Category: Homeschool

Tips for Successfully Homeschooling Special Needs

Learning about the letter “M”

Deciding to homeschool a special needs child can be challenging and rewarding. My granddaughter, Maggie, has severe cerebral palsy. Some of Maggie’s CP symptoms include – she can’t verbally speak, use her arms and hands well, walk, move on her own, or express herself in words. That can be challenging when it comes to homeschooling her along with her siblings. Despite the challenges, when Maggie was 5, her mother decided to teach her at home.

Maggie’s now 12 and attends a regular middle school. She still has all of the same physical difficulties that she had when she was five, however, schooling at home for a number of years was one of the reasons that Maggie was able to transition so well into public classes.

During those homeschooling years we learned some things that made our efforts more successful:

• Be patient
• Let them do everything they can even if the results don’t meet your expectations
• Help as much as they need, they will still feel accomplished. Sometimes, Maggie needs a lot of help. However, at the end of any project, even if she has needed a great deal of help, Maggie smiles as if she did it all by herself.
• If your child is non-verbal develop a system so they can answer questions. (Maggie can point to one of two or three fingers to answer yes or no questions and even more detailed questions. For example: Do you want to color the shirt in red, blue or something else?)
• Remember, they are just like any child in their need to do and learn.
• They are interested in the same things as other children their age.
• Don’t be afraid to let them try. They aren’t afraid to try!
• If possible, find others who can help you a day or two a week.

Here is an example in one of those early at home, school days with Maggie

One of the things that increased the success level for Maggie was finding her a special friend who would come and help one day a week. This gave Jodie a break or allowed her to work with the other children. Cindi Walker was a neighbor and went to church with Jodie and her family. She became a good friend and then transitioned to being a very special friend to Maggie.

The photos and example below occurred when Maggie was six, her brother Jack was four and her sister Mary was 2.

A homeschool day for Cindy and Maggie

When Cindy came she had learning activities that she could help Maggie do despite her physical limitations. She included Jack and Mary if they were interested. Sometimes they were but Maggie was 6 and so many of her activities just didn’t hold their attention.

On this day Maggie was learning about the letter “M”. Her lips do not close like most children’s so it was an

Making an “M” collage

extraordinary challenge for Maggie. We hoped she would eventually be able to say this important letter. (Maggie is still non-verbal but the effort to teach her to speak was fun for both her and those of us who worked with her. She does say the letter I perfectly.)

In order to practice using the ‘m’ sound Cindy helped Maggie make a collage of many different pictures all starting with M. Cindy had pre-cut the pictures but helped Maggie use the glue stick and stick them on the paper. When the collage was finished Cindi would say the M word and then Maggie would give it a try.

Discussing what to write in Maggie’s journal.

Next, they read a darling picture story about “Mary, the Mouse with Measles” which Cindi had written. Maggie loved reading the story and so did her siblings, Jack and Mary.

Cindy and Maggie were putting a “Learning Journal” together. Cindy would help Maggie hold a pencil and write. On this day they wrote about the trip that they all had taken to the Utah School for the Deaf when Maggie’s had her ears tested. Here is what they wrote together: “Jack and I had our hearing tested. We can hear.” (Cindy asked Maggie, “Do we need a period or an exclamation mark?”) Then they practiced saying “We can hear” with emphasis!

While Maggie was busy learning Jack was all over the table and chairs

“Luke I am your father!” Yes, Jack does say that with just the right amount of breathiness. : )

blowing his train whistle, eating cookies and making comments. He also turned the popcorn popper lid into a Darth Vader mask. Cindy is VERY patient with Maggie and all her siblings.

Maggie drew some “M” pictures with special crayons. She loved and still does, working at holding on to things with her hands and seeing the result.

Of course, they ended their “m” session by eating marshmallows. Maggie enjoyed that the most!

To finish off the day Cindy read to the children from the classic “The Secret Garden”. This book did NOT appeal to Jack or Mary but Cindi remained patient with their wiggles and giggles.

Homeschooling a special needs child can be a successful adventure. It is worth giving it a try. If your child comes to a point where they need more than you can give them at home, their time at home will be a great foundation.

How do you make homeschool work for your special needs child?

