I started homeschooling my daughter when she started kindergarten, after homeschooling my oldest son, who has autism, the last semester of his senior year in public high school. Halfway into Laura’s kindergarten year, a tragic event stopped us cold in our tracks – my husband was shot and paralyzed in an attempted armed robbery.
As his caregiver, I felt (at the time) like I couldn’t give him 100% and homeschooling 100%, so Laura was enrolled in the local public school for the remainder of kindergarten, and for the next two years. A double-whammy diagnosis of dyslexia and ADHD, coupled with chronic migraines, re-opened our homeschool almost three years ago.
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Laura has thrived in homeschool for third and fourth grades. Yes, she could have done better on tests, but homeschool is where she thrives (and her migraines went from 15 a month in public school down to about four a year).
When I started homeschooling, I had tons of questions: curriculum? Dedicated homeschool space? Socialization? Do I follow my state’s course of study?
Because of recent events in our nation, there is an unprecedented rise in the number of homeschooling families. This post serves to answer some questions I had as a new homeschooler and provide some resources.
What about socialization?
With public schools’ mandated masks, six-feet-apart, have lunch and PE and specials in classrooms, not to mention library, the socialization question is now moot. If homeschoolers have other homeschooling friends over to play, do seatwork together, or work on joint projects, they will have more socialization than kids in public school. With my daughter, because she is with adults most of the day, she can carry on conversations with adults and kids alike with confidence. Don’t worry about this.
Dedicated homeschool space?
If you are blessed to have a space in your home that can be a dedicated homeschool space, by all means, go for it. I live in a three-bedroom, two-bath house where the “open concept” is alive and well, and the living room/dining area/kitchen are all open to one another. Now, the smallest bedroom doubles as a guest room/office, so I still don’t have a dedicated homeschool space, and continue to use the dining area.
The dining area is right off the kitchen (again, open floor plan) and I really like this. Laura can do seat work while I put something in the slow cooker for dinner, or wash dishes. I’m right there within earshot and sight line if she has a question or wants to talk through the lesson.
We have a small shelf in the dining area that holds this year’s curriculum so we don’t have to dig for it. We have another cabinet that holds resource books and things we don’t use all the time but still need to have handy. A chalkboard and dry erase board on the wall complete the ensemble. When we read books together, whether it’s literature, history, or science, we go to the sofa to read as it’s more comfortable and we can both read along in the same book. When we watch a YouTube video to explain a concept, we watch it from the sofa.
Our entire home is meant for learning – we have science experiments in the kitchen, large craft or art projects strewn on the living room floor, and the dining table is for seat work. This works for our family.
There are many choices for curriculum. You can do an all online curriculum, or buy printed, all-inclusive curriculum. You can do what I do and put together an eclectic curriculum based on your child’s needs and where they’re at academically. Or, you can do all three. The most important thing is to do what is best for your child, even if you have multiple children – each child is an individual with individual needs. Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan.
The beauty of homeschool is that you as the parent choose the course of study. You don't have to follow a set course of study from any state. With high school, if your child is interested in going to college, have him choose two or three colleges or universities that he's interested in applying to, and work with your teenager to develop a high school course of study based on those college/university requirements.
Budget is also a consideration. You can have a completely wonderful and acceptable homeschooling curriculum without spending a lot. Or anything. Just because someone buys a $500 curriculum doesn’t mean that any better – or worse – than someone who spends $20 on curriculum.
I like old-school textbooks that existed before common core was common. So, for the third year in a row, I have purchased some textbooks for my daughter on EBay. Her math, science, and English textbooks for 5th grade have all been purchased, and I spent less than $20 on the entire lot.
For spelling, I find spelling lists for her grade level on Pinterest, and create activities for them. A good dictionary book (not the Internet) provides definitions which she writes down. For cursive writing and spelling practice, I use this website to create cursive writing worksheets that are her spelling words. I use this website to create word finds and crossword puzzles. Playing board and card games and Hangman using her spelling words helps her learn them, too.
Laura will have some new subjects this coming year, such as Spanish. I utilize Schoolhouse Teachers for her Spanish class, and as supplemental material on other subjects such as history, unit studies, and grammar. Schoolