Category Archives: Parenting

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

When A Student Avoids School Work

 

Recently a client’s father was concerned. His child was avoiding schoolwork and becoming very anxious when it was time to complete school or homework. He was at a loss as to why this was happening.  So we had a chat about the patterns of behavior and ways to help.

When kids refuse to complete a school task there is always a reason. No, it is not because they are “lazy” or “bad”. It may take some digging, but finding out why this is happening can help you set up a plan to help your child.

Is there a trigger in the schoolwork?

Sometimes children are unable to complete a task because it is considered gross, scary, or has a topic/word they feel uncomfortable around. Adjust the assignment when possible. If writing about ducks triggers a child, change the topic to a different animal. If writing by hand is a trigger because it hurts or feels weird due to sensory issues, then allow typing or allow the child to speak the words instead.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Is executive functioning an issue?

Executive functioning skills must be strong in order for children to complete multi-step tasks, especially if they must figure out the steps to complete a task. If a child needs to write an essay, they will need to come up with a topic, outline the main idea and details, create sentences, edit the writing, then turn it in. This can be an overwhelming task if executive functioning skills are not yet strong. Help by sitting together to make a to do list, in order, for the activity. Break the task into different hours or days. Do something fun in between as well to have a break from the difficult task.

Is there anxiety because it is a new task?

Many times people become worried or anxious over a new task. This can occur for clear reasons or simply be a feeling with no clear reason. Either way, it is important to recognize the anxiety and how bad that feels. Ask how you can help. Offer alternatives when possible such as a different topic, different way to show understanding of the material, and offer a longer amount of time in which to complete each stage of the task.

Is there anxiety because someone is demanding the child complete the assignment?

When someone appears oppositional it may be due to anxiety, Pathological Demand Avoidance, or Oppositional Defiance Disorder, as well as other reasons such as feeling ill. Be a teammate rather than someone who demands immediate compliance. What steps can you take together to assist without doing the work for the child? Will taking short breaks in between every 3 sentences written help? Will drawing work more easily than cutting and gluing a project? Think outside of the box if possible. Give time between a task and the completion time for a task. Consider writing it down or using graphics and pictures to show what to do in steps, then give time to complete the task. Pressing the issue and repeating oneself to a child can build pressure in the child and trigger a feeling of unworthiness, anxiety, or even opposition in some kids.

Does the child not see the value in the activity?

Sometimes people need to see the link to everyday life or their goals before a task seems worthwhile. Consider using hands-on activities, creative presentation options, mentorships, real life experience through field trips, etc. These activities can help students see why topics such as division are necessary to their every day lives and motivate them to tolerate or willingly ask to practice life skills and academic activities. Sometimes a new perspective or having someone who is not mom or dad say that a topic is important can help as well. AN internship may be an additional step if a mentorship is working well for your child.

Is distraction happening even when the child is interested?

Distractions can cause a  lot of stress for teacher and student, parent and child, leaving everyone stressed and tired. Consider adding in a favorite type of music at a low volume if our child works better with background noise, but consider taking away sounds like tv or music if they distract. You may want to try using a white noise machine or headphones to block sounds, depending on if your child does better with or without background noise. Remember that becoming distracted easily is not usually something a child can control so punishment and anger will not solve this issue. Take a breath, or 10, then come back to the issue and help your child get back on task. If a task is taking a long time, consider completing the task in short bursts of time. Break down the task. You can also talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about a special need being present and request a referral for testing. If there is a special need, there may be medical and therapy alternatives available to assist your child. This is your choice and I cannot recommend that you do or do not. However, if concerned, consider this option.

Helping our children become life-long learners can be a challenge. Sometimes things do not go as planned, Instead of becoming agitated because our children are seemingly not listening, let’s consider why their tasks are not being completed and work with them to solve these issues. Alfie Kohn and Dr. Ross Green have fantastic books which address some of these issues.

 

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

5 Things I Learned From Homeschooling

 

When people find out that we homeschool there are a variety of reactions. Usually there is a response included like “I could never do that” or “how do you find the time”. I used to feel the same way. But I have learned a lot from homeschooling so I thought I’d share just a few things I found interesting. I would love to hear your perspective as well.

