By Tracy Criswell

It’s a question that has plagued me since starting back with homeschooling our four children: “Am I doing enough?” This summer our family has dealt with three surgeries (benign tumor removal for my husband, having all four wisdom teeth removed for my oldest son and a spinal fusion for my oldest daughter), jury duty, lack of income (I couldn’t do my summer job because I needed to be home to take care of my family), and trying to get ready for a new homeschool year. This has been the toughest start to our homeschool year in eight years.



A Rough Start
We decided to start homeschooling the Tuesday after Labor Day this year. I thought this would be better for our family so we could see how my oldest daughter was going to handle her recovery from surgery as well as help her siblings get started with their dual enrolled classes at our local schools. This was a good idea, but as soon as we started homeschooling I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I was being pulled in many different directions, and then the question started to pop up, “Am I doing enough?”


You see once we started homeschooling, we had to make time for three different band practices (youngest daughter goes weekly, youngest son goes every other morning, and oldest daughter goes every day), three different band lessons every other week, appointments for my middle two to see a therapist weekly for their anxiety, orthodontist appointments, appointment with the psychiatrist that did a new evaluation for my oldest daughter, vision therapy appointments, doctor appointment to recheck on medication for anxiety, in addition to homeschooling. 

One Day at a Time

I don’t write my lesson plans in advance (except for my oldest son because he is very independent) because I never know what’s going to happen from day-to-day. All four of my children have different abilities and needs. Trying to meet all of these needs can be a struggle. But his past weekend, I discovered a pattern in our lesson plans. Every other week is chaotic because it seems that band lessons, homeschool visits (we have a supervising teacher come to our house every other week), and certain doctors appointments happen during this time. So I have come to the conclusion that on crazy weeks, I will do the best that I can for my children and teach them as much as I can at home and in the van. On the weeks that are not so chaotic, I will use that time to help them get caught up on school work that we are behind on. It has also helped that my husband has provided support with helping make supper, being a good listener to me (sometimes it’s important to just tell someone how you feel and what is happening during homeschooling), and taking the kids to an activity so I can have some quiet time for myself and time to get caught up on my paperwork. This has helped a lot.


Other Strategies
In addition to having my husband’s support and assistance, I have found other things that have helped me in keeping the, “Am I doing enough?” thought at bay. These are additional strategies and tools that I have used to help me:

  • Decide which 3 subjects to do every day no matter what.
  • Write down what has been accomplished each day. This provides a visual of what we’ve completed as well as what we need to work on more.
  • Use videos as supplements for different subject areas (science, social studies, literature, etc.)
  • Use read alouds or audio books as a family to learn a subject topic further
  • Supplement field trips, library activities, volunteer opportunities, etc. as part of learning
  • Give and receive grace
  • Ask for help from friends, family, etc.


More Than Enough

It is important to remember that at one time or another, I am sure we have asked ourselves, “Am I doing enough?” The answer is, “Yes, I am doing enough.” I am providing a homeschool education that meets my children’s unique needs and abilities. I am teaching them life skills and how I want them to treat others. We all go through different seasons in our lives. I have definitely encountered a new season in our family’s life as well. It’s just filled with doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, dual enrollment classes, tumbling, scouting, 4-H, and many more.




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By Tracy Criswell

Many parents hear the word assistive technology and automatically think that it will be expensive. This is not the case though. According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. There are two types of assistive technology: low tech assistive technology and high tech assistive technology. For this article, I will be focusing mostly on low tech assistive technology, but will briefly address high tech assistive technology.

Low Tech Assistive Technology Explained
Low tech assistive technology, according to Tools for Life, are devices or equipment that do not require much training, less expensive, and does not have complex features. For many homeschooling families, low tech assistive technology is an inexpensive item that can be used to help educate their children with a variety of needs. I have personally used low tech assistive technology with my three youngest children with ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and anxiety. In reality, you may be already using a different type of low tech assistive technology without knowing it.

Examples of Low Tech Assistive Technology
You might be wondering, what are some examples of low tech assistive technology. Things as simple as using a dry erase board and marker for the student to write their answers to a math problem or an exercise ball to bounce on while reading or completing other homeschool tasks to help your child focus are both considered examples of low tech assistive technology. The great thing about low tech assistive technology is that the item does not cost a lot of money. As a homeschooling mother of four, every penny counts.

Here are more examples of low tech assistive technology that can be used while homeschooling your child:

  • Large font worksheets
  • Audiobooks
  • Use of a binder as a slant board (to elevate the paper so it is at a better level for the child to see)
  • Rubber stamps with letters and/or child’s first and last name and inkpad (to use for spelling, etc.)
  • Refrigerator magnetic letters to use for spelling words
  • Stress balls for children with anxiety and/or needing sensory input
  • Sandpaper to place under writing paper to receive sensory input while writing (and also very helpful for children that place too much pressure on their pencils while writing)
  • Pencil grips
  • Raised lined paper or highlighted paper
  • Graphic organizers,
  • Reading guide highlighter strips
  • Highlighter tape to assist with note taking
  • Colored transparencies to use for reading
  • Sentence strips (you can make your own or purchase them)
  • Grid paper for math (assists children with making sure their numbers are in neat rows while doing math)
  • Kitchen timer
  • A visual schedule
  • Velcro that can be used for folder activities or visual schedules

There are many more examples of low tech assistive technology items, but these are items that I have used either with my own children or students that I have tutored.

