Curriculum? – Special Needs Homeschool. This article has helped me take a breath. Observation is the key here. There are very specialized programs that have been successful for children with specific challenges. Use all of your observations that you have made about your child to help you decide on how you will approach their learning. As a Montessori Teacher that is now homeschooling, without the many materials of the classroom to work with, and a student that is 13 years old, who has had virtually nothing presented to him successfully or respectfully since he was 8….I’m a little anxious to get it right from the start. At least I have the years of IEP meetings under my belt. Right? Those were useful.
Here’s the way I look at it, (please suspend judgement, as I’m just trying to sort it out myself),
He can find anything in the house, remembers where everything is, and knows what everyone is doing and what they are supposed to do. He reminds me of what I need when I walk out the door, how I was going to give back Aunt Janet’s bag, or how someone left their pearl necklace at the house and he will tell you when on Emergency 51 (a love of old TV series)John Gauge forgot to put the oil cap on before he and his partner ran off on another emergency.
He loves/hates high intensity emotions! Lucille Ball was therapy. This was important to recognize and it took me forever to figure out. I was for much of his life very entertaining until I discovered the Nurtured Heart Approach. What he lost in a very entertaining mother (of course in times when running down the street screaming looked like a viable option), he gained in the restoration of parents who learned to spend 0 energy on the bad stuff and 150% of the energy on everything else including…”I can see that you are sitting at the table in front of your work, your showing determination!” Surprisingly (actually shockingly) more effective than any number of negatives like: “Your not going to get your work done if…”, “what choices are you making right now?”, “Get back to work.” Or my favorite used by all of his Special Education teachers “Focus!” kind of ironic since much of why he is in that classroom is because he can not focus. Of course there are many more. His emotional intensity, excitability, and his constant attraction to the same, showed me what how I needed to proceed or at least guided me to the work that now has been very successful, respectful and has brought joy back to our relationship. It is not easy, nor are we perfect, but it is dramatically better and I now feel as though I have a clearer path. By the way, this method, though there are many that will speak of their personal success with their children, was not ever suggested by any of the specialists we went to see over the last 10 years.
On days that he has swimming and has gymnastics he is more organized in himself, his speech seems more organized and he seems grounded and calm. This doesn’t come with a long walk or vigorous play for him.
For him, throwing a ball back and forth between activities, standing on a basketball while watching a video, or listening to me read, helps. I found that out by watching him for successful moments in many different areas.
He needs a motivator. I know because he said “could you please tell me that if I get my work done I get to watch 2 TV shows” (Dick Van Dyke and Emergency).
He can’t count well but he can see and manipulate quantities. So we use Right Start Math. He loves funny things, so we use Life of Fred to build critical thinking in math. He loves intensity plus visuals to get the juices flowing and the curiosity going, so we are heavy users of YouTube, Sophia.org, TED, WatchKnowLearn, Netflix , Jason Project, Space Lab with Bill Nye. He has memory issues so we can watch more than once, we can pause to discuss, or re-watch (because he was preoccupied with a buzzing noise and missed the first part).
He lOOOOVes to act. So he can re enact, show with his hands to help his words, and this he remembers well. He’s kinesthetic, but coupled with experience, emotion and intensity. He can’t just walk around the letter and know it or feel it. Those are great strategies, but he needs it all amped up and with a context to live in so he can remember it. We also signed him up with a very small, and community oriented theater with a director that believed that community has lots of different members and everyone belongs and makes a difference.
He loves to serve others, he’s a good judge of character and can see an agenda a mile away. He is energetically tied to everything and everyone. Check your energy at the door. He is loyal. He will take care of you in surprising ways, and can give a toast at the dinner table that is strikingly thoughtful and calmly stated. He has trouble managing his energy, but he’s like a his own private party. It’s loud, there’s dancing, and exuberant hugging, there’s sure to be breakage but his global positioning somehow guides him and nothing is bruised or broken by amazement. Gifts amidst chaos.
He uses small stones to hold his “memory place”. He attaches meaning to a rock or something else and that takes the place of his memory challenge. For example a rock can be a sound, a word, an answer on a multiple choice quiz, the name on a list of names etc. He can’t hold it in his mind yet but he can hold it in the rocks. He uses it when writing sentences, sometimes a rock can be the missing whatever. It’s a mental placeholder. So on our “classroom shelf” sits a silver box of rocks which my husband and I purchased well before children, and used to call our “silver box memories”. Who knew?. We are currently working on improving his visualization skills so that the rocks can be in his head, so to speak. (I’m not sure but I think my father accused me of such at one point, and then you might too.)
We go to learning specialists, carefully selected for kindness, a generous personality, and a willingness to think on their own and observe carefully. In the area of Language we felt that trained practitioners were a necessary part of his learning. And through observation of his success (defined as joyful participation, independent work, and progress) with Montessori Materials and it’s sequential sequence, LIPS, and former practice with Spalding, and his enjoyment of Talking Fingers and Wordy Qwerty, not to mention all the scientific studies that point to the same, that a Systematic and Sequential Program for the 5 components of learning to read were imperative if learning to read were to be possible given his challenges. We have chosen LIPS, and Seeing Stars and a program call Read Live plus the available Montessori Language materials in sequence on the shelf for independent work. He gets LIPS from a Tutor and I do the Seeing Stars program at home. I intend to get training as soon as it’s feasible. For learning to type we still use Talking Fingers. I wish that I could see 10 years in the future and be able to tell you how successful all this has been, but like you I can not, and I remind myself that neither can most of the professionals we have seen. I must believe in him till it hurts and believe in myself as much.
We are still settling on an overall curriculum to guide us, I am looking at the Montessori 6-12 curriculum from Keys to the Universe, and doing the online training. (This would provide a foundation, but the materials and the environment and community would be limited), and Oakmeadow Curriculum which has a focus on the interconnectedness of all things. This big picture of our place in the world is a helpful context for which to stick his bits of information that are sometimes hard to hold on to and hard to relate to the other bits.
I remind myself frequently that I took many college prep classes at a private high school, got good grades, passed many tests, went to college and use a fraction of what I learned today. I remind myself the sum of my life is not the Standards of Education, not my profession, not my possessions, but the amount of joy that is in my life. Joy for me comes with nature (which is sadly lacking) good friends, great information, inspiration, happiness in my children, and at peace with myself as a parent, a friend, a wife (also sadly lacking), and satisfaction that I am making a difference in the world (working on that). Right now I am settling for inspiration, information, and good friends, the rest is in the improvement stages. For the life I’ve been drawn to, I have what I need, and what I don’t have I can find, after that I just need courage, and perhaps a course in writing.