By Melissa Schumacher

 

#10 – DIY Occupational Therapy Tips (http://spedhomeschool.com/diy-occupational-therapy-tips/)

Why it’s worth the read: These five hacks are budget-friendly and can make a huge difference with fine motor skills.

 

#9 – Does Your State Require Homeschool Evaluations?(http://spedhomeschool.com/does-your-state-require-homeschool-evaluations/)

Why it’s worth the read: If you live in a state that requires testing (not all do), this quick reference will help you know what to anticipate if you homeschool or are considering homeschooling.

 

#8 – 20 Holiday Special Education Homeschooling Activities (http://spedhomeschool.com/20-holiday-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: We love a great list and this list was perfect for 2020’s low-key, closer-to-home Christmas.

 

#7 – Free or Inexpensive Outdoor Learning Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/free-or-inexpensive-outdoor-learning-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: Bookmark this page for spring! So many ideas for spending time outside. Our favorite was a visit to the Farmer’s Market!

 

#6 – Teaching Life Skills in Your Special Needs Homeschool (https://spedhomeschool.com/teaching-life-skills-in-your-special-needs-homeschool/)

Why it’s worth the read: Talking about life skills is easier than teaching life skills. How and where do you start? This quick read has a few suggestions to get started.

 

#5 – How to Write IEP Goals and Objectives (http://spedhomeschool.com/how-to-write-iep-goals-and-objectives/)

Why it’s worth the read: Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can be used when homeschooling, too! No more long meetings, intimidating information or unclear goals. This is the second post in a series on creating homeschool IEPs.

 

#4 – 20 Adaptable Thanksgiving Homeschool Activities (https://spedhomeschool.com/20-thanksgiving-special-education-homeschooling-activities/)

Why it’s worth the read: This year, more so than other years, it was important to reflect on what we can be truly thankful for. We had fun with #2 and #8 from this list.

 

#3 – 4 Things to Prepare before Writing Your Child’s IEP (http://spedhomeschool.com/4-things-to-prepare-before-writing-your-childs-iep/)

Why it’s worth the read: The first part of starting the IEP process is getting organized. This article is the first in a series on creating homeschool IEPs. Don’t miss our new series on IEPs coming soon in 2021!

 

#2 – Fun and Motivational Homeschool Learning Ideas (http://spedhomeschool.com/fun-motivational-homeschool-learning-ideas/)

Why it’s worth the read: Both new and experienced families can struggle with keeping students motivated. These ideas are easy-to-implement for all homeschool families.

 

#1 – 30+ Free or Online Assessment Tools for Your Struggling Learner (https://spedhomeschool.com/30-free-online-assessment-tools-for-evaluating-your-struggling-learner/)

 Why it’s worth the read: Assessments do not have to be something you dread for your exceptional learner! This HUGE list of assessments was our most popular article this year for a reason. Whether you are looking to start a new curriculum or get a baseline of math or reading skills, there is a resource here for everybody.

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist & SPED Homeschool Board Member

Teaching methods have come and gone, been expanded, and even more defined through specific curriculum. Some are geared toward specific learning styles and, since humans are all unique, it is good to have various means to get information into young brains. What if I told you about three small ways to make a big difference in your child’s education?

 

Why consider a Brain-Based Approach to learning?

Well, for starters, the realization that the brain controls everything you do would point to the importance of such an approach. If the brain is well-organized and information flows freely to all parts of the body without any sensory interference, the chances of concentrated learning go up significantly. If the individual’s short-term auditory and visual memory is humming along on all cylinders, that makes learning easier as well. If information goes into long-term memory in a way that can be easily retrieved with none of the “but you knew this yesterday” drama, the learning cycle is complete. The question is, how do we get from where we are with learning inefficiencies that make most traditional methodologies challenging for both student and teacher to that complete learning cycle outlined above? The answer lies in The NeuroDevelopmental (ND) Approach.  

In a nutshell, The ND Approach focuses on using the brain’s extraordinary ability to change and grow – plasticity (find out more about Brain Plasticity at this link). By giving the brain specific stimulation or input, it responds by building brain pathways to create better overall function. The central theme of this methodology is to use the Three Keys to Input to attain better coordination, improve sensory feedback to the brain, increase short-term memory, and ensure information is stored efficiently for future use.

 

These Three Keys are Frequency (F), Intensity (I), and Duration (D) – FID

Frequency is the number of times the individual is exposed to the same stimulation/information. Intensity is how strong the stimulation is given. Duration is short periods of time one or more times a day and then over a period of days, weeks, or months. 

