my 3-year-old. I know that the time I put in now will pay off later. I sort his clothes and he puts them in the drawers. He is slowly learning to sort silverware too. (Score one for math skills!) The key is to start where your child is at developmentally, one step at a time, and then slowly increase. Before you know it, your child will be doing it independently!

 

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey

Many parents, like myself, are choosing to homeschool because our kids don’t fit the profile of a “typical” student.  Especially when your child has Autism or ADHD, or is just a very active, young boy! So, how can you make learning happen with a child who has a hard time sitting still?  You make learning active and interactive! Here are some tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!

 

 

 

Tips to keeping your kids engaged when attention spans are short!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1- Keep lessons short and focused:

  • If my son can complete 5 problems and understand a concept, why solve 10?  My goal is mastery, not death-by-worksheets!
  • If he needs more practice – I give it to him – after a break, or the next day!
  • I focus on one concept at a time – keep things simple and focused.
  • More is not always better – sometimes it’s just more!

 

 

2 – Reward work as it is getting done:

 

  • Reluctant learners often need praise and reassurance as they complete an assignment, not just at the end.
  • Correct errors when they happen – don’t allow your child to practice incorrectly (it takes far longer to unlearn a mistake than to learn it right in the first place).
  • Change it up – use different things to reward and keep it interesting!

 

3 – Work doesn’t have to be worksheets!

  • Turn learning into a game by having them “jump” on or “tag” an answer.
  • Use manipulatives to work out problems and “see” the answer.
  • Use videos, educational apps, and other media to reinforce or introduce a concept

 

4 – Use movement to your advantage:

  • Many kids learn through movement and songs
  • Many kids need movement to help move memory from short term to long term storage.
  • Activities that cross the “midline” (right/left or top/bottom) are beneficial to activate both sides of the brain, also helping with memory.
  • Movement makes learning more fun and engaging!

 

 

 

5 – I’s okay to not sit at the table/desk! I have seen kids:

  • Sit on top of the table or counter
  • Sit under the table or chair
  • Lay on the floor
  • Lay on a trampoline
  • Sit in a beanbag
  • Sit on the grass outside
  • Sit in a tree
  • Lay under the piano bench
  • Inside a closet or cupboard
  • On a yoga ball (you can buy one with a stand for added stability)
  • Use a Wobble Cushion
  • Tie Thera-Bands on the legs of the chair for kids to be able to kick/push against while they are working.
  • And so many more!  As long as learning is taking place, location doesn’t matter.

 

6 – Ways to include movement:

  • Trampoline
  • Park play
  • Riding bike/scooter
  • GONOODLE.com
  • Obstacle courses
  • Answering questions with parts of the body
  • Playing with blocks
  • Sit/bounce on a yoga ball
  • Sit/jump on a trampoline
  • Stand at an easel/table
  • Nature walk
  • Exploring local parks, ponds, streams, deserts, etc., for animals specific to your area
  • Count birds, squirrels, or other animals as you walk (you can also make up word problems – two birds plus 3 birds is 5 birds; 5 squirrels, two run away, that leaves 3 squirrels).
  • Write with sidewalk chalk outside
  • Go to the zoo, museum, and other places where you can walk and learn about things
  • Bring learning to “life” through unit studies and acting out your learning.
  • Answering questions while using a hula hoop
  • Using playdoh, clay, and or therapy putty (allergy-friendly playdoh is also available)
  • Throwing bean bags, ring toss, or kicking a goal while answering questions

 

 

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

They say the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach, and I have found that saying to be true as well with the little men in my house. But since my boys not only have special needs but also special dietary restrictions, it is tricky to show them love by making foods that are not only safe for them to eat, but also enjoyable. They, like all other children, want something special to eat for holiday events.

 

My solution? Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies!

You would never image these healthy treats are hard to keep around, but that’s the truth in our house! Your family will love these Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Peanut-free delights!

Watch my boys and I make these delicious cookies on this video, and then use the recipe below to make your own.

 

Ingredients:
4 ½ c. Gluten-free flour (Or, 1:1 baking mix, such as Pillsbury. If using GF Bisquick, leave out baking powder)
½ c. Sugar
¼ c. Sunflower lecithin powder (I prefer NOW brand)
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt

 

Mixing Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl until all are evenly distributed.

Next, add in wet ingredients:
4 c. Almond milk (use coconut or soy milk to make completely nut free)
3 Tablespoons avocado oil (can substitute coconut, canola, or vegetable)
2 Tablespoons vanilla (Mexican vanilla is the best)
1-30oz or 2-15oz cans of pumpkin

Blend with a mixer until fully comes together, scraping down sides of bowl.

