By Peggy Ployhar

A few weeks ago as I was interviewing Andrew Pudewa on our weekly Facebook live broadcast, SPED Homeschool Conversations, I made a comment about the process I used to successfully teach my own son how to write using IEW’s (The Institute for Excellence in Writing) program. Slow and steady was my response. You can watch the the long interview or shorter videos taken from that interview on  our YouTube channel, or listen to the podcast at this link.

 

In this article, I wanted to expand upon my answer and explain not only how to homeschool slow and steady and how it led to educational successes for my own children, as well a how it can lead to success in your own homeschool.

 

 

Pressure to Succeed
Too often I speak to parents who are extremely anxious about getting their child caught up with a typical learning or developmental timeline. There is so much pressure in the educational community, including homeschooling circles, to press children towards measurable success. Unfortunately, this pressure can have parents focused on college readiness while their kindergartner is still learning numbers and letters.

 

Having now homeschooled for over 16 years and graduated 2 struggling learners I find myself looking back and realizing how much of this pressure I allowed to side-track our homeschooling. If I were to be honest, my “progress panic attacks” caused as many problems as my children’s learning issues and defiant outbursts.

 

 

Progress Instead of Pressure
In hindsight, I realized when I let external pressure take control of my teaching, I was least effective in homeschooling. On the other hand, when I kept my nose down and stopped looking at what we weren’t doing and how far we were away from where I wanted my children to be, progress was evident.

 

Now, I have to admit I didn’t always see a measurable product of my efforts when homeschooling slow and steady. We just kept moving forward at a steady pace gauged to match the speed each child was learning. Many days it seemed like we were just going through the motions, repeating things WAY too much, and moving so slowly that no progress was happening. But, that is the essence of teaching slow and steady; it grasps being in the moment and teaching what needs teaching now, not tomorrow.

 

 

5 Tips for Keeping Your Homeschooling Slow and Steady
If you struggle with homeschooling at a slow and steady pace, here are my 5 tips to keep you teaching in the moment towards homeschooling success:

 

1 – Create a General Plan
Make a learning plan not constrained by dates. Instead, focus on learning goals and steps that progress towards those goals. Many parents find it helpful to write a homeschool IEP for their student with regular assessment intervals – monthly or quarterly is best for measuring notable progress. We have everything you need for free on our site to write you own IEP, just go to this link.

If you are interested in writing your own IEP, check out these other great articles on our website:
4 Things to Prepare Before Writing Your Child’s IEP
How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives
Writing an IEP: Accommodations and Modifications
How to Track IEP Goals

 

2 – Teach According to Your Plan
This may sound simple, but sticking to the plan is one of the most difficult steps if you are like me and panic gets you off track. One day at a time, nose down, and determined to not get off track is the way to stay consistent.

 

3 – Don’t Accelerate Faster Than Your Student
Moving too fast actually makes learning take longer. Progress takes time and moving at the pace of your student will ensure your child is absorbing the lessons you are taking the time to teach and integrating those lessons into their long-term memory for better recall when those facts need to be used for more complex processes.

 

4 – Take Frustration Breaks
If frustration sets in, take a step back to re-evaluate. Don’t blame yourself or your child, these breaks are natural. Sometimes you will need to switch tracks on how you are teaching a subject if your student has a learning block. Other times you both need some time away from that subject altogether. If neither of those methods works, then it may indicate you need to seek out help from a professional. But stepping back is essential in determining which course of action is the best for your situation.

 

5 – Remember to Not Compare
No matter what learning pattern is set by other children in your household, your friends’ children, or any “normal” developmental timeline, your child is unique; and therefore, your child’s progress will be unique. This is true whether or not a child has been diagnosed with a learning disability. All children learn in spurts and stall out at times, this is natural. By not comparing one child to another, you allow your child to learn and grow at the pace that best suits your child’s level of learning progression.

 

 

Evidence Worth the Wait
In that same conversation I was having with Andrew Pudewa, I confessed we used his curriculum with my oldest son, but this same son never wrote a paper for me in the entirety of his homeschooling career. Each day we did the writing lesson, went through the steps, learned the process, and slowly and steadily I taught him the mechanics of good writing. After graduating high school this same son would text and email me while he was away studying at welding school, but he still never wrote a paper. Then, when he started college just after turning 18 he started writing beautiful papers and getting A’s in his college English classes. That was when it became evident to me that he had learned the process of writing because I had taught him slowly and steadily using a system that worked. It just took him time to use what he had learned and produce a product that showed the process had worked.

 

I pray as you look to the new year and set goals for your teaching and homeschooling, as well as for the individual progress for each of your children, that you will conquer any anxiety or fear you may have about the future by following the steps I have outlined above.

 

 


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By Jill Camacho

Have you tried absolutely everything to motivate your child to get their school work done? Are you using incentives and worried about bribing? Are you unsure if rewards are a great idea in the first place?