What would the Three Keys look like practically in a subject area? Let’s take math computation, for instance. This is an area where we are often in a hurry for the student to be independent. Teaching is really inputting information to the students until mastery is achieved. Typically, we use techniques that are “output-based” like worksheets, speed drills, and flashcards with no answer on them. Where do we think the child will get the answer when we hold up a card with 4+5 on it? We don’t even think much about it. It is just what we do. This output method often reinforces the wrong answers and makes it even harder to master the new concept. An example of FID in math computation is when a new concept is presented, you do 3-5 problems (F) demonstrating how to do the problem. This takes very little time (D) since you are proficient in that skill. The interaction is positive, short, and pressure-free for the student (I). After the initial day or two of input in this way, it is recommended that you do 50% of the math lesson (every other problem) to keep this FID technique going. 

Brain Sprints created the  Rapid Recall System. This is the best Brain-Based Teaching technique where the student sees, hears, says, and writes five math facts 14 times a day (F) and it only takes 6 minutes (D). There are special sound effects to add intensity (I) to the listening sessions. Children that have had trouble remembering their math facts in the past now have them mastered. 

Do you think you don’t have time to sit with your child every day for math? Let me ask you how much time do you spend checking the paper, marking, re-explaining, and dealing with frustration? Trust me, you have time if you rearrange your approach.

 

Three Keys to Input for Reading

Another example of FID for reading proficiency is input instead of output with phonograms. Use the phonogram cards as input cards instead of asking the student what the sound is. Pick 5 cards; hold one up at a time and say the sound; mix the order of the cards and repeat this input for 1 minute. Repeat this process twice a day for about a week. Voila! Sounds are known. If this is not the case, you have to look deeper into the brain function.  The questions would be: 

    • Is there a vision challenge?
    • Is information being stored in the wrong place and can’t be retrieved easily?
    • Does short-term memory need to be improved?
    • Is the brain disorganized?

Once the child knows all the sounds, if there are issues with using phonics, like holding all the phonograms together to be able to decode a word easily, you will want to check on the auditory processing (short-term memory). Good auditory processing is the essential prerequisite to being able to read with a phonics approach. This topic is too lengthy to enter into here, but you can learn more about this important skill with this short video: Auditory Processing  

An individual’s sensory system is an important part of being able to pay attention and not be distracted or in some cases completely overloaded with hypersensitivities. If your child is not receiving sensory information well, you can get facts about the impact and some solutions from these videos from Brain Coach Tips on YouTube.  It Is Not That Loud! (Hyper auditory); It’s Just a Sock  (tactile oversensitivity)

The Brain-Based Teaching known as Brain Sprints NeuroDevelopmental Approach has proven effective with children with all types of labels – Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Down, Sensory Integration Disorder. You understand more when you realize that the brain controls everything you do and when there are glitches, it just makes sense to get to the root of the issue in the brain. If you would like some guidance about where to start using a Brain-Based Approach, schedule your Free Consultation or visit  www.BrainSprints.com for more information.

 

 

 


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Sonlight Curriculum SPED Homeschool Partner

If you took a poll of special needs families, you would likely find one thread that is common among every single family: flexibility. Because flexibility is so critical when raising special needs children, choosing a literature-based homeschool—the most flexible of the curriculum-based approaches—makes so much sense.

 

1. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Environment

With a literature-based education, days are more organic. Rather than forcing our children to sit still at a desk for long periods of schoolwork, we can allow them to draw, build with blocks, or stretch out on the couch while they learn. 

When my oldest son was young, he struggled with dysgraphia, and we worked with an occupational therapist for quite some time. He hated writing, but he quickly learned that he loved to draw while I read aloud. This gave him the flexibility to work on his fine motor skills without really noticing that he was improving his fine motor muscles. Now, ten years later, you’d never know the struggles we had early on. I attribute our Sonlight Read-Alouds to his tremendous success in overcoming dysgraphia. 

Literature-based learning also lends itself to flexibility in our surroundings. It’s really easy to take our reading outside on nice days, and small changes like this can really help our sensory craving children to thrive. We’ve read on the grass, in the swing, on a tree, and in the car. Anywhere that you can take a book becomes a classroom when you use a literature-based curriculum.

 

2. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Format

Because much of the education in literature-based learning stems from discussion, we can teach subjects like science and history without paper and pencil, making those subjects more stress-free for those children who despise paperwork. While most people may be accustomed to worksheets and tests, a literature-based curriculum can set you free from the hum-drum of paper-based practice and assessment. 

For example, Sonlight contains very little testing. With a literature-based program, children show their understanding of a subject through narration—repeating back what they learned in the reading. My children and I have

  • learned geography by mapping the places we read about
  • learned science through reading living books and doing fun experiments
  • learned history through fictional accounts of true events

This type of education spells success for children who strongly dislike or struggle with paper and pencil work.

