SPED Homeschool Team

During the homeschool struggle with special needs, it’s not uncommon to feel like you are treading water or getting nowhere. Standard educational and developmental goals are out of reach and overwhelming, but we all inherently know our kids can and do make progress. Our children can achieve realistic goals. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside of the box. Our SPEDHomeschool team members shared their creative methods for helping their children achieve goals.

 

Dawn Spence:

Goals for our children as they learn is a wonderful way to look at their progress. As I set goals for my children, I first look at their individual talents and their interests. 

My son needs an outside motivator. He needs to see at the end there is going to be something that he works toward. Reading the Narnia books with the goal of getting to watch the movie, for instance, helps him to complete his reading. It can be something simple, but it has to be something that interests him. 

My next daughter, who flourishes in art and has dyslexia, needs a creative way to express herself. Allowing her to use her art to draw out her math problems or illustrate her vocabulary words motivates her to work toward achieving her goals. Combining educational goals with her creativity helps her to be successful and enjoy the learning process even when lessons are tough. 

My last daughter has multiple learning issues, and I find myself creating hands-on activities to meet her goals. I have learned through her that the world is more abstract than I realize. I need to make it more concrete and tangible for her. I find new ways to use play-doh, games, and puzzles. Meeting her where she is and using manipulatives helps her meet her goals. Also, breaking down a goal into smaller goals has helped my daughter.

 

Cammie Arn:

I’ve learned I have to think outside the box.

  • Reading a description at a museum is reading (and history, and sometimes science as well.) 
  • Growing food in a garden teaches not just science but also problem-solving skills. Go a step further and prepare a meal with that food, and you have Home Ec. 
  • If our goal is to read a novel. I let them pick the book. If they are interested in the topic, they are more likely to glean more information. If the skill is reading, then it truly doesn’t matter what they are reading just that they read it. If the skill is to learn the content, we often use audio and videos. 
  • Use a museum as a scavenger hunt and take advantage of the free resources that they provide for teachers. Many military bases have museums for a nominal fee that cover WWI & WWII battles, aircraft, ground vehicles weaponry. I’m seeing museums offer Sensory Friendly rooms or sensory sensitive exhibit times as well. Download our free museum guide and checklist to help your next museum visit go smoothly.
  • Take advantage of the Parks and Wildlife Agency in your area. Many offer free materials to do unit studies on things like plant identification, water conservation, taking care of our environment, and more. 
  • Use your library. Mine has computer classes open to the public and offers gardening classes for all ages.

 

Amy Vickrey:  

My children are younger (7 and 3). My 7-year-old has autism, and my 3-year-old has some developmental delays, too. Some days, trying to get everything done can be a real challenge! One of my big goals this year was to help my children be more independent. To do this, I have had to get a little creative and flexible. I have to discern when to stick with our plan and when to give a little. This “dance” takes time and energy to maintain, but when you see it through, you can accomplish your goals and so much more. Here are some of the ways I help my kids be independent

 

  • Use visuals such as checklists, schedules, reminders to knock, and labeling drawers and bins.
  • Enlist their help and praise what they do right. If something needs to be fixed, it is done with little fuss. The focus stays on the positive (most of the time). 
  • Give some freedom to make decisions. My 7-year-old son can choose where he keeps his markers as long as they are put up. He sorted and organized the cup cabinet himself. This “buy-in” gives him ownership and he’s more likely to maintain the system. 
  • Rewards are great motivation. I always start out with a bigger reward for smaller tasks and then start decreasing the reward and increasing the expectation. By the time it becomes a habit, the reward is intrinsic!
  • Sometimes money talks. When I was having some extremely challenging behaviors like talking back and leaving dirty socks on furniture (yuck!), I created a money system to let him earn money for positive behaviors and lose it (or get charged) for the negative. He figured it out really fast, and the negative behaviors disappeared (or greatly diminished). By the time he made his goal (he wanted to buy a movie), behaviors were manageable without continuing the system. Now all I have to say is, “Do I get a dollar or are you going to _______?” 

 

Peggy Ployhar:  

For each of my children, I have had to be creative in different ways to help each with various goals. Below are some ways I have helped all three of my children over the years work in accomplishing a goal or set of goals we set for them.

For my oldest, his biggest struggle was reading and writing. We took the slow-and-steady approach to help him get better at these skills while at the same time not making learning so difficult that he would shut down on me. I wrote about this process in a previous article called Slow and Steady: The Key to Homeschooling Success which includes a link to my interview with Andrew Pudewa and how I used his curriculum IEW to help my son eventually reach the goal of learning to write. We took one little step at a time and trusted the curriculum would help my son learn all the basics he needed.  