I like having a flexible schedule.

When we made the move from public to homeschool, I worried how I would manage it all. Funny thing is that once I had free reign over our schedule, we actually had extra time and less stress! Consider the time spent going to book fairs, teacher conferences, and other events.

Consider that these events are pre-scheduled and you cannot move them to suit your work and free time schedules. So, yes, pubiic school is a fine choice. But, homeschooling opened up more time for us to choose where to go and what to do. Flexibility has been helpful to my family so I appreciate this.

I don’t mind lesson planning.

I used to seriously hate writing lesson plans for my students. I loved thinking of great lessons and researching fun learning projects, but hated how quickly I had to write them up in the schedule and how limited my choices were as the district and school already decided on basal curriculum choices. It was my job to fit these items in along with other information and projects my students would enjoy that were outside the basic academic subjects.

I often integrated art, science, and social studies into language arts and math time, but that is no small feat. I am thankful that though lesson planning is not always a piece of cake, I now have time and flexibility to work on integration of topics and to move outside of a pre-scripted academic path when my children want to explore other topics.

I have friends, not co-workers.

I am friendly most of the time. I like to talk with new people and hear about their journey. When I worked in public schools, I made a few friends who lasted beyond the post I left years ago. But most people did not have my phone number, address, or email. I really did not care to see them aside from at work because we had personality conflicts or just didn’t care to hang out away from work.

That’s ok. Nothing wrong with knowing who your tribe is or is not.

Homeschooling has given me a chance to meet people locally and beyond my area who have similar interests and ideals. I like that I can talk with them and they immediately understand my perspective. I like that they sometimes challenge me as well. Sure, this can be found in other places. I happen to have found kindred spirits throughout life, but especially while homeschooling.

I like managing a multi-age classroom.

I used to think multi-age classrooms would be difficult to manage once children aged out of pre-k. The thing is that chronological age does not tell as much as you might think about a student’s developmental stage.

A child may be very advanced in math, but less advanced in language arts compared to her peers. A multi-age classroom lets students help each other work on their weaknesses by teaching others using their strengths. Of course, a teacher or parent is there to assist when needed, too.

There’s more to life than academics.

I used to push academics even in early childhood settings. I wanted my kids to be advanced in every way. The thing is that every kid is unique and develops at least a little bit differently than others. That’s ok. That’s how it is supposed to be.

Gentle guidance is far different than a push, plus being pushy often turns kids away from the very information you desperately want them to understand.

Slow down. Be patient. Offer opportunities. Help when special needs dictate it’s needed.

They will get there. Plus, while working on academics there will b time to work on other things like building, drawing, cooking, learning to compare prices at the grocery store, etc. Sometimes life skills can be academic as well as helpful. Plus, non-academic activities can help students work on the skills they need to thrive as adults.

Our Trip to The Crayola Experience – Orlando

Our Trip to the Crayola Experience – Orlando

Location: Crayola Experience
8001 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32809

 

Recently my family went to the Crayola Experience. Imagine this, teen, preteen (is it tween

these days?), and elementary kiddo all being dragged away from the electronic devices for a day

of family time. As you can imagine, this was not automatically the first choice on everyone’s list.

But that wasn’t the case for long.

Once we got inside, ALL 3 kids were ready to check it out. Not one complaint. Not one “Can

we go now?!”. It was fantastic!

I can’t remember the last time we ALL had fun at the same field trip or theme park.

 

For those who have never been here before, The Crayola Experience has 26 unique

attractions to explore. When you arrive, you purchase your tickets and go past a ticket check

employee at a podium. When you buy tickets, they give you a bag for your art projects and

tokens for a couple of the attractions which require tokens. You CAN purchase more tokens and

I found this to be helpful as my children enjoyed the token vending machines.

Once past the purchase area, you go upstairs via stairs or elevator (yay highly accessible) and

proceed to have a BLAST! You walk in near the Wrap it up exhibit where you name and put the

label on your own crayon, then proceed though the other attractions at your own pace. The

Crayola Experience includes model magic, painting, mystery challenges, spin art, art alive, a play

structure, food, a gift shop, a place to draw ON the walls in Scribble Square, and more!

