by Cheryl Swope , M.Ed., SPED Homeschool Curriculum and Consulting Partner

 

April is Autism Awareness Month and we here at SPED Homeschool understand how autism can affect learning and the education process. SPED Homeschool Founder and CEO, Peggy Ployhar, started their family’s homeschooling journey after their son’s autism diagnosis 19 years ago. It is our hope that our resources will empower your homeschool and your student will reach his/her full potential.

 

We homeschooled twins on the autism spectrum from their infancy through high school graduation. Along the way, we learned to create a daily schedule, even for weekends and summers. Our friends’ children did not need this, but our children with autism did. They appreciated the predictability and security of a gentle routine. Even today, our family finds it helpful to include all of these:

 

Refreshing Outdoor Time

Our children may struggle with anxiety, obsessions, compulsions, or rigidity of thought, so we need to teach them to relax. As homeschoolers, we carefully schedule schoolwork, chores, and therapies, but we may forget to schedule time in nature! Consider set times each day to refresh your child. It will be good for you too! Some of our favorite ways to refresh:

  • Walk outside
  • Play at a park during non-peak hours
  • Swim
  • Sit on the back porch swing to watch the birds and squirrels
  • Pull weeds, dig in the dirt, sweep the driveway or sidewalk, carry logs to or from the woodpile, pick up sticks in the yard, visit neighbors

 

Conversation and Engagement

When my daughter’s speech therapist observed that my daughter was on the autism spectrum, the therapist cautioned against long periods of isolated play. She told me to engage her.

  • Have conversations. Play simple games. Read books together. Have her “point to the butterfly” or “point to the red balloon.” 
  • Now age 26, my daughter’s most requested engaging “game” is one we created while waiting for things. “Which is your favorite piece of artwork in this restaurant?” “Which wall color is your favorite in this waiting room?” While in traffic, “Which vehicle is your favorite of those we can see?” We take turns. Not only does this improve theory of mind and awareness of surroundings, but it seems immediately to reduce anxiousness while waiting.
  • Her twin brother prefers active, higher-level strategy games. His current favorite is Ticket to Ride, which he and I play almost nightly. (With maps, trains, and problem-solving, it is little wonder this game is a clear winner for my son on the autism spectrum!)

 

Quiet

We want to instill a love of quiet in wholesome ways for the mind. Start with 10 or 15 minutes. Increase to 20 or 30. Each rotated container might hold items gathered by the child’s ability:

  • Storybooks – board books for younger children to handle, children with a tendency to drool, or children who do not yet handle paper pages well; picture books for more able students.
  • Sturdy art supplies – wax crayons, colored pencils, large stencils, drawing paper.
  • Puzzles – large, wooden puzzles if needed or more intricate puzzles as the child is able.
  • Relaxing music – with a mat or plush throw blanket.
  • Field guides – for older students, select a topic outside their typical selections.
  • Simple kits – models or crafts, sewing/lacing cards, paint sets 
  • Headphones – stories, poetry, or more advanced options for more capable students. 

 

Companionship

A willing sibling or adaptable playmate can offer companionship for your child. Myself & Others can assist with coaching beforehand. Consider a dog, cat, or fish for additional companionship. If a pet would be too much, consider growing something in a garden or container, such as pansies, zinnias, or little cherry tomatoes your child can help tend. Encouraging your child to nurture someone (or something) helps her avoid focusing too much on herself. Fostering companionship with tenderness can be deeply gratifying.

 

Spontaneous Fun Sprinkled into the Day

While we prevent difficulties by adhering to a routine, we must also prevent rigidity or an over-reliance on schedules by looking for moments to interject playful delight. Snuggle lightly (or deeply, depending on the preference). Grab a quick blast of fresh air by going to get the mail together. Play pretend with favorite toys. Let her ride her trike before dinner, pick wildflowers, or set the table with a favorite tablecloth. Such things can improve spontaneity while lifting everyone’s moods.

 

Refresh Yourself

Most importantly, refresh yourself. Your peace will be shared by your child.

  • Enjoy the gift of any few quiet moments you can find at church, in the Word, and in prayer. 
  • Avoid rehearsing the past, listening to disturbing news, or ruminating over troubles in front of your child. Talk instead to your spouse, your mom, or a good friend.
  • Drop fearful or fretful language as children mirror our anxieties. Begin speaking intentionally with greater trust and hope.
  • Let your children know that they are in good hands. Be confident that you can create a comforting, secure routine for them. 
  • When you fail, pick yourself up and make necessary tweaks. Your resilience models confidence that the Lord always provides. And He does. 

