Author Archives: Melissa

FLVS Flex and Umbrella Schools

Parents often ask if they can use one or more FLVS flex courses if they are enrolled in an umbrella school.  FLVS flex is a version of Florida Virtual School which allows parents and students to choose one or many courses without being enrolled in the public school version of FLVS with all of the testing mandates and mandatory courses for graduation. The short answer is “maybe”. There are some details which affect whether you can or cannot do this.

If your umbrella school has an articulation agreement with FLVS, then your child will be able to use FLVS flex. The umbrella school owner will act as the guidance counselor. You will sign up for an account and request one or more courses. Then, the guidance counselor approves those courses. You may need to email your umbrella school owner to let them know you have requested one or more FLVS flex classes unless the school owner has given you other directions for this process.

If your umbrella school does not have an articulation agreement, you could request that they set this up. However, they may choose not to do so. If that is the case, then you have to decide if you prefer to stay with the umbrella school or change to a letter of intent and annual evaluation with your county as all Florida counties are able to approve your FLVS flex courses.

Remember that some counties will accept an FLVS transcript as proof that learning occurred. You may do this instead of having a certified teacher or psychologist complete an evaluation each year. However, your child may have to complete a certain amount of courses for this to suffice. FLVS flex allows your child to take one or multiple courses so please check with your county before doing this in order to be certain your child will qualify for this alternative to a yearly evaluation with the amount of courses they are taking.

Remember that FLVS is public school at home. FLVS flex is the same coursework but allows you to pick and choose classes though the flex option does not allow your child to graduate with a diploma whereas FLVS does. Either way you receive a transcript for courses taken.

 

Do you need an evaluation, consultation, transcript writing, or reading coach training? Click here to contact me. Let me put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, moving from middle school to high school to college, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

 

 

How Do I Begin Homeschooling in Florida?

 

How do I homeschool in Florida? Is unschooling allowed? Do my children have to take tests? What happens if my child has special needs and homeschools? These questions and others are found throughout support group websites and Facebook groups. The great news is that Florida is very homeschool and unschool friendly. Read on to find out how to get started homeschooling in Florida.

Florida provides a few different ways to homeschool.

  • Umbrella School
  • FLVS
  • Letter of Intent

 

 

Umbrella Schools

Umbrella schools are private schools used by homeschoolers. They are sometimes brick and mortar schools. But often are virtual. Umbrella schools are largely used for recordkeeping and collect data such as attendance (a few times per year) and vaccine records (or exemptions) and the records from a doctor’s physical exam (or exemptions).

Some umbrella schools have support beyond record keeping. Also, some umbrella schools have a fee while others are free. It is possible that an umbrella school will articulate with FLVS flex and/or state college dual enrollment programs, though not all do this. An evaluation form is not required for the county if you choose an umbrella school.

 

FLVS

Many families choose either the full-time or part-time (called FLVS flex) options. Some umbrella schools and your county will allow FLVS flex enrollment, but you must ask them to be sure. You may also use FLVS full-time, but your child will be on their roles as a public school student which means a diploma but also standardized testing and test-prep activities.

Keep in mind that your child will be held to the same testing and curriculum pacing schedules as public school students who go to brick and mortar schools if using full-time FLVS. Some counties also have their own version of virtual school. Check with your county’s school choice office for details if you are interested in FLVS full-time.

 

 

Letter of Intent

The letter of intent option means you are homeschooling through your county or school district. This sounds difficult, but it is not as much of a “big brother” situation as you might think. If you choose this option, you will need to send a letter of intent within 30 days of withdrawing from a public school, moving into a district, or beginning home education with your child. Keep a copy of this letter for yourself, then send another copy to your school district home education office. Many offices accept USPS mail, emails, and faxes. You may use the form found on the county website, though some counties may require you to write your own letter instead of use a pre-made form.

Then, each year you must submit an evaluation form saying that your child is making progress at their developmental level. To show that progress is being made, you will keep a portfolio throughout the year. You will keep a few samples from each subject your child learns. These do not have to be perfect but should show progression where possible.

Many families choose a sample from the beginning of the year, one from the middle, and one from the end for each subject covered. Parents choose the subjects taught so if you focused on math more than language arts because your child needed more math practice, that is okay. Just make sure your evaluator knows this in advance of your evaluation.

To comply with Florida law, you will need to either use FLVS flex transcripts, hire a psychologist to do testing and complete a form, have your child complete a standardized test that you and your county agree is appropriate, or have a certified teacher complete a form. Most people choose either the FLVS flex transcript or an evaluation, using an evaluation form, with a certified teacher who regularly completes evaluations and understands the homeschool law in Florida.

Some counties send a copy of their evaluation form near your anniversary date, but they are not required to do this. Keep in mind that there is no state required version of the form so you may use your county’s form or another form your evaluator has on hand. Be sure you keep track of your due date which is on the anniversary of your homeschool journey beginning, as noted on your letter of intent when you sent it to the county. You will keep your portfolio for a minimum of 2 years, but I suggest keeping your evaluation form from each year as long as your children are in homeschool, unschool, or college so they have that proof of learning happening.

A letter of intent allows homeschoolers to utilize their zoned school for IEPs, testing for some special needs, and extracurricular activities in some cases. Additionally, a letter of intent generally allows you to use your local state college for dual enrollment, though the PERT test must also be passed to begin at most state colleges.

 

Do you need an evaluation, consultation, transcript writing, or reading coach training? Click here to contact me. Let me put my experience to work for you!

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, moving from middle school to high school to college, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

 

My Homeschooler Won’t Listen To Me

Parents and teens often hit rough patches along their homeschool route. There is always the chance for disagreements or conflicts when making choices about education regardless of how or where your child attends school. But what do you do when your child won’t listen, complete work, or choose to improve their skill set?


Change Curriculum/Homeschool Style

Sometimes the homeschool style a parent prefers will not work for a child. Some parents are very traditional while others prefer a relaxed homeschool option. Many times, the conflicts families deal with have to do with a mismatch in homeschool or curriculum style with a student’s preferences or educational needs.

If you use online courses, try paper and book courses. If your child prefers to work outside of the house due to distractions from siblings, see if your local library has a study space. If workbooks are not working, try online options. If you are unsure of which options are best, consider looking for used or free curriculum, asking others in homeschool groups to text you a few photos of the types of lessons in a curriculum you are considering, or call the company to ask for a trial (if they offer this). You could also check your local library for curriculum options. Doing a little homework can often save you cash in the long run, especially if you try several types of curriculum before finding a good fit.

 

Have Someone Else Teach

It can be difficult to let go of the teaching portion of homeschooling. After all, the goal is to bond the family and learn together. Sometimes, though, it becomes necessary to hire a tutor, join a co-op, or utilize other local or online options. If your child refuses to complete tasks, is not making progress, and you find yourself arguing and punishing often, consider changing up who does the instruction for one of more subjects. Sometimes you or your child needs a break. Sometimes our kids prefer to learn from others. Often there are online or local options to help part or full time with this issue.

 

Ask Your Child For Input

One of the best pieces of advice is to include your child, especially teens, in the decision-making process whenever possible. Have them consider their future goals and job interests along with where they are now with skills such as math sense and reading level. This often helps motivate students t do well. If they can choose several courses, the type of materials used, and see their goals clearly, you may have less conflict over completion of school tasks.

 

Deschool/Unschool

Another great option is to either deschool, then go back to homeschooling or deschool and move into unschooling. Deschooling means you take time off from schoolwork to rest, recharge, and feel more at peace. Then, once you have deschooled for the length of time you feel works for your family or child, you move back to either homeschooling or unschooling. Unschooling is allowing child-led exploration and education instead of having adult-driven lessons. Unschooling may look like coding a website for fun, painting all day, exploring outdoors, playing at the park, reading a self-chosen book, etc. The key is that the child chooses and the adult supports if needed but does not push any particular topic or schoolwork.  The deschooling time period is a good time to make changes to curriculum or structure of your school day. You could use this option in conjunction with taking time to re-evaluate homeschooling options.

 

 

If you feel stressed out, need encouragement, or want to know what your options are, schedule a consultation with me. I am happy to put my experience to work for you.

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, moving from middle school to high school to college, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

 

Homeschooling a High School Student

Are you ready to homeschool a high schooler? Many times I hear that people will homeschool until the end of middle school, then use public or private high schools.

This is definitely an option, but you don’t have to go this route unless you want to do so. You can homeschool through high school. Check out the tips below to get the basics.

Make a Plan

The first step is to not get stressed out. You will have to do some planning and research, but this can be done over time and adjusted when needed. Set a timeline for yourself and your child so that you feel less stressed. Make sure this timeline is not rushed.

Consider joining a local support group where there may be other members who have already planned their high school coursework. Learn from their advice. Ideally, you will begin planning for high school by the middle of grade 8. If you find yourself with a high schooler and not a lot of planning, then go ahead an begin planning but still break the process down into steps so you are not overwhelmed.

Consider Interests and Goals

It is important to consider your child’s interests and job aspirations. If your child doesn’t know which job they may want, no problem, go ahead and make sure they have the basics so their options are open. Have your child help choose as many courses as possible.

In many situations some things are non-negotiable such as 4 years of language arts and literature studies and 3 years of social studies and government courses. But having your child actively involved in course choice and curriculum choice gives them a taste of the freedom college or trade school brings as well as the option to set their own goals and set the stage for their future.

Working Backwards

If your teen knows which college they want to attend, which job they may want, or has ideas about any other options, then use that information to find out what will be required to meet this goal. You may also consider using your state’s accredited public school requirements list to guide you as this likely follows a college prep route even for students who may choose other avenues. This list can usually be found on your state’s or province’s Department of Education website.

If your son wants to be park ranger, he may need some botany and biology background so consider adding this type of coursework in for science and/or elective spaces. Look for job requirements for park rangers. Do they need a college degree? If so, which kind of degree works best and how long does it take to complete? Should they volunteer before applying for work? Is there a way to utilize dual enrollment or CLEP tests to speed up the process if college is necessary?  As you can see, there are many considerations but if you begin planning early, there is less stress over lack of time to make decisions.

Dual Enrollment and CLEP for College-bound Students

Many homeschool families use either dual enrollment or CLEP (College Level Examination Program) tests to earn college credits before high school ends. Both options can help save money and time. Look into these options but remember that they are not a must. Each student is unique, and homeschooling allows us to make room for our children’s needs while helping them achieve their goals.

Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take college classes at community college-style schools in their area. These are usually smaller schools and help ease the transition from high school to college level educational experiences. There have been situations where universities and larger 4-year colleges offer dual enrollment. Some classes are online while others are in-person.

Email and ask the college your student hopes to use for dual enrollment if they take high schoolers or not. Usually they will require PERT, ACT, or SAT scores at a certain threshold in order to enroll your child. This may vary by school, though. Another point of interest for some is that dual enrollment may allow your child to directly transfer to a larger university depending on your state laws and university rules.

CLEP tests are tests a student takes in order to gain college credits without attending a class. There are a large variety of CLEP tests available, so it is worth checking into. Many students use these tests to gain general education credits such as math, language arts/literature, etc. By using CLEP to get basic requirements out of the way for a college degree, your student can then focus on their topic of study more quickly as well as potentially graduate earlier.

Keep in mind that some trade schools and apprenticeship programs may allow your high school student to work toward a career while finishing high school as a homeschooler. There may be tests, fees, or other requirements to consider so make sure you have a list of questions and don’t be afraid to contact them more than once if they will allow your child to begin during high school. If your child prefers to learn a trade and get out to the workforce, this may be an option.

Transcripts

Parents contact me alllll the time because they are scared to deal with transcripts. This is a logical fear. Maybe this is the first time you are writing a transcript. Maybe your child wants to get into a university that to which it is traditionally difficult to gain entrance. I think we all feel this way at first. The great news is that you can do this.

Writing a transcript is not as hard as it sounds. It is important to be accurate and clear. If you unschool, then take great care to write course descriptions as your student may use multiple sources and activities to learn about a topic. As with the coursework planning stage above, make sure you have time. I prefer to add courses as they are completed, though you could choose to add courses as they begin, then add the grades when completed. Because you will research which courses are expected for college entrance and the future job your child wants, you will have a transcript which reflects these requirements.

If you use a virtual or distance education program, you may already have a printout with grades which means you have a transcript already. If you use multiple types of classes or curriculum, then you may need to use this info to create your own master transcript so that all classes are listed in one document.

Don’t Stress

This will sound ridiculous, but don’t stress out. If you stress, your kid may stress, too. If you are both stressed out, you are going to have a rough time. If you feel panic set in because you feel like maybe you haven’t done enough or aren’t quite prepared, remember, you can do this. Your child can do this.

  1. Make a plan
  2. Consider interests and goals
  3. Work backwards
  4. Consider cost-saving and time-saving options like dual enrollment, CLEP tests, and apprenticeships
  5. Write transcripts as you go

 

If you would like for me to consult with you or write transcripts for your, please contact me at the link or text the phone number below. I am happy to help.