Because I am the mom, I have to add my two-cents. I LOVED the Melt and Mold area! You

choose a color and melt the crayon into a shape you choose from options currently available. I

chose a sea horse. My son chose a ring. Sure, you can use these to color, but I plan to save mine

as a keepsake.

My most finicky child love, love, loved the Doodle in the Dark area. We all liked it, don’t get

me wrong, but she LOVED it. I nearly had to drag her away when it was time to go. She cannot

wait to get back and draw with the neon colors in the blacklight area. LOVE it!

My littlest kiddo enjoyed creating a frog to put into the Rockin’ Paper show. He colored a

frog. The attendant added clips the bottom of the frog’s body. Then the frog danced! So cute! It

was a tiny bit loud so if you have kids with sensory avoidance issues, bring noise cancelling

headphones.

 

My oldest daughter loved nearly everything, including making her own crayon (name and all)

and the marker and crayon vending machines. The model magic vending machine was high on

her list, too, because we LOVE to sculpt with model magic at home, too.

The Crayola Experience is an awesome opportunity to practice social skills, map skills, learn how

things are made, practice working alone as well as on a team, practice using money and tokens,

and much more. Because this can be a loud outing, be sure to consider any special needs and

plan accordingly. If you have any questions, please give The Crayola Experience a call. They

were very, very thoughtful and kind during our visit and I am sure they would be willing to help

you as best they can, too.

 

 

Check out upcoming events like:

Screamin’ Green Hauntoween – (10/7 to 10/31) Halloween themed activities abound

during this event!

Crayola After Dark (for adults) – (10/19) Meet up with your friends or a date to sample wine

and make a craft!

Check the calendar for other activities and hours of operation.

 


Needless to say, we will be back.

 

Also, using this link and the code TRC, you will qualify for a special lower

price ticket for The Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida. This code is not good at other

locations so be sure to follow the link to get your tickets to the Orlando Crayola Experience.

 

Also, homeschoolers can book a field trip in October 2017 for only $8.99 per

person, including parents or other chaperones for groups of 15 guests or more (kids under the

age of 3 are free). Please Contact Denise McKinnie for details at 407-757-1718 or

dmckinnie@crayola.com . She is a pleasure to work with and will help make your trip a

successful event.

 

Please note that this post is the result of free tickets given in exchange for my honest opinion of

The Crayola Experience,

 

 

7 Science Lesson Tips

Sometimes people ask how I deal with teaching so many different ages and grades when tutoring or homeschooling. They have a point. There are a lot of ways to make teaching easier, though. Lets talk about how to plan for science lessons and NOT give yourself a headache.

1. Plan ahead.

Planning lessons in advance and having the correct tools on hand makes life so much easier. But with busy lives and multiple children, I know this is a challenge. It may help to take a day or two off and plan a week or month in advance, create lists of materials needed, and even set up folders or shelves with the items for each experiment on them assuming nothing dangerous is in the reach of kids.

 

 

2. Safety first!

Post and review safety rules often. Include pictures of items like safety goggles so your kids are more likely to remember the rules. Remember to set the example.

If they need goggles, you need goggles.

If they need to walk while holding a beaker, so do you.

If someone breaks a rule, refer back to the rule and it’s matching image. Make your own or buy one like this.

 

 

3. Practice using tools.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a new thing, I want to check it out. This holds true for science tools like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, etc. Kids ALWAYS want to play with new items.

ALWAYS.

The question is, have they had enough time to play safely, then practice using the materials responsibly? If so, then you are ready for lessons. If not, well, let’s just say broken glass isn’t fun so let the kids practice A LOT under your supervision before beginning lessons.

 

 

4. Stop for safety.

If your students are not focused or are being unsafe, stop. You can always start again later or on another day. Sometimes it takes a brain break or time outside to get those wiggles out and refocus on the lesson.

 

 

5. Ask your kids.

Ask your kids what they want to learn. Ask them how they think a scientific inquiry should proceed. When you use open-ended questions and student-chosen lessons, when possible, it helps your children to internalize the information because it will likely be more important and interesting to them.