 

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10, my daughter’s confirmation verse

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

Documentation of your daily efforts to homeschool a child with special needs can seem tricky. Each state has its own requirements, so you have to stay abreast of that, of course. Beyond that, you need a system that can easily assure you – and well-meaning relatives – that the best education possible is happening for your child.

 

Remember Homeschool Is the Best Place for Your Child!

In a public school, your child would have an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). That plan would put in place modifications and recommendations for more individualized instruction and traditionally only includes academics. What could be more individualized than a parent who understands their child better than anyone in the world and can modify on the fly for academics and life-skills? The answer: NOBODY! A motivated, informed parent is the best advocate for successfully educating a child with special needs, but progress for a child that learns differently is sometimes hard to document. 

 

Be Creative with Your School Day!

Depending on the severity of the developmental, academic, or intellectual delay, your school day will look different. It is not like a typical student where you show how many pages were completed in a given period. At Brain Sprints, we encourage our families to use a detailed checklist where each item for the day can be easily checked off for documentation of work done with the child. The list would include non-traditional school activities like how many times a day you work together on auditory or visual processing (short-term memory). Or what work you did to normalize the tactile system with specific stimulation. Or activities that would organize the lower levels of the brain for better coordination as well as organized thought. Each checkmark is a step in the right direction for the functional ability of the child and should be celebrated. These activities can be more important than completing a particular page or reading that is done each day. Academics can be on the checklist, too, but addressing the root of the challenges a child faces is even more strategic. The list can quickly help you see where you need to focus more or just a reminder of progress, even if it may not be evident to others yet.

 

Plan for Interruptions

Checklists can be divided into two different lists. One list consists of the activities and/or academics you do with the child. We call it the Daily Parent/Child Conference list. The other list is the activities the child can do independently called My Responsibilities. These lists can keep you both focused and productive each day. When there is an interruption, you can say, “Work on your My Responsibility list while I do x, y, z.” This can keep the progress for the day going when those inevitable interruptions happen. The My Responsibility list can also give the child some say in their day. He/she can decide what gets done first, second, or third instead of someone else dictating every step, which is important for maturity and self-reliance. We often find that if the child has some say in what is happening, there is more compliance. Also, the My Responsibility list helps with accountability and motivation.

 

Life Skills Are Work, too!

Don’t be shy about documenting life skills like learning to wash hair, cooking, making a bed, or tying shoes. These may be just as important or even more strategic to your child’s future as anything else in the educational plan. If you document it, you will feel better about your time spent each day. You are making a difference!

 

For more information about a neurodevelopmental approach to homeschool: www.BrainSprints.com

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Have you ever wondered how your approach to summer homeschooling compares with other special education homeschooling families?  We did too, so we asked our community how they approach summer learning and this is what they told us.

 

Summer Homeschooling Poll Results

From our poll, here are the results we received:

 

46%

responded that they homeschool year-round and do not make any changes in the summer months.

 

23%

responded that they homeschool year-round but they make an effort during the summer to do more hands-on and play-oriented learning activities.

 

8%

responded they take the summer months off from formal schooling, but still incorporate lots of hands-on and play-oriented learning into their schedules.

 

8%

responded they continue with their delight-directed or unschooling methods as usual.

 

4%

responded they do their version of delight-directed or unschooling during the summer months.

 

And,

11%

responded that they were still in the process of figuring out what they were going to be doing for the summer months.

 

Summer may be a good time to try a different approach or even to make a switch to a new approach for the coming school year.

 

Choose Best for Your Situation

No matter what approach you decide to take, if you have considered what your child needs,  what types of breaks you need as a teacher, as well as what works best for your family, then you will find the best summer homeschooling approach for your unique situation.

 

One of our parents shared this great example of her summer homeschooling approach:

My son is 6 and right now we’re putting a heavier emphasis on non-academic skills (aka activities of daily life that he needs to learn to do to care for himself – like dressing, hygiene, etc). Unschooling as always in our school fits the best at this moment since formal academics are not our focus yet.” Lisa P.

