By Dawn Spence

Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.

One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.

Here are 4 Examples:

Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.

This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.

Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.

One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.

Motivators Matter
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.

When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.

Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.

Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.

An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Whether St Patrick’s Day brings out the Irish in you, or you are just looking for an excuse to change up your homeschooling schedule for a day, we have some tips for you!

Here are some great ways to incorporate this holiday’s celebrations in the hearts of the faithful, history buffs, stagnant learners, children who need challenges or those needing a break.

These resources are my top free picks from the SPED Homeschool St Patrick’s Day Pinterest board. If you want more inexpensive and adaptable resources, make sure to check out all the links on that board. Or, better yet, check out all the SPED Homeschool Pinterest boards for resources to help you in every area of homeschooling a student with special educational needs.

Faith
St Patrick’s Day Bible Verse Scavenger Hunt – Enjoy this fun activity while following the great ideas included on this site about how to talk with your children about evangelism.
7 Verses for a Christ-Centered St Patrick’s Day – Great verses to start discussions with your children about how St Patrick spread the gospel to Ireland.
Share the Good News Like St Patrick – Use this lesson to help your children learn how the gospel is for everyone and how to share it with others.

History
 History of St Patrick’s Day Video – Learn all about the history and traditions around St. Patrick’s day on this short 4-minute video.
The Real St Patrick – A list of books, video links, and other activities and lessons to educate about the historical St. Patrick.

Language Arts
Find and Rhyme Clover Treasure Hunt Game – A fun treasure hunt for clovers that will help your children work on their literacy skills.
I Spy St Patrick’s CVC Words – Find the 10 hidden words on this free printable that you may need a magnifying glass to find.
St Patrick’s Vocabulary Cards – 20 different words you can use for teaching vocabulary, plus fun activities you can do with them.
Leprechaun Themed Writing Prompt – Get your child’s creative words flowing as they use them to describe the leprechaun they are searching for.

Math
 Counting Shamrocks – Work on counting and sequencing with this fun, hands-on activity.
Clover Addition & Subtraction Cards – Use these cards with manipulatives to practice adding and subtracting skills.
March Math Challenges & Brain Teasers – Free resources to help with adding, subtracting, and simple multiplication.
Shamrock Math Race – A fun and active way to reinforce counting and get a bit of exercise while doing it.

Therapy
Fine Motor Shamrock Craft – A fun way to have your child work on fine motor skills while making beautiful green shamrocks.
Gross Motor Clover Hop – Get your kids up and jumping with this fun activity.
15+ St Patrick’s Day Speech and Language Activities – Work on your child’s speech and language goals with these fun St. Patrick’s Day activities.

STEM
Leprechaun Lego Trap – Is your child up to the challenge? The article will give you all you need to set up the challenge and get your child’s creative juices flowing.
 Crack the Code – 11 different St Patrick’s Day crack the code free printable sheets.
 St Patrick’s Day STEM Challenges – Three St Patrick’s Day STEM challenges that use everyday items from your home.

Unit Study
Christ-Centered St. Patrick’s Day Ideas – A list of things you can do as a family to learn and grow in your faith together on St. Patrick’s Day.
Ireland Unit Study – Learn all about Ireland through this study’s recommended books, videos, crafts, recipes and more.
St. Patrick’s Day Unit Study – Use this free unit study to bring together an entire day of learning, all centered around St. Patrick’s Day.
History of St Patrick Unit Study – Cover math, science, social studies, language arts, geography and more while learning the history of St Patrick.

Sensory and Breaks
Sparkling Play Dough – Use this play dough recipe for stress-relieving sensory play.
 St Patrick’s Day Brain Breaks – 8 ideas for St. Patrick’s Day brain breaks you can use between seated school times.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar
 

Like most special needs families, we have many years behind us of staying in and celebrating New Years Eve as a family. Some years we’ve actually stayed up until midnight. But most years we celebrated midnight in an earlier time zone, then gone swiftly off to bed.

During these years of family celebrations, we have created many beloved traditions. Some started out more planned than others, but no matter now they started, they all contain very special memories we all cherish and continue.

If you are looking for a fun, and adaptive, new tradition for ringing in the new year with your children, here are five activities we have pinned on our SPED Homeschool New Year Pinterest board , that may be fun to try as you ring in the new year together this year.

