Tag Archives: homeschool

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

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 Ways to Record Homeschooling Progress

5 Ways to Record Progress

     Many parents ask how to keep adequate proof that their homeschool

students are making progress. Each state or province will have laws which

cover this question so be certain you consult the laws in your area before

choosing how to record progress. That being said, I compiled a short list of

ways to record progress and activities easily and effectively.

 

 

  1.  Record activities on a calendar or in a planner. You can often purchase one for $1 from the dollar store, if you have one. If your child is writing legibly, have him/her add activities and lessons to the calendar.
  2. Use a spreadsheet on your computer, but regularly save a back up copy on a flash drive or to your email/cloud/etc.
  3. Consider using a journal along with photographs to document your year.
  4. Using an online photo book or webpage can also effectively present work completed, activities, and field trips.
  5. Consider having your child complete a create project at the end of each unit or a few times during the year within each major subject covered. Perhaps a travel pamphlet is a good way to share what your child knows about a country studied or an art project can express information learned about ocean animals.

 

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 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

 

Manatees at Blue Spring in Florida!

 

Every year my family takes at least one trip to view the manatees in residence during the cold

months in Orange City, Florida at Blue Spring State Park. When weather gets cold (okay, not as

cold as up north, but cold for Florida) manatees like to be in the warm spring water.

 

Sometimes the manatee count goes upwards of 200. That’s right, hundreds of manatees, and

their adorable babies, all in one spring area.

 

Can you tell we LOVE manatees?!

 

I highly encourage you to visit Blue Spring State Park for other events as well. We have attended

ranger walks to see fireflies and other animals. At certain times during the year you can snorkel

or canoe. Check with the rangers to find out which activities are available during your visit.

 

You may see alligators, turtles, tons of fish, otters, turkeys, owls, and more!

 

Stay for a day or camp overnight, just be sure to check in advance for events, campsite

availability, etc. The park does reach capacity quickly on weekends, holidays and special event

dates.

Make sure you check out the playground, cafe, and the historic Thursby House.

Check out the Blue Spring website and webcam link for more info.

Use Movies to Teach

 

 

 

I remember way back in school when the teacher would roll out that lovely tv on a cart. I

rarely knew exactly which video was on the roster that day, but it was often better than regular

classwork.  It’s always fun for kids to have variety so with the advent of streaming options (like

Amazon and Hulu) and DVD rental services (like Redbox and Netflix), there are plenty of options

for media use in schools and homeschools alike.

 

 

Any topic can be taught using movies. Documentaries are available for topics from poverty to

living in counties outside of the US to how to make things. On top of that, there are TV shows

about history, physics, and Earth.

If you find that a topic has not yet been covered, consider it a challenge and ask your

students to research and produce their own documentary. Consider creating a YouTube or

SchoolTube channel. Or, if you prefer, create a website where you can instantly post the movie

your students create.

 

 

To extend learning, ask students to consider what happens next, how they can help if a

topic requires action, or to retell the information. Allow for individualized or group projects.

Give options for presentations which are flexible such as songs, art, acting it out, etc.

Don’t be afraid to learn with your students. Nobody knows everything. Learning together is a

great way to show that you are human. Plus, learning with kids helps them understand that you

are a life-long learner, which shows them the pros of being a learner for life.

 

 

So, what are you waiting for? Teaching through movies is only a click or two away. 😊

 

About 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 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

 

My Favorite Valentine Books

Every year I go back to old standbys for each holiday clients wish to celebrate, but I also

like to add in new activities when possible.

I was working on lesson plans for clients and found some cool books for your homeschool or

classroom this year. Links are included if they are available for each book. Some links may be

via affiliates.

 

The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Party

Berenstain Bears’ books tend to teach solid life lessons while entertaining children. Try opening your lesson to include student discussions about the topic of how to include others. Also consider allowing students to act out the book using puppets, action figures, or students themselves.

The Valentine Bears

Consider using The Valentine Bears as a whole group activity or in listening centers. Discuss how people sacrifice for each other to brighten a day. Allow students to discuss kind acts and safety boundaries to round out the lesson.

Junie B. Jones: Junie B. My Valentim

Junie B., the B. is for Beatrice and don’t forget it, makes mistakes and has some fun along the way. Junie books help students evaluate wise choices versus inappropriate choices with some laughter along the way. Consider having students rewrite a chapter or page to tell what happens if Junie makes a different choice.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!

Given the popularity of books like “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”, it’s likely that kids will enjoy this book, too. Consider using this book to practice predictive text, make valentine’s in the classroom as not every student will have an opportunity to do so at home, and practice rhyming activities.

 

 

 

Our Trip to Legoland

My family recently visited Legoland-Florida. I know my youngest enjoys Lego blocks and rides. However, I was slightly concerned that my preteen and teen would find less to do than my youngest kiddo.

We were pleasantly surprised! There were a ton of

activities for ALL ages!

Legoland-Florida was decorated for Christmas when we arrived. My kids were delighted to see this tree made of Lego bricks!

Everyone found rides they enjoyed. We ended up going on several rides multiple times. A huge favorite was driving school. Flying school was a close second.

Of course, my oldest enjoys roller coasters, so she became our official guide to make sure she had a chance to ride each coaster during our visit.

Driving school is fun! This popular attraction also has a version for younger kids close by.

Between roller coasters, water rides, driving and boat school options, everyone had a blast!

Children attempting to drive is quite interesting. We have some work to do before anyone takes a real driving test.

To cap off our day of fun, we enjoyed Milo’s Journey which is a STEM class you can choose to pay for and attend. The classes are inside the Imagination Zone which has literally TONS of Lego bricks for your children to use for physics and engineering activities.

What’s even better is that there are several other classes we plan to go back and try out, too!

During our class, the children had a laptop and Lego kit. The instructions for their assignment were on the laptop and easy to access.

During our class, students had the opportunity to build and program a rover!

Each child had access to their own laptop and Lego kit. After the kids programmed their rovers, a race was held!

Our instructor was extremely patient, clear, and helpful. It was so much fun that my kids asked to do it again!

I highly encourage homeschoolers to attend Homeschool Days as the rate is slightly lower if you reserve your tickets and pay in advance. Remember to bring your homeschool ID, which your local support group is likely to have, when you arrive at the park.

For a list of rides, parking information, and class info, check out the Legoland site!

Be sure to check out hours of operation and note that the water park area is open only part of the year. We live close by, so we will visit again when the water park is open (in warmer weather).

If you live far from the area, consider making the trip and staying at the Legoland Hotel or Beach Retreat

Legoland is inclusive. You are encouraged to contact Legoland personnel in advance of your visit to discuss any special needs and how they can be of service to you.

In addition, our STEM class teacher was extremely helpful and read my children’s cues. She was able to determine how much or how little assistance they needed and backed off if help seemed to agitate a student.

I have no doubt that the new STEM classes and teachers are well-equipped to help those with varying exceptionalities.

I highly encourage families, teachers, and homeschoolers to visit Legoland as well as the new STEM classes. There is far more to see, do, and learn about than a single blog post can cover. 

Make sure you check for events as well. The Christmas Bricktacular is just one of many events each year.

My family looks forward to going back again soon. We hope to see you there!

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.