Finally, add in chocolate:

1 pound of chocolate chips (I like the mini chips best). Stir to incorporate chocolate chips.

Scoop dough into cookie form pan or waffle iron.


Baking Directions:

For Cookies:
Bake in 400 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.

For Waffles:
I also use this batter (with or without the chocolate chips) to make waffles.
Cook according to directions of your waffle iron. I use a smaller square iron and mine cook 5 minutes.

This recipe is a wonderful fill-in for breakfast or even afternoon snack to enjoy with milk or hot cocoa.

 

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

When I went into business for myself a few years ago, the key to success was networking. Finding other business owners who could refer to you and you would refer to in return. Networking takes a lot of time to establish relationships and build trust with others. However, over time, networking builds great business relationships.

 

Homeschooling a special needs child is very similar to starting a business. While it doesn’t necessarily take a “village” to raise a child, parenting and homeschooling a child with special needs is much easier when you have a quality network of people you can trust and rely on. From restaurants and playgroups to doctors and therapists, your entire network is vital to helping your child and you succeed. You just can’t homeschool a special needs child well all alone.

 

In our own daily lives, we work to be consistent and build relationships everywhere we go and in all that we do. From the restaurants we eat in (who know us by name), to the therapists and doctors we see, we have worked to build relationships and select people and places that are supportive of our homeschooling efforts and lifestyle. 

 

For some families establishing these networks are easier than others. Within the next few years, it is the goal of SPED Homeschool, through our new SPED Strong Tribes program, to do much of this legwork for special needs homeschooling families as our tribes grow in local communities. Eventually, we envision a new special needs homeschooling family will be able to join their local SPED Strong tribe and instantly be able to find all the resources they need through that group.

 

 

But, even while SPED Homeschool is still in the fundraising phase of developing SPED Strong Tribes, here are some tips for working to build your NETWORK:

 

N – New 
Look for new opportunities and recommendations to expand your network. This keeps people from being overburdened and preserves relationships.

E – Encourage 

Encourage a relationship of asking questions and open communication within your network. This will keep surprises from creeping up.

 

T – Teach
When you come across someone who has little experience but a heart to learn, take the time to teach them. These can be some of your biggest allies down the road.

 

W – Work 
Work with your Allies. Build relationships with doctors, therapists, community members, members of your church, and other people you interact with so that you have someone who knows you and can speak on your behalf in the event it is needed.

 

O – Open 
Be open with people. If something is not working, say so. This will keep communication and relationships intact.

R – Respite

Plan for time for you and for others to be able to have breaks.

 

K – Keep it Open
Be willing to accept others into your circle who are needing these same things. There will be mutual understanding when one of you is having a bad day.

 

 

As I stated above, SPED Homeschool is working towards bringing networking opportunities to families that homeschool special needs children. SPED Strong Tribes will be local groups that will allow families to gather together and recommend trusted local resources to streamline the process for families to find quality professionals and businesses to help with their homeschooling efforts.

 

Giving Tuesday is a day nonprofits like SPED Homeschool ask for public support through donations so they can continue to provide services AND to raise additional funds for new projects. This Giving Tuesday, we at SPED Homeschool are focusing our fundraising towards this new SPED Strong Tribes program. By contributing to this campaign, together we can build stronger families. 

Visit the SPED Homeschool’s SPED Strong Tribes campaign at www.fundrazr.com/spedstrong

 

For more information on the five basic foundations we will be building into our new SPED Strong Tribes, check out all the blogs in this series:
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Togetherness
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Respite and Opportunities
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Networking
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Growth

 

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

In the last few months I have gained responsibilities and had my time shortened to a few hours in which to homeschool. All of this time is in the morning. My son is not a morning person. He is an early riser, but prefers to use his morning engaged in his own interests and definitely NOT in school work. When I can give him the morning to pursue his own interests (which usually includes building with blocks, playing with toys and his brother, and reading), schoolwork is typically easier to accomplish in the afternoon. Knowing this makes me feel SO GUILTY when I simply do not have the time to accommodate the schedule that I know makes him a better student.

 

Creative Scheduling
So, when I can’t accommodate his preferred schedule, I find creative ways to help him with continuing to make progress despite our limited time.

