Category Archives: Special Needs Homeschooling

Top Tips for Home Educating Any Child

 

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by Heather Walton

If you are considering homeschooling, just starting out, or burning out, check out the following tips for homeschooling any child.

  1. Relax. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to do it all right now. You don’t have to do it all at the same time. Enjoy your children’s childhood with them.
  2. Make a list of goals for each child and check it at intervals. Include spiritual, academic, social, emotional, physical, and life skills goals. Check them at predetermined intervals, such as monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly.
  3. Curriculum is a tool. Make it your servant. You are not its slave. You do not have to have prepackaged curriculum. If you choose textbooks or packaged lesson plans, you do not have to do everything that is recommended by the publisher.
  4. Balance is important. Homeschooling takes a lot of time and energy, but you also need time for other things, like housework, errands, and exercise. You may even have a part-time or full-time job. Trying to work on academics 6-8 hours per day is likely to burn you and your child out.
  5. Delegate when possible and practical. Which chores you can teach your children to do? Do you need to partner with tutors or homeschool enrichment programs, such as cottage schools or cottage schools? Are there things that other family members, such as Dad, grandparents, or your older children, can teach or model?
  6. Education is not just academics. You can count a variety of things, such as life skills (grocery trips, chores, etc.), social skills training, creative arts, specialty lessons, swimming, exercise, nature walks, therapy sessions, service, theater and museum visits, and more.
  7. Don’t isolate yourself. Find a homeschool support group, in person or online. There are lots of local and national groups on Facebook and elsewhere. Some are even specific to certain ideologies and methodologies. Meet other homeschool families for outings or just to hang out. It helps to know you’re not the only one. On difficult days, you have someone to reach out to for encouragement. You also can bounce ideas off each other.
  8. Invest in homeschool PD (professional development). Give yourself permission to buy books, watch videos and download materials that will help you learn more about homeschooling. You may even want to attend homeschool conferences. If you don’t have a budget for this, there are many blogs and other resources available online for free. Taking time to educate yourself will make you a better homeschool teacher.
  9. Know your state’s laws and follow them. Ask veteran homeschoolers in your state how they comply with the regulations.
  10. Join HSLDA and your state homeschool organization. These groups work hard to keep our homeschool rights intact. They also have many resources available, including consultants in a variety of areas and legal support. I would not consider membership in these organizations optional.

Why homeschool a child with special needs?

homeschool mom girl 2By Heather Walton

Sometimes parents wonder if they should homeschool a child with special academic, social, or emotional needs. Even if they believe they can properly educate a neurotypical child, they may feel intimidated about working with their children who struggle. Others are considering homeschooling specifically because they have a child who is having difficulty in school. Though homeschooling any child has its challenges, an individualized education can be a delight and a blessing, both to the child and the parent. Here are several reasons to consider home education for a struggling learner:

  1. You can create a program that targets your child’s specific needs. You can remediate those areas of challenge, while also giving him opportunities to do things he’s good at, so he experiences success.
  2. You eliminate the social stigma that comes with being “different.” Often kids (and even teachers) will look down on a student who struggles academically or socially. Unfortunately this is par for the course in many schools.
  3. You can work with your child when she’s at her peak time of day to be successful. You don’t have to keep the same schedule as the schools do. Your state may require a certain amount of hours, but that doesn’t mean you have to work at the same times as the local schools operate.
  4. You can incorporate the educational components that most schools leave out, such as life skills and social skills. These are important for all young people to learn, but even more for struggling learners. Home education provides you the opportunity to spend necessary time on instruction in these vital areas.
  5. Children who need to see therapists and tutors have more time in the schedule to do so, and it counts as part of your home education plan. Often parents of children with special needs spend afternoon and evening hours shuttling exhausted kids to appointments.  However, the sessions would likely be more effective, and the family less frazzled, if they could be fresh for these appointments.
  6. No more fighting over homework after an already long schooldays. Since you can create a tailor-made education program for your child, no need for homework, and hopefully you can have an enjoyable learning experience with your child.
  7. Avoid bullying. Many kids, especially kids who are perceived to be different by their peers, deal with bullying, which is so destructive to a person’s self image. Today, more than ever, bullying presents huge risks, including and up to suicide. It’s not something to mess around with.
  8. Avoid social pressure to conform. Let’s face it: Everyone wants to fit in, and kids with special needs are often tempted more than neuortypical children to do whatever it takes to be accepted.