 

3. Literature-based Learning Allows Flexibility in Learning Styles

  • Does your child love to write? Then have them take notes or doodle while you read.
  • Does your child hate to write? Have them build with blocks or learn to sew while you read. 

With a literature-based curriculum, you aren’t trying to stuff your child into a box. Instead, you give them the flexibility to be themselves. This is of the utmost importance with special needs children. They need the flexibility to learn in the way that is best for them without any stigma, and this is exactly the freedom that  a literature-based curriculum offers.

 

4. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Choice

Literature-based learning is so beautiful because of the choices available to you. Take Sonlight for example. In the elementary years, you have three to four choices of topics of study, so you are able to pursue your child’s interests in selecting each year’s program. What sounds more interesting? World history or US history? You can choose!

Choice can mean the difference between your child buying-in or checking-out on their education. Give your special needs child a reason to buy-in to their education by sitting down with the  Sonlight catalog and helping you choose the curriculum for the year.

 

5. Literature-based Learning Allows for Flexibility of Schedule

There’s nothing quite as overwhelming as feeling that you are behind. Special needs families are especially aware of this constant pressure to keep up in the midst of fluctuating moods, non-stop doctor and therapy appointments, and the basic hum of life’s requirements.

With a literature-based curriculum, being behind really isn’t a problem. First of all, you’ll likely find yourself slightly ahead of schedule because of what I call, “One More Chapter Affliction.” This affliction affects probably 90% of all literature-based students. Symptoms include continually asking to read “just one more chapter, please.” This seems to be pretty much incurable and is usually characterized by a collective groan once the adult reading has worn out their voice and ended the read-aloud for the day. I tease, but in all seriousness, we love reading aloud so much that being behind schedule never worried me.

Also, when you have a literature-based curriculum, it doesn’t feel so much like doing school. So you can save a book for the summer or for bedtime reading, and catch up without pressure. You could just school all year by stretching out the curriculum over 12 months instead of 9. Or you have the freedom to skip a book all together without ruining the flow of the overall curriculum. 

I believe that a literature-based education offers the most flexibility and the most organic learning experience of all the homeschool approaches. Both of these qualities make a literature-based education a great option for special needs children.

 

 

 


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Lara Lee

When my son was diagnosed with autism at five years old, I knew he couldn’t attend school. Even though we had always been around other children at church, play dates, library reading time, and mommy-and-me music times, my son developed a phobia of other children. He would have a meltdown or curl-up on the ground from fear when a child walked into the room. I had to homeschool him. My question in starting was, “HOW do I teach this child?”

You notice I didn’t say, “WHAT do I teach this child?”

The “what” to teach is built into every curriculum out there, but when I taught my son these “self-teaching” lessons, he would sit and fidget, not doing anything I asked.

Maria Montessori’s book, Absorbent Minds, opened the door for me. This book is not the Montessori Method most Americans associate with gifted programs today. In the early 1900s, Montessori had started her career teaching children with disabilities who had been institutionalized. Her students went on to test academically higher than the typically developing children of her day. Here are five things I learned from her time at the institution working with disabled children:

 

1) Don’t do anything a child can do for themselves – the hand-over-hand method

This may seem contradictory to you. The hand-over-hand method is when you gently take a child’s hands and guide them through an activity. With my son, I put a pencil in his hand and slowly traced letters. How is this having a child do something themselves?

You do not force a child to do this against their will. The task is completed together for children who will not reach out and try to do something independently. The hand-over-hand method creates muscle memory and neuro-pathways. Parents sometimes use this method intuitively when teaching young children how to wash their hands or brush their teeth. You can use this method to teach writing, typing, cutting, and many other skills. As a child learns the skill, you move your hand up their arm to guide their wrist rather than hand-over-hand. You may then have the child try to do the task one time alone before doing the others hand-over-hand.

The connection between hand-over-hand and independence made sense to me when I observed a classroom where the teachers were busily cutting and pasting an activity for teenage special needs students. The teens just sat and watched them. These students were not learning how to cut and paste. They were learning helplessness. It would have been better for the teachers to take their hands and help them do the activity themselves. 

Using this method, my son learned how to write both print and cursive on his own. He has also become a fan of drawing Sonic characters from online tutorials.

 

2) Don’t talk so much!

Montessori observed a student-teacher instruct a class on what a square was.The student-teacher held up a red square and said, “Look class! This is a square. It has four straight sides. One, two, three, four. Four corners: one, two, three, four. It is not a circle…” and on she talked. The children began to fidget and wander off from the lesson.

Then Montessori took the red square and a red circle. She asked the most fidgety child which one was the square. The child couldn’t say.