 

6. Try it again.

Try experiments more than once. Scientists do this, so why can’t you? Consider changing one thing in the experiment such as the independent variable and see how that changes the findings. Ask the kids to decide what to change and how. Record the results each time and compare them in a log book like this one.

 

 

7. Have fun!

It’s also okay to have fun! There is no reason that science should be boring. Science is always open to change and to new questions. If an experiment sounds bor-ring, consider doing a different one. The goal is to learn how to make a scientific inquiry and go through the scientific process to ensure results are unbiased, reliable, and valid. It’s okay to have fun while you do it!

If you want some ideas to help you get started, check out the options below!

Keep in mind that I reserve the right to use affiliate links throughout my website.

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

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

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. My educational experiences paired with real world experiences give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.

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 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. 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

 lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

My Favorite Educational Fall Things

As fall approaches, I have gathered some of my favorite educational things in one post. I did include affiliate links, but you certainly don’t have to buy via my links or even online. Many items can be found at your local retailers, too.


One of my family’s traditions is to build Lego kits as often as we can. We were excited to see so many options on Amazon this year.

 

When we have Halloween or autumn parties, we like to have fun, but also ad educational activities. Nearly any game can be adjusted to do this. Add letters, numbers, words, or sill sentences to make a game educational.

 

Two of our favorite books for this time of year include the Apple Pie Tree and My Autumn Book.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, if you have the cash to spend, you can use the Amazon Echo to play music, learn facts, and more! This gadget can help with making your day more interesting even when the cold weather keeps you indoors.

Thanks for reading and be sure to comment on the Facebook page with your favorite fall things, too!

Uniforms: The Great Equalizer

Many years ago uniforms were widely added to school dress codes and are mandatory in many areas. Not all schools did this, but there was a clear trend. Many argued for uniforms for valid reasons. Many opposed as well. As a former teacher and parent, I find this topic much more cut and dry than most.

Uniforms have been popular in dress codes over the past few decades.

Uniforms: Socioeconomic Equalizer and Anti-Bully Tool

When uniforms became a new fad, many argued that this type of dress code would help those who cannot afford the newest, coolest clothing. This makes sense to some degree. It’s not easy to buy the most popular brands. Then again, most families in need either accepted donations or purchased sale items which likely cost less than a week’s worth of uniforms. Some families cannot afford to go to the laundromat more than once per week which may mean a child must wear a uniform twice in one week, even if dirty.

If students are good people, being taught to be good citizens by their families, then odds are that bullying is not an issue no matter what others wear each day. Make no mistake, bullying begins at home. When it spreads through schools, you can still go back through the chain to find bullying by one or more families at the start.

On top of that, when a family can only afford a few uniforms, the socioeconomic status is still obvious in the wear and tear or unwashed appearance of the clothing. Bullying can still occur with a uniform dress code in place.

Uniforms: Gang Prevention

Another popular opinion is that without clear markings on clothing, gangs will have less of a foothold in schools. I am thankful that people are concerned about safety in schools. The problem is that gangs are not stupid. They will use hairstyles, tattoos, shoe or sock choices, hairbands, and other ways to show their alliance and gang colors or symbols.

Uniforms: Good for Everyone

The pervasive idea that uniforms are good for everyone is a bit of a generalization. After all, those with sensory issues may very well have negative behavioral reactions to the feeling those polo shirts and collars have. This can cause tardiness, ongoing in class behavior issues, and distractions. On the other hand, children who are raised with love, patience and taught to focus on school will likely not have difficulty moving on from seeing what others wear to do school work.

Uniforms may be comfortable for some students, but not all.

In the end, I found uniforms to stifle creativity of my students and children. I am firmly against using them as a mandatory dress code and encourage others to consider the cons along with the pros. It is easier to teach a student who feels comfortable and happy. This may mean polo shirts and cotton/polyester blend pants or it may mean leggings and a t-shirt. The goal is learning. Don’t let uniforms stand in the way.

 

 

7 Reasons Homeschooling Works and One Reason It’s Tough

 

  1. Flexibility

When a family decides to homeschool, they get to set their schedule. Does mom work the night shift? No problem, homeschool in the morning or afternoon. Does dad have a business trip during the week and you are invited? Awesome! No absentee notes to write and have rejected by the principal because they aren’t sick notes.