 

Your shares are the best compliment!

WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT ON-LINE SCHOOLS?

 

I learned two new words that relate to online schools, asynchronous and synchronous.

Asynchronous classes allow students to work without a live instructor via materials, lectures, tests, and assignments that have been provided. Synchronous online classes are when students and instructors are working together live.

The topic came up during a conversation I had with Adam Hailstone, CMO and Director of Leadership at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  I was asking him about the school because online schools are such a hot topic right now and I wanted to know more about how they work, the value to students and about Williamsburg in particular. I learned a lot!

I loved the fact that at Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/  they have mentors rather than teachers; the fact that students and mentors see each other and interact during class via a chat option; that they use a ‘smart whiteboard’ (this is sooo cool); they have students from all over the country and mentors from all over the world.

If you have been considering an online school for your middle school or high school age youth let me share what I learned About Williamsburg and it might help you make your decision.

Mentors rather than teachers

At Williamsburg, teachers are called ‘mentors’, because they do more than just dispense knowledge––they inspire, challenge, listen to and guide students as they learn how to learn. They help youth learn how to lead themselves and others.

Mentors spend a lot of in-class time with the youth. Students have access to mentors live in office hours, via email as well as in live classes. They can receive live feedback on assignments.

What intrigued me was that mentors, because they teach in a virtual classroom come from all over the world. Mentors at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  live in the USA, Europe, and many other countries. Last year they had a mentor from Nepal. How cool is that!

This idea of worldwide teachers is certainly 21st-century style learning. Because teachers are not locked into a geographical area the school can vet or head hunt from anywhere in the world. This makes it possible to have world-class mentors.

One last bit of information that I gleaned about mentors at Williamsburg, they are able to give students more one on one time than they might get in a brick and mortar building. That can mean the difference between doing OK and thriving for some youth.

What and How Youth Learn

Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  focuses on teaching youth how to think not what to think. It is a liberal arts program coupled with a leadership program. The culture is not just academic but is larger in scope and includes helping young people determine how to live a meaningful life and how to reach their full potential.

One of the things that I considered a perk at Williamsburg was that kids can do most of what gets done in a brick and mortar school. They can talk live with their mentors and with the others in their class. They can get almost instant feedback.

Mentors create breakout rooms during live classes so that students can collaborate in small groups. They participate in group projects, peer presentations, student government, simulations, engaging videos and readings, challenging projects and assignments, and oral, written, and project-based assessments.

Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/  works to create a culture of thinking and problem solving through the wise use of mentors, dynamic classes, and in person social engagements which are designed to lead to a meaningful purpose.

Classes run 50 minutes but not all learning time is screen time. There are plenty of reading projects and all sorts of assignments to help kids learn to think and to accomplish.

There is a lot going on inside every virtual Williamsburg class and just in case your family has to be away every class is recorded. This gives individual families the flexibility they need.

What About The Social?

We all know that kids want to be with their peers so how does that work at Williamsburg? (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  Socialization is part of a larger learning culture with punctuated social experiences rather than day to day socialization. They have what they call ‘in person’ social engagements.

A few times a year students gather live to learn, work, and interact with each other. This can be in the form of summer camp, conferences, travel adventures, etc. Recently students went to Germany to learn about WWII. This summer students will be going to Guatemala and this fall to Nepal. What a way to spend time with your peers!

The need for social interaction with peers is also satisfied as students work in teams and classes on projects on-line each year.

I was amazed to learn about a recent project that a group of 6th graders completed. They had heard of a charity that wanted to provide a school for a village in Bolivia.  However, after some research, they realized that without a water pipeline kids wouldn’t be able to go to school. This was because children spent much of each day carrying water from a lake to their homes. There was no time for school.

The pipeline was going to cost $11,000. The sixth graders decided to raise $4000 of that cost. So they came up with a plan and put it into motion. They used what they were learning at school – creating a website, writing, e-commerce skills, working as a team, leading, reaching out for donations using rhetorical skills, and so forth.

When the project was finished they had raised $19,000 which paid for the pipeline and part of the school. These were sixth graders!

These kids really got to know each other. They spent real time and virtual time together. They learned that even young people can do powerful things across the world.