Montessori handed the red square to him. “This is a square. Say square.”

The child held the square and played with it. He said, “Square.”

Then Montessori took the square back and handed the child the circle. “This is a circle. Say circle.”

The child played with the circle and said, “Circle.”

Finally, Montessori asked the child which one was the square. The child knew the correct answer.

For the special needs child, much of our curriculum is fluff. Cut the fluff and focus on the one thing you are trying to teach. If a child learns one thing during each lesson, you have accomplished something. That is often enough. Take education one step and one goal at a time.

 

3) Children learn through their senses

Montessori observed that children learn by touching, tasting, looking, and hearing things. We all learn this way. Many of us have know about visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners who learn mostly through one of the senses. Researchers have discovered that even if that is true, the more senses we use, the better we learn something. The majority of Montessori’s methods revolved around “toys” that were child-sized. She was not a fan of worksheets. She believed that children learned best during play. This is their work.

This was a difficult concept for me to use. My son hated crafts and coloring. He was also so distracted by manipulatives in Math to the point he couldn’t learn while they were out. Through trial and error, I discovered that songs with movements worked well. Doing real chores (hand-over-hand at first) was great for him. We did science experiments, YouTube videos, games on the tablet, typing, play-doh, field-trips, flashcards, and felt-boards. We did cut and paste matching activities, timeline pages in a notebook. I researched ideas on TeachersPayTeachers.com for any way to teach the topics in our curriculum that required less talking and more sensory input. It took a lot of prep work, but it made learning possible for him.

 

4) Observe your child and record data

Montessori was a physician first and an educator second. She approached teaching like a scientist. She observed what a child was doing and recorded their developmental progress. Parents of children with autism may be familiar with ABA therapy’s method of trials and data collection. Speech therapists and Occupational therapists do this too. I highly suggest trying to do this yourself.

I did this by downloading a developmental list from some websites and checking off what my son had learned as he grew. I wasn’t grading him or comparing him to other children. I used this to know what we needed to work on next. One list I found focused on social skills. Another list was the Texas Teks that is used by public schools to design curriculum. Another list I found was for speech development. All of these were free. I would look at these lists every month to check off what he could do and date it. Then I would find a few things he couldn’t do to make our next goals and work on those.

 

5) Relationships are primary!

Out of all I learned from Maria Montessori, the most important was her teaching relationship. She cared about the children she taught. She played with them and showed them new ideas with motivation and exuberance. When you are interested in what you are teaching, your child will soon become interested too. Don’t teach something that bores you to tears. Find the format of that information that you and your child can enjoy together.

 

I hope the lessons I learned help you as much as they helped me!

 

 

 

 

 


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The SPED Homeschool Team

Christmas can be stressful on our kids and our families. But it is important to find the right traditions and the right rhythm to the holiday season, especially this year. Our SPED Homeschool team shares their traditions that have worked – and some that have not worked – in their families.

 

It’s Okay to Mix Things Up

I LOVE Christmas! I’m all about family traditions and creating expectations through the holiday, but we have had to be flexible. Because of my son’s autism, there were years in which we could not listen to any Christmas music. Other years, we listened to the same five songs over and over again. There were a few years with no Christmas lights. And many years in which extended family was baffled at why we had to leave the chaos of a massive gathering early. Still, we were able to create yearly traditions around the picky eating and sensory overload. One tradition, from when I was a child, was picking out a toy shaped ornament that described that year. My son loves this tradition. Our tree is covered in odd-shaped ornaments that give our family great memories whenever we put the tree up. Another tradition is an online advent calendar from Jacquie Lawson we buy every year. We love the videos, games, and trivia each day. A new tradition is matching pajamas in our stockings that we open on Christmas eve and wear all day on Christmas. We don’t do massive gatherings anymore, just us, so we take as long or as short a time to open presents as necessary and eat a unique Christmas dinner that fits us. We have done different things each year to remember Christ, but the one thing my son has continued to love is having a nativity that he can touch, study, and play with. Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

-Lara Lee

 

Gathering ‘Round the Table

For our family, Christmas has always centered around eating. Not overeating, but special meals with extended conversations where we take time out of our busy schedule to eat together and share stories while enjoying each other’s company.  

In the past, I have shared some of these beloved recipes on our website, including my grandmother’s  raw cranberry relish, my kid’s favorite  triple chocolate biscotti, and my favorite, sugar plums.

This year has taken a new twist though, as I am on a very restricted diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April. So, while I am cooking some favorites for my family that I can’t eat, I am also making new dishes that may one day be added to our “favorites” while updating older recipes so they fit into my new diet. 

