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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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 SPED Homeschool Team

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

 

Peggy Ployhar:

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

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

 

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

 

Amy Vickrey:

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

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

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

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

 

Dawn Spence:

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

 

 

Tracy Glockle:

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

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

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

 

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

 

 


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By the SPED Homeschool Team

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

Cammie Arn

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

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

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

Dawn Spence

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

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

Tracy Glockle

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

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

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

 

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

 

 


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By SPED Homeschool Team

To be successful homeschoolers, we need to embrace all the different aspects of our child. A big aspect that needs a lot of attention is incorporating their physical bodies into their learning. Each child will have different needs when it comes to physical movement, but they all have needs. Here are some ideas from our team on keeping our active kids learning with movement.

 

 

Tracy Glokle

We use movement a lot. One of our recent math lessons had my little guy running around the table to different “stations” to solve addition problems from his worksheet with different manipulatives. I used a stopwatch to encourage him to move quickly. We’ve also hidden words around the room to find and then read or spell. One of my favorite products to have on hand has been Ultimate Brain Breaks (by Heather Haupt). When my kids get restless, I have them choose one or two brain break idea cards. It only takes us a couple of minutes and really helps with both focus and motivation.

 

Five minute breaks to beat the punching bag, jump on the trampoline, scooter around the block, or dance to a favorite tune will also do wonders, particularly for my older kids.

 

Mary Winfield

I have some very active boys and one that has a lot of sensory needs, so we use physical activity a lot in our homeschool. We take lots of breaks to do sensory input that he needs. When it is warm outside, we try to do a lot of our learning outdoors, but we also have indoor swings that we use when the weather is too cold to spend too much time outside. We also try to do yoga for body awareness everyday.

Whenever I can set up math or reading in a way that incorporates movement, we do it! From doing addition problems using jumping jacks or racing between sight words, he definitely learns best when he is moving! I think the most important thing is to know what your child needs and when he usually needs it. My son is best at sitting still for things in the morning and needs a lot of movement in the afternoons, so we schedule our homeschooling accordingly.

 

Cheryl Swope

Some think the classical tradition produces only “bookish” children, but a classical education has always emphasized both gymnastics for the body and music for the soul. We help our children with special needs exercise, grow strong, and gain self-control over their bodies for poise, grace, and service to others. Daily movement, walks in fresh air, swimming, or brief bursts of soccer and other ball games can ease anxiety, promote calm, and refresh for further study.

 

 

Dawn Spence

We take breaks in our school day. Sometimes it’s an outside bubble break or some time to  swing in our backyard. I can tell when we need movement; that’s usually when things start to derail. Playing a ring-toss game to review a subject or jumping or dancing during learning a song all help my kiddos to learn.

 

Shannon Ramiro

  1. I would walk around the house with my son sitting on my shoulders while I asked him rhyming words, words that include letter blends, words that matched definitions, etc. Obviously, I was asking the questions as I thought of them because my hands were not free to look at anything.
  2. In a similar fashion, I would hold him like a wheelbarrow while asking questions, too.
  3. I created “stepping stones” with letters on them for my son to step on when spelling words or practicing phonics. I spread them around the living room so he had to look for the correct one, and they were not near each other.
  4. When he was younger we would play Twister sometimes as part of a break from learning.
  5. I incorporated nature walks as much as I could, and we would talk about anything we saw around us.
  6. Along with some other homeschoolers, we would tag along with a Montessori teacher on Fridays to nature preserves, beaches, and state parks around the area. Sometimes we attended naturalist talks as part of those trips.
  7. A co-op here meets once per month at a local park to participate in cooperative games led by a Waldorf teacher.
  8. There is also a parent who organizes “Nerf Wars” at a local park periodically.
  9. We have participated in a parent and child bowling league in the past.
  10. We plan on participating in therapeutic horseback riding, and my son will also be volunteering to help. (He does have experience with horse care.)
  11. I count walking our dog as P.E.
  12. There are several orchards within driving distance where we can go to pick fruit, which is good for reinforcing science as well as counting for P.E. I hope to arrange some tours and conversations with farmers in the future as career exploration in agriculture, too.
  13. Laser tag is another thing I hope to organize with some other homeschoolers.
  14. Some days we go to the mall and walk around, too. (My son will walk the whole thing more than once.)