I get where you’re coming from. Read on and learn from my own experiences with using external motivators and be prepared for an unlikely surprise!
 

Aren’t bribes and rewards the same thing?
Nope.

You read that right. External motivators (aka incentives or rewards) are not bribes. I used to be under the same impression! Constantly, I found myself confused by conflicting advice. There are parenting books saying, “Don’t bribe,” but then reward charts are used in ABA therapy. What’s a parent actually to do!?

I finally learned the difference when I confessed to our ABA provider that I was bribing my son for good behavior that day.

Then she set me free…
 

There’s a small, but a key difference
I think the best way to explain it is through example, but basically, it matters when and how you’re employing the external motivator.

Let’s say your child loves playing Minecraft, but hates doing math. I’m going to use this hypothetical to demonstrate both a bribe and an incentive.

Bribe: Your child is crying, arguing about math, and basically falling apart. You say, “If you finish 4 more questions, you can play Minecraft!”

Incentive: You start an ongoing policy that no Minecraft will be played before math is complete, or perhaps that after every page of math completed, they can have a 15 minute Minecraft break.

See how the bribe happens after the undesirable behavior? Your child can employ the behavior to get the reward. In the case of the incentive, there is a hard and fast set of rules and expectations. They are established before any “negative” behaviors begin. The child lives up to their end of things before getting the reward.

So, in adult terms, it’s the same as working hard for a raise or promotion as opposed to getting a raise because you are threatening to move jobs. In that last case, you have the power and the boss is bribing you to stay.
 

Now that we’re clear on that…
I think it’s important to discuss the pros, cons, and other things to consider when using external motivators in your homeschool. Nothing in life is super easy, right? Here is what I have learned putting these ideas into practice…
 

Using food or electronics
Be careful about how you’re using food or electronics in terms of motivation. I’m not saying don’t ever do it, but be thoughtful in how you are doing it. Think about the long-term consequences and how to mitigate any problems it may cause.

Be aware that constantly using food or sugary treats to motivate can be a slippery slope into bad eating habits and eating issues down the road. Our brains already light up on MRIs with sugar consumption. Now imagine when it’s consistently given as a reward for doing something undesirable? That same principle applies to electronics.
 

Intrinsic motivation
Make sure you’re not building a reward monster who will only do things for clear, external rewards. Build in ways to practice being intrinsically motivated and flexible. While we generally all work for a paycheck (external motivator), we need to do other things like eating healthily or cleaning the house because we are intrinsically motivated.

Our goal isn’t leaning so heavily on rewards that they grow to expect them for any and every little thing. We try to reserve them for the “big things.” However, if you need to start with the small things too, just keep re-evaluating how and when to phase them out.
 

Stick to your guns
If you told your child the rules for the incentive… those are the rules. You can adjust them as needed, but do so carefully. If they are having a meltdown moment over the undesirable activity, don’t adjust it right then. Adjust your expectations the next day or after taking a break to soothe.

Don’t cave into giving them their Minecraft time (or whatever the reward) for less than the agreed amount of work because they are having a hard moment. That’s how you slip back into bribing. Just adjust the agreement in the right timing if truly necessary. The magic of incentives lies in the follow through!

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

As I finish my first year of homeschool with my 6-year-old, soon-to-be “First Grader,” I am looking over the last year at all we have accomplished, and I am amazed. Just an hour or two of work most days of the week has helped him learned to read, do simple addition and subtraction, and begin into the writing process when he wasn’t even writing his name when we started. I know that even more important than meeting these goals is keeping one big goal in mind: the goal to create in my son a LOVE of learning.

I want him to become a LIFELONG LEARNER!

What does this mean? I want him to love seeking out new information and new knowledge, to never stop growing and learning. To have the tools to seek out information he wants to know.

 

Choose to Be an Example to Follow
To create a life-long learner, I must first be a lifelong learner myself. Children learn through examples. Here are some resources about how and why to become a life-long learner, even as an adult:

Why You Should Strive to Be a Lifelong Learner
Continuing to educate yourself can help you be more successful on the job and in business.

Learning is Good for Your Health, Your Wallet, and Your Social Life
Learning keeps your mind and body healthier, helps you create better spending habits and earning potential, and helps you become a better socialized and able to socialize person.

How and Why to Become a Lifelong Learner
Lifelong learning develops leadership potential and helps unlock skills throughout life that are not developed in the younger years.

If you are reading this blog, you probably are or are wanting to be a lifelong learner already! As a lifelong learner myself, sometimes it is still difficult to get my child to see the bigger picture of continuing to learn and grow throughout life. So I work to equip my son with tools to help him reach this goal. These tools include:

1 – Encourage the Love of Reading
With the ability to read comes the ability to learn anything. In today’s society, I would add the ability to use a computer too. We are blessed with computers that can read to us and help us with the reading and learning process. A love of reading helps make this an enjoyable experience and a desire to reach out and learn more.

