SPED Homeschool Team

We can turn every activity we do with our children into a learning experience. Thankfully, homeschooling allows families to turn active learning into homeschool extra-curricular subjects. The possibilities are endless, but below you will find 50+ ideas for homeschool extra-curricular subjects based on what we, the SPED Homeschool team, have taught in our own home schools.

 

Peggy Ployhar

Scuba diving

Sewing and Dressmaking

Aerial Silks

Taekwondo

Structural Engineering

Photography

Computer Skills (including IT skills, building a computer, keyboarding, and software implementation)

Welding

Band/Instrument Lessons

Film and Cinema studies

Podcasting

Digital Art 

Starting a Personal Business

Dance

Knitting

Speech & Debate

 

Cammie Arn

Horseback Riding and Equine Care

Gardening

Landscaping

Taekwondo

Theater: acting, set design, mural painting, costuming, stage managing, lights and sound

Fine Arts/Spoken Words: poetry, producing a children’s literature book, sermons, vocal solos, short story reading 

Piano

Handbell Choir

Speech & Debate

Computer Programming

Food Preservation and Storage

Menu planning 

Food Preparation

Money Management

Horticulture

Animal care

Music Theory

Art History 

Sewing

Knitting

Ballroom Dancing

 

Lara Lee

How to draw YouTube videos

Kid’s Engineering YouTube videos

Cooking

Gardening

Neighborhood walk, bike ride, or scooter

TinkerCrate

Cardboard models of appliances

Coloring books

Busy books (downloadable pages from TeacherPayTeachers, then laminate and add velcro to the back of the pieces)

Puzzles

Board games

Self-made experience books using photos and construction paper

Photobooks/Social stories (Such as documenting night time routine or a trip to visit family)

Daily rotating busy boxes (filled with toys and activities to do on only that day of the week)

 

Nakisha Blain

Nature journals

Feeding squirrels

Online summer camps

Art projects

Hiking

Home economics

Go-karting

Building/Construction

Volunteering

Helping parents with a family business

 

As you can see, we basically turned anything our kids or family are doing into school. That is the beauty of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

 


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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 Mary Winfield


When teaching your child to form letters, it is important to use a variety of different methods and to keep their personal interests and sensory profile in mind. There are endless ways to teach letters, but here are some good ways to get you started.

Step 1: Building Letters
Before your child starts writing, it might be helpful to learn to build the letters. This helps a child to learn what the letters are and how to form shapes without the pressure of actually writing. This step is also great for kids who struggle with the fine motor skills needed to write. You can build letters in many different ways.

One way is to cut straight and curved foam pieces to be used to form letters. We have also just used building blocks and strips of paper too. But, be aware when using blocks the formed letters look a little crooked sometimes!

Another way you can build letters is to do polka dot painting. You can use the polka dot markers or you can just use a clothespin, pom pom, and paint. Sometimes “writing” the letters this way is also more fun since your child doesn’t have to have completely steady hands. Polka dot painting can also be used to fill in an outline of a letter as a way for your child to become more familiar with letter shapes. You can also use small stickers to do the same thing.

One more way to build letters is to use playdoh. Have your child roll the playdough out and then use the snake-like roll to form a letter. Wikki sticks or pipe cleaners are more great options for building letters this way.

All of these t activities will help your child learn how to form letters and develop fine motor skills more independently.

Step 2: Tracing Letters
Once your child grasps how to build letters, it is time to start practice in writing them. Most kids will still need some prompts to form letters at this stage, yet they are still ready to move beyond building them. This is where tracing comes into play. And once again, if you get creative, there are many ways to practice writing through tracing.

One tip I picked up working in schools was teaching children to write using a yellow highlighter and then having them trace over it with a pencil. The highlighter is visible enough to have them trace, but not bold enough that it gets in the way. It is also wide enough for them to follow without getting frustrated. Teachers love this method also because copies of the highlighted writing come out a light grey, which is also good for tracing.

Another fun way to trace is to write the letters on a chalkboard, and then have a child “erase” the letters with a wet Q-tip. This gives the illusion of writing while erasing since the letter will then be darker on the chalkboard than the surrounding areas. Bonus points for this activity is that it is easy to clean up!

Step 3: Writing Letters
Once a child has learned the shape of letters and has the fine motor skills, it is time to start writing! I have found the best way to keep a child interested in the task of writing is to decrease boredom by writing in as many creative ways as possible.

Sensory writing is my favorite! Writing letters in sand, dirt, pudding, shaving cream, whipped cream, or anything else you can find is awesome for grabbing attention! A Ziploc bag of paint (Pro tip: don’t forget to tape the bag shut!) will allow them to do this over and over again with a minimal mess.