 

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Can We Homeschool At Night?

 

I recently had a chat with a friend about the flexibility that many homeschoolers enjoy. She prefers to work with her kids in the evenings because that is when the whole family is home and there are no errands to run. I told her that many clients of mine do the same thing. They look at scheduling their homeschool academics around other commitments such as work, therapies for special needs, and activities out of the home such as co-ops and park days.

Not all homeschooling has to happen during the hours when public schools are in session. Consider parents who work and homeschool. They may work during the week and choose to homeschool in the evenings or on weekends. This allows flexibility and allows working parents the opportunity to help guide their children’s education.

When clients ask if they can homeschool at nontraditional times, the general answer is “Yes”. You can homeschool when it is convenient for your family to do so. You can schedule lessons around the other events and appointments in your life. You can utilize weekends or evenings if you so choose.

Another consideration is that teens need more sleep and some children, teens or not, do better when learning academics in the evening. If parents allow evening learning opportunities, the kids who need to sleep in or who feel more centered and focused in the evening may benefit from academic instruction occurring later in the day. If your child pushes back when you try to teach or feels stressed, this may be one way to get past the roadblock.

My job is to work with you and your child.

The only time when flexible homeschooling hours are not an option is if your state specifically states the hours your children must receive instruction. Please do examine your state statutes and seek out guidance from your local homeschool support groups before using a nontraditional homeschool schedule.

Do what works for your family. You may find that with nontraditional hours, things go more smoothly. Then again, they may not go well and you may choose to go back to a more traditional homeschool day. Either way, you have options to do what is best for your family.

My Teen Doesn’t Want A Driver’s License

Sometimes clients ask if they should be concerned that their kids don’t want to get a driver’s license. In American culture many kids look forward to this rite of passage and are expected to want their license as soon as possible.

I think some parents also look forward to having less driving to do or help with younger kids. (I know I do.) It seems common for parents to be concerned if their kids are not yet interested in driving. After all, the other kids are driving, right? Why isn’t my kid?

Anxiety

Sometimes teens feel anxiety over new or different tasks. In this day and age where society pushes grades, tests, extracurriculars, and more, teens have a lot of demands on their plates. Adding driving to the mix can seem daunting to kids.

If your teen doesn’t feel ready, it may be wise not to push just yet. There may be other demands your child is struggling to deal with and though everything may seem fine, there may be big emotions at play. Worry over disappointing you, not being as advanced as friends, or concern over getting into an accident may be part of the issue.

 

Time and Commitment

Think about how many hours of drive time one needs to become a good driver. Being ready for any situation takes time and practice. Teens today have many goals and activities in their daily lives. Adding driving in can be difficult to do in between school, activities, and studying. Sometimes parents can work driving time into normal daily activities, but this may not be easy depending on schedules. Some teens see time needed to learn to drive as a roadblock. They may not want to start the process unless they know things will progress quickly.

 

Unconcerned

Sometimes teens just don’t care about driving. City buses, subway and above ground train options, friends, family, and other modes of transportation such as Uber have given teens and young adults more options for transportation. A few decades ago there were far less options but now there are many options, especially in cities and suburbs. Many teens see these options and decide that driving is not a necessity. They aren’t wrong. Depending on where you live, work, and go to school, you may not need a driver’s license. Plus, the costs of having a vehicle can be difficult to manage. Consider insurance, car payments, upkeep, and repairs.

While many adults prefer to drive, not all teens see this as a necessary part of life. If your child is not interested or wants to wait until later in life to learn to drive, try not to stress out. If there is anxiety in the mix, consider looking into ways to manage stress and anxiety. Overall, I encourage trusting your teen to let you know when they are ready to learn to drive.

How to Include Homeschoolers with Special Needs

As homeschooling families grow in number, so does the number of families with kids who have special needs. Homeschool groups and co-ops have opened their hearts to include students who may struggle with academics, medical conditions, or behavior issues.

There are, however, sometimes growing pains when learning how to include those with special needs as not all activities will be easy for all kids to attend without stress. Ideally, all events will work for all kids. Unfortunately, we sometimes have to open our ears and minds so we can hear what families tell us their kids need so that everyone can have a great time while learning and socializing.

Listen to the Issues at Hand

Make sure to listen to those who have special needs. They and their families will be able to tell you what helps and what doesn’t.

