2 Helpful Hints To Homeschool Children With Special Needs

When I first started homeschooling my surviving quadruplets (3 survivors), who all have autism, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing! Honestly, I did not. We both (the children and I) had to “grow” into our styles of teaching and learning. In this post, I will cover 2 helpful, and important, pieces of advice I have for those new to homeschooling their children with special needs:
  • you will need about three years to learn your teaching style and your children’s learning style
  • you will want to skip box sets of curriculum
 

 

Growing Into Your Teaching Style

When I first started teaching my children, I think I did what many people do; recreate school at home. I made an area for my children that looked like a little classroom you would see in a public school. It was what I knew of school. I was recreating what I did in school because I thought it was successful. The problem is I did not think about the fact it might have been successful for me but maybe my children did not learn like me. Yes, it took me a bit to figure this out. LOL

 

I found I had to learn my teaching style too. After setting up my perfect classroom, making lesson plans (after I did some research on HOW to make lesson plans; lol), and then ordering anCanceled Plans expensive box set of curriculum I thought I was all set! I mean, I had everything I needed; yet, that was one of the worst homeschooling years we’ve had! Why? Looking back I realize planning out all our curriculum schedule in advance is not practical. As good as my intentions were, I have THREE children with special needs. This means we have therapy and doctor appointments. Many of the appointments I do not know in advance. This messed up my schedule. I would cross things out and shift stuff around. I QUICKLY figured out I needed to write things in pencil instead of a pen! ROFL  
 
My real lesson from that year was to stop planning. To let go of my idea of recreating school in my home and to embrace the idea of learning organically. I changed how I did my lesson plans. I stopped trying to make plans. I changed to writing down what we cover in a given day. Some days we cover more than other days. I no longer worry about what or even how we cover material. I just make sure we cover all the core subjects at least once a week.

 

How I Teach: Growing Into My Children’s Learning Style

How to teach was another question I had. I mean, I have surviving quadruplets who are all 11 years old yet they could not be more different cognitively! So I had to stop after that first year and look at how they learn. It was during that time I had neuropsychological testing completed on the children along with psycho-educational testing I had done the next year. With that data, I sat down and looked at their evaluation scores again. What was a low score on fluid reasoning mean for my child and his education? How did the processing speed impact learning? What the heck is executive functioning and what does it do? What exactly is working memory and does it impact learning too? These were all questions I asked myself trying to get a better understand of HOW my children learned. In an effort to understand about my children I wrote a series of blog posts on these topics and more, and you can read the posts by clicking on the hyperlinks in the post.

 

In coming to an understanding of the child’s learning difficulties, I felt better equipped to teach them at home. With my children being so cognitively different I focus on teaching them all math and English/reading separately. All of my children have autism and they span a good chunk of the spectrum. All of my children have issues with dyslexia too. Like autism, they span the spectrum in dyslexia. One of my children, James, is higher cognitively functioning and his issues with dyslexia are mild. I see more of his issues in math in the form of dyscalculia. For Margaret, her issues are more severe in dyslexia. She does have issues with reading, but she has learned to cover come to her biggest hurdles with reading. For math though, her dyscalculia is quite severe. Even at 11, with myself and multiple teachers/tutors helping her, she STILL does not have a good understanding of place value. Joseph also has issues with dyslexia AND he also is intellectually delayed with SLOW processing speed. These issues have caused him to not only have issues with reading, but also writing (dysgraphia), and math (dyscalculia). Now that I know all this I realized math and English are better done individually for each of the children.

 

Science, History, and PE the children all do together. These are subjects we can do as a group. I do work on the children’s level which is basically at 4th or 5th grade. I do not worry if Margaret and Joseph completely understand what we are doing or remember later the concepts we learn. Why? It is because we move through curriculum pretty fast. In doing this we cover more than one grade level in a year. Since we do so much work we have fun picking up another curriculum set and running through it. It is interesting to go back over sections of history and science with different curriculum set because the authors of those sets look at things a little differently. If my children do not get a concept it is fine because we will cover again. Somewhere between repeated exposure to a concept and they get to go over the concepts as they get older, the information tends to stick. This is part of what has enabled me to let go of the idea of a structured school/classroom as my method of homeschooling.
 

Why You May Want to Skip All-In-One Box Sets of Curriculum

It is super tempting to buy an all-in-one set of curriculum. There are sets like Timberdoodle, Abeka, and others. These sets, per child, run about $250 and up. These sets can be AMAZING! As a parent it made me feel good because I knew I was covering everything I needed to cover to teach my children. Then I discovered a problem; my children’s learning levels were not consistent with the grade-level material. James was WAY advanced in some areas, on grade-level in others, and behind in one of the subjects. Margaret was ahead in one subject, on grade level in 2, and then behind in 2. Joseph was behind across all the subjects. I was busy modifying the curriculum as best as I could to meet the children where they were ahead and behind. Again, I did not know what I was doing! LOL I was just trying to make modifications that made sense.

The next year, I broke things up. I decided I did not want to spend that kind of money again for a set where I have to change things up. I focused on meeting the children where they were in each subject area. For Joseph, that was still working on things that were preschool and Kinder level when he was in third grade. For James that meant we were working on English at 5th grade, Reading at the upper high school/college-level, but working on math at the first-grade level. Margaret was at 5th-grade reading, on grade-level reading comprehension, and Kindergarten level math. For the lower grades, third grade and below, I liked pulling resources together from the internet. When my children entered fourth grade I started to purchase curriculum but, I purchased materials by subject versus buying whole sets. This allowed me to buy things that meet the children at their skill level versus modifying the material. In the end we are finding that meeting the children right where they are at in math and English has worked best. For the subjects we work on together like science and history I teach the material close, or on, grade level.
We have used this system for 2 years and it has worked really well. All children seem to be progressing in their learning. In the end, there really isn’t much more I can ask out of my children. All progress forward is just that; forward.
 

I hope this post has helped answer some questions on homeschooling children with special needs. The two hints about homeschooling are what I found to work for me. Just as each child is unique so is each solution for their education. What works for me may not work for you but I hope I gave you some inspiration on a solution that will work for you. As always, you are welcome to join us for more discussion on homeschooling children with special needs in our Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids group. We also have a group for all parents and caregivers of special needs children called Special Needs Parenting Advice and Support where we discuss ALL things related to special needs care and Educating Gifted Children is where we discuss topics concerning gifted children and those that are twice exceptional (2e).  Finally, we also have a FB group, IEP/504 Assistance, for parents of public school students from all over the United States. I hope to see you there!

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