Head on out to Boston, New York, or nearly anywhere you’re your wallet can afford. You may even learn something about history, cultures, transportation, architecture, or art while out and about.

  1. Family Time

Because your schedule is not set by the local school, you can decide when you have classes, trips, chores, movie night, and other events. It can be easier to schedule family time when it is convenient rather than in the time left over after dealing with schedules other entities give you.

  1. Developmentally Appropriate Lessons

I hear complaints every day. Either schools are asking students to do things they are not yet ready to understand or schools are giving kids busy work they have already mastered. We can’t blame schools and teachers too much for this. They are stuck. They have many kids and a curriculum which says it is for all, but really has expectations that all students will master the same benchmarks. Sure, teachers scaffold, remediate, and try their hardest, but some kids are ahead or behind the given benchmarks due to their developmental stage.

This means that many come away from public school frustrated because this learning model does not meet everyone’s needs. Homeschool families can choose to work at a student’s developmental stage and build from there. With one on one or small group lessons, such as in a co-op, this is an easier task than in a classroom with 18 or more students.

  1. Time for ESE

There are some fantastic ESE programs at brick and mortar schools for those living with special needs. However, there are also advantages to one on one and small group instruction provided in a home education setting. Students who are easily distracted, are too shy to speak up when they do not understand, or who get lost in the shuffle when there is a large group will benefit from having more attention and help. There is no comparison between an 18 to 1 ratio and a 1 to 1 ratio. There just isn’t. Keep in mind that with less time spent waiting for his turn, your child will have more time to attend therapist and doctor appointments, if needed.

  1. Extracurriculars

Is your child a budding actress? Does your child have an aptitude for baseball? Less time in class waiting on others to complete work or have questions answered equals more time for extracurriculars. Sometimes your local school also allows homeschooled students to join their teams so keep this in mind, too.

  1. Friends

In brick and mortar schools you meet the people who are in class with you. Hopefully, you make friends with them and see each other outside of class, too. After school time is limited, though. During school, your job is to work on academics. You don’t get to practice social skills, navigating friendships with ample time to put towards solving problems.

Homeschool students often have friends of different ages and socioeconomic statutes. They also tend to have more time to devote to getting together, volunteering, and working on social skills such as problem solving

  1. Pursue childhood

Seems like we see articles about recapturing childhood and getting rid of screen-time. One great way to do this is to give your child the gift of time to play and exercise without imposing rules about how they should do this, though safety rules may be needed in some cases. Sure, those who attend brick and mortar schools can do this on weekends and after school. That can definitely work. Homeschoolers can do this, too. They can suspend lessons to enjoy a beautiful day attend a field trip outdoors, or explore a local town.

When It Gets Tough

Homeschooling isn’t without it’s challenges. Personality conflicts may occur between siblings or parent and child. Plus, the time and commitment needed to plan and stick with this schooling model can be overwhelming in some cases. Thankfully, there are online and local support groups which often help for free. There are also bloggers, consultants, and local classes in most areas. The idea is to take a team approach rather than going it alone. Plus, adjusting lessons and activities when you see a need to do so can be beneficial and lower stress.

 

If you would like to discuss homeschool or unschool options, feel free to reach out to me. I receive questions every day and am happy to help. Should you need a more in-depth meeting, reading coaching or lesson writing services, please let me know. I am happy to help. Allow me to put my experience to work for you!

 

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

 

 

6 Questions to Ask When You Are Choosing a Homeschool Program or Co-op

 

If you homeschool, you may consider joining a program, co-op, or school that partners with you to educate your child. Gone are the days of all homeschool students sitting separately at home with no other options. Today, homeschool students can choose from part day, full day, online, or co-op programs taught by multiple parents, depending on the subject area.

Many times, these options offer free, low cost, or moderately priced courses for students. As programs multiply across the U.S., it is important to ask questions before signing a contract, spending money, or allowing your children to attend a program like this.

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  1. Is the program secular, inclusive, or religious?