If a child is scared of water, make sure to host events that do not include water at least part of the time. This way the child can have opportunities to socialize and learn without fear of something that triggers them being present during an event. If a child becomes aggressive when an event includes competitive games, find out what activities would go well for the child and consider incorporating these into the event.

Consider how best to handle a stressed-out child. Would the parent be present and help or is this a drop-off activity where the organizer may need to step in? If you do need to step in, how should you react in order to help the child calm down or feel less stressed-out? Don’t assume you know what to do. Have the parent and child let you know what is best before attending events.

Think Outside of the Box

Many families deal with food allergies. If a child is allergic to dairy, try to avoid that food during events. Often there are alternatives available that will work for most or all group members (soy ice cream, almond milk, coconut yogurt). Another option is to have events without food or drink involved. This may limit the length of time you will meet but will also allow a child to avoid allergens or foods that behavior more difficult for the child to manage.

Remember that food allergies present in different ways. Just because there are no outward signs doesn’t mean there is no allergy. Also, allergies vary in severity. One child may get a rash while another may pass out and yet another child may have gastrointestinal issues. All of these issues are serious, though some require immediate emergency care. Considering allergens when planning events is extremely important because of these issues.

Accept Others

You don’t have to fully understand why or how something affects another person to be compassionate and inclusive. Sometimes special needs of others may seem odd or different to you or your kids. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is ignoring what those with special needs say is an issue for them. If someone only likes small events, then they may choose to attend small events only. This needs to be accepted in your group even if you prefer people to attend every event. If touching bothers a child, then do not play games where touching is required (tag, red rover, dodge ball) but perhaps try other games such as “Mother May I”.

Also, recurring events you host may have to change a little bit to better include all members. You may have to forego the loud music at a party and use a lower volume in order to help children with sensory difficulties. You may need to allow parents to attend field trips or be an aid to their kids with special needs during co-op classes rather than choosing only a few parents to help during this type of event.

 

Everyone is Special

Because you care, you want to help. This is a huge support for families whose children have special needs. Your support and acceptance is important to the success of each and every family in your group. Your patience and effort will pay off. In the end, your group of friends will end up stronger and more enriched because you learned who to help one another.

How Long Should Our Homeschool Day Be?

There is a lot of speculation regarding exactly what a homeschool day ought to look like and how long it should take for daily lessons. There are as many answers as there are families who homeschool. When clients ask me how long their day should take, there are several factors I ask them to consider.

 

What age/stage/grade is your child?

Consider your child’s age, grade level, and developmental stage. If your child is 4 or 5, consider using play, co-op groups, and field trips more than seatwork. These activities are more developmentally appropriate and foster social skills. If your child is 7 but cannot sit still for more than 5 minutes, you may need less in seat and more hands-on activities. You may also need to give your child the option to choose from a variety of activities rather than using traditional homeschool workbooks and curriculum. If your child is 16 and wants to participate in dual enrollment, you may utilize study guides or tutors for a portion fo the week to help brush up on skills needed to pass entrance tests. This may add a couple of hours per week to your child’s schedule.

Replicating public or private school is not the same as homeschooling.

Many families choose to use options like online public school or flex online schooling. If this works for your child, especially if you can pick and choose which courses while leaving courses not needed/wanted, then you are set. Sometimes this option is a good match. However, there are many students who end up spending so much time on these courses that they end up with very little time for real-world experiences such as playing with friends, trips to the library, field trips, and more. Remember that busy work, repetition without need for practice within a subject, is not a part of best practices in education. Practice is good. Too much practice of a topic one already knows can cause regression and discourage interest in learning.

Does your child have special needs?

If your child has special needs, consider the topics which may need to take a little more time versus a little less time in your school day. Also, consider how much time needs to be spent working with a therapist for those special needs. Add in the need for your child to have breaks to play, relax, and pursue their interests. Consider all fo these factors when looking at how much time is spent on schoolwork.

What are your child’s interests?

Does your child love to complete art projects? Does she write all day for fun? Does he enjoy sports? Think about how frustrating it is to never have time to participate in your hobbies. Kids need time to explore new hobbies and find out what they enjoy doing. One of the pros of homeschooling is that you can provide this opportunity for your child. They do not have to wait for a class full of students to sit quietly or finish a task before moving on. Homeschooling moves faster so you can offer more free time to your child.

 

Everyone needs a break.

