Tag Archives: homeschool co-op

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.

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!