Use a variety of writing tools and surfaces. Use markers, paint, chalk, pens, and pencils! Write outside on the sidewalk or on a wooden fence. Write on paper taped to the wall. Tape paper under a table so they can write laying down. Write on colored paper, dry erase boards or a blank journal that is all their own. Use dry erase markers to write on windows or mirrors. Write on fogged up windows in the car. Write everywhere!

Writing allows us to leave our mark on the world. It is how we pass down knowledge and ideas. It is how we communicate with others (especially if the social aspect of communicating is hard for us). I mean, when someone finds wet cement or a dirty car, what do they do? They have to write in it! Don’t give up teaching your child to write because in the end it has the ability to open up a whole new world of communication.

An all-inclusive guide to writing is Handwriting Without Tears that many families find helpful. The app  Letter School is also great. You can download free printables for a Hands-on Handwriting Binder that walks a child who is learning to write through building letters, tracing letters, and writing independently here. You can also check out our Handwriting board on Pinterest for more ideas.

Learn some pre-writing pointers from the first installment of this series  in this post.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

February is soon approaching and even though it is typically the month retailers have us all thinking about love and sending valentines, the cold weather and our cooped-up kids don’t always make us feel very loving about our homeschooling or our parenting pursuits.

Instead of giving into those winter blues, take some time during these next few weeks to put aside your regular lessons and try to refocus on the love of learning. And, what better way to do that than with these fun Valentine-themed learning activities?

Here are my top 20 free picks from the SPED Homeschool Valentine Pinterest board.

1Lego Valentine Learning Activities: Learning activities centered around Valentine’s and Legos

2Valentine Hearts Spelling Game: Spelling words with a fun Valentine’s Day twist

3Valentine Math Facts Game: A fun game for brushing up on old skills and practicing new ones

4Valentine Scavenger Hunt : Free printable clues for making a fun Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt

5Threaded Heart Paper Plate Craft: Cute paper plate heart craft that’s great for working on fine motor skills

6 Valentine’s Day Speech Therapy Activities: 100+ speech therapy related activities for Valentine’s Day

7 Candy Hearts Unit Study: Teach everything from math, critical thinking, science, history and language arts with candy hearts

8 Brain-Building Valentines Activities: Multiple activities that work on midline crossing, fine motor skills, vestibular activities, and visual planning

9 Valentine’s Day Unit Study : Through books, videos, and art, delve into the history around St. Valentine and Valentine’s Day

10 Science Experiments for Valentine’s Day: Simplified biology, chemistry, and physics lessons with heart or Valentine’s Day themes

1125 Valentine Process Art Projects: Art projects that explore a variety of different and allow your children to express their artistic flair

12Valentine Themed Light Table Activities: 15 different activities for a light table, all focused on Valentine’s Day

13Love Your Neighbor Unit Study: Activities to help your children think about loving
intentionally this Valentine’s Day

14 Valentine’s Day Montessori Work: 9 Valentine’s Day activities that use Montessori teaching principles

15Heart Visual Discrimination Printable: A fun way to work on identifying similarities and differences

16Valentine’s Day Games and Brain Breaks: 10 activities to get your child up and moving on Valentine’s Day

17 30 Valentine’s Day Speech and Language Activities: Lots of free speech activities to use on Valentine’s Day

18Mapping the History Behind Valentine’s Day : Learn history and geography in this mini unit study about Valentine’s Day

19Valentine’s Day CVC Board Game: Fun printable board game to use with your emergent readers

20Scripture Card Valentine Art Project: 4 printable scripture-based valentine cards your children can customize with their own art

Still not enough choices? Then make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Valentine Pinterest board containing over 200 more ideas to choose from. And, while you are there, make sure to check out the rest of the SPED Homeschool Pinterest boards.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Unit studies are a hands-on approach to learning.  Through multi-sensory activities and immersion learning, children relate to concepts, confront challenges, solve open-ended questions, and come face-to-face with the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

 

Our Family’s Decision to Use Unit Studies
When I made the choice to use unit studies for homeschooling, my decision was based solely on the fact my kids were willing to participate in the lessons, not because I loved doing teacher prep activities.  But, over our 14 years of using unit studies, I learned to embrace the intensive teacher prep side, because in the end, the prep made our lessons quicker and more effective. 

 

Teaching More in Less Time
The reasoning behind the effectiveness of unit studies is how they approach the process of delivering learning material to students.  The unit study approach allows parents to prepare specific educational encounters for their children based on how best their children will connect with the content.  These encounters contain a great amount of information, as well as practical knowledge, but moreover, they provide experiences which touch the hearts of children and help them synthesize difficult concepts into their own knowledge base.

 

In this video below, I explain how my children learned about communism through one of these planned encounters while we were doing a unit study on Russia.  This lesson is one we all still remember vividly, and which brings me to tears (I can’t tell you how many takes of this video I had to shoot before I captured one without bawling), because of how deeply the lesson impacted us all.

