September 1, 2009

Why Homeschool a Special Needs Child?

Over the years, I have witnessed an exodus of sorts when it comes to the education of friends' children. More and more parents of children with autism and Asperger's Syndrome are choosing to homeschool. We are the well-kept dirty little secret that your school district doesn't want you to know: often our children can be better served at home than in the school system.

I would have never said such six years ago. I was a died-in-the-wool PTA, room mom, get into the system and change it, agent. But one horrific year with my son's classroom (through no fault of the teacher) and I became a true believer. I figured I couldn't do a worse job than the school, and I might even be an improvement. Besides, my son hated school, to the point I was literally dragging him there. Something had to give.

And now? I homeschool all three of my children, and this is our 5th year. Two have been diagnosed with high functioning autism, they are 7 and 10 respectively. My oldest is going on 15, and though she has never been diagnosed, she has many of the deficits of Asperger's, and is also academically gifted. Her father is a computer engineer, and is most likely also on the Spectrum. (he was never tested, but off the record, our psychologist said so) So, you do the math...

In any case, bringing my children home has worked out wonderfully for us. Homeschooling has allowed me to tailor each program according to what works for each child. My 14 yr old, who went to school for 6 years benefits from a very academic program. She enjoys the structure and it works. My middle guy, at 10, is the one I walk the line with. He isn't unschooled, but his academic structure would, at first glance, seem more relaxed. It is still very scheduled, however. But we benefit from frequent breaks, sensory diet and multisensory approaches. I can choose activities that he enjoys, and we keep work periods short and focused. He can take a break for pogo stick or OT work, as needed. My littlest one, at 7, is the one that learns best through games and Mom Time. She needs one-on-one (as does my son) that she wouldn't get in a classroom. She often has to be taught a concept repeatedly before she gets it.

My middle guy is also dyslexic, which makes it interesting, and I am thinking my littlest may be, as well.

As for socialization...which is a joke anyway... but still. We have found with regular play dates, activities and park outings, my children do just fine. There is more time for preferred subjects (my 14 year old taught herself to both play the piano and knit, because she had more time than if she was traditionally schooled.) We have more time (and funds) for field trips and activities. While other kids are sitting in a classroom, mine are out learning in the world.

There is a park day we attend and have for years. The attendance is large, with many different ages and multiple abilities. There are several kids from all ages that are on the spectrum in varying degrees. It is a very welcoming group. Truly, it was the best decision we ever made for our family.

When my son ended 1st grade, he barely read, was behind in math, his writing was still reversals (though he is left handed, so that made it worse). I would literally dress him like a doll and drag him, kicking, to the public school. He would sit under the teacher's desk, or make games. His aide was useless, only serving to keep him from eloping from the classroom. His work was all sent home. I was already homeschooling, and my son was in the school system!

He is now in the 5th grade, and reads at grade level. His math is also at grade level, or just below. He is above in Science, History, Geography. His writing and penmanship has improved 10 fold. and most importantly, he loves to learn. I have found that learning is a broad term for what we do every day. Mythbusters is learning and exploring Science. Going to the Arboretum is a chance to discuss the environment and botany, as well as the food chain. In fact, every activity has inherent learning in just have to find it.

The most important thing to remember about homeschooling? It isn't something you do. It's something you live. And there really is no wrong way to do it. You can, and your child can... and if it doesn't work, keep tweaking. Also, what your state standards may find important, you may find doesn't mesh with your family. That's ok. I have found that as we go, my kids pick up information I didn't formally teach. And the one thing I want to equip my children with? The ability to find information.

The freedom I have found, as well as the free time away from IEPs, discipline meetings and just general headache is now energy I can pour into helping my son love learning. Less time is spent arguing over what the schools think he needs and more time is given to what he actually needs. We have personalized his goals, and we make sure he reaches them. There is no fighting with autism experts who insist my son is meeting goals that are either too broad, too easy or just plain wrong. I am in control. And my children are the better for it.

That, to me, is success.

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June 12, 2009

Need yet another reason to homeschool? Apparently it's ok to discriminate if the child is 5

Sorry, I am crossposting this on all of my sites. I simply feel the issue is too important to ignore. Thanks!

You might remember earlier this year about the teacher from Port St. Lucie, FL who had her class vote on whether Alex Barton, a child with autism, could remain in her Kindergarten class. He was voted out, traumatized and refused to return to school. There was a great uproar and teacher Wendy Portillo was suspended without pay for a year with her tenure revoked.

The school board quietly reversed its decision this week the rest here, and you do need to read it if you care about special needs kids and/or education.


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June 2, 2009

How To Teach Your Child To Think Logically

Darling daughter's classes are over for the year (yes, homeschooled kids get out sooner, one of the perks...though these classes are taught in an actual classroom, by an actual sort-of teacher.) She did quite well, and her new-found love is Logic. (wait, where are you going??) It's not scary, not really. AND you can start children easy, and they never know they are being herded lead into a life of logical thought. How? Glad you asked!

