Category Archives: Special Needs Homeschooling

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!

 

Jubilee Academy offers occupational therapy services

Tracy MurrayJubilee Academy wishes to welcome Tracy Murray OT/L to the Jubilee Team.   Reentering the field after 25 years of homeschooling, Tracy brings a wealth of knowledge especially in a unique area she created called Therapeutic Tutoring. She finds that when combining the senses, individual learning styles, sensory integration and OT principles into her academic tutoring she is more likely to see students progress and grasp concepts that have previously been difficult to comprehend. Her students have fun and gain confidence in ways that make learning meaningful.   In addition, Tracy’s bring many skills to Jubilee including Sensory Integration training expertise, years of traditional clinical and school based pediatric occupational therapy and in-depth parenting skills being the mom of 8 children herself. In addition, Tracy has a keen awareness of cultural diversity after living in many regions across the US as well as serving as a missionary in Zambia. In addition to sewing and hiking, Tracy loves kayaking and running RecycloCraftz, an ongoing ministry in Zambia.

 

Tracy seeks to make OT services convenient to all those involved. Services can be incorporated into a student’s day while at Jubilee or services can be done privately at your home. An initial evaluation will be scheduled to assess each student’s needs and the parent’s concerns at a cost of $150. The evaluation and regular OT services are reimbursed through many insurance companies, however, with the costs of sessions are to be paid at the time of service delivery. Regular sessions are billed to insurance at $125/hour with a 20% discount offered when services are paid on the treatment day. We can attempt to gain possible recoupment, but it is not guaranteed. Private pay clients are billed at a flat rate of $70/hour. It is possible to schedule 30 minute sessions if sessions are held at Jubilee. If one or more students are working on similar goals group sessions may be possible thereby incurring a shared cost.

Additionally, Tracy will teach some of Jubilee Academy’s Friday program classes, including Brain Gym, Social Skills, and Visual Perceptual Skills.

 

Questions and scheduling can be completed via email at MurraysInZambia@gmail.com or by phone at 717-344-2530.

 

Tracy is looking forward to serving the Jubilee Community and making a difference in your child’s life.

 

Top Ten Reasons to Enroll at Jubilee Academy

Students work together to research and present particular ecosystems to the class.
Students work together to research and present particular ecosystems to the class.

People interested in finding out more about Jubilee Academy may like to know why they should consider enrolling their children. In my opinion, here are the top ten reasons:

10. If you’re a homeschooler, it may help you avoid burnout. When I first homeschooled my two daughters, I started strong. But one of my daughters had some learning challenges, and that led to burnout. After five years of homeschooling, I enrolled my daughters in school. At Jubilee Academy, we want to help you avoid burnout. Having a couple days a week to catch up on errands, plan your homeschool curriculum, and just have a break, can give you the oasis you need in order to stay fresh as a homeschool teacher and as a parent.

9. It’s affordable. Whether you are looking for full-time or part-time programming, we are an affordable Christian school. We always will keep our tuition low, because part of our vision is to offer a Christian education to families who normally wouldn’t have access to one.

Students have opportunities to present ideas to their peers.

8. Our teachers are highly competent and caring. All have credentials and experience that qualify them to teach with excellence. Most have teaching degrees and certifications. More importantly, each teacher believes that your child is an important member of our learning community.

7. Social skills and character training are included in the curriculum. We dedicate time daily to explicitly teach social skills, and we have an extended social skills class each week. We begin each day with a devotional or Scripture reading, and we refer to the Bible throughout the day in order to teach our students to be people of good character.

6. We don’t use Common Core Standards. Many parents and teachers have concerns about the Common Core Standards which the state of Kentucky requires to be taught in the public schools. Teachers are overwhelmed with the expectations on them, and they have to dedicate time to things other than teaching. Parents are concerned about an increasingly secular humanist worldview and less emphasis on the basics. At Jubilee Academy, we do not use the Common Core Standards. Instead, we teach the basics, like spelling, handwriting, and multiplication tables.

Spending time in nature is an important part of the curriculum at Jubilee Academy.
Spending time in nature is an important part of the curriculum at Jubilee Academy.

