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 Peggy Ployhar

Many parents who homeschool children with special educational needs jump into homeschooling without much preparation.  Unfortunately many times school situations, health conditions, or other factors must be given precedence over deciding on curriculum and preparing everything needed to start homeschooling like many well-meaning bloggers suggest.

I was one of those parents.

Deschooling Before Deciding on Curriculum

We dove into homeschooling without much preparation because my oldest was sinking into a deep depression in kindergarten with yet a few months left before the end of the school year. I had to figure out what to do right away, and so I quickly decided I would use those months before summer as a testing ground to see what teaching techniques worked best for my son and his younger brother, as well as myself.

Nowadays we would term what I did as “deschooling,” but I found it was an instinctual route I took that not only allowed me to understand how to chart our homeschooling course moving forward, but also regroup as a family so we could deal with my son’s depression and help him move out of that place of despair.

Experimenting Before Deciding on Curriculum

Considering this was 17 years ago, there weren’t a lot of homeschool curriculum options, but what I could find I narrowed down into three categories.  The first category was a classical/literature approach, the second was a textbook approach, and the third was a unit study approach. I then decided in order to make it a fair experiment, I needed to eliminate bias and other factors that may sway the results (yes, that is my inner physicist coming out), so we stuck to a specific theme and time period as we tried out these three approaches.Pirates and seafaring around the time of the 16th and 17th centuries was what I finally settled on.

Over the next few months we read historical fiction, had discussions, acted out what we were studying, did workbook pages, read textbooks excerpts, built structures, created costumes, watched movies, went on field trips, and even tried out some recipes and learned how to tie quite a few different types of knots.  And, it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year—and eventually all the way through my oldest son’s graduation.

“…it was the knot tying exercise that sealed my choice on how were were going to proceed in our homeschooling the following year.”

The day we were learning to tie knots I noticed how my children didn’t mind listening to the book and looking at the examples of how to tie the knots as they were explained one by one (a textbook approach). I also noticed that my kids found it interesting when they were given rope and allowed to tie the knots that the book walked them through (a more classical approach). But when I gave them 20 feet of rope and told them they were allowed to tie me up as long as they used proper knots (unit study approach), their energy and enthusiasm for the task escalated by 10-fold.  Thus, we started our homeschooling using unit studies the following year.

I am so grateful I look the time to explore our options with my children before deciding on curriculum. No matter what other things we had to tweak in our instruction to help my children overcome other learning obstacles, we always had a base curriculum that worked for all of us.

What about you?  How did you decide on the curriculum you are now using in your homeschool?  Share with us on our social media sites.  Haven’t decided on a curriculum yet?  Check out our articles and broadcasts this month that are focused on helping you make the best choice for your student and your homeschool.

 

New Resources to Help You Decide on Curriculum for Your Homeschol

Article

Steps to Shopping for Homeschool Curriculum

Every child is unique, but here are some simple steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

Article

Conquering Your Fears About Homeschool Curriculum Choices

A short description of the presentation could go here.

Video

Using Technology to Simplify Customized Homeschool Plans

Using innovative technology for customizing home education materials, instructional pace, and record keeping.

Interview

Choosing Effective and Appropriate Curriculum for Your Student

Interview with Judi Munday, Special Needs Educational Consultant and author of Teaching a Child with Special Needs.

 


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By Tracy Glockle

When my mom began homeschooling me, there were only a handful of homeschool curriculum choices available. Now, 30+ years later as I’m homeschooling my own three kids, homeschool curriculum choices fill huge convention centers and flood the internet. While all those choices provide a fantastic opportunity for customized learning, those same choices also lead to a lot of anxiety. What if I make the “wrong choice”? Where do I even begin? What if my homeschool curriculum choice makes our learning challenges even worse? Though there may be no way to eliminate all of our fears, there are a few tips for conquering our fears about homeschool curriculum.

 

 

Tips for Conquering Your Fears About Homeschool Curriculum

1. Start somewhere. If you are just getting started, there is something to be said for just jumping in. Realistically, you won’t know what you like or don’t like, what you need or don’t need until you’ve been homeschooling for awhile. Most homeschool curriculum choices will cover what needs to be covered. Just choose one and jump in. If it helps, plan for your first year to be a year of experimenting: trying out different approaches, teaching styles, and learning methods. Take notes. Keep a journal of what you like and don’t like.

2. Remember there is no perfect curriculum. Most of our fears about homeschool curriculum stem from this one myth: that the perfect curriculum is out there somewhere, and it’s our job to find it. Like a needle in haystack we try different products, always hoping for that elusive “perfect one” that will meet all of our needs and expectations. It doesn’t exist. Every homeschool curriculum choice has pros and cons. Instead, find a curriculum that has most of what you love and make adjustments along the way when things aren’t ideal.

3. Approach curriculum choices with a growth mindset. A fixed mindset sees failure as the end, but a growth mindset sees failure as a single step in the learning process. Even the “wrong” curriculum teaches us something. If you’ve purchased a homeschool curriculum that is absolutely the wrong fit for you and your family, you’ve learned something about yourself, about your child, about your family, about what your priorities and most urgent needs are. Every decision you make, for better or for worse, teaches you something about yourself and about your child. Learning these things is not a failure; it’s an important part of growth.

4. View curriculum as a tool, not a master. You teach your child, not a curriculum. You lead, and the curriculum follows. You create the IEP goals and select the best tools to help you meet those goals. Curriculum is simply one tool in your homeschool toolbox.

5. Don’t expect a curriculum to solve your problems. Your homeschool curriculum choice may help you to create some fun learning memories with your child. It may lead you on great adventures and help your child to overcome some of her challenges. But we can’t expect one product, one therapy, or one person to be the final solution. Only God can meet our needs in that way, and He is sovereign over every choice and circumstance, capable of using it all for our good and His glory. Your homeschool curriculum decision cannot thwart His plan for your child or for your family. But He will use both the best and the worst of your homeschool year to shape you and your child into His image.

How do we conquer our fears about homeschool curriculum choices? We realize that no decision is final, no failure is permanent, no choice can overturn God’s good plan. When we trust Him for the outcome, any homeschool curriculum can be the right one. We’ve just got to take the first step and keep moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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By Kathy Kuhl

Parents often ask me to recommend curriculum for their children with special needs. But it’s like asking me to recommend shoes. I have questions: what size, width, and activity? Any color you can’t stand? What have you tried and how did that work—or not?

 

 

Every child is unique, but here are my steps to shopping for homeschool curriculum.

1. Study your child first,
and make a short list of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. With a child with special needs, we parents are tempted to focus on weaknesses in basic skills and academics. List them, but also notice strengths. Passing math or spelling is something to celebrate! Being able to explain 27 kinds of horses, rocks, or locomotives is a strength—even if you hear way too much about it. Note those passions. If your child loves music, drawing, storytelling, or talking to people—even if they aren’t good at it yet—write that down. Build your plans around their passions, strengths, and weaknesses.

When you’ve got that written (keep it short), you are ready to:

2. Set goals for the year
Not too many. One new homeschooler showed me her goals for 3 months. It was much more than could be done in a year. You might hire a special education consultant to help you be realistic.
Don’t neglect basic life skills, whether it’s learning to wash hands, fix dinner, balance a checkbook, or deal with a disagreement with a friend. If the child is doing something that drives you crazy, like not putting away shoes, even that is a candidate for your list.

3. Network
Now that you know what you want to focus on, ask friends with kids with similar issues what they use. Don’t know anyone homeschooling a child like yours? Join SPED Homeschool’s Facebook Support group. Search the groups’ archives, in case someone asked your question last year.

4. Please touch the products
If you can go to a convention, go. Handling the materials, you learn things a catalog or website won’t tell. How big is the type and spacing? Is it colorful? How many practice problems? Are they alternate versions of quizzes and tests? (Some of us need second and third chances.) Talk to the representatives—many know plenty. Remember, these are often small businesses and homeschool families, so support them by purchasing from them. If you need time to go home and think, do it.

5. Watch for bargains
Sometimes you’ll find something marvelous that doesn’t fit your plans. Perhaps you had other plans for science, but then you saw something you know your child would love. Does it fit your larger goals?