Adults needs time off of work. So do kids. We all need a break sometime whether going on a vacation or simply staying home to enjoy a quiet afternoon while we relax from a long week. I know when I haven’t had enough time to relax. I become grumpy and feel tired. If I take the time to relax a little each day, I feel less grumpy and have more energy. Kids have similar issues when they don’t get enough time off from organized tasks like schoolwork. You may see behavior issues, difficulty with sleep, or other issues popping up if there is not enough free time.

So exactly how long should a school day be for a homeschooler?

There is no exact amount of time you must work on organized homeschool activities unless you live in a state or province which mandates a specified amount of time per day, month, or year. Most homeschoolers spend 1-4 hours a day on schoolwork. Younger children tend to spend 1-2 hours a day while older kids (middle and high schoolers usually) may spend closer to 2-4 hours per day on organized schoolwork activities. Keep in mind that there are also unstructured activities like sports, park days, co-op classes, game days, field trips, and more which do not factor in to the times I mentioned above. In the end, you have to decide what works best for your child. If something is not working, then take a break or try a different option whether that means a different curriculum or less/more time spent on homeschool activities.

 

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PhD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

Which Curriculum is Best for Homeschooling a Child in Kindergarten?

 

Every day when I log into social media homeschool groups, I see people asking how to begin homeschooling and which curriculum is best for their 5 or 6-year-old child. This is a really good question, especially given the fact that public schools tend to push standards-based education options rather than diverse developmentally appropriate education options. Sadly, not all kids will be ready for the curriculum given in kindergarten and first grade.

This is one reason why some parents homeschool or unschool. There is more freedom of choice in home and unschooling options, plus some children do better when not being pushed to learn at the pace state standards push.

Some states do require a written educational plan or for you to declare a curriculum. I encourage you to seek out support from your local homeschool organizations and groups in order to find the best options if that is your situation. However, if this is not a requirement for you, then you get to choose what is best for your little one.

Keep in mind that, at the ages of 5 and 6, your child needs less of a curriculum and more free play time. When we push curriculum and sitting at a table writing before a child is ready, our sweet kids tend to regress and dislike learning. Sometimes a child will want to use worksheets or a full curriculum which it okay as well, but should not be the main focus just yet.

Using activities like puzzles, outdoor time, visits to museums and libraries, play groups and park days, and other hands-on activities. These activities help children to learn social skills, motor skills, and learn to love learning. Add in reading aloud to your child and go at your own pace options (when ready) like ABC Mouse or Reading Eggs and you have a recipe for success.

When asked, my advice is to begin slowly. Focus on social skills, play, and hands-on learning. Work as a team to choose activities your child will enjoy and from which he will learn. Adjust as your child’s needs, maturity, and interests change. Add in more structured activities as your child grows and learns.

Together you can do this! I believe in you.

 

For evaluations and consultations, contact Melissa, The Reading Coach!

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

 

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my dissertation for my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at 407-712-4368

4 Things My Child’s OT Needs to Know

 

Years ago, my family utilized occupational therapists (OTs) for one of my children. At that time, we had fantastic luck as both of the therapists our insurance covered were wonderful, patient, and good listeners. I assumed all OTs were trained to be this way.

Recently we began OT for another of my children. It has been extremely difficult to find someone who can accept the limitations and stressors my sweet kid has right now. I had no idea that others struggled with this issue, too, until I asked in a local mom group. Turns out that many, many people have difficulty finding quality OTs as well as quality PTs (physical therapists) in my area. What I am hearing from others is that the therapists know their field quite well. However, many do not listen to clients and families, so they are unable to learn how best to serve the client.

Based on my experiences and those replayed to me via chat and in-person, I ended up writing this post. I hope it helps give perspective. Families do want to work with therapists, but parents and children become frustrated after going down the list and trying multiple providers, then having OTs or PTs repeatedly fail their kids.

Noncompliance does not equal a naughty child.

When a child has special needs, your family will come into contact with many healthcare professionals who want to help. They are often experts in their field and have an incredible amount of experience. Ready for the “but”?

They may be experts on a topic or diagnosis, BUT they are NOT experts on your child. One huge issue that comes up time and again is the lack of understanding of anxiety. Many children deal with mutism, or selective mutism, due to their anxiety because they literally cannot make themselves speak when extremely anxious or having a panic attack. Another term to know about is Pathological Demand Avoidance (also known as PDA). PDA is, in essence, anxiety. But this kind of anxiety is extreme. A child may lash out, become mute, ignore, or even run away from a situation that gives them anxiety. Many children, mine included, explain this feeling as a growing pressure that escalates with demands for compliance. This creates an extreme amount of stress and anxiety.