5. We teach from a Christian worldview. Everything we do comes through the filter of Scripture. We incorporate the Bible and its principles throughout the day, from an academic and character-building standpoint. Scientifically, we embrace creationism and can back it up with evidence. We train students to treat each other according to the Golden Rule and to do their work as working for the Lord.

4. Hands-on learning engages students. We want students to be active learners, so we give them opportunities to do, rather than to just “sit and get.”  Jubilee students experience learning. Education is something they participate in–not something that is handed to them. Whoever is doing the work is doing the learning, so we want our students to work hard every day.

3. Our students have made gains in all academic areas. We recently tested our students in reading, writing, and math. Each made gains since the beginning of the school year–many in all three areas. We continually assess students to make sure they are progressing and mastering the material. We don’t move on until we know they have mastered a unit. Therefore, they make gains.

2. Our low teacher-student ratio helps us give your children an excellent education. Research confirms that one of the best determiners of a good education is a low teacher-student ratio. At Jubilee Academy, we are committed to a 1:10 student-teacher ratio.

Image 3
Students learn about fractions by playing a game with cardboard pizzas.

1. We see your child as an individual. Even though our students are in class with up to nine other children, each student is treated as an individual. We group students roughly by grade level, but we tailor learning to each child’s needs. We do this by making smaller groups within the class and by differentiating assignments and expectations. We want to see your child make progress during the year. We don’t expect every child in a grade to be on the same page. We simply expect each child to do his/her best and to make gains throughout the year.

If you share our philosophy of education, consider setting up an appointment to tour or to have your child shadow at Jubilee Academy. We would be happy to answer questions and to discuss your children’s specific needs. We still have room left for next school year, but some grades are almost full.

There is an informational meeting Feb. 18, 6:30-8 p.m. at Jubilee Academy, 7505 Kavanaugh Road, Crestwood, Ky. 40014. If you register at or before the meeting, you receive $50 off the registration fee for each child.

Don’t hesitate to call 502-439-4400, or email jubilee.academy@aol.com, if you have questions or want more information.

https://apluseducationalsolutions.com/jubilee-cottage-school-policies-and-information/

Free Educational Assessment for those Considering Jubilee Academy

ImageIf you are considering Jubilee Academy, I will happily provide a free educational assessment for your child. Then I will discuss with you whether Jubilee is a good fit and how your child’s needs can be met there. I usually charge $40 for this evaluation. It’s actually worth far more than that. I have morning and evening appointment slots available this week and next week. Remember, discounted registration ends Sunday. If you schedule an evaluation with me by Sunday, I will extend the discounted registration until the day of your child’s evaluation.

I am excited about the group of students that already is registered and am looking forward to seeing who else joins us. So far, I have students in each grade from K-4 signed up. Jubilee Academy accepts students in grades K-6. We meet in Crestwood on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9-2:45. For more information, visit https://apluseducationalsolutions.com/jubilee-cottage-school-policies-and-information/

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.

A Cottage School is Born

Jubilee Academy at KavanaughToday I finalized plans for Jubilee Academy to operate at Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center in Crestwood, KY. I am excited about this venture, because this is an opportunity to do what I love–which is teaching–while including the people I love–my kids–for the most important reason of all–God‘s glory.

I got the idea of beginning a cottage school because I didn’t want to quit teaching professionally even though I decided to homeschool my own children. There are several fabulous cottage schools in the Louisville, KY area, but I wanted to build a unique program based on my own philosophy of education. Jubilee Academy is a blend of the best of progressive and the best of traditional education. Students will participate in reading, writing, and math workshops each day. They will receive instruction from me, and then they’ll put the skills to use while working individually or in groups. Those needing extra instruction will have individual conferences or focus groups with me.

Since I am certified in special education, as well as in elementary education, and since I personally have two children who have ADHD, I want to reach out to others with children who struggle. I have a passion for teaching all kinds of students–students who are considered typical, as well as those with ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Asperger’s Syndrome, and High Functioning AutismJubilee Academy will admit students with and without learning challenges.

In the Old Testament, the Jubilee was the year when everyone got back any property they had mortgaged, when debts were forgiven, and when captives were set free. I see Jubilee Academy as a place of freedom and joy for students. I also see this venture as part of my personal journey of freedom.

I am looking forward to seeing what God does with Jubilee Academy in this venture of creating a cottage school.

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?

little-girl-being-homeschooled

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.”