Sunday, August 24, 2008

Helpful Homeschooling Hints for Any Special Kids

I'm joining in on Stacy's new meme about homeschooling. Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about homeschooling. I have been trying to post many activities for those who may be new to homeschooling or for those who might not be having a creative day. I do lots of hands-on. My hope is to show homeschoolers that homeschooling is not just books and curriculum, it is building a relationship with your children through play. Homeschooling allows you to work on your childrens' levels and work with your child's learning style.

Feel free to browse my homeschool posts and see how much fun school could be. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

For more homeschooling ideas, go here.

First off, I think these hints work for any children. And all children are special kids, each with their own needs. A family with multiple children can tell you that. Each have their own differences and personalities from day one.

I wrote this after receiving an email from The Old Schoolhouse. Someone had written asking how to homeschool a child with autism. They did not print my response. I guess they are looking for a curriculum in a box type answer. My experience is, children don't fit in a box and neither should their learning.

Let me start by saying that my child has never formally been diagnosed with autism. She had exhibited many traits (scoring 5 out of 6 in three different areas), but she has greatly improved with diet and antifungal therapy.

She still has learning disorders though, sights, sounds, smells. Difficulty understanding that we "read" words the same everytime. Difficulty keeping her eyes focused where they need to be. In general, what I call, learning differences.

I sent my daughter to preschool for a year hoping that she would begin to socialize. She went the entire year without speaking a word to anyone. I felt that she had lost some of what I taught her at home, as well.

Now as far as curriculum. Save your money. I think you have the hopes that I used to have. I have never found that magic curriculum-in-a-box, that will work for my child. I doubt if there is for any child, autistic or not.

What we do for school is have fun! I bought a simple preschool workbook at Sams for under $20 (she was kindergarten last year, but that was her level). We did a few pages a day, but mostly we read library books for reading and all subjects, short literature based unit studies work great. We used letter magnets for spelling, phonics, and reading. Special needs children need to see, feel, and hear it to understand it. We used tubs of macaroni, beans, rice, snow, shaving cream, toothpaste, or sand to practice writing letters in. We had a letter of the week, each weekend I had a box filled with packing peanuts. I would go around the house and fill it with things that began with the letter-of-the-week. She would pull the things out and name them. We would say together, for example: Ball. Ball begins with b. She was able to get her beginning and ending sounds down through play.

Playdough, modeling clay, silly putty, goop, floam, fingerpainting - all that is great for strengthening hand muscles and fine motor skills. It's also good for sensory awareness. For more fun, get on the internet and find a recipe for it and make it together.

For more writing ideas, I painted a wall in my child's room with chalkboard paint, you can bet she writes now. Use a dry erase board, coloring pages, window markers, magic erase slate, magna doodle, aquadoodle. I used to scour walmart and the supply stores for different school supplies to make it interesting. We have markers, crayons, twisty crayons, gluestick crayons, colored pencils, watercolor paints, anything else you could imagine.

For math, we counted forwards, backwards, skip counted. Basic adding and subtracting, always using a manipulative. It can be anything. Blocks, legos, coins, straws, pencils. You get the idea. She counted plates and silverware as she set the table. We counted blue cars on the way to town on blue day. Learn about coins and counting money by doing it (it's math and a life-skill). Learn the names, count them, how much are they worth, put them in the piggy.

For science, we did alot of nature walks. If we found a bird nest, or heard a different bird call, we would try to find out what kind it was. We would look at the clouds and use our imaginations, what do they look like, then read about clouds or weather. We would pick up rocks, then try to find out what kind they are.

Social studies, we read books about manners. Talked about holidays. Talked about community members and the jobs they do. We used to sit down and look at old magazines (Parents, Family Fun, Parenting are all good ones). We would talk about the people on the pages. What are they feeling? Are they happy? Are they sad? Why do you think they are happy, mad, glad or sad? What's the weather? Is it warm or cold, by looking at how they are dressed. This was one of my child's favorite things to do. It's very hard for autistics to read non-verbal cues. I did not want my child growing up without feeling empathy for others, so this was important for us.

Music and Movement is very important with special needs. We have a trampoline and we use it probably 300 days out of the year. On days when we can't go outside, we have a giant exercise ball and a hoppity-hop in the house. All kids need to get their wiggles out, but it can be especially calming for a special needs child to help focus. We often practice rhyming words or whatever while bouncing. I bought some Hap Palmer CD's. He's an early childhood singer. He teaches colors, left & right, numbers, letters, etc through song. Our local library had some of these, too. I made simple things to go with the songs and it's a time that she loves. My daughter can learn anything through song!

I always try to keep my child doing something different. Somedays we use videos/dvds from the library, listening to books on tape, go to the park for a nature program, trips to the library.

If your child has a special show or a special interest in something, try to make a curriculum around it. We have spent entire seasons doing things centered around Blues Clues, Dora the explorer, and Arthur. Listen to your child's likes, verbal or non. What do they like to do? Do some learning around it. I promise it will work. And it doesn't cost a lot of money.

Above all, talk with your childhave fun with your child. If you're not having fun, you can bet your child is not!

If you are worried about "not doing enough school" with your child be sure to take photos doing all the things you're doing. Put them in a scrapbook for your end-of-year assessment. I promise you're doing enough.

I use all these internet sites, on my side bar, for stuff all the time. Many have Christian songs/color pages. I think you can even print off Christian handwriting pages on one.

Another encouraging resource for homeschooling I found is Debi Pearl's homeschooling cd. She has the same approach I have. Hands-on, low cost, love of learning! You can find it here.

Sorry this post is so long, I feel so passionately about homeschooling children with differences. And I have seen such improvement in my own special learner.

Does anyone else have any ideas for homeschooling? Whether it be different learners or otherwise? Please share!

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