The problem is that these behaviors look like naughty behavior when they are actually behavior borne from anxiety attacks and panic. Sadly, it may be difficult to tell the difference between naughty behavior and panicked behavior when they present so similarly and both mean noncompliance and sometimes even unsafe behaviors. The problem that many families run into is that medical professionals, therapists, and teachers often do not realize that what they assume to be a naughty child is actually a child struggling with anxiety or PDA. It is important for therapists and other professionals to  listen to parents, children. Don’t take these behaviors personally or as a refusal to cooperate. Instead, take time to grow a rapport with the child, then things go much more smoothly.

SPD, PDA, and anxiety may prevent touch.

Sometimes touch is seen as part of a physical or occupational therapy session. This is understandable as a therapist may need to show or help a client do something. Some therapists are very thoughtful of boundaries, but others are so focused on meeting goals as fast as possible, that they forget that the clients have boundaries which should be respected in order to build a positive bond.

Children who are sensory defensive will not likely want to be touched. They may have a family member who they tolerate if they need help with writing or buttoning pants. Understanding this is a huge help and knowing when not to push an activity can help build bonds between therapist and client. In short, consent matters. As my child said after a negative therapist appointment, “I am the boss of my own body, not you or anyone else.”

There is plenty of time.

Much of therapy is goal-driven in that there is an evaluation, goals are written, then insurance companies and parents often want to see that progress is being made toward those goals. During the yearly re-evaluation, progress is supposed to be shown. The idea is that, eventually, the client will no longer need the occupational or physical therapy service. However, this is not realistic in all cases.

The problem is that a goal-driven therapy model often does not respect the pace at which a child with special needs can handle demands, changes, and activities. The adults may forget that rapport takes time and working as a team means getting to know the client even if it takes months or years. One of my children recently said, “I don’t think the OT knows me at all. If she did, she’d know not to put pressure on me. It makes me have anxiety and then I can’t talk.” A child having an anxiety attack because a therapist did not take the time to find out that child’s triggers is not going to be successful with the child. Patience is key here. Forcing things won’t help. Sometimes slow and steady is the way to win the race. Yes, even if moving at a tortoise’s pace.

My family will stick up for me.

There is a saying, I’m not sure who coined it, that says something like, “A parent is the expert regarding their child.” I agree. Loving, invested parents ARE experts. They are experts in the child’s special needs, likes, dislikes, and behavior patterns.

If a parent is telling you not to do something, then immediately stop. The same goes for the child telling you no with either behaviors or words. Just as a parent is an expert, so is the child. Your client may have difficulty explaining the issues but learning those behavior patterns and understanding how a child reacts when upset versus happy is a HUGELY important skill for anyone working with clients who are children or who are nonverbal. “Thanks, mom!” That’s what my child said after I had to fire a therapist who thought they knew better than my child and I regarding the child’s needs. The therapist knew us all of 90 minutes total, yet thought they knew more about the child’s needs and caused a panic attack and subsequent regression in the child.

Here’s the thing. An OT or PT may know a diagnosis. They may be experts in their field. That’s wonderful! But they are not experts on each client until they take the time to get to know the client.

This is an ongoing process and forcing a relationship, creating an adversarial process by being authoritarian, and pushing things that trigger a client are never going to help establish rapport. Parents will tell you to stop. Parents will fire you if they see you refuse to listen. The client’s family WILL stick up for them. We are, after all, their best advocates and don’t take that job lightly.

 

As one of my children recently said, “I want them to understand me. Being pushy doesn’t help.” As adults we may get wrapped up in goals and our agenda. But that’s not important. It is important to support clients and clients’ families by listening, observing, and putting the client first. Work as a team to find out how to help. Make goals together. Listen, observe, and use patience. As I mentioned above, slow and steady wins the race.

 

About the Author

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.; Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Several years ago I left my teaching job to spend more time with my children. I was sad to go, but am thankful for the experiences that classroom teaching provided. I now provide Florida homeschool evaluations and homeschool help in the form of consultations, transcript writing,  and tutoring. My educational experiences paired with real world experience give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.
I specialize in tutoring and homeschool help for students living with special needs and am an approved Gardiner Scholarship tutor. I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and master’s degree to work for you. Please contact me with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com