Thankfully Christmas has not lost its meaning nor has the primary purpose of our meals just because I have had to make some diet changes. This season is still about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and our mealtimes will continue to be cherished gatherings around food with the family members we love and are blessed to have around our table this year.

 Peggy Ployhar  

 

Every year we try new things. Some succeed and some are a disaster, but what we keep, we look forward to every year afterward.

 

Christmas in 2020

Holidays are in our family are never the same. It depends on the year and who is in town. This year the holidays will be over Facetime or Zoom. Even though we will not be together, we still plan on making family important. We try to spend some time taking pictures, riding the Christmas train, baking cookies. My favorite thing to do is to load up the kids in the car and go look at Christmas lights. There are so many houses in our area that have their lights set to music. We decorated early this year because we all needed the lights. This year we will try to enjoy the family, the time, and the slow pace. 

– Dawn Spence

 

 

 


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Sarah Collins, SPED Homeschool Partner Collins Academy Therapy

 

Homeschool families are not exempt from grief. In July, we lost my husband’s grandfather. He passed away after a long life and a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. We were fortunate he lived his last seven weeks in our home. We quickly moved him and his wife of 72 years out of their assisted living home when the COVID-19 pandemic started. When they came to live with us, we worried they were exposed to COVID, but that worry quickly passed, and then he was diagnosed with cancer. Can you imagine the fear, then love, then happiness, then uncertainty, then joy, then sadness that my children felt? As a result, I drew on my background as an Occupational Therapist and am grateful for our choice to homeschool so that we can teach to the heart during our homeschool day.

 

The American Occupational Therapy Association provides a list of recommendations for Occupational Therapists to implement when treating those dealing with grief. Here are four ways to adapt those recommendations to your homeschool:

#1 – Help children get back to regular routines because they have an organizing effect and encourage feelings of well being. Of course, some time off is necessary. However, this works well with our overall philosophy of rhythm vs. routine. We can get back to a rhythm in our day, like morning time together, books at lunch, afternoons outdoors, very quickly.

#2 – Encourage participation in enjoyable but low-stress activities with close friends to minimize feelings of isolation. Being connected with other homeschool families allows kids to divert attention to more pleasurable activities with friends and also gives them a support system to process their emotions.

#3 – Provide creative activities such as art projects and journaling to foster self-expression, which can help with processing strong feelings. Drawing, painting, craftwork, scrapbooking, making memory boards with photographs, and collages naturally lend to meeting the needs of the grieving child (Milliken, Goodman, & Bazyk, 2007). My 11 year old made a photo montage of our time during what we lovingly call the “Collins COVID Cancer Chronicles”. We also spent time reading many picture books to help give a language to grief. Our favorites are The Invisible String, Lifetimes, Badger’s Parting Gifts, and Ida Always.

#4 – Provide activities to do in remembrance of your loved one. What hobbies did they enjoy? Or what memories do you cherish of your time together? Baking cookies, wood-burning, flower arranging, scrapbooking, drawing, and painting were some of the occupations that we have done to help memorialize Pappy and keep our hands busy.

 

Grief is difficult because it is manifested differently in every person. Even though homeschool families are not exempt from loss and grief, we have the advantage of completing meaningful occupations together as a family/ homeschool and within a community.

 

Looking for more encouragement for homeschooling during a tough season? Check out this recent SPED Homeschool mom encouragement blog round-up.

 

 

 

 

 


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Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Partners – Cheryl Swope Consulting and Memoria Press

God sets the solitary in families.” (Psalm 68:6)

When we homeschool our children with special needs, we spend tremendous amounts of time together. Sometimes we take this time for granted. Our family has found the need to do more than merely “coast” downhill with all of this togetherness. Our children have autism, mental illness (schizophrenia), and various medical conditions. We often need nurturing ways to strengthen family bonds at a moment’s notice.

 

1. Family walks

The act of putting on coats and boots, scarves and hats, gloves, and mittens seems to signal a change in tone. Leaving the house to go outdoors refreshes our minds and bodies any season of the year.

 

2. Family games

Blocks provide you with everything you need to build a larger page. They contain a variety of content elements, such as images, buttons, headings, and more. These elements are arranged in rows and columns, which provide a useful structure, as well as a sense of balance within the overall composition. You can modify this structure using our intuitive drag and drop interface, which allows you to rearrange content to your heart’s content.

 

3. Family discussions

We might wish problems would silently fade away, but until we talk things through, an undercurrent tugs at all of us and pulls us apart. Talking to resolution yields restoration.

 

4. Family quiet

Sometimes a brief, respectful separation with quiet occupation is the best remedy for spats and squabbles. For us, this seems especially important in the hour after lunch and the hour before dinner.