 

Here is what I have found works for us to remove my homeschooling guilt:

  • We homeschool year-round so we can take breaks as needed and move at a slower pace.
  • I use therapy time as part of our school day.
  • I communicate with therapists about the schoolwork he is doing, what is successful, and what is not so that they can help support the deficits too.
  • I utilize caregivers to help get schoolwork accomplished and even creatively integrate science and social studies topics into his day. (My sister in law is working with him on Minecraft and researching unit studies to use with the game.)
  • I encourage science experiments with the OT, even getting cousins involved when they are over.
  • I have found ways for him to be involved with swim classes, tutoring (counts as his school for that day), and even a robotics class!
  • On days when we have more time, I utilize his checklist to ensure we touch on subjects that get put on the back burner on busier days.
  • I remind myself that 5 minutes of direct instruction on a subject is better than an hour spent struggling on his own. I rotate the subjects I focus on for the day and keep to the most vital ones to maintain and increase skills.
  • I put things intentionally in his path for him to explore other topics in science and social studies. I work to create a love of learning and a desire to gain new skills. (Check out 7 Tips for Cultivating Lifelong Learners).
  • I utilize time on weekends to catch up when the week has been extra busy and full of appointments.
  • I incorporate fun activities with the basic subjects whenever time allows to keep learning interesting and fun.
  • I encourage independence and use rewards whenever possible, even if it is just stickers to say “Great Job!”
  • I look for activities that cover more than one skill at a time in order to combine skills and save time. (Unit studies are great for combining skills. Check out D.M. Spence’s article on creating a Unit Study.)
  • I GIVE MYSELF GRACE! I recognize that I cannot do it all, and I cannot do everything all the time.
  • I remind myself of the reasons I homeschool. By keeping focused, I can get through the tough days, and I know that someday I will look back and see God’s hand guiding me through these tough days into easier ones.

 

Whatever life brings, we all struggle with scheduling guilt at times. By being flexible, creative, and patient, we find that we can get to the other side and still see the progress that has been made, even if it is slower than my impatient self would like it to be. 

 

Even with a busy schedule and limited time, the benefits of homeschooling are present, and I am thankful everyday for the ability to work my schedule in such a way that I can continue to give my sons what they need most – a safe, loving, caring environment to grow and someday become the men they are meant to be.

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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

Many times I hear questions about what children need to learn at young ages. What curriculum should parents be choosing and using? At what level do they need to be reading or writing? How much math should they know?

The honest answer is…it depends on where your child is at and what they are ready for.

Many studies have shown that there is no long term benefit to pushing a child to accomplish things before they are ready. In fact, in some cases there may even be long term negative effects. A lot can be done without buying curriculum or sitting down to work in a workbook. Before your child even holds a pencil, reads a book, or does a math problem, there are many skills that need to be mastered before your child is ready for more “formalized” education. Here are some pre-academic skills to prepare your child for reading, writing, and formal arithmetic.

Reading:
Before children ever begin reading, there are many skills that can and should be worked on. Many of these skills happen in everyday conversations and when reading stories to children.

Letter Knowledge – It is important for children to learn the names of the letters and to recognize both upper and lowercase versions, as well as the font differences in letters like a and g (older script fonts have a different style for a and g than more modern print fonts). ABC books are available on just about any topic and kids really love them.

Letter Fluency – Being able to name letters automatically without having to think about them is a precursor to reading fluency. This can be done a few letters at a time. Make a game by seeing how many your child can get the first time. Each day they will get a few more. Review any that are missed or need longer to identify (be sure to allow more time for children who have slower visual processing).

Letter Sounds – Being able to identify the basic sounds letters make (and if they make more than one sound like a, c, e, g, i, o, u, and y) is another basic pre-reading skill. To do this I have created a simple book with the letter and a picture and each day we review the letters, sounds, and pictures. As this becomes routine, my children begin to learn the letters and sounds and at least one word that begins with this sound.

Phonemic Awareness – This is a huge “buzz word” in the early childhood teaching world right now. However, you are most likely already doing it. Here are the parts of phonemic awareness and some simple activities for each.

  • Syllables – breaking words into their parts – clap, jump, stomp the syllables of familiar words like banana – ba-na-na (3 claps)
  • Alliteration – Most or all of the words begin with the same sound – Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore (tongue twisters)
  • Rhyming – words sound alike at the end like cat and hat (Dr. Seuss is great for rhyming)
  • Onset-Rime – the onset is the first sound in a word (/c/) and the rime is the rest of the word (/at/). When you put them together you get c-at, CAT! (you can give your child the two parts and have them put them together)
  • Compound Words – two unrelated words come together to create a new word, like rain and bow go together to make rainbow (you can give your child the two words and have them put them together)
  • Segmenting – breaking words apart. Say CAT, C-A-T, CAT
  • Blending – putting words back together – C-A-T makes CAT

Phonemic awareness activities are very important to learning to read by phonics and other methods. It equips children to later be able to decode words, find words within words, and perform other effective reading strategies.