 
#1 – Create a New Year’s Eve Time Capsule
The Kids Activity Blog shares what to put into a time capsule your family can create on new year’s day, store away for the year, and then open next new year’s eve.

#2 – Record a Video Interview with Your Child
The moms at How Does She?  posted this simple way to create an ongoing record of your child’s progress and interests. This article not only gives you questions to ask your child, but also ideas on what to include in the video so you don’t miss recording all those special things your child has to share.

#3 – Help Your Child Fill Out a Questionnaire
There are so many New Year’s questionnaires, I couldn’t pick just one. Instead, here are five different questionnaires you can choose from to do with your child

  1. One page printable to record memories from the past year from TwentyFiveThings.com
  2. A colorful printable to record your child favorites, year in review highlights as well as goals for the coming year from TheResourcefulMama.com 
  3. A printable with 14 questions you can use to interview your child from CreativityDesigns.com 
  4. This annual interview questionnaire from SimpleKierste.com  even includes some questions to ask your children about his/her family relationships 
  5. A simplified new year survey from SimpleFunForKids.com



#4 – Make a Family Memory Jar

The Suburban Mom gives step-by-step instructions on how to construct a New Year Memory Jar you can make as a family and use all year long to store your family’s 2018 memories you don’t want to get lost in the chaos of life.

#5 – Create an “All About Me” New Year Memory Poster
 Crayons & Cuties in Kindergarten has a fun idea for taking your children’s hand and foot prints and using them to create a memory poster where you can record special things you don’t want to forget

And if you’re still looking for other ways to enjoy celebrating the new year as a family, make sure to check out all the links on the SPED Homeschool New Year Pinterest board.

Happy New Year!

 


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Peggy Ployhar

Christmas, and the holiday season in general, truly is the most wonderful time of the year…for most things.  But, when it comes to homeschooling kids who have special needs, there is a fine balance to maintaining your child’s basic daily routine while adding in additional holiday tasks.

One way to cut down on the stress of trying to fit it all in, is to ease back from regular curriculum work and add in themed activities instead.  Many times, these types of learning activities are more easily embraced by a child than their typical school work.  School seems less like school and more like fun, helping lessons get done more quickly. 

Over the years many of the holiday learning activities our family did as part of our homeschooling lessons have become wonderful yearly traditions.  We make international treats discovered through various unit studies and have favorite books my adult children have fond memories of us reading over and over again.

Here are 20 holiday-related free learning activities you can use to add some cheer into your SPED homeschooling days this season:

  1. Christmas Gross Motor and Brain Break Ideas – 14 activities for adding some holiday movement into your homeschool day
  2. Christmas Fine Motor Crafts and Sensory Play Activities – Fun Christmas sensory play activities and fine motor skill building craft ideas
  3. Elf on the Shelf Sensory Taste, Smell and Sight Activities – Use Elf on the Shelf for helping your sensory child improve their aversions to texture, taste, smell, noise and light
  4. 30 Montessori Christmas Activities – Activities covering language arts, math, sensory, and life skills
  5. LEGO Nativity Set Instructions – Build Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in the manger, and a shepherd with two sheep out of simple LEGO blocks
  6. Christmas Counting Puzzles on a Light Table – Simple Christmas themed counting puzzles you can make yourself to use on a light table
  7. Simple Sewing Christmas Tree Decorations – Turn felt, buttons, yarn, and stuffing into an easy to sew Christmas tree decoration
  8. 8 Upper-Level Math Christmas Activities – Add some seasonal twists to geometry, algebra, and thinking skills lessons this Christmas.
  9. Christmas Skip Counting Games – 3 holiday games to reinforce simple skip counting
  10. Christmas Candy Chemistry Science Experiments – Have some science fun with all that yummy Christmas candy…it’s STEM learning made fun and festive
  11. “Santa Claus, Santa Claus, What Do You See?” Emergent Reader – This print and assemble book reinforces 14 sight words within a Santa themed story
  12. 25 Days of Fine Motor Christmas Activities – Simple themed activities focused around building fine motor skills
  13. STEM Holiday Light Circuits – Use old Christmas lights and a few common household supplies to teach a lesson in electrical circuits
  14. 30 Awesome Christmas Games – Games perfect for family time or lesson boredom busters
  15. Holiday Speech Therapy Activities – Holiday speech therapy activities that are hands on and interactive
  16. Nativity Activities and Educational Resources – A mix of 35 activities, crafts and printables all focused around the nativity
  17. A Very Merry Occupational Therapy Christmas – 25 activities that address a variety of occupational skill areas
  18. Christmas Journal – Free printable to help you discuss and capture all the special moments and memories with your child this Christmas
  19. Candy Cane Activities for Upper Elementary – Activities for writing, science, history, and math all related to the simple candy cane
  20. Christmas Scripture Copywork – Work on handwriting skills while keeping the true meaning of Christmas as your lesson focus.