High Tech Assistive Technology
In addition to low tech assistive technology devices, there is high tech assistive technology. High tech assistive technology devices, according to Tools for Life, are the most complex devices or equipment, that have digital or electronic components that will possibly require training and effort to learn how to use them as well as cost the most money. This type of assistive technology is normally used to help with communication, mobility (getting from place to place), reading, safety, etc.

The following are some examples of high tech assistive technology:

  • Electronic augmentative communication devices (technology that is used for children that are nonverbal to communicate with others)
  • Hearing aids
  • Electric wheelchair
  • Computer
  • Various computer programs (text to speech, voice recognition, word prediction, etc.)
  • Electronic home alarms (provide a different way to let those with hearing or visual impairments know when there is a fire, someone at the front door, someone calling)
  • iPad


More About Assistive Technology
Assistive technology can be very helpful when we homeschool children with special needs. Low tech assistive technology is very affordable and can be used in a variety of ways. This is a huge plus when it comes to homeschooling. It is also important to note that there are ways to obtain high tech assistive technology.

In some states, if your child is a dual-enrolled homeschool student with special needs, the school can provide the high tech assistive technology. Other options to obtain this type of assistive technology is to check with your insurance, check with Medicare (if your child is on Medicare), contact the assistive technology manufacturer, etc. It is wonderful as a homeschooling parent of a child with special needs to have so many options. Every day, it seems, there are new forms of assistive technology being used and developed. 

Also, make sure to check out the SPED Homeschool Assistive Technology and  Ed Tech Pinterest boards to discover more ways you can implement both low and high tech assistive technology in your homeschool.



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By Tracy Criswell

Homeschooling a child with different needs can be overwhelming, especially during the junior high years. Then when you get to eighth grade, you and your child have to start thinking about high school. I have already been through this once with my oldest son and am ready to start this journey with my oldest daughter next year. Both children are different and unique learners. My oldest son is a very traditional learner with anxiety. You can give him a computer program or a textbook and guide him; however, my oldest daughter is a very non-traditional learner. She has ADHD, anxiety, an undiagnosed learning disability, and scoliosis. Even though each child is different, there are many things you can do to make the journey of crossing the bridge into the high school years easier.

Bridges are Unique
It is important to remember each child is different. Each child has his/her strengths, weaknesses, and different learning preferences. It is important to identify these and not compare your child to each other. This has been a struggle for me. I have to keep reminding myself that my daughter will follow her own path during her high school years. She might take a different path to follow her postsecondary goals than her big brother, and that’s okay.

Bridges Lead to Different Places

Ask your child what they are interested in. They don’t have to be 100% certain at the end of his/her eighth-grade year, but it is important for your child to have an idea of what he/she is interested in. This information will also provide as a guide of which jobs your child might be interested in. When you have discussed this with your child, it is important to provide opportunities during ninth grade to explore those careers and possibly do some prevocational job visits. At these job visits your child would have the opportunity to find out what is required for each job, what type of postsecondary education is needed, and whether or not the job is truly a great fit. If you have any family or friends that work in those interested career fields, your child could interview them too. The more information and knowledge that you provide your child will help him/her make a better-educated decision about what he/she wants to do after high school.

Bridges Designed Well, Last

It is important to sit down with your child to create a plan of which classes to take for ninth grade. These classes should include the basic subjects (English, math, science, social studies, etc.), especially if your child is planning to attend a two or four-year college. Electives (classes that allow children to explore different interests and life skills) are just as important as the basic subjects. For example, my oldest daughter that will be a ninth grader next year will be taking the following classes: English I, pre-algebra, Biology I, World History, Spanish I, Concert Band, Pep Band, Career Exploration, Introduction to Art, Computer Skills, and P.E. It is important to note that homeschooling secondary children with special needs will not take the exact classes that my daughter is taking. At this point, she is interested in becoming a makeup artist, which might require a two-year degree and/or apprenticeship. Many children will change their mind several times during high school in what they want to do for a career. My oldest son, who will be a senior next school year, has changed his mind many times and now has narrowed it down to two different careers that he is interested in. Remember that nothing is set in stone.

Bridges Take Time to Build

I would also suggest you purchase a four-year planner and a grade book (unless you choose to use a portfolio where you keep samples of your child’s paperwork, projects, etc.). During high school, as a homeschooling parent, you will need to make sure to record grade for a transcript, find a curriculum, compile books read, organize volunteer activities, find extracurricular activities (church, scouts, 4-H, band, choir, sports, etc.), record awards earned, and help your child apply for part-time jobs. For my oldest son, I shared the four-year planner with him since I used it to inform him what his assignments were. My oldest daughter I am planning on purchasing a 4-year planner for my records as well as a yearly student planner for her. This will help her learn time management and scheduling skills.

Bridges Transport from One Place to Another

Finally, it is important as a parent of a soon-to-be high schooler to remember to take a deep breath. Everything will work out. Remember you are there to help your child work towards his/her postsecondary goals (after high school education and career). At the end of your student’s high school journey, you will be amazed how your child has changed over the past four years. It goes by too quickly.



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