 

In general, movement is needed to help our body be able to learn and process information. It also helps keep our kids motivated. I have always incorporated learning breaks every 15-25 minutes, especially if we are not moving as part of our activity. Jumping jacks, crab walk, walking on a curb as it if is a balance beam, jumping from one hula hoop to another placed on the ground in a row—these are all things that can be done in a few minutes and be beneficial. My son and I have played Red Light-Green Light and Simon Says as well.

 

Cammie Arn

My little boys have so much energy, and Mama doesn’t have as much as she used to. So when they need to run and play, they go outside pretty much until they are worn out. We utilize a trampoline which is great for one child in particular, as whole body stimulation relaxes him. We also have two of those $14 Walmart plastic pools on our covered porch that stay filled year round since my kids enjoy water play so much. At 8 & 4 they are through with school so quickly. I’m grateful that my children have so much safe space to run and play. In addition to these, my older children have enjoyed Tae-Kwon-Do and dancing classes.

 

 

Peggy Ployhar

It is hard to remember back to those days when my kids wouldn’t sit still.  Now as young adults and a teen I find I have to work extra hard to get them moving, but I digress.  When my boys were younger we lived in MN, so for about 6 months out of the year we either bundled up and went outside or were creative about purchasing annual memberships to places that had HUGE indoor spaces.  Fortunately we lived within a mile of the MN Zoo, so we made sure to plan school around a trip every week. We also taught the kids how to ski, went sledding at the local “hill,” and employed them as shoveling helpers.

 

Other active indoor activities my kids loved were fort building, historical reenactments backdrops, and relay race courses using every piece of furniture they could scramble over and under to  increase the difficulty. Usually I would allow these “creations” to stay a day or two, and as much as I could I would incorporate our learning activities inside them or alongside them.

 

As our kids moved into their teen years we moved to the country, so chores in taking care of animals became a huge part of our lives as well as their school.  My children learned so many things living in the country, some which they remember with fondness and others not so much; but those activities have made a lasting impact on their work ethic and how much they appreciate the simple things that life has to offer.

 

As I look back, I do recall how much extra work it was to make learning active, but I am so glad that I didn’t allow myself to stick to just books and computers for instruction.  My kids would never tell you about how great their math lessons were when they were in 5th grade; but they will tell you with vivid descriptions the entire day and night they spent under the dining room table eating, sleeping, reading, studying, and talking about cold Russian winters while simulating the long sleigh ride of Catherine the Great from Poland to meet her future husband.

Conclusion:

As you can see, we love to get moving in our homeschools! Whether by including movement breaks or creative activities, learning with movement is a key part in keeping our active kids engaged and motivated. Try some some of these ideas to get your kiddos moving or check out our Pinterest boards for more ideas.  

 


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By the SPED Homeschool Team

 

One of the most important things we can do as homeschooling parents is to instill a love of the Lord and a desire to serve others in our children. Since that can look different for each family, our team members share how they incorporate Gospel-centered parenting  into their homeschool.

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Relationship

 

Cammie Arn:

“For our family it hasn’t been a particular program or study that we have done, rather it’s been living our relationship out in front of our children. Allowing the kids to snuggle up while I finish my morning quiet time has been key for them to see how we prioritize God in our home.

Taking them to Sunday school and church weekly and allowing for questions and conversation. Having them share prayer requests and watching God answer prayers has given our kids a foundation to stand on into adulthood. We read real stories of courageous Christians as examples of people who lived Godly lives. They have seen God provide clothing when we needed something in particular, food when there was none, money when it was needed, vehicles to both our family and individual adult children.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Ramiro:
“I have a general prayer I say, and I make general comments to God throughout the day, often when I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, etc. My son always comments that he doesn’t see the point of it. He also wonders when I will stop considering any kind of “pseudoscience” (e.g. Feng Shui). I recently bought a vinyl sticker I have in my office area at home that states, “Don’t Stress God’s Got this.” It has been rather recently that I have begun being more open about my beliefs, but I have always lived a life in which I serve others as much as possible. I have always hoped I lead by example and my children know certain behaviors that are expected in my household, as well as in the treatment of others and responsibility to our greater community.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Prayer

 

Dawn Spence:

 

“We write out our prayers on a board and talk about how God has answered their prayers. Some of their prayers have been on the board for many years and still they see we are consistent to pray.

