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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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 Kimberly Vogel

Planning a new homeschool year energizes some and sparks fear in other homeschool moms. Personally, I enjoy planning, but scheduling a year for a struggling learner reminds me of never-ending tasks such as laundry or putting away toys while a toddler dumps them out behind you… every time you get stuck on a concept, or have a medical set-back, you have to adjust your plan and schedule.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” (Ben Franklin)

I’m not saying you’ll fail at homeschooling without a schedule, but tackling a homeschool year without an idea of what needs to be accomplished and when does create challenges.

 

8 Tips for Planning a Homeschool Year for a Struggling Learner:

  1. List the main goals in each subject for the year. Setting goals keeps your eyes on the purpose of your homeschool. Doing this in each subject allows customization based on your student’s needs.  Remember to keep your goals focused and doable. Some goals can be for mid-year with a higher expectation set for the end of the year. Goals can state how much of the curriculum you want to accomplish or an end date for completing it.  If you haven’t created an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before, it can help with setting goals and specifying what accommodations your struggling learner needs. Check out our IEP Information page for details on how to write an IEP.
  2. Decide which lessons / topics are most important.   Some can be skipped, shortened, or combined. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this lesson and how can we do it in a way my child will learn, be challenged, and successful?” Not all of the curriculum needs to be done, nor all of the assignments.  
  3. Plan with pencil and the ability to move things around. Schedule a rough draft or overview of what lessons need to be done by Christmas and May. If you want to write out each day’s plans in advance, keeping it on the computer in a spreadsheet provides an easy way to move things around. I’ve even planned using sticky notes.
  4. Utilize a checklist of daily subjects. Give your student a checklist of what subjects or books  need to be done each day. It can be laminated to be used weekly or daily.  This is my favorite tip for planning math. Some concepts can be combined (shapes or estimation), while some lessons might take days to work on (long division). This also helps your child feel accomplishment as they complete the tasks..
  5. Schedule in shorter chunks. Don’t plan what lessons you will do each day for the whole year;  rather plan a few weeks at a time. Rely on your goals or the overview for year-long planning.
  6. Give yourself margin. I leave an extra week unplanned each semester to give margin. If we don’t need the extra days for the important lessons we are behind in, we use that time for fun units or projects. Some years we do schoolwork on four days with Fridays for fun. This can also be used for a catch-up day.
  7. Plan backwards. Instead of writing what you think you will do before you do it, keep a file of what you do accomplished each day.This is helpful for the times you feel like you aren’t meeting goals. When we start our day stressed about what we are “supposed” to do, we forget to celebrate what we have done.
  8. Pray. This should be done first, in the middle, and last!  God knows your child and what is needed. He also knows what your year looks like, even before events happen! Through the good days, and the tough ones this year, God is not surprised. He is there every step ready to lead you.

 

Arm yourself with chocolate, pencils, calendars, lessons, and sticky notes and start planning your new homeschool year!

 

 

 

 

 


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