2 – Handle Mistakes as Opportunities to Learn
The simple truth is everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we react to those mistakes that define us. Learn from mistakes; learn together; show how you learn from your own mistakes and help your children learn from theirs. Natural consequences are so powerful, especially when children are young. It is so much more powerful to teach a child how they got an answer wrong than to just mark it wrong.

3 – Teach Skills on How to Find Answers
When my son asks me a question I don’t know the answer to (or sometimes I do), I show him how to look up the answer on the computer, in a book, through Google, and other resources. I let him see me asking questions about things I need to learn. How to find answers is a powerful tool. It goes along with reading and a love of reading. I may not know the answer, but I know how to find it, and how to know if my source is credible.

4 – Allow Choice in Learning
I think this is the essence of homeschooling. The ability to give children the ability to have a choice in what they are learning. At my son’s young age, this means I provide books, games, and other materials on topics he likes or might like, and I let him explore them in his free time. About the time he thinks he has exhausted the bookshelf, he finds something new to explore. We go to the library, and I let him talk to the librarian about subjects and topics he is interested in. We explore TV shows and documentaries together about topics he loves. I have learned more about dinosaurs in the last year than I thought possible. But it’s what he loves and he is learning too.

5 – Provide Time for Play
Play is such an important part of the learning process. It is when children take information and make it their own. It is when they learn to seek out answers and take chances. To read more about play check out my April blog, Learning Through Play.
 
6 – Teach Goal Setting
Setting educational goals together can be a powerful tool to get your child engaged in the learning process. Start with small goals and build to bigger goals. Maybe your goal is to write your child’s name or to identify the first letter of their name. Make the goal together, work on it together, and when you accomplish it, CELEBRATE! To learn more about goal setting and healthy habits, check out The Leader in Me, 7 Habits of Happy Kids!

7 – Make Time to Celebrate
Celebrate the successes, whether big or small! When my son first started out working on sight words, we celebrated with a trip to the ice cream shop anytime he accomplished his goal. Now he is reading almost anything he picks up! By celebrating, it helped to create excitement and enjoyment. This is an important part of the process.

I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I am!

For more information on lifelong learning, check out these links:
6 Lifelong Learning Skills
5 Steps to Developing a Lifelong Habit of Learning
10 Simple Ways to Engage in Lifelong Learning

We at SPED Homeschool also want to help you keep growing and learning. Make sure to visit our website for new articles; our YouTube channel for new videos; and our Facebook page and  support group for lots of interactive training and support so you can keep learning new ways to teach your struggling learner.

 

 


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By Kimberly Vogel

Good teaching involves many different approaches to presenting information. One of my favorite good teaching practices involves questioning strategies. Often overlooked, asking the right questions encourages the student to use critical thinking and to discover information independently.

The value of a question
A question puts the student in an active position. It encourages them to internalize learning and formulate a response. However, not all questions provoke deep thought. Many require only simple recall, and while that’s a needed skill, it’s not moving into higher levels of thought. Bloom’s Taxonomy puts thought processes into different levels.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification system for learning objectives. It was created to help teach students higher levels of thinking and learning. There are even charts with questions for each level. It’s a good place to start to develop deeper questions, but there is one question that I love asking!

One simple question:  How did you get that answer?
This question takes problem-solving a step further. It guides the student through explaining their thought process. This is very difficult for some students.

It takes time and encouragement for them to feel okay with sharing their thought processes and finding the right words to verbalize it. Many students say, “I don’t know” and they really don’t! It’s hard to follow thought processes and explain it. Keep trying. Stay patient. I often say “Think out loud” to encourage them to find the words. Model it for them so they can see how it sounds to think out loud.

I recently wrote about my top homeschool tip: teaching your children where they are. It follows the belief that student success is based on guiding a student through problem-solving according to their potential. The guide can be an adult or another peer who has already gained knowledge on the subject.

Guiding through problem-solving often means breaking down a lesson or problem into smaller pieces or modeling the process. When you look at a student according to their potential, you look not only where they currently are, uninhibited by grades or where others say they should be, but also where they need to be based on the time needed. Some students work faster while others have a slower pace.

Use problem solving and questioning strategies to advance learning
If a student keeps hitting a wall or stalls in learning, guiding them through learning takes the form of problem-solving and questioning strategies to help them advance. In order to do this, you need to put the next lesson aside and spend time discussing the current level to assess their understanding. Some great questions to achieve this are:

  • “What do you think this means?”
  • “Is there another way we can understand this (concept)?”
  • “Can you tell me what this means in your own words?”

It might also mean that extra modeling or concept reduction is needed.

Stay in their zone and guide them through the lesson without jumping to a new concept. Be careful not to look at the world or other homeschool families; just your student and their needs. It’s okay to take extra time on a concept. Success is the goal!