What came to my mind is the power of prayer and what my kids have witnessed as they have prayed for others and have seen them be answered. It was hard to see when prayers of healing are not answered the way they wanted. They also saw how when they have a need or have a hurt it is the best way to get their needs meet. I have seen my daughter find people and pray with them. I wish I would have had that opportunity when I was younger.”

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Service

 

Debbi White:

 

“Our homeschooling journey spanned many years, so different methods and techniques were utilized, but the overarching emphasis in our home was ALWAYS the Lord.  (Hind-site has shown me several areas that I was flawed in, but I did the best I knew at the time, as most of us do.)

 

Memorization of scripture and hymns, reading/learning Bible stories, family prayer time, and service in our community were main pillars in our spiritual pursuits.  We invested in quality Bible story books when the girls were young, and read them over and over again in our evening devotions. Christian radio was the main medium in our house, and the girls listened to tapes of Adventures in Odyssey daily.  When they got older, we read Christian biographies and memorized hymns.

 

 

The girls and I enjoyed baking, and often we would take muffins, cookies or cake to the sick or elderly.

 

 

One Christmas we bought several gifts from the dollar store, wrapped each one (I think we somehow segregated male/female and child/adult gifts.)  We piled them in a wagon and took them to the hospital. It was so touching for me to see my young daughters pass out gifts to the patients. We also often visited the local nursing home, and we entertained in our home weekly.  We enjoyed having a couple over for board games, families over for meals, and large groups (church, neighbors, home-school friends) over for Open Houses. We also entertained missionaries frequently.”

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel-Centered Parenting through Bible Study

 

Mary Winfield:

 

“For our spiritual learning we do a lot. We go to church and Sunday School each week and our church has a  curriculum that encourages families to learn at home when not at church. The manual has the topics that will be taught on Sunday (and ideas on how to study at home), so you can instill the gospel in their hearts with continuity. We also have a nightly scripture study and prayer as a family. Overall I think that my kids are not going to remember all the specifics of the lessons and prayers we had, but they will remember that we were always striving to be closer to God and to have a Christ-centered home.”


Amy Vickrey:

 

“In the past, we have done daily Bible Studies, and I hope to make this a priority again as we settle into a new schedule this new year.  We enjoyed learning about the Names of God, and the different ways we see him based on those names. My son has learned to pray from going through that study, and can say the most heart-warming, sincere prayers that I feel are years beyond where most people would see his understanding.  I feel it is God who gives him the ability to pray with such sincerity and earnest!

 

I know my kids see my faith and hear me talk about it because of the things that I hear them say and do.  I know as parents we all feel inadequate at times, and unsure if we are doing enough. I know this season of my life will pass, and with time pain will turn to memory.  Life will continue and will become peaceful once more. In the meantime, I try to remind myself that it is not how we deal with the peaceful times but how we deal with the tumultuous times that make the most lasting impressions on our kids’ lives.  I know my parents did not have much to offer us financially during many seasons of our lives. Yet, they gave their time to us, to our friends, and to others. And this meant a lot to those whose lives they touched. I hope that my kids will someday say the same about me.”

 


Tracy Glockle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think in many ways, homeschooling reflects the person or people involved. If Christ is central in my life, Christ will naturally be central in our homeschool and in anything I do. So first and foremost, my own heart and my own spiritual journey need to be a priority. It’s easy to let my own needs slip as I’m focusing on my children, to read my Bible less, to pray less, to seek fellowship with other Christians less because I’m focusing on the urgent immediate needs I see everyday. But one of the best ways I can serve my children and my family is to seek the Lord in my own life regularly. To carve out time, even a little time, and make that a priority.

 

Next, we incorporate Christ-centered conversations throughout the day, particularly at meal times. Right now, we are reading together through the book of Hebrews at breakfast, and my husband leads us in the evenings as we study Proverbs. I love the Simply Charlotte Mason resources for Bible in our homeschool. Each child also has an individual time of study, using various resources we have gathered over the years. Seeds Family Worship is another favorite resource of ours for Bible memory. Each subject also triggers lots of conversations about God and His plan for our good and His glory. The books we read out loud together, the history events we study, the marvels of creation—all speak of God’s hand in our world.”

 

As you can see, there are so many ways to add faith and service to your homeschool, and no wrong way to do it!

 

 

What does Gospel-centered parenting look like in your home?

 

 

How do you incorporate the Lord into your homeschool?

 

 

We would love to hear from you!


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