For my middle son, one subject he struggled with consistently was math. Not so much the concrete computations, but the theoretical aspect of the subject. I learned very quickly I had to make sure math was presented to him in a language he would understand, which meant I often had to change the subjects in a word problem from something he didn’t relate to (like a piece of produce) to something he was used to thinking and talking about (like superheroes). As he got older this became more difficult and after doing a year of Geometry using a hands-on approach with the Patty Paper curriculum we moved to less theoretical math and dove into a course on stewardship and then the following year we moved onto  advanced logic in place of upper-level algebra and trigonometry/pre-calculus.

With my youngest, I had a different issue in achieving a goal, and that was teaching her art without actually teaching her. I had been advised by a variety of professional artists that she should take some time to develop her skills using the basics she already knew and therefore create her own style. Therefore, to help my daughter have content to draw and a regular schedule for her to use her artistic skills we used a curriculum that led her through the process of writing a magazine over a year for her language arts credit and then she created the art for her magazine to keep working on her art style. In the end, she finished a well-written and well-illustrated magazine at the end of the year.

 

Tracy Glockle:  

Last summer, I was really struggling with motivating one of my children who struggles with learning anxieties. She quickly gets overwhelmed by anything that takes effort and then shuts down. From there, every subject seems like a fight. I read a book that was extremely helpful: Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

The book helped me to see how allowing my daughter to have more control over her school and schedule (even when she didn’t appear ready for that control) could help with stress. I allowed her to set some learning goals and tell me what she wanted my help with. I set a few guidelines for her to work within and then respected the schedule she created for herself, even when her schedule took longer to accomplish the work than I thought she needed. The results were amazing!

Writing is a specific subject area that creates a great deal of stress for my daughter. So using this idea of letting her have more control over the areas where she is overwhelmed, I allowed her to create display boards of topics that interested her rather than writing papers. The result was that she wrote several strong paragraphs for each display board willingly and with no anxiety. She actually wrote more than I would have required if she’d been assigned to write a paper on the topic!

 

Our kids with wide ranges of academic and developmental abilities have just as wide a range of goals to achieve and unique gifts to share with the world. Sometimes, it just takes a few creative methods to help them achieve those goals and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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By Dawn Spence

Expectations is one of those words that either conjures up positive or negative emotions.

Growing up, expectations to me meant I needed to change all the things I was doing that were wrong. It made me fear I was not good enough. 

Fast forward to becoming a teacher. My view of the word expectations completely changed. This word became my personal mission directed towards my students because I viewed my students as having unlimited expectations.

All children can learn, and all children have strengths. As a teacher, I finally grasped that expectations were needed to grow. They were the goals my students needed to see for themselves. And now as a homeschooling mom, I use this same approach to expectations while teaching my own children with learning challenges.

Positive ways to insert expectations into your homeschool:

1- Provide IEP Goals to Quantify Expectations
Having an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a great way to provide goals for your student as well as measure growth. Sometimes growth takes a while, and it is hard to see how far your child has come. Whether you measure weekly or monthly, it is important to measure and celebrate all successes.

2 – Have Your Children Set Expectations for Themselves
Allowing your children to be involved in setting their own goals and where they see themselves will help empower them. Personal goals are a part of life and who better to teach your child this lesson than you. Whether your child’s goals are to learning to tie shoes or getting a job, reaching these goals will provide confidence as well as ownership of learning.

3 – Pursue Expectations with Hope
If you have an expectation and an accompanying goal, these simple steps provide hope for potential growth. It does not matter how fast a child reaches or attains a goal but the important part is that learning is happening. As homeschool parents, we get to be there when they learn to write their name, read their first word, or overcome a certain behavior. Marking this victories, noting the process, and celebrating the successes provide the hope to keep focusing on the expectations yet ahead.


Need Some Help?
If you are looking for help in developing expectations or goals for your student, and documenting them as part of your homeschooling lesson plans, feel free to contact me or check out my team member page to find out more about the consulting services I offer special education homeschooling parents.  

You may also want to check out SPED Homeschool’s IEP Pinterest board and other SPED Homeschool’s Consulting Partners who offer various special education homeschooling consulting services.

I am praying you and your child embrace how expectations can be a help and a hope in all your homeschooling endeavors.

 

 


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