If that list does not meet your needs, or you still want more activities, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Christmas Pinterest Board

You will find lots more free or inexpensive holiday-themed learning activities to fill your entire month of December.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 


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By Kimberly A Vogel

 

I opened the door and stepped into a winter wonderland. White, blue, and silver Christmas decorations adorned the house. After days of rushing around and overwhelming holiday stress, I finally felt like I could breathe. 

 

Something was comforting in the white. It brought a sense of calm and peace. The term white space repeated in my thoughts and synced to the white lights blinking.

 

I need white space in my life, especially around the holidays.

 

White space, a term writers use, refers to the white space on a page so the reader isn’t bombarded by words. I need a place where I’m not bombarded. I need extra room to move and breathe. Instead of cramming more activities into an already filled schedule, I should plan less and leave room for more spur of the moment activities.

 

My thoughts started to create priorities on how I just might be able incorporate white space into my life to lower my holiday stress. 

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love.

 

These were the reminders I needed to tell myself. 

 

Keep your calendar handy so you don’t overbook

Do you have a planner? Do you use your phone or paper? What you use isn’t important, using it is what’s important. Overbooking isn’t just having two activities at the same time, it’s having too many activities in a day or week.

 

Say yes sparingly

In Volunteering: Pray about every opportunity. Only commit to what you have time to do well. It’s better to focus on one or two opportunities, than saying yes to five things and only following through with a few.

With Activities: There’s an abundance of fun family events only available during the holidays and you should never feel obligated to go to them all. It seems like every group has a party this time of year. Make sure whatever you do commit to fits into your plan and isn’t too taxing. Also, consider your family’s special circumstances: If you have small kids, parties during nap time make the day difficult. If you have special needs kids, there are so many things to think through… sensory issues, behavior issues due to excess sugar, dietary restrictions, over-stimulation.

 

Don’t operate out of guilt, expectations, or ideals

Expectations run high during the holidays. As moms, we often set the pace for our family. As women, guilt plays a role into our decision making. I’ll never forget the year I ran myself ragged to make sure an event happened, all to find out I was the only one who wanted it. In this instance, the event’s importance had been heightened by a childhood memory, an ideal I eventually had to let go for the sake of my family’s sanity.

 

Back in the lovely decorated home, I walked into another room where a huge Fontini display decorated the corner. A village scene centered around the nativity. Then it hit me, THAT is the who of my white space. Jesus came to bring…peace, love and salvation. If He’s not at the center of my white space then I am just creating voids that attract fillers.

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love. White space is only beneficial if it is filled with Jesus because He perfectly fills the void. Jesus space, as the center of our white space, brings me back to what this holiday season is all about.

 

What can you do to create white space and Jesus space into your life?

 

 

 

 


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Peggy Ployhar

 

When my kids were younger, I was not the type to be cooped up inside, especially during the holiday season when there was so much going on. But, even though I loved getting out and enjoying the holiday sights, my oldest on the Autism Spectrum was a bit of a scrooge about it all. 

Instead of allowing my son’s bah-humbug holiday attitude to keep us all home, I decided to create sensory-friendly field trips that would limit crowds, lights, and noise.  So, if you are looking for ways to get everyone out the house this holiday season, here are my top 10 holiday homeschool field trip suggestions.