Last month I was looking for a pair of ivory pumps. I never imagined I’d buy pink slings. But I saw a cute, well-made pair, marked down. I realized they fit my wardrobe. I changed my plan, kept to my goal, and kept under budget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By studying your child, setting goals, networking, handling the merchandise, and thinking creatively when you find unexpected bargains, you can turn the chore of shopping for curriculum, into—if not fun, at least a satisfying shopping experience.

 

This is adapted from a guest post that originally appeared on Jolanthe Erb’s blog.

 

My favorite source for reviews of individual curriculum is Cathy Duffy. My review of her book and online search tools is here.

 

Original blog was written on learndifferently.com. Author has granted permission for this article to be reprinted.

 


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By Dawn Spence


When I taught public school, the one thing that inspired me to teach was creating units. A fellow teacher and I created a space unit for our 40 fourth graders, and the learning and excitement that our students expressed made teaching come alive.

 

When I started teaching my twin girls preschool, I knew that units are what I wanted to do. I created units on the ocean, fall, winter, and the zoo. It was the most memorable year of teaching. I still enjoy doing units with my kids with lots of interactive learning and activities.

 

Creating a unit is not hard but it does take some planning. When you write your unit you can use it as your only curriculum.

 

 

Planning Your Unit
 
Topic
First, plan out what excites you and your learner. If the learning is engaging and holds the interest of your learner, the learning will come. I found “fall” to be a unit that can be adapted to older and younger students. “Fall” also works will all types of learners. 

 

Map Subjects
Next, map out what subjects that you want to be included in your unit. You can easily involve your core subjects, but you can usually include much more. When I created my “fall” unit, I was able to include math, science, history, language arts, reading, and art. You can make the lessons simple or complex. I would draw a map out and under each subject, I would list out what I wanted to cover. 

Math using pumpkins was hands-on and everyone was ready for school in the morning. If your state includes Good Citizenship you can add that as well. Do not forget to add in field trips to allow your unit to become real life for your learner. Make sure also figure out how long you want your unit to last.

 

Develop Lessons
Third, it is time to develop your lessons. This step can be fun and overwhelming at the same time. There are so many activities that you can add to your unit and many places to get ideas. I started with Teachers Pay Teachers, File Folder Heaven, and homeschooling blogs. I would gather ideas and sometimes the activities that I saw inspired me to create my own. I have created a sample graphic organizer to help with your planning. (Click here to download the below image as a free document.)



Determine Assessments
Last, decide how you want to grade or assess their learning. You can create a lapbook, and at the end of the unit your student could present what they learned with a hands-on project or report. For more ideas on how to grade or assess you can read Amy Vickery’s article: Making The Grade: Strategies for Grading your Homeschool Student .

 

Units can be a great way to have fun while learning and can engage your student. I also found that I was able to see what my child’s interests were and what made them excited to learn. Have you created a Unit Study that you would like to share? If you have, comment below or share it on our resource page.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Whatever reason prompts you to change your homeschooling curriculum, here are 5 steps to help you take a critical look at your choices before you invest your money and homeschooling time.

#1 – No situation is too urgent to invest time for a proper evaluation
Because no situation is too urgent, determine first that school may be a bit different while you are working on making this transition. You may either need to use your current curriculum and add in supplemental material, take a break from formal curriculum while you try out different options (step 5), or remove that subject from the schedule for a little while.

It is best to remember that when a child has hit a wall with a subject, sometimes the best thing to do is to eliminate that subject for a while, especially with a curriculum that has led to confusion and frustration.

#2 – Experienced homeschooling parents often know more than the experts
This fact is especially true when it comes to curriculum and the newest products on the market. It seems like every day I am hearing about a new resource for teaching children with special educational needs. I am not hearing about most of these resources from curriculum companies or blogger reviews, but from parents who have combed the Internet until they found the resources, they could use to meet the specific learning needs of their child.

If you are not part of SPED Homeschool’s Facebook Support group, I would first advise you to join and then write up a post asking this group for ideas. The more comprehensive list you can get the better, because when you get to the questions in step 3, you may end up eliminating some of your original top choices.