 


 

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Cammie Arn

In my own family, I often find it difficult to see progress in the goals we have set. So, instead of just celebrating large goals, we make it a point to celebrate every triumph our children have on a daily basis.

In your own homeschool, how often do you recognize the little things your children do that are smaller parts of a larger goal? Learning letters means a child is one smaller goal closer to learning a word. Moving a limb means a child is one step closer to using a communication board.  Making a pot of macaroni and cheese means your young adult is that much closer towards establishing independence.

Whatever your goal is for your child, be sure to recognize the small things they do every day. My husband works within the public school system and his school has developed a way of recognizing students “caught being good.”  These “good” behaviors are the little things the school has determined to reward so students eventually learn the value of multiplying good behaviors.

“Collecting pennies means eventually those pennies will add up to a dollar.”

In a way, each good behavior rewarded by my husband’s school, and each smaller goal we reward in our homeschools, is like saving a single penny towards a larger investment. Collecting pennies means eventually those pennies will add up to a dollar. Slowly, but surely, little things add up to BIG things.

Affirmation for good behavior, wise choices and good school performance can leave your child with a healthy sense of accomplishment, and you with the realization both of you are getting there…

 

One
Penny
At
A

Time.

 

 

 

 

 


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I talk to many parents who are interested in homeschooling, but they don’t know where to begin.  Many of these parents have kiddos with significant intellectual, behavioral, physical and emotional special needs.  These are parents who have been advocates for their children their whole lives.  They have gone through countless doctor appointments, therapies, IEP meetings and accommodations to help their child to succeed.

 

Once we get to the bottom of their fears, the underlying issue isn’t that they are incapable of teaching their child, it is that they aren’t sure how to create “public school at home.”  

 

 

Homeschooling Teaching Secret
I want to let you in on a big secret: you don’t have to create public school at home!  Read that sentence again, because it truly is freeing.  You are not responsible for creating a whole classroom at your house.  

 

In our homeschool, the world is our classroom.  Because of the way that most of us were educated, we have a picture in our minds of what school is supposed to look like.  The picture may include things like lined-up desks, an American flag,  textbooks, workbooks, tests with fill-in-the-blank bubbles.  However, as homeschoolers we are free to let go of these constraints.  We have the privilege of teaching our child in their learning style and at their level.

 

 

“Out of the Box” Schooling Options
I have two children with a variety of special needs including:  Down Syndrome, Apraxia, Sensory integration disorder, and Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder along with  other needs.  I use many resources to teach them.  

 

We don’t tackle every subject every day, but here are some things I choose from:

 

 Math

Numicon math 

Touch Math

Rod and Staff

Teachers Pay Teachers

Lakeshore

Learning Resources

and many other places.  Sometimes we even tackle math by going around the house counting, adding and subtracting.  We also incorporate math into our cooking and shopping.  Math is everywhere!

 

 

English/Reading

This year we are trying to see how language rich we can make our home by using read-aloud books!  We have a couple hundred picked out for a variety of topics and some small units.

We absolutely loveRead Aloud Reviva 

To target phonics and sight words, I have made my own books (which I  offer on Teachers Pay Teachers) 

Traditional curriculum like Abeka 

And more creative curriculum like Happy Phonics 

 

 

Science/Social Studies

We are learning some of this through our fabulous read-alouds.  We are also enjoying nature walks and are going to attempt some nature journaling this year.  My girls also love videos and tend to remember things with catchy songs or tunes. My girls love:

Rachel and the Treeschoolers 

Sid the Science Kid

The Magic School Bus

Liberty Kids

For Social Studies I purchased “.” They are not quite interested yet, but I’m holding out hope for it.  We also do a lot of map puzzles geared toward geography and use some iPad apps.

 

 

Sign Language

We love Signing Time 

While one of my daughters uses it for communication, my other daughter is learning it as a second language.

 

 

Occupational Therapy

Right now we do OT at home with things that I set up for the girls.  We  work with clay, painting, push-pin work, and coloring. This year I’m going to introduce some felt sewing and embroidery.  The girls love to watch me crochet and they want to learn, so we may attempt that as well.  

 

Last year was a monumental year for fine motor improvement.  I fell in love with coloring again and they wanted to join me.  I cannot pay them to do handwriting worksheets for more than 15 minutes,  but if I get out my coloring books they will color for 3-4 hours at a time.

 

 

Physical Education

They play outside!  They run, they swing, they jump on the trampoline.  We explore different parks when we have good weather and they love it.  

 

We target many skills and goals by shopping, cleaning, running errands and visiting with friends.  Life is about learning.  If you look at your daily activities, you will find that your children are learning so much from you.  Don’t be afraid to jump outside your box, try something natural, fun and child-led and see how your children blossom. 

 


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