SPED Homeschool Team

Every month, we ask our SPED Homeschool team to provide insight into their own personal journey with homeschooling. This month we asked a few of our team members about what they do for homeschooling when a family member is ill. Here are ways our team homeschools when…

 

When a child has a chronic illness

“Homeschooling through an illness looks differently depending on who is sick. If my daughter with chronic medical issues is ill, everyone else will continue with their day’s work. My daughter will be given time to rest and medical interventions, if necessary. If I need to be more hands-on with her, we might have a movie day and watch documentaries that pertain to our learning. I always have backup plans just in case this happens. My other two children have learned to adapt to their sister’s needs. I allow my other kiddos sick days as they come up as well. We homeschool year-round to make up for periods of sickness. If I am ill, I teach from my recliner and we make things work as well as we can. What I have learned is to give myself lots of grace and remember that I am not chained to a timeline.” – Dawn Spence 

 

When a parent has a chronic illness

“Over our years of homeschooling, we have dealt with short-term illnesses like colds, the flu, and other small health hiccups that disrupted our schedule for maybe a day or two. In those days, my kids would often lament that homeschooling was not fair because, even though they were sick, they still had to do schoolwork. I have to admit, it wasn’t always easy to keep them learning when we weren’t feeling our best, but these times taught my children that we do our best with what we have been given.

“But then sometimes prolonged illnesses affected our learning, like the lengthy battles  both my boys had in overcoming childhood depression. Many days our school lessons were not focused on our core subjects because mental healing was more important than learning to read, write, or do math. And, those days I pushed the curriculum over working on mental health, I quickly realized my son wasn’t grasping the lessons or engaging with the content. He was just physically in the room with his mind in a different place. 

“Now, entering my last year of homeschooling my youngest, I am the one battling an illness – cancer. My life has been upended with weekly doctor appointments, surgeries, and more, all while I do my best to help her keep a regular schedule. Needless to say, in planning out this year, I have taken on teaching in areas where I feel my presence will have the greatest impact. And, for the rest of her curriculum, I have prayerfully outsourced her teaching to tutors or self—paced online programs. I just can’t do everything and have the time and energy I need to devote to my healing.

“Life has seasons of health and illness and those seasons affect how we homeschool. Health issues that families face should never be used as excuses to forgo the calling to homeschool. It may just look different in each of those seasons.” – Peggy Ployhar

 

When there are multiple appointments

“Concerning homeschooling through illness, we just don’t. We are rarely sick, so when we are, we skip those days of school and don’t make them up. That is what happens in public schools. We frequently do have “bad days” where attention just isn’t there because of autism, or my son is having a poor vision day. I build in a make-up week half-way through the school year and another at the end of the school year in the same way some schools have snow days. When we have doctor appointments, I may do half-days depending on if it is just any easy check-up or a long, tough one. The long ones count as a bad day and we do not have school. We have also counted therapy as part of the curriculum because that is what would have happened if he had been in school getting services at school. We just did academics half-day on those days. Speech therapy and occupational therapy counted as language arts as he worked on wh- questions, pronoun usage, and prepositions in speech and handwriting in OT. We just did the math and either history or science on those days.” –  Lara Lee

 

When there is a pandemic

“Just ten days after it felt like the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, my husband was unexpectedly hospitalized. By then, my kids were already feeling the changes in the world around them. We were having to distance from family and friends, and our many activities suddenly closed. School and learning were the only consistent things. During this time, we kept our schedule of morning nature walks and schoolwork at the table each morning. We cooked our meals together at home. We relied on neighbors and friends to bring us some toilet paper and a few groceries. I knew that my kids needed the routine even more because everything else in life at that time was chaotic.” – Melissa Schumacher

 

Check out these other SPED Homeschool Team blogs for more inspiration:

Homeschooling Organization Tips that Work

Best Homeschooling Advice for Special Education Homeschool Moms

Avoiding Burnout as a Homeschool Mom

Our Favorite Internet Resources for Homeschooling Special Ed

First Year Homeschooling Lessons

50+ Ideas for Homeschool Extracurriculars

Looking for alternative homeschooling activities when sickness has “rained out” your homeschool schedule for the day? Try one of these low-key learning activities.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Recently I received a call from an exasperated mother who was desperately trying to find a way to teach her son. After homeschooling for 14 years and graduating her oldest, who was also a struggling learner due to a brain injury, she felt she had exhausted her teaching arsenal and was still coming up short in being able to teach her younger autistic son.