Writing:
Before a child holds a pencil to write his/her name, there are a lot of skills that need to be mastered to help build hand muscles.

  • Pouring using 2 hands – pouring out of pitchers and buckets
  • Pouring using 1 hand – measuring cups and bath toys
  • Squeezing bath toys
  • Using tongs, children’s chopsticks, and other small tools to pick things up
  • Making balls and snakes out of play-doh (gluten free/allergy friendly play-doh is available for those like my son who cannot use traditional playdoh)
  • Painting – with finger paints, brushes, q-tips, cars, sponges, stamps, and a variety of other tools
  • Using a variety of tools for play – crayons, pencils, pens, markers, sidewalk chalk, dry erase markers
  • Stickers – great for developing pincer grip (what is needed for gripping a pencil – using two fingers and thumb)

 

Math:
There are many math skills that can be accomplished without paper and pencils that will prepare your child for more formal math curriculum.

  • Identifying colors ( if your child really struggles with identifying colors after age 5, and especially if colorblindness runs in your family, you may want to consult your doctor about the possibility of colorblindness)
  • Identifying numbers (0-9 to start with)
  • Counting by rote (counting with just saying numbers, not counting objects) – my goal was 20 by the time he was 5, and then to 100 before first grade
  • Counting objects (up to 10)
  • Understanding that the last item counted is the quantity represented (if child counts ducks, 1, 2, 3 – he understands that there are 3 ducks)
  • Being able to identify the quantity of objects without counting (up to 5)
  • Sorting by color, size, texture, or other feature
  • Making simple patterns (block, car, block, car…)
  • Doing simple addition and subtraction problems using objects (2 bears sat in the car, 1 more bear got in, how many are in the car now? *as your child moves the bears into the car and counts the bears*)
  • Saying/singing days of the week and months of the year
  • Identifying seasons
  • Using counting books, shape books, and other math concept books to gently introduce math concepts

 

Other subjects:
My son loved science. We used educational videos and apps to allow him to explore his interests in the world of science, animals, dinosaurs, and other topics. He now reads books on many topics, and we work to make books available to him on subjects he is interested in. Using “living books” is a great way to introduce them to many different subjects, topics, and interests for them to explore in greater depth later in their homeschooling career.

As I watch my almost 7 year old transition into more formal academics this year, I am excited to watch how the foundation we have laid for him is helping him accomplish great things in his work and help him pursue his interests. My 2 year old wants to be involved and doing “big boy school” too, so we are just beginning to gently guide him through the beginning of these types of activities. He is drawing, playing with stickers, doing play-doh and puzzles, “reading” books and having books read to him, exploring alphabet books and letter sounds. When the time comes for him to learn more formally, he too will be ready.

For more information please check out the SPED Homeschool Preschool Pinterest board plus these topic specific links:

Reading:
5 Quick and Fun Phonemic Awareness Activities
Phonemic Awareness Activities for Kindergarten

Writing:
Pre-writing Pointers
The 3 Steps of Forming Letters 
Spacing, Sizing, and Alignment

Math:
299 Ways to Help Your Child Develop Early Math Skills
Preschool Math
15 Hands-On Math Activities for Preschoolers

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE


After you have  gathered your documents, written your goals, and  decided on your accommodations, you are ready to start working towards those goals, right? Let’s look at some frequently asked questions.


But how do I know what progress is made and when my child reaches his/her goal?

Tracking goals is just as individual of a process as the actual goals. Some goals can be tracked through a portfolio of work that shows the student progress over time (be sure to date the work sample and write down any accommodations you have used to help your child complete the work). Other times, a tally sheet or checklist might be useful. The most important thing to do is document it so you can see the progress!

What happens if my child is not making progress?
If your child is not making progress after working on the goal for a significant period of time (for some children this may be a few weeks, but for others it may be a few months), look at how you can change your approach to the goal or offer more support so that your child can achieve the goal with help. Check out my article on levels of support:  Is it cheating when I help my homeschooled child? Over time, you can gradually lessen the support and help your child be more independent with the goal. You can always re-evaluate the goal and change it if you need to make it more achievable. The same goal can also carry into a second year.

What happens if my child progresses quicker than I expected?
First, you celebrate!!! Then, you write a new goal for the next skill you want him/her to accomplish. Even though these are commonly referred to as “annual goals,” children grow at different developmental rates and at different times. Sometimes by focusing on a skill, your child will pick it up quicker than you expect. In that case, move on to what comes next, but always take time to celebrate!