Start with patterning, at an early age. Counting bears, beans, rocks, whatever is a different color. Play Concentration, Seek & Find, What Comes Next. Get that little mind thinking logically. They will think they are playing games, only you will know the truth.

Once you have them in your grips interested, proceed to mazes, Sudoku and logic puzzles. Logic puzzles can work for even the youngest gradeschooler.

Have lots of conversations about life. Debate and discuss, what are the reasons for their views? Teach your child not what to think (the public schools do that!) but teach them how to think. Make them explain their position.

Practice teaching thorough Socratic Method. No, it's not hard! You are simply asking questions, leading them to their own answers. It's a beautiful thing. When they are ready, steer them towards formal logic, which will help them understand the way arguments are constructed.

*Warning! We here at Sweet Schoolin' will not be responsible for the fact that you will start to lose arguments with your child! Yes, they may soon out-argue you... but they will be thinking, so there's that.

p.s, about the title? All bets are off with teenagers about thinking logically. however they will still be able to out-argue you. Trust me on this...

photo copyright C.A. Mullhaupt, flickr. Used under creative commons

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May 18, 2009

Want to Improve Your Child's Math Skills? Make Math a Way of Life!

Interesting news about how to get kids more fluent in mathematics.. (fluent works because math is said to be a language). According to the The Scotsman, it is possible to foster math ability with children.

And we here at Sweet Schoolin' say that homeschooling fits this mission beautifully. Schools are doing a lousy job at this... don't compartmentalize math. Talk about math with your kids. Did you know the nautilus image at left is a perfect start for discussing the Golden Spiral. Try it! (with search engines, you have no excuse, learn along with the kids!)

Some things to try:

  • teach your children to see themselves as problem solvers. Use math language and make it part of your life

  • make sure your children are doing math puzzles, Sudoku, mazes, logic puzzles. You can start mazes early on

  • discuss math with your children, how to solve puzzles, word problems.

  • encourage a flexible view of numbers... break up the numbers to make operations easier. 2 x 98 is the same as 2 x 100, -4, which is easier for many people.

  • point out the logic in even wrong answers when your child is working on a math problem, rather than just saying, "No, that's wrong."

  • take a "real life" approach to math. USE it. Talk about it, find the beauty in it.

  • Read the whole article here.

    Living Math
    Mathematical Magic
    The Golden Mean
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May 7, 2009

Radio show on homeschooling special needs kids

Today I was on BlogTalk radio, talking about homeschooling special needs kids. We discuss resources, how you homeschool a child with autism and the S Word...socialization. What is it like to homeschool three children with high-functioning autism? How does one maintain sanity in the face of it? Find out!

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April 27, 2009

Science Projects Are Not Just For Public Schoolers: Resources to get you started on cell models

Here at Sweet Schoolin' we have a fondness for Science. Especially the oldest, who has a penchant for Biology, that has been mentioned before.

She takes a Sophomore Biology class and had to write a paper on a type of cell. She also had to create a model of said cell. The paper, with the help of Google and some books, was a resounding success. The cell model was fun to do, and allowed her to show her creativity.

And you can, too.

Cell model project ideas
Science online cells (great, K-6 ideas!)
Science Faire Projects
Kids Love Kits (for purchase)
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April 9, 2009

Teach With Your Child's Learning Style

Homeschooling allows the educating of a child in the way that works best for the child. As many kids as there are, that's how many different approaches available for learning.

There are times that my daughter really needs me to be next to her in order to concentrate and work through her school work. I suppose this can be frustrating, but the reason for homeschooling in this house is the freedom to provide what the children need.

Some children cannot sit still at all, some love to sit for long periods of time. Books work for some children and others go into conniptions at the mere thought. Don't be afraid to shake things up, step out of the frame of reference that you think might work, redefine the box and you may find a breakthrough.

One of the best examples of this is when my son was having a horrible time learning addition facts. I am not a drill and kill person, but I knew he needed some help. I took him outside, used sidewalk chalk and wrote numbers on the driveway. Then I called out sums to him and he ran to the right answer. This was such a success he did this for over an hour, and begged for more. We could have sat inside and drilled flashcards or textbooks as he became more and more uncooperative. Instead, I chose to follow his bent. And... he found the joy.

We at Sweet Schoolin' want to encourage you to follow your child's lead, and not worry about where the child learns. Some children want to sit on the floor, some outside, some in the middle of their bed. It doesn't matter. My son likes to read while hanging upside down on the couch. The goal isn't where the child learns, it's that he does, indeed learn.

Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences TEST

Why Are Learning Styles Important?

Early Years Child's Learning Assets

How Can I Find My Child's Learning Style

Learning Styles and Hemispheric Dominance - Is Your Learning Style at Odds with That of Your Child's?

Left vs. Right: Which Side Are You On?

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