Tag Archives: learning disabilities

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!

 

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?

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.”

Parenting special needs children doesn’t have to be isolating

adhd-bad-parenting-400x400

“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.