How do I report these goals with report cards?
If you are keeping grades or report cards every 6 or 9 weeks, you can write a quick summary for each goal and/or the objective. This will also help you summarize all the data that you have gathered and give you a nice single page to keep as documentation at the end of the year. This will help you look at where you need to set goals for the next year.

Check out our  IEP Tools Pinterest board or check out these links for more ideas:
SMART IEPs 
Setting Annual IEP Goals: What You Need to Know
IEP Goal Tracking Sheet
 Progress Monitoring for IEP Goals

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

After you have done preparation before, and then you have written your child’s IEP goals, you need to think about the tools your child needs to reach those goals. That is where accommodations and modifications come in. (To learn more about accommodations and modifications, check out this article by Dawn Spence.)


Accommodations

Accommodations are simple tools that help your child work at their level without changing the curriculum. Some examples:

Time – extra time

  • Extra day
  • Breaking up work over the day in small pieces or over several days


Alternative Scheduling – giving more days to finish their project

  • Allowing students to start later in the day
  • Allowing your child to pick his schedule (provided everything is completed)


Change of Present Setting – providing a quiet place to complete assignments or tests

  • Working outside
  • Working in a beanbag
  • Working on an easel


Change of Presentation – changing the way you present the material

  • Using video
  • Making it hands-on
  • Using an app or computer program


Varying Response Method – changing how answers are provided

  • Orally
  • While moving
  • Through games


Cues and Supports – visual supports for schedule or academic subjects

  • Visual schedule
  • Planner
  • Checklist
  • Grading rubric
  • Multiplication chart
  • Calculator*
  • Communication board or app*

*some states may consider these items assistive technology


Modifications

Modifications, on the other hand, are ways in which you change the actual curriculum to bring it down to a lower level for the student. This may mean working on a lower level of math or reading to reinforce skills not yet achieved.

Presentation of Material – this would be using special education materials or curriculums such as Simply Classical


Adapted Materials – simplifying content and vocabulary. Instead of introducing 10 vocabulary words you would hold the learner accountable for only 2. Also, using leveled or simplified texts for subjects like science or social studies.


Grading and Testing Altered – instead of testing the whole lesson, you would choose certain parts that are important for the learner to grasp. Check out this article on strategies for grading.

Considerations 
Here are some additional considerations when selecting accommodations and modifications:

  • Plan to document, Look at what you use all the time, consistently, so you can incorporate this documentation into your everyday schedule.
  • Critically review what accommodations and modifications are necessary for your child to achieve their goals and their potential?
  • If you are going to be testing, either by choice or by state requirement, what is allowable to accommodate or modify on your child’s grade level on the test?

 

Check these links for more ideas:
The difference between Accommodations and Modifications 
Common Classroom Accommodations and Modifications
Examples of Accommodations and Modifications
Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students
School Accommodations and Modifications

And, also make sure to join in the SPED Homeschool on-going conversation about special education homeschooling that happens in our Support Group  and in our weekly Facebook Live broadcasts

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

American Sign Language is a beautiful and useful language to know. I have used it many times in my adult life to communicate with parents, customers, and friends. There are many benefits to learning a second language, and ASL is quickly gaining in popularity because it is visual and hands-on! It is currently the fourth most popular foreign language taken in college! Basic knowledge of a signed language can be an important tool for firefighters, police officers, and other professional civil servants, as well as scuba divers, stock traders, and more. 

Check out some more of the benefits:

  • Reduces frustration – helps with communication when words are difficult
  • Increases self-esteem – students feel successful and helpful
  • Enhances language and listening skills – students learn to watch and listen in order to respond
  • Enriches relationships – can be fun and exciting to communicate in sign language
  • Increases IQ – second language learning activates parts of the brain that are only activated by using a second language
  • Facilitates bilingual learners – the sign for “bird” or “turtle” is the same no matter what language you speak!
  • Improves spelling – finger-spelling provides a hands-on, visual way to learn and work on spelling words
  • Improves motor skills – signs cross the mid-line, work on fine motor tasks through finger-spelling, and help develop and activate multiple parts of the brain
  • Builds overall communication skills – ASL is an expressive language that requires paying attention to not just what is said but the facial expressions that go with it
  • Builds better vocabulary – since we tend to use our bodies to talk and communicate anyways, sign language builds on that natural tendency and helps to reinforce vocabulary

 

Do you homeschool a child who is nonverbal? Make sure to check out our Pinterest board filled with ideas on how to teach a nonverbal student or for more information about ASL check out these links:
5 Ways Sign Language Benefits the Hearing
Top Benefits for Learning Sign Language
7 Benefits of Sign Language

 

 


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