 

Lisa’s comment is a great reminder that being flexible in your homeschooling approach can also extend into the full school year. Summer may be a good time to try a different approach or even to make a switch to a new approach for the coming school year.  

 

No matter how you choose to extend your homeschool learning over the summer we hope you enjoy the time with your children and create lots of great memories while learning together!

 

 


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By Kimberly A Vogel

 

I opened the door and stepped into a winter wonderland. White, blue, and silver Christmas decorations adorned the house. After days of rushing around and overwhelming holiday stress, I finally felt like I could breathe. 

 

Something was comforting in the white. It brought a sense of calm and peace. The term white space repeated in my thoughts and synced to the white lights blinking.

 

I need white space in my life, especially around the holidays.

 

White space, a term writers use, refers to the white space on a page so the reader isn’t bombarded by words. I need a place where I’m not bombarded. I need extra room to move and breathe. Instead of cramming more activities into an already filled schedule, I should plan less and leave room for more spur of the moment activities.

 

My thoughts started to create priorities on how I just might be able incorporate white space into my life to lower my holiday stress. 

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love.

 

These were the reminders I needed to tell myself. 

 

Keep your calendar handy so you don’t overbook

Do you have a planner? Do you use your phone or paper? What you use isn’t important, using it is what’s important. Overbooking isn’t just having two activities at the same time, it’s having too many activities in a day or week.

 

Say yes sparingly

In Volunteering: Pray about every opportunity. Only commit to what you have time to do well. It’s better to focus on one or two opportunities, than saying yes to five things and only following through with a few.

With Activities: There’s an abundance of fun family events only available during the holidays and you should never feel obligated to go to them all. It seems like every group has a party this time of year. Make sure whatever you do commit to fits into your plan and isn’t too taxing. Also, consider your family’s special circumstances: If you have small kids, parties during nap time make the day difficult. If you have special needs kids, there are so many things to think through… sensory issues, behavior issues due to excess sugar, dietary restrictions, over-stimulation.

 

Don’t operate out of guilt, expectations, or ideals

Expectations run high during the holidays. As moms, we often set the pace for our family. As women, guilt plays a role into our decision making. I’ll never forget the year I ran myself ragged to make sure an event happened, all to find out I was the only one who wanted it. In this instance, the event’s importance had been heightened by a childhood memory, an ideal I eventually had to let go for the sake of my family’s sanity.

 

Back in the lovely decorated home, I walked into another room where a huge Fontini display decorated the corner. A village scene centered around the nativity. Then it hit me, THAT is the who of my white space. Jesus came to bring…peace, love and salvation. If He’s not at the center of my white space then I am just creating voids that attract fillers.

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love. White space is only beneficial if it is filled with Jesus because He perfectly fills the void. Jesus space, as the center of our white space, brings me back to what this holiday season is all about.

 

What can you do to create white space and Jesus space into your life?

 

 

 

 


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By Myeshi Briley,MS,HS-BCP

 

Homeschooling parents face the challenges of juggling teaching, cleaning, cooking, nurturing, finding needed personal time, and being a good spouse every day. How do we do it all? How can you do it all?

 

The truth is, we can do it all. We just need lessons on balance.  So, we do the important things first. We have to budget our time like we budget our money. This is very important. Here are some tips on time management and scheduling that have worked for me.

 

Manage Your Time
We need to make a plan so we’ll feel more in control and less overwhelmed, but they must be flexible enough to modify as needed. Also, make sure the goals you set are reasonable; otherwise, you’re setting ourselves up for failure. Be realistic with time, don’t guess, find out how long specific tasks take. And don’t beat yourself up if you did not complete something. Everyone’s life is different, and it takes practice to master time management. Thank God for each and everyday. The reality is everyday is a gift to do more.

 

Fill in the time it takes for each task. In the example below, there’s a lot left out that you’ll need to add.  But it’s a good place to start:

Making and eating meals: __________
Daily chores: ______________________
Daily hygiene: _____________________
Kids’ hygiene:______________________
Kids’ extracurricular activities:________
Work: ______ hrs/day (if you freelance or work part-time or full-time)
Homeschooling:  ______

 

Homeschooling
We need to use a planner or calendar of some type for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly activities. My calendar is booked 3 months at a time, so I can plan what I need to get done. I use both paper and electronic planners. Students need to use planners as well.  Picture schedules work well for little kids and a modern student planner can be used for middle school and high school age children. The bottom line is that everyone in the home should use a calendar, this cuts down on confusion.  

 

Steps to Developing a Good Scheduling:

1. Observation
Observe your children for a week to note the length of time they need to finish a math assignment,complete a worksheet, or read a chapter of a textbook. In addition, pad the time allotment for time-between each day’s list of school tasks. Plan for between-class breaks like meals, playtime or recess.
2.  Work Backwards:  Year to Week
Prevent over-scheduling by starting at the year mark and work down to the week.
List all classes, coursework, books, examinations, and activities needed to complete the year.
  • List monthly goals for each task.   
  • How many books,  worksheet pages, and Math, English, History lessons need to be included. You can schedule the lessons once you have drafted the large view of the month..  
  • Space each category by week, and review each week’s goals with your student.
3. Get Specific:  Weekly to Daily
From the weekly goal comes the daily schedule. It’s not just younger children that need routine; everyone needs to know the plan for the day.
  • Be flexible. Listen to our children’s feedback. Give your children a chance to resolve scheduling issues themselves. This will help them later in life.  You might be surprised at the solutions they come up with for time management snags and snafus. For example, your child might be too sleepy in the morning to do well at math, so you might move that class to the afternoon.
  • Outings take a big chunk of time out of your day. Consider staying home during the week as much as possible. If you have small children, going lots of places can upset their routine. It’s also hard to fit in schooling or housework when you’re only home for a few hours.

 

Extra Scheduling Considerations:
Homeschooling parents are often too busy to fit in all the projects they’d like to do, especially when they have younger children in the household. Detailed unit studies and interesting hands-on projects are special but you might have to limit them. I found doing homeschool 365 days a year works for me and my family, everyday is learning in our home. Everyone is different and you have to find what works for you.

 

For many families, finding the time to schedule field trips during homeschooling months can be difficult. You might try planning some of them in the summer when things are less hectic. Think of what has long-term importance and what doesn’t. Learn to establish priorities, find creative ways to do the necessary things, and put everything else on hold or let it go.

 

Chores
Chores are good for kids. Families should share responsibilities. It’s important for children to understand that the whole family must work together to make a homeschool and a household run smoothly. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry are group events.

 

Work on children’s attitudes and training. Summer is a good time to encourage and train your children on helping out with household chores and cooking. There are lots of learning opportunities for your children in these activities as well. Both cleaning and cooking contain some elements of math and science.

 

Get the older kids to help the younger ones pick up their toys or clean their room. Big kids teaching little kids, sisters and brothers working together. Don’t you love it?
Making a house rule that children who don’t follow instructions when asked or don’t do their chores are given added jobs or responsibilities works well.

 

Housework
Realize when it comes to a clean house you may need to settle for less than perfection.  If you have a hard time letting go of that ideal, here are some ways to lower your expectations to the realistic goal of having an imperfect house amidst raising and homeschooling your kids.
  • Simplify your life. Develop a system for keeping your house as neat as possible, at least in the important areas.
  • Declutter your home to avoid frustration.
  • Organize a specific place for all homeschooling materials, like pencils, papers, books, scissors, and so on.
  • In addition to getting the kids to pitch in, we sometimes hire a neighbor’s teenager to help when needed, to clean or babysit a few hours to give us time for other things we have to do.

 

Cooking
Simplify your meals. Some of the healthiest dishes are the simplest. Get the kids to help you prepare dinner. Have the older children make their own lunches. Use paper plates for quick clean ups. If there are kids eat free nights, family specials, two large pizzas for $10 nights, or anything like that at a restaurant you like, feel free to do that. I prepare fresh meals daily for my family, but I get all the pre-work done on Sunday evenings.  Do what works for you.

 

Personal Time
When you create your weekly schedule, don’t forget to put aside time for yourself. Make yourself a priority. If you aren’t meeting your most basic needs, you’re not going to be effective in anything else.  Always wake up before everyone and have 30 mins of coffee and devotion time. If you don’t rest, your brain will turn to mush and you won’t have enough energy to get through the day.

 

If you don’t set aside time for you and your spouse, you won’t get the love and care you need to love and care for those around you.

 

Time is very valuable for homeschooling parents so budget yours wisely. 

 


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