Questions to Revelation
Our conversation started with this mother asking if I knew of any different curriculum options she could try. But, instead of offering my best advice on curriculum, I led her through a series of questions to find out what teaching techniques had worked with her son and what his main interests and hobbies were. At first, her responses to my questions centered around all the curriculums she had bought in the past that were now filling her shelves, no longer being used for one reason or another. But, as I continued my questioning, she started deviating from talking about curriculum to talking about her son and the success he had experienced through their homeschooling endeavors. Eventually, our discussion moved into ways she could use the curriculum she already had, employ the services of her local librarian to find books focused around her son’s interests, and start building learning around those interests.

As our conversation came to an end, this mother confessed to me, “Maybe I just need to change how I teach my son instead of trying to find another curriculum.” Of course, this conclusion had been the main goal of my questioning.  But, if I had just told her to change her way of teaching at the beginning of our conversation, she wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about. It was only after leading and letting her discover the importance of individualizing her son’s education, that she truly understood how teaching her son was more about what she did instead of what she used.

The Homeschooling Advantage of Differentiated Education
Did you know in a survey done in 2002 of special education homeschooling parents “the majority of survey parents (58%) designed a curriculum for their children.” As a matter of fact, this same study reported that “All the parents in the case studies designed the curricula for their children based upon their ability and interest levels.” And, “most of the mothers criticized packaged curricula.” Now, you must understand that back in 2002 when this survey was conducted, there weren’t many homeschool curriculum options specifically targeted to teaching children with learning challenges.

It is interesting to note though, that in 2012 when special needs homeschooling curriculum was starting to abound across the country at homeschool conventions and book fairs, Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI  summarized in an exploratory study of homeschooling outcomes  the main advantage of homeschooling both learning disabled and gifted children was “The informal environment that homeschooling provides allows ‘differentiated instruction,’ not a one-size-fits-all version that is typical in public schools where teachers must meet the varied needs of twenty or more students in the classroom. The personal approach of schooling at home provides a natural environment to customize the curriculum for learning disabled and academically gifted children alike.”

In looking over many studies and surveys, including those cited above, as well as drawing from my decade and a half of experience in consulting with special needs homeschooling families, it is easy to conclude that differentiated instruction, utilizing student specific accommodations and modifications, is not only the best way to homeschool a struggling learner but a homeschooling freedom that’s particularly advantageous to utilize with children who do not adapt well to traditional teaching methods.

A Widening Gap
I apologize ahead of time to anyone I may offend with my following remarks, but the reason I feel many special education homeschooling parents have moved away from implementing specific differentiated instruction has to do with special needs homeschooling curriculum developers who market products towards a specific diagnosis or learning disability. Now, I love curriculum and do feel parents can benefit from using both regular and special needs homeschooling curriculum, but when a parent believes a specific curriculum will teach to their child’s specific need to the point the curriculum itself provides the necessary differentiated instruction, that is a problem.

Too many homeschooling parents have reasoned themselves out of providing specific and individualized instruction for their child because they believe their special needs curriculum is providing enough learning variation on its own. Unfortunately, with the vast spectrum of learning disabilities and challenges confronting special needs homeschooling families, it’s impossible for curriculum providers to create materials able to meet the specific needs of all these unique children.

The Missing Link From a New Approach
Ultimately, parents who homeschool children with special educational needs will find the most effective way to teach their child doesn’t come in a package. Rather, it comes from being a student of their child, learning how to implement specific teaching strategies and methods and figuring out which ones work best in teaching to their child’s needs, locating resources that work with their child, and coaching their child one-on-one through the learning process.

We at SPED Homeschool have started the process of creating resources that connect parents to the training and support needed to properly modify, accommodate, and adapt curriculum and teaching methods to better fit the unique needs of their students. Our articles, live training broadcasts,  podcasts, and support tribes are already helping hundreds of families every day in their special education homeschooling endeavors.
 

This article was originally written for Schoolhouse Rocked. The author approved editing and reprinting of the original content.

 

 


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