 

Knowledge vs Facts
Contrary to popular belief, real knowledge isn’t being able to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test.  Instead, real learning of knowledge happens when a student is able to take the information presented to them and create ties with it to their heart and life. Facts are great to know, but if a child cannot synthesize those facts into useful tools for thinking and solving more complex issues in their everyday life, then they are of little use.  

 

Special Education Homeschooling Bonus
Kids who often struggle with how information is presented in traditional education models, usually thrive and learn concepts much quicker in this more interactive learning environment.  Part of the reason for this shift has to do with the fact that you, the parent, can choose specific learning activities/encounters you know your child will connect with.

 

In our homeschool I choose activities that focused on reenactments, building structures, making costumes, and taking field trips.  But, activities involving singing, dancing, and coloring were quickly crossed off the list of possible activities.  The beauty is you can pick and choose whatever you want from a unit study, and leave all the rest, which I give you permission to do if you happen to be one of those people who feels every activity must be done so your kids are getting the best education.

 

10 Unit Studies to Consider
If you are looking for some ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, here are 10 free unit studies to get you started:

 

Little House on the Prairie “Farmer Boy” Study

Medieval Unit Studies – Castles, Knights, Church, Art & Music

Samuel Morse and Morse Code Unit Study

Owl Unit Study

Simple Machines Unit Study

South America Unit Study

The Boxcar Children Unit Study

Dinosaur Unit Study

Pizza Unit Study

 

Unit Studies in High School
And, for those of you who think unit studies are just for the elementary grades, you will want to check out this video on how unit studies can be used through high school.

 


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By Dawn Spence

 

We start every school morning with our Bible Lesson. We have chosen to use My Father’s World because I found it easy for me to modify for my daughter. My children are learning to memorize Bible scriptures and place them in their hearts. I found that my daughter loves to hear scriptures as well as my other two children but needs something tactile to remember them.

 

Making Scripture Visual
All three of my children are visual, and I found the perfect website that helps me teach scripture in both ways. I want to give credit to Hubbard’s Cupboard 
for making my life and planning much easier.

Hubbard’s Cupboard Link

 

4 Easy Methods for Using Hands-On Teaching

Here are ways I use this website to help my daughter learn, with demonstrations on how you can modify these ideas to meet your child’s needs.

 

Method 1 – Visuals for Words
Introduce the Bible verse with a coloring sheet that depicts a visual that matches what the verse’s content. I chose Matthew 4:19 and added dots under the words to provide one-to-one correspondence of the words she reads.

 

 


Method 2 –  Act It Out
Act it out as you read by using hand motions, such as pretending to catch fish.

Method 3 –  Matching
Take the verse, type it up and cut it so they can match words to words or phrases. You can have your child match and glue the words on top of the given word. You can also have them match it right underneath. This can also address occupational therapy skills if your child is working on cutting and gluing. 
 

 


Method 4 –  Abbreviated Writing
Have your child write the verse.  If they cannot write, you can have them type it or match up the words like my daughter does. You can shorten as needed or pick the most important phrase you have been working on. My other two children copy this verse down on the lines or in their Bible notebook. I write on one copy and make a copy to reduce work for me.

 

 

Something simple and fun can make memorizing Bible verses both engaging and functional at the same time.  It is amazing how much these steps have helped my daughter memorize scripture.

 


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Whether your child may have Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder or any other issues that may create a learning delay, a light table can be a useful tool to inspire your learner.
 
When I started teaching my special needs daughter, I noticed how her sensory needs overshadowed her drive to learn.  Thus, I started researching how to meet her sensory needs alongside learning instruction.
 
Once I started looking at light tables, I knew I had found the perfect learning tool. Light tables are a natural draw for kids, and learning on them makes basic tasks much more engaging and fun.
 
Here are 4 ways a light table can help in teaching a child with sensory needs:
 
1.  Light tables can engage and bring new dimensions to a repetitive task
 

This is a picture of the same activity, one without the light table and one with.
 
 
2.  Light tables can bring tracing and writing to life on a reusable platform
 

You can take any workbook page, overlay it with a transparency sheet, 
and thus transform it for use with a light table.
 
 
3.  Light tables can transform tasks to exploratory hand-on activities
 

Whether your child is sorting, adding, or even spelling the light table can 
help your learner interact with and explore the concept on the board.
 
 
4.  Light tables make learning fun and entertaining
 

Who does not like to learn when things are entertaining?  We all prefer that.
 
 
Dawn’s Recommendations for Light Table Materials

 

    • Workbooks – Dollar Tree Store (Many to choose from, and they are only $1)

 

 

    • Shape & Theme Manipulatives – Dollar Tree Store (Look at specific seasons.  Sometimes called table scatters. They light up so beautifully.)

 

 


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