 

5. Family listening

Years ago I learned while recovering from surgery that when I sit on the sofa with a cup of tea and nothing to do, someone will join me to share thoughts or ask questions. My family wants to be heard.

 

6. Family prayer

When we come together as family members to pray for a neighbor in the hospital, an ailing aunt or uncle, or each other, our hearts and minds unite in strong, profound, and mysterious ways.

 

7. Family read-alouds

Each year as we approach the Christmas season, our family brings out a large bin filled with beautiful Christmas read-alouds. We share this list to enrich and fortify your family time.

 

Christmas Read-Alouds, all available from Memoria Press

Age or Ability 3-5

Age or Ability 6-9

Age or Ability 7-10

Age or Ability 11 and up – because you’re never too old to share a book as a family

 

May the Advent and Christmas season be a time of strengthened family bonds for the sake of your children and your entire family, for “the Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).

Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., homeschooled her boy/girl twins from infancy through high school graduation. Both twins, now age 25, have autism, specific learning disabilities, and mental illness. With a master’s degree in special education, Cheryl is the author of Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child. She is the creator of the Simply Classical teaching resources voted #1 for Special Learners (Memoria Press). Subscribe for free to the encouraging Simply Classical Journal, a print magazine, and catalog dedicated to all children with special needs. Cheryl lives with her husband and adult children in a quiet lake community in Missouri.

 

 

 

 

 


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Dr. Melissa Shipman, SPED Homeschool Partner Learnwell Home Education Collective

While homeschooling can often be a solitary endeavor for a parent, there are many reasons why all of us benefit from homeschooling in community.

 

Accountability works.

Just like when we train for an athletic event or try to lose a few pounds, having people around us to support our journey is crucial. If there is no accountability outside of our own motivation, it is easy to get behind, have a bad week and push school to the side, or altogether lose sight of our educational goals and feel discouraged. 

This is one of the primary reasons why homeschooling in community works. Knowing that your community is tracking with you is priceless! Knowing that there is another parent who is following the same curriculum and the same timeline or list of assignments provides instant accountability. You know that they are sticking to the same guidelines and subject matter. You know that if you have a particularly challenging day, you can reach out and ask for help from someone who is running the same race.

 

Questions come up.

Whether you are homeschooling for the first time or a homeschooling veteran, you will have questions. Maybe you need to find a new program or curriculum or need ideas for new teaching strategies. Unfortunately, when you are “going it alone,” it is easy to let your circumstances overwhelm you. 

However, a community of like-minded parents gives you something you may not get on your own: a different perspective. 

When a question pops up about how to keep a pre-K student busy while teaching your fourth-grade student math, another parent of similar-aged children can share tips. If you are both parents of third-grade students studying pictographs in social studies, then you can put your heads together for solutions when your children need more help.

In community, the sharing of ideas can ensure that speed bumps don’t become dead-ends.

 

Isolation is lessened.

Sometimes the choice to homeschool feels like a choice to step out of community. You may miss out on shared moments that revolve around a local school – unless you’re in a homeschool community. 

As you exchange ideas, help, and encouragement, the parents who have students in that same grade become your friends. 

The truth is that isolation becomes the perfect breeding ground for self-doubt. But over the past 15 years, opportunities for both online and in-person homeschooling community have grown exponentially.

Living in community can shed light on our fear and self-doubt. Homeschooling in community allows us to share our doubts and questions and fears, and receive help from those around us.

 

Laughter really is the best medicine.

Here’s the truth: sometimes what we teach today is not what we learned when we were in school. Whether it’s a new way to teach math or a variation for teaching prepositions, some teaching strategies change over time. This can be frustrating at your worst moment and hilarious at your best. Imagine texting a friend who is also finding a new math strategy a little tough to master. Laughter is almost guaranteed! 

Homeschooling in community lightens your mood, and probably your child’s mood too. Laughter really can diffuse tension and stress in both you and your child. You have a sounding board, someone in the same proverbial boat, with which to share. We choose if we’re going to homeschool in isolation – rarely very funny – or share the journey with others and laugh sometimes along the way!

 

It’s ninety percent mental, ten percent physical.

It is said that when a person trains for a marathon, only ten percent is about the physical aspects of training, and the other 90 percent is about building mental fortitude for when your physical limitations kick in. 

The same can be said for any endeavor that is spread across a long-distance or time. Even when you aren’t communicating directly with a fellow homeschool parent, understanding that your friends are in the trenches with you can be all it takes to keep going. Simply knowing someone else who is making her way through the same curriculum with her kids is often enough to help you power through a challenging week.

 

Celebrations are all the more sweeter.

Consider this: when you are cooking for one, and you master a particularly challenging recipe, who cheers for you? But when you are cooking for a family and you get it right (meaning everyone loves it!), you have your own little fan club. 