#3 – No curriculum is perfect for all homeschoolers/homeschools
I find myself telling parents this all the time, but I wanted to give you some specific questions you can use to determine if a specific curriculum is right your homeschooling situation.

  • What is the cognitive ability of your student? Does it differ greatly from your child’s age group? If it does, is your child sensitive to this content being taught towards a higher/lower grade level audience? Does the curriculum accommodate this sensitivity?
  • How much activity does your student need incorporated into daily instruction? Can you use this curriculum outside of seated work time? How much time is required to be done while your student is sitting still? Can the seat work be broken up into smaller chunks to allow for brain breaks?
  • How much help (structure, schedules and lesson planning) do you need the curriculum to provide? Are the lesson plans and teacher instructions adequate in meeting those needs?
  • Are you going to be your student’s primary teacher, or will other individuals also be providing instruction? How flexible is the curriculum for sharing or being used at multiple sites if your student will be using it with multiple instructors?
  • Is a computer, app, or online curriculum program a viable instruction method for your student? Is it workable with your current technology or will you need to upgrade? Does it require consistent Internet access?
  • How much independent work can your student do in one sitting? Each day? Each week? How much work will you need to assist your student with each day when using this curriculum option? Is that feasible in your schedule?
  • Are the lessons presented in a way that is understandable to your child? Are the activities too busy or distracting? Will the format bore rather than engage your student?


I am sure many of you can think of a lot more questions to ask, and I would invite you to add them in the comments section below for future readers to glean from.

#4 – Mine help from those who know you and your child best
Ask those around you, who are observers of your homeschooling, to help you take a critical look at your narrowed list of curricula. A spouse, homeschooling friend, child’s therapist, and family members are great at adding an additional touch of discernment if they desire to see your homeschooling effort succeed. Listen to what they have to say and the constructive feedback they give you.


#5 – Samples will seal or break your conviction

By this point, you will have your list narrowed down to two or three choices. So, the next step is to give them each a try using free, or introductory offers that these curriculum companies offer on their websites.

Sometimes you will see a link to these sample products on their front page, but for others, it may require a bit of digging. In the end, though it will be worth your effort to find a way to try the curriculum with your child, and in your homeschooling environment, to ensure all your research has led you to a choice that is worth teaching to your child AND worth the money you will be spending.

Once you have completed these 5 steps, you will have taken the best look at your curriculum choices and you will be more confident to take that leap.

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

This is the second article in my series on accommodations and modifications. In my first article, I explained the differences between accommodations and modifications.  But, now I am going to tackle the subject of math.

 

No one curriculum is one-size-fits-all, including math. Children with special needs and learning differences can make it a challenge to find a curriculum that meets all their needs. I have bought curriculums and then realized that my child was not able to complete the activities the way that they are written. That is when I have to make the curriculum fit her.

 

Math is an easier subject to accommodate and modify as it lends itself to use hands-on materials and can be done on a computer. Math is an abstract subject, but by using manipulatives or other accommodations, it provides a way to make it more concrete.

 

 

Accommodating Math
Here are some ways to accommodate your present math curriculum. This is how we teach our learners:

  • provide graph paper to line up numbers so that information stays organized especially helpful with long division (I printed mine free from www.printfreegraphpaper.com)
  • allow the use of calculators
  • provide visuals and stories to learn math facts
  • provide a list of the steps in written or visual form
  • use dry erase boards instead of pencil and paper
  • reduce the number of problems and even do some problems with your student before having them do it on their own
  • draw a picture of story problems



Modifying Math
Here are some ways to modify your math curriculum. This is where we are changing what we teach the learner and what they are responsible for learning.

  • creating work boxes that address a specific skill
  • using stamps for writing numbers for those that are not able to write numbers yet
  • making a math problem multiple choice
  • using stickers or hands-on objects to help your learner count
  • writing some of the steps for the learner and they have to complete the remaining steps 
  • use real objects to work out story problems

 

 

 

This list is a starting point to modify your math curriculum. If you have specific questions about how to modify or adapt your curriculum please see my page on the website for consultation information.

 

 


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