A secular program will include religion sometimes, but only as a historical or multicultural topic. An inclusive program may choose to celebrate a variety of multicultural holidays and may also choose to add religious information based on history and multiculturalism into lessons. Neither of these is guaranteed, though, because not all programs encompass all topics. If the program is religious, tenants of the religion may be included. There is, again, no guarantee of this and the program organizer may or may not include history or multicultural studies. It is important for parents to find out exactly what will be taught and from what perspective the lessons come.

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  1. How do the instructors handle discipline issues and is there a set of rules/expectations which is easily understood by students and families?

Discipline is tricky. Every parent and course organizer will have their own ideas about what a wise choice is in the classroom. Be sure your ideals line up with expectations during your child’s time in class. If not, then consider the differences and if they are deal-breakers or something you can accept and work with.

  1. If there is a contract, what are the terms? What happens if these terms are broken?

If there is a contract regarding behavior and/or money, be sure to read it carefully many times before signing. Check into the organizer’s reputation and don’t feel bad asking for references. If the person is new to the job, ask for personal instead of work references, if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions about background, where the program is headed, and other important topics.

  1. Are families required to purchase curricula or other items separately to bring with them to classes?

Find out if there are any fees. Make sure you know about fees on top of basic tuition. Sometimes materials fees, cancellation fees, or other fees find their way into contracts. Having fees is standard in most programs, but you will want to note specific fees, due dates, and be sure you understand your responsibilities before signing a contract.

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  1. What are the backgrounds and certifications, if any, of your staff and parent volunteers? Are they experienced with special needs?

While teaching certification is important to many people, it is not necessarily the only way to prove that you are qualified in a subject area and to work with children. For example, many times artists make great art teachers even without going to college to become a teacher. You may, however, consider being present if your child has special needs or if the program is new. Safety is important. Second to that is your child having fun while also learning. By keeping a consistent set of expectations and understanding student needs, instructors and parents can produce a developmentally appropriate environment where learning is constant.

  1. Find out what type of educational model is being used.

Generally speaking, students need hands-on activities to help them recall information later. This means games, science projects, discussions, books, and other similar tasks. Lectures should be kept to a minimum. Students should have ample time to learn together to separately depending on their needs and the topic. Make sure to ask which educational model is being used (unschool, classical, thematic units, eclectic, etc) and have the organizer explain what a typical day looks like before assuming they see the style of homeschool the same way you do.

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Joining a program, such as a co-op or school, can greatly encourage you and your children to reach higher and learn more. Finding the right program for your child’s needs and family’s beliefs is a large part of the success or failure when joining a program.

Ask questions, be sure you understand what is expected of you and your child, and have fun!

Making Use of Sick Days – Get Your Kid to Rest

You know how it goes. Your little one has a cough or fever. Kiddo isn’t miserable, but definitely needs to relax, rest, chill out, whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, your child is not interested in resting. She isn’t sick enough to want to sleep or rest, but sick enough to annoy the stuffing out of siblings, pets, and sometimes even mom or dad.

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What’s a parent to do?

Below are some ideas that let your child do something fun, or even educational, while resting.

(Please note that if ill, you won’t want your child to make something for others and you will want to sanitize all toys which may be reused or toss out anything that may communicate a disease to others after your child uses it. This is where the dollar store play dough or homemade playdough make a lot of sense. Toss it when finished without too much frustration over replacement costs.)
  1. Watch a documentary
  2. Write a story on a piece of paper or a computer/tablet/etc
  3. Draw a picture
  4. Use stickers to create a picture or story
  5. Play a computer game
  6. Play a board game
  7. Use beads to make a bracelet
  8. Sit and build with blocks
  9. Use kinetic sand or playdough
  10. Make sensory bottles and use them to look at and relax
  11. Make letter, number, or dice bottles and play a game
  12. Use tangrams
  13. Read books together
  14. Mix colors to make new ones or use watercolors to paint

Hopefully these ideas, as well as your own, help your child slow down a bit while healing from illness. Remember to secure the caps to bottles or other small pieces for safety and supervise your child as well.

Feel free to let me know your ideas as well. I’d love to hear them.