In the same respect, homeschooling within a community is equally fulfilling when you triumph through a tough subject, or your child breaks through in his understanding of a concept that was once difficult. Who else knows what it’s like to teach your kindergartner the long and short vowel sounds? Who else would understand why you broke into your happy dance? The answer: a fellow mom who is rejoicing because she has been there too!

 

Children feel more secure.

Not all of the benefits of homeschooling in community are for parents! 

While they may be too young to voice their feelings about it, even the littlest of your brood needs community. It could be that they are reading the same book of ABCs at the same time, or that they get to meet up for a playground date nearby, or that a child their age in a different country is learning about the same author. 

When a child knows that there is someone else like him learning the same thing, it can be reassuring and bring hope, especially when the learning gets tough. Community gives a student the foundation of knowing he isn’t alone in learning all about fractions, even if the community is a virtual one. 

Our kids need to know that other kids have actually mastered their multiplication tables. This can give them the extra boost they need to keep trying. Knowing this can also be the cushion on which they rest when a break is needed, knowing that when they return after a few days off, they aren’t starting over alone – there is a team of friends around them doing the exact same thing.

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

How do families find community while homeschooling? Sometimes, finding our extended network of friends comes easily. And sometimes, it’s a challenge. Every month we ask our SPED Homeschool team to share their own experiences navigating through the highs – and lows – of homeschooling. We live in different places with children that are different ages, have different diagnoses, and different interests. And the way we find community is also different.

 

Finding Our Foundation by Cammie Arn

Building community around here starts with our church and finishes with our homeschool community. 

We began this journey as a military family and moved frequently so finding community was hard because it takes time to build relationships with others. Once we separated from the military, it became easier. Having eight children over a twenty-year span has given my family countless opportunities to plug into different groups and organizations. I have been a ballroom dance mom, a theater mom, a choir mom, a speech and debate mom, a Taekwondo mom, a soccer mom, a baseball mom, and a ministry mom. While involved in all these different activities, we were able to find community based on both faith and common interests.

I find the biggest key to building a community for our family started with being willing to meet someone else’s needs first. That is where community truly begins. 

 

Encouraged by Co-Op by Dawn Spence

One thing that I learned early on in homeschooling is that we needed a community. I wanted to walk along those with similar goals and those who could celebrate the good times and pray for me in the bad times. Having these meaningful connections is one way I take care of myself emotionally and physically. Our homeschooling community included our co-op. They were amazing as they embraced my daughter with special needs. That was important for us because whatever we choose to do, it would have to fit everyone. Through co-op, we found friends that have a big part in our community. While our co-op has not met yet this year, our community of homeschooling friends has been a source of constant encouragement. This journey for our family needs and thrives on our community.

 

Small but Substantial by Lara Lee

It is hard to be involved in everything, but the few groups we are committed to have helped all of us have relationships in a way that is not overwhelming. Even though we are part of the Texas Homeschool Coalition, sometimes therapy schedules and medical appointments make it difficult to attend activities to meet other parents. While we share an interest in homeschooling, I often end up feeling down over the fact that my special needs child is not able to do what other children can do. I end up feeling pressure, discontentment, or that we are behind. I stay in touch with the organization for ideas and resources, but we find our community in other places.

For us, our homeschool communities have come from the various therapies and outside interests my son has. We were able to find therapeutic horseback riding that works with a sliding pay scale. The horses helped my son in so many ways, and we were also to have a group of friends with diverse needs who share this same interest in horseback riding. My son can succeed and even compete at this. 

We also have a great church community with a few homeschoolers. The church has provided support, adoptive grandparents, and friends of all ages.

 

Starting Over Again by Peggy Ployhar

Since we have lived in many places over our 18 years of homeschooling, we have had to build, and rebuild, our homeschooling community. From living in the suburbs surrounded by fellow homeschoolers, to dealing with weather and small-town cultural issues that kept us rather isolated, to being transient as we lived and homeschooled in our RV twice, we found that adapting how we found and created community was different, but nonetheless rewarding for our efforts. In the times of plenty, we chose wisely which groups and activities we should participate in. In times of scarcity, we relished the few friendships God allowed us to entertain and the diversity of community and cultural experiences we enjoyed with those who allowed us to come into their lives. And, in the times when we didn’t have a distinct place to put down our roots for too long, we enjoyed the community of our family and the new experiences and discoveries we were allowed to experience together. We have learned that community is what you make of the relationships you have right in front of you, instead of letting them slip through your fingers in the pursuit of something better, more typical, or what you had envisioned.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Leanna Ampola – SPED Homeschool Partner, HomeschoolAnywhere

One of the best things about homeschooling is that your children can learn by being a part of the broader community. Homeschoolers everywhere can supplement their at-home learning by attending local homeschool events and taking online classes. 