 

#1 – Historic Sites
Visiting a historic home, fort, or site is a great holiday outing, especially on a weekday. Many of these sites go all out with decorating for the holidays, and although they are very busy on weekends, they still maintain hours during the less busy weekdays.  To find the historical society in your area, and the local sites they maintain, you can search the Preservation Directory by state and region.

directory

 

 

#2 – Hiking and Geocaching
Geocaching is an awesome family activity, and one that can not only become a new holiday tradition, but a fun family pastime.  Hiking alone makes for a wonderful field trip, but when you turn the hike into a treasure hunt, it becomes an over-the-top adventure. 
Caches on or near hiking trails are very common, so plan a holiday hike near a cache or plan to hide a new one on the trail.  The largest website devoted to this pastime is Geocaching.com. On this site you will find everything you need to know about finding and hiding caches.

geocaching.com

 

 

#3 – Christmas Tree Farm
Cutting your own Christmas tree is a lot of fun, and a very festive activity. And although tree farms can be rather busy during the holiday season, they do maintain less busy hours amidst the holiday tree-buying frenzy.  The key is finding less busy times, and it usually just takes a quick phone call.  Most of these farms are family-owned and more than happy to help you make your visit enjoyable and accommodating to your family’s needs.

 

#4 – Ceramic Shop
During the holiday season, local ceramic shops are usually equipped for kids’ groups to come and paint ornaments, nativity sets, and even items kids can personalize to give as gifts.  A quick search on Google will give you a list of your local ceramic shops and their hours of operation. 

 

#5 – Library
Your local library is likely to have at least a few holiday events; some of them during  daytime hours or as ongoing holiday season activities.  Check with your librarian, or on your local library website, to find out if your library is offering any sensory-friendly or quieter daytime activities your family could participate in.

 

#6 – Parks and Painted Rocks
Painting rocks and leaving them for others to find is a trend cropping up all over the United States.  No matter how artistic you are, or how capable your kids are at painting in general, this activity can easily become a new family holiday tradition.  To find out more about how to paint and leave rocks for others to find, you can visit the Kindness Rock Project website.

kindness rock project

 

 

#7 – Winter Sports

If you have an active family and live up north, winter sporting options abound. For those who like going fast, skiing and snowboarding are great options. Most ski resorts offer homeschool days when you can rent equipment and get lift tickets at a reduced rate during the less busy weekdays. Plus, many ski resorts also have equipment to accommodate children and adults with disabilities.

If you like to go at a slower place, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing may be better options.  Local park and recreation departments often have trails and rentable equipment for both of these winter sports. Local parks are also a great place to go sledding, and their sledding hills are guaranteed to be empty almost days when public school is in session. And, whether you live up north or not, there is still one winter sport almost anyone can enjoy during the holidays: ice skating.  Temporary ice skating rinks in the north can be found outside most of the winter, and during the holiday season many southern cities also set up temporary ice rinks indoors, fully stocked with rentable skates.

 

#8 – Holiday Daytime Performances
School groups as well as homeschool families can access daytime holiday performances.  Most children’s theaters, ballet companies, and orchestras offer discounted tickets for these performances which are geared to the younger audience.  If your child has specific needs for accessibility during the performance, make sure to call the theater directly to book your tickets so they can arrange for seats that meet those needs.  Bringing earmuffs to muffle noises can also help children who are easily distracted or who may be anxious about loud noises during the performance.

 

#9 – Nursing Home Visit
Local nursing homes love to have kids visit. Plus, what kid doesn’t like having a few extra grandparents?  If your family has never considered visiting your local nursing home, the holiday season is a perfect time to start because there are always so many activities planned throughout December.
Most nursing homes have a volunteer coordinator you can call to find out how your family can get involved. By letting the coordinator know the specific needs of your kids, they will be able to determine which activities would be the best suit your family’s involvement.

 

#10 – Tourist Attractions
Many tourist attractions decorate, or have special exhibits, for the holidays.  And, while these places may be busy on evenings and weekends, they also have lower peak times you can take advantage of with your homeschooling schedule.  Museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, and tours (caves, factories, etc.) are great places to check out. Call ahead to find out when the attraction expects visits to be lower in volume, when there will be less groups visiting, and if any of the special exhibits have hours that differ from the general admission times.

 

General Homeschool Field Trip Advice
You might be a pro at homeschool field trips, but if not, this video will help you think through the most important things you will need to consider when taking your special needs child on a field trip.

 

 

 

 

Most important of all, have a great time making memories with your kids this holiday season!

 

 

 

 

 


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