my project4peace

Homeschooling in the Desert with Intention and Hope and Special Needs


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Aidens Waltz by Victoria Marin

 

Aidens Waltz by Victoria Marin. I ran across this book as I searched for information regarding the benefits of  ballroom dance as it relates to occupational therapy.  My son who is 13 with global apraxia loves to dance, loves to watch dancing, movies with dancing, and watch his friends Dance.  Since he has been practicing ballroom dancing his social grace and courtesy skills and awareness are improving, he his more attentive to his movements and being in control of them.  He stands taller, is asking to learn different steps, enjoying the social interaction, and enjoying being the leader. He is learning to control his movements more precisely, and temper his energy because he must be mindful of his partner. The benefits have been numerous. Even his personal grooming habits are improving. (at 13 that’s a miracle for any boy) Here is an article written by Victoria Marin on the benefits of dance for children with Autism. http://www.fredastairewestwood.com/autismanddancing.htm

We enjoy (LOVE) the welcoming atmosphere of the Fat Cat Ballroom in Phoenix on 32nd and Thunderbird.  You can dance there every night of the week. You could not feel a more welcoming environment anywhere. http://fatcatballroomdance.com/


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Teaching Highly Distractible/ADD/ADHD Children

Carol Barnier has some helpful ideas to stick in your toolkit for teaching hightly distractible kids. Games have been very helpful at our house. Maybe some of these little suggestions will be helpful to you in some way. Teaching Highly Distractible/ADD/ADHD Children.


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A little encouragement on homeschooling children with Special Needs…copied from HSLDA website

Nurture the Spirit of the child and you won't lose your way.

Nurture the Spirit of the child and you won’t lose your way.

Updated October 2009

By Christopher J. Klicka
HSLDA Senior Counsel

 

I. Introduction

 

Teaching your child with special needs is a privilege—but it is also hard. It requires from the parents much sacrifice, patience, and unconditional love.

We cannot forget to consider what the child with special needs experiences as well. Living with a handicap such as blindness, cerebral palsy, a speech impediment, autism, retardation, a disease, or one of many types of learning disabilities is difficult. It is a daily struggle emotionally, mentally, and many times physically. The child’s self-esteem is constantly put to the test. Some handicaps or learning disabilities can be overcome with consistent and focused effort. Other handicaps can only be managed and may never go away.

Living with multiple sclerosis these last few years has helped me appreciate the struggles of a physically handicapped person. Every day it is hard for me to simply walk, put my socks on, or stay in 80-degree weather for any length of time. The emotional drain is intense. The need to think and plan for logistics to achieve normal movement is a heavy burden. The quality of life from a human perspective is diminished. Hiking in the woods or camping is too hard, going to the beach is incapacitating, and participating in most sports that I love is out of the question.

Personal attention and love by my family is more important to me than ever before. I know a child with special needs truly needs this extra support and reassurance. Homeschooling your special needs child makes that intense, loving support possible.

We have seven children, including a set of twins who were supposed to have died in the womb. Yet God answered our desperate prayers in a miraculous way. Amy, whose head was caved in, spine twisted, and was not hooked up right, completely recovered in the womb and was born alive at 2 lbs. 13 ounces. Although Amy was miraculously delivered, she was mentally much slower than her twin sister, Charity. At 6 years old, Amy was not ready to read like her sister and required much more time, attention, and love. Sending her to an institutional school would have devastated her fragile self-confidence. Teachers could not possibly give her the one-on-one attention and love she needed.

In light of these experiences, I am convinced that homeschooling children with special needs is the most effective way to successfully teach them and is the ideal environment in which they will learn and thrive.

II. Parents Excel in Teaching Their Special Needs Children

Objective studies demonstrate that parents are providing a superior form of education for their special needs children by teaching them at home. Contrary to the claims of the education elite, parents do not have to be specially certified or have special qualifications to teach their handicapped children at home.

In fact, in one of the most thorough studies performed thus far on the subject, Dr. Steven Duvall conducted a year-long study involving eight elementary and two junior high students with learning disabilities. He compared one group of five students that received instruction at home with a group of five students who attended public schools. He was careful to match the public school students to the homeschool students according to grade level, sex, IQ, and area of disability. Using a laptop computer, Dr. Duvall sat in on teaching sessions and took an observation every 20 seconds, creating tens of thousands of data points that were then fed into a statistical analysis package. Normally his research included a second observer who double-checked Dr. Duvall’s readings.

Dr. Duvall recorded and analyzed academically engaged time by students during instructional periods. He also administered standardized achievement tests to them to measure gains in reading, math and written language. His results show that the homeschooled, special needs students were academically engaged about two-and-one-half times as often as public school special needs students! He found the children in the public school special education classrooms spent 74.9 percent of their time with no academic responses, while the homeschool children only spent 40.7 percent of their time with no academic responses. He also found that homeschools have children and teachers sitting side-by-side or face-to-face 43 percent of the time, while public education classrooms had such an arrangement for special needs children only 6 percent of the time. This was a tremendous advantage for the homeschoolers.

His study further demonstrated that the homeschool students averaged six months’ gain in reading compared to only a one-half month gain by the special public school students. Furthermore, the homeschool special needs students during the year gained eight months in written language skills compared to the public school counterparts who gained only two-and-one-half months.

Dr. Duvall summarized, “These results clearly indicate that parents, even though they are not certified teachers, can create instructional environments at home that assist students with learning disabilities to improve their academic skills. This study clearly shows that home schooling is beneficial for special needs students.” 1

It is interesting to note that Thomas Edison was expelled from public school at age 7 because he was considered “addled” by his public school teacher. He lasted only three months in formal schooling. Over the next three years, his mother taught him the basics at home, and as Edison himself stated, “She instilled in me the love and purpose of learning.” 2 Without any special qualifications, Mrs. Edison helped her son overcome his disabilities to be come a great inventor.

Once again we see homeschooling works for any child!


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Insight or Rambling? Perfection or Chaos? Never sure.

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, TEDWatchKnowLearn, 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.



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21 Exceptionally Valuable Asperger’s Sites

This was included in one of our group emails and thought I would pass it on to anyone else.  It looks like there is much to be gained from the insights shared in these beautiful blogs.  I hope one day this blog will be note worthy and helpful to as many as these are. Enjoy the hunt and the moments spent with your children especially when you remembered to laugh! 21 Exceptionally Valuable Asperger’s Sites. The photo here is from quirkyandlaughing.wordpress.com, a blog written from this perspective as well. I am reminded by observation, that I forget to laugh at antics that I would normally think were funny if they were they were performed by my typical son.  I get frustrated by the filters through which I am constantly looking and how those particular filters can, if I’m not conscious color my world in ways I would not otherwise intend.  Mindfulness practice, I think would serve me well to stay in a place where I can see things for what they are in the moment and not judge them by how they will be perceived by others ALL the time.  This thinking lives in my fears about the future, stories of mis-judgements that lurk in my thoughts.  I can’t make them go away but I can put them in their place with mindfulness and a perspective check.  I am grateful to those around me that have given me that insight without really even knowing how valuable.  The young man at Hubbard Swim school who recognizes that unencumbered play is just as important as learning swim strokes!  I have learned so much about my son just by watching him with this teen.  Noticing that my worries don’t exist for others who enjoy my son’s energy and enthusiasm and good will.  I often wish to be them, for a moment, and seek to find that mindful space where I too, can enjoy his beautiful nature without the fears of the future or concerns that win my attention. One thing to be sure of is we are always learning.