 

Advice for New Homeschool Families

Our greatest homeschooling asset is each other. If you recently began homeschooling, you will want to connect to in-person groups and online resources. 

Online: If you use Facebook, find local groups of homeschoolers that align with your values. Larger cities will often have groups for specific areas of the city. I recommend joining local and state-wide groups so you get a variety of perspectives. There are also nationwide groups for specific topics, such as homeschooling a child with ADHD. 

In-Person: Children thrive in the company of others. And parents do too. Some of my best adult friends have come from the homeschool community. Find local social groups that meetup for in-person activities or classes. If you have difficulty, post on your local Facebook group and tell them what you are looking for. And if you don’t find what you want, start a group of your own! 

 

Finding Activities

There are so many amazing events and classes! Keeping track of them can be daunting, even for seasoned homeschoolers. Some Facebook groups keep lists of local activities and resources. You can also look on HomeschoolAnywhere.com which is an online calendar of homeschool activities. 

 

In-Person Learning and Connection 

Below are just some ideas for in-person connection. Check beforehand to ensure you are comfortable with their in-person Covid-19 precautions so you can stay safe while having fun.  

Homeschool social groups: Your local homeschool social groups are a great way to find new friends, both for you and your children. Many host classes and sponsor field trips.

Homeschool days and classes: Many museums, zoos, and nature centers host monthly homeschool days. Organizations such as science centers, churches, gymnastics / dance centers, and others sometimes hold daytime homeschool classes. Your local Facebook groups may list these, or you can find them on each organization’s website.

Factory tours: Our homeschool group toured a family-run cheese factory and an Arden’s Garden juice factory. We also had a (tasty) educational session about making chocolate at a chocolatier. Reach out to small or large businesses that produce products. Unless they have legal restrictions, they are often happy to arrange a tour. 

Farm tours: Learn about biology, botany, and animal husbandry at your local farm. See what’s in season and go picking. Group tours are also an option. Take what you learn on the farm and do some gardening at home. 

Local history: Communities are rich with history. You can also search the  National Register of Historic Places to find historical houses or other places near you. Also, some local cemeteries give out educational information or host tours. 

State parks: Many state parks offer much more than hiking. Many have museums and offer regular educational programs. Get on their email lists to keep up with their events. 

Hybrid learning centers: Some organizations offer hybrid homeschool programs, where children learn with others for part of the week. Ask your local homeschool group what options exist in your community.

Volunteer: It’s wonderful to volunteer as a group. I organized groups of homeschool children to do monthly crafts at a local nursing home, pack food at a food bank, and do yard work at a wildlife nature center (where we got to learn about the animals afterwards). Each organization has its own rules, but many welcome volunteers. 

Specialty centers: Many communities have businesses that specialize in activities like cooking, sewing, yoga, skating, archery, and even comedy. Their facilities are mostly empty during the day, and they are often excited to host a class if homeschoolers ask for one. Children can also connect virtually to attend classes from afar.

 

Virtual Classes and Community

In 2020, virtual classes have replaced many that are normally held in person. For example, most museum “homeschool days” are currently virtual. Though not ideal, they still provide an enriching live connection. These are just a few of the many places you can find virtual activities. 

  •  HomeschoolAnywhere.com hosts a calendar of virtual homeschool activities that can be sorted by age, cost, topic, religion, etc.  
  • Outschool lists online classes for children of all ages.  
  • Go somewhere new from the comfort of your couch! Girl Travel Tours offers live virtual tours of places like Egypt, New Zealand, Pompeii, and the Great Wall of China. (For everyone, not just girls.) They are free with tips appreciated. Past sessions are archived and can be watched anytime.  
  • Last year we got hooked on watching a livestream of bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls, Alaska. From nesting spoonbills to a kitten sanctuary to a watering hole in Africa, this site  streams 24/7 from around the world.  
  • There are many online opportunities for special learners, such as  Incuentro, which offers live virtual classes to help children learn social skills.  
  • You can tour museums around the world… from the Sistine Chapel to the National Museum of China. These self-guided tours are an excellent way to supplement your art, history, and science curriculums. This site lists 75 of the best virtual museum tours in the world.  

 

There is a vast variety of online classes, especially during COVID-19… you can find everything from chess to cooking to acting. Some organizations cater specifically to homeschoolers, whether secular or religious. Several are listed here .

 

When choosing activities, let your children’s interests lead the way. And whichever experiences you choose, have fun and “pay it forward” by sharing what you know with other homeschoolers. Best wishes for all your homeschool adventures!

 

 

 

 

 


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