These are several great reasons to homeschool a child with special needs. The list could go on and on, as reasons are as diverse as are the children we love. Now that we have explored some reasons to homeschool your child, stay tuned for tips on how to successfully work with students who have challenges.

 

Consultation/Coaching Services help maximize your homeschool potential

561284_511132125589882_1418835041_nHomeschooling is often challenging, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes a helping hand is all you need to go from frazzled to thriving.  A+ Education Solutions offers homeschool consultation/coaching services, working together with you to troubleshoot and create an individualized plan for your family. You may benefit from checking in biweekly, monthly, or just every once in awhile. You might just need a one-time consultation. Having someone to consult with can give you the boost that you need to get a solid start in homeschooling or to stay the course. Coaching takes place in person and online to accommodate your needs. Whatever your need, A+ Education Solutions is here to help. Call 502-438-4680 for details.

How Can A+ Help Me Homeschool?

I’m done! I guess God doesn’t intend me to homeschool anymore. 

These were my thoughts in 2009, when I just didn’t know how to do it. I had loved homeschooling my daughters for six years, but with two babies, and with the girls getting older and pushing back on me, I decided that season of our lives was over.

I loved teaching, though, so I went back to school and got my Master’s Degree in elementary and special education, and then I taught for the next eight years. I learned many skills and strategies that I wished I would have had when I was homeschooling. Now I am back to homeschooling, this time with my boys and a baby girl.

By no means am I saying that you should have a teaching credential if you’re going to homeschool. However, if you are struggling because you’re overwhelmed with curriculum choices, or because you have a child with learning or behavior issues, it can be helpful to work with someone who has some expertise in strategies and research-based learning.

Over the past eight years, I’ve worked with hundreds of students and families in schools and in private tutoring. Many of those parents struggled to find and educational fit for their children, and many of those children struggled academically, socially, or behaviorally. I have been able to assist those families and students in formulating plans to see academic growth and to increase positive social and behavioral interactions.

Sometimes we just need some informed encouragement. I am able to come alongside you and encourage you to stay the course, and to collaborate with you to formulate a plan for success. Whether you need to evaluate your curriculum options or to have a tutor for a few hours a week (in person or online), I can work with you to meet your family’s individualized needs.

I understand a good deal of what homeschoolers struggle with, because I’ve lived it. And I have children with special needs and academic challenges. So as a fellow traveler, I can relate and help you form a workable action plan. If this sounds like the thing you need, contact me at heatherpwalton@gmail.com or 502-438-4680.

A+ Education Solutions offers a range of educational services

I started A+ Education Solutions in 2013 because I had a strong desire to help students who need a little extra help to reach their goals. In the process, I started a cottage school that morphed into a more traditional model of a school, partnered with my husband as he pastors our church, moved, had a baby, had a couple of children leave the nest, taught at another wonderful Christian school, and most recently, realized that I need to return home and center myself there. Through all of it, my mission for a vocation has not changed: I believe God has called me to creatively facilitate Christian education for a diverse population of students.20170612_074936

Though I no longer run Jubilee Academy, the model I began there still lives in my heart. What is that model? Well, for starters, it’s a kinder, gentler model of education — an individualized model, where students are seen as real people who have struggles, but who also have much to offer the world. God created each of us with unique gifts, and those gifts are meant to be shared with the world. However, some people buy into the cultural lie that academics and athletics are the prized intelligences, and that others are inferior. Can you imagine a world without artists, mechanics, electricians, fast food servers, and on and on? Two of the most important jobs in the world are plumbers and trash collectors. Think about that for a moment.

But we all have to get through the academics, at least for 13 years. Some of us really struggle, though. And we just need a helping hand, maybe just for a season, and maybe all the way through. Sometimes the student needs direct help, in the form of tutoring and assessment. Other times, the student needs indirect assistance, such as an IEP advocate at school or homeschool support for his parents. A+ Education Solutions is here to help with these needs. Rates are reasonable and assistance is personalized to your family’s needs. Because I’m focusing on health and family, slots are limited, but there are a few left and I am happy to put others on my waiting list. For more information, email heatherpwalton@gmail.com or text/call 502-438-4680. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Casting a Vision May Help Homeschoolers Stay on Course

vision 1The decision to homeschool is one to which most parents devote a generous amount of time and prayer. There are many reasons people decide to homeschool. They may want to disciple their children full time in their faith. They may feel that the academics in their local schools are sub-par. They may have children with special needs that are best met one-on-one. Their children may be highly involved in a sport or pastime that makes it difficult to spend seven hours at school each day. Whatever the reason–and there are many others–parents who choose to homeschool generally have invested much thought into that decision.

Deciding to homeschool is one thing; implementing that choice can be quite another. There are a variety of potential obstacles to a parent’s resolve. Well meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) friends, family, and neighbors may question, or outright disagree with your decision to homeschool. Your child may be uncooperative. You may earnestly long for some time alone and some peace and quiet. These and many other distractions may cause you to doubt your decision.

So how can you increase your chances of success? How can you strengthen your resolve, even before you are tested?

By casting a vision for homeschooling.

Cast a vision. Decide what it is that you really want for your family. Why are you homeschooling? You invested time, energy, and prayer into that decision. So invest a little more into getting your reasons and your vision on paper. Be specific. What Scriptures backed up or led you to that decision? What factors of your situation make homeschooling the best option? What is the most important thing you want to accomplish with your children? Write these things down. Then, when you feel like loading all the kids up on the large yellow vehicle that rumbles down your street each morning, get out that document and remind yourself why you’re educating your children at home. When your neighbor says she thinks only certified teachers should homeschool their kids, and you wonder if she’s right, get out that paper and remind yourself that God called you to teach your children. Whenever you’re discouraged or uncertain, read over your vision and test it to see if what you wrote down is still true. If it is–and it probably is–you’ll most likely regain your resolve. But if you haven’t recorded your vision, it may be difficult to recall your original intentions when discouragement, frustration, or uncertainty set in.

A vision document also may be helpful if you are considering changing your approach to homeschooling. You can measure that choice against your vision.

There may be times that you want to make adjustments to your vision. As your children mature and your circumstances change, it may be beneficial for you to do some tweaking.

Whether you question the decision to homeschool or you simply need to be reminded of your original reasons and plans, a vision document can be a powerful tool for your homeschool and for your family.

An Often Overlooked Essential of Homeschooling

Homeschooling - Gustoff family in Des Moines 020
Homeschooling – Gustoff family in Des Moines 020 (Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com)

Effective classroom teachers know that one of the secrets to having a good school year is establishing order and respect with their students. In fact, in many schools, classroom management is the curriculum during the first weeks of school. Academics take a back seat at this point. Why? Because there will be no effective teaching or learning taking place unless students follow directions and procedures. Students have to respect the teacher, or the school year will be a disaster.

The same principle applies to homeschooling. Even if you only homeschool one child, that child has to be obedient if he is going to learn. If you homeschool multiple children, each one has to follow your instructions and rules. If even one child refuses to respect you, all of your children may suffer.

I know this from experience, both as a classroom teacher and as a homeschool mom. In one class I taught, things were going pretty well in my classroom. Kids knew the routines and generally did what I said. Then a new kid entered the scene. This student wasn’t used to following directions at home or at school. He came in and disrupted my entire class. There wasn’t much learning taking place for awhile.

Looking back on my original homeschooling experience, I can say that this was the missing ingredient. I felt so pressured to complete the academic work that I overlooked the absolute necessity of first-time obedience. I got frustrated, nagged, lectured, and got headaches, but it never occurred to me to simply stop. Stop working on academics entirely. Stop and focus on making sure my children obeyed me. If I would have spent whatever time it took–even if it was a whole school year–to establish first-time obedience, I believe I would have continued to homeschool.

So here I am, beginning this journey again. This time I’m taking a lesson from my classroom teaching experience. This time I will focus on first-time obedience before we ever pick up a pencil or open a textbook.

Is Homeschooling for you?

Example of unschooling (home-based, interesed-...
Example of unschooling (home-based, interesed-led, child-led form of education). These children are trying to dig out bugpoop (insects’ excrements) out of tree bark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. But it probably is for more people than are doing it.

How do you know if it’s for you? I don’t recommend just going with your gut or making a decision based on feelings. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, not just an educational choice. Here are a few points to consider:

1. Have you prayed about it? Ask God to guide your educational choices, and then listen to His guidance. Be willing to do whatever He leads you to do. Ask Him to lead your spouse (if you’re married) to the same conclusion.

2. Have you searched the Scriptures? Is God confirming a homeschooling decision through His Word? I think it’s important to be careful here. You can find scores of websites and well-meaning homeschoolers who will tell you that homeschooling is the only viable choice for Christians. There are many Scriptures that can be used to back up this argument. Christians also can find Scriptures to back up Christian schooling and public schooling. Some truths of Scripture are universal. Other times God uses Scripture to convey His truth to us individually. Educational choice is an individual decision, and God speaks to families through His Word about decisions like this.

3. Are you and your spouse united about a decision to homeschool? If you’re not, it’s probably best not to do it. I believe it’s more important to have family unity than to homeschool. I have a friend who wanted to homeschool, but her husband wasn’t in agreement. She looks back and is glad they made the decision not to homeschool, and she is very happy with the educational choice they made.

4. Are you willing to be mom (or dad) and teacher 24/7? It can be physically and emotionally exhausting to be with your kids all the time. Some people need more downtime than that to recharge. Others really don’t find teaching to be enjoyable or desirable. Homeschooling is a huge undertaking, not to be taken lightly. But it can also be a huge blessing to be with your children all day long. Time spent together provides many opportunities for bonding and discipleship.

5. If you have a child with special needs, can you provide everything he/she needs? In most cases, homeschool parents can provide adequately for special needs children, especially if they have mild disabilities. But sometimes another option is better.  It’s also important to consider how homeschooling a child with challenges will affect other children in your family. Some parents choose only to homeschool a special needs child while sending their other children to school. Others decide to homeschool the other children, but to send the child with learning issues to school. Still others feel equipped and called to homeschool both typical and special needs children. If you have a special needs child, the following articles may be of help to you:

Do you have what it takes homeschool a child with special needs?

Homeschooling a child with Autism

6. Do you want to homeschool? This may seem obvious. However, some people choose to homeschool because they feel like they “should.” They do it because they feel guilty or because many of their friends are doing it. You’re more likely to have a joyful homeschool if you want to do it. Some people, however, homeschool out of obedience to what God is calling them to do, even though they are reluctant. We always should obey God, even if He calls us to do something we don’t want to do. (Think about the story of Jonah.)

My goal in writing this isn’t to talk you out of homeschooling. On the contrary, I believe homeschooling is the best educational choice in many cases. I hope that, by considering my questions, you can feel an assurance about whatever God is calling you to do. When I decided to return to homeschooling, I considered all of these questions myself. Doing so led me to a decision to homeschool. It also led me to start A+ Educational Solutions LLC and Jubilee Academy, because I want to help others overcome homeschooling challenges. If , after carefully considering the questions I presented, you do choose to homeschool, I believe you’ll find it to be a blessing to your family.

Do you have what it takes homeschool a child with special needs?

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Shouldn’t you have a degree in special education in order to homeschool a child with ADHD, learning disabilities, Autism, or other special needs? You should at least be a “special kind of person,” right? You know, that proverbial “special kind of person” that God designed to educate challenging children.

Homeschooling a typical student is challenging enough, right? But when you have a child who doesn’t respond to the typical curriculums available on the homeschool market, that’s when you may just have to send your child to school, where there are “experts” with degrees and experience, right?

Probably not.

As one of the “experts” with a Master’s Degree and a Rank 1 in both elementary and special education who has taught in public school, I can tell you that you probably can do a better job educating your child at home than I could in public school. Sure, special educators generally are fabulous people who have a lot of knowledge about research-based techniques, and that’s important for sure. But what they generally don’t have is enough time and a small enough teacher-student ratio to do what you can do at home. They also often don’t have the freedom to teach your child what he needs to learn most, because they are subject to laws that say they have to teach the same standards to your child as the typical children in her grade, even if she’s not ready to learn them. And if your child isn’t eligible for smaller special education classes, he will be in a class with 24 to 35 students, depending on grade level, and he probably won’t always have a special education teacher available in those classes.

Even though, as a special education teacher, I wanted desperately wanted to do what I thought was best for students, my hands were often tied by federal laws, such as No Child Left Behind, and by state adherence to the Common Core Standards. It broke my heart to be obligated to teach long division to frustrated students who needed to learn how to subtract a single digit number from a two digit number. It didn’t make sense to have to teach students to balance chemical equations when they were five years below grade level in reading.

As a homeschooler, however, you have the freedom to educate each of your children according to his needs and abilities. You can assess where each child is, make goals for progress, and make a plan to get there. You don’t have to submit to laws that say that you have to teach her something for which she’s not ready. You can spend as long as needed on each concept and you can skip unnecessary material at your own discretion.

Yes, I’m an expert in special education, but you’re an expert about something far more important: You are an expert about your child. A teacher can learn a lot about your child over a few months, but it’s hard to beat the kind of expertise that comes from living with a child day in and day out for years, from tucking her in every night, from reassuring him about his fears, from sharing her hopes and dreams, from cuddling her when she’s upset or sick. It’s actually much easier for you to become an expert at techniques that can benefit your child than it is for a public school teacher to fully understand your child and to have the amount of time needed to give him the time he needs to make progress.

I’m not suggesting that homeschooling a child with learning challenges is easy, and I’m not saying that you can do it the same way as you would teach a typical child. It will likely take more time, effort, and patience on your part. You will want to educate yourself on the best research-based techniques for teaching children with your child’s disability. It will most likely take a different approach than many other homeschooling parents use, but it can be done. And chances are, you can do it better than the “experts.”

Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating

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“Isolated.” That’s the word she used–a word I’ve heard countless times from moms who have kids with special needs. A word I’ve used to describe my own situation.

Yesterday I was talking with another mom whose child has special needs. She was so relieved to find someone else who understands what it is like to have a challenging child. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation. I have talked with numerous moms who feel like nobody understands them. That nobody understands their children.

I remember back about a decade when my daughter was little. The looks we’d get. The well-meaning comments: “Maybe you should try … ” or “She just needs … ” Well, we did try all of those things. They didn’t work. Nothing “worked.”

It’s an awful feeling to be judged because of your child, especially when it’s due to a disability or condition that can’t be changed. It’s also heartbreaking to watch others–children and adults–judge your child. In the store. At the park. Even at church.

Yes, “isolated” is the proper word.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If more people understood disabilities and if more people decided to withhold judgment, we could support each other. Those in the church and in the homeschooling community should be the first to support each other, but often we’re the first to judge each other.

Many moms give up on homeschooling because of the challenges of raising a child with special needs. I did. (Many families give up on going to church because of those same challenges. Brothers and sisters, this should not be!)

I have come back to homeschooling mainly because of another special needs child. My youngest was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. I had him evaluated after his teacher expressed concerns. His Christian school will no longer be able to accommodate him next year, as he enters 1st grade. I could have sent him to public school, but as a special education teacher, I’ve seen first-hand that kids with ADHD rarely get what they need in public school. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way it is.

This time around I’m going to do things differently. I know a lot more about educating special needs children than I did the first time I homeschooled. And I want to share what I know with others. I want to encourage homeschool families who have children with challenges. That’s why I started A+ Educational Solutions and Jubilee Academy. I want homeschoolers to feel that they are able to stay the course, whether they have typical children but are burned out, or whether they have children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or other challenges. I want them to feel supported instead of isolated.

So the next time you talk to a homeschool mom who is having a tough time with a challenging kid, or the next time you see a family at church who is having trouble with their child, consider the possibility that they may be dealing with things you can’t understand. And be supportive. Instead of giving them a look of disapproval or pity, give them a genuine smile. Instead of giving well-meaning advice, listen to them and pray with them. If you know them, offer to babysit so they can have a break. Read up on their children’s disabilities. Reach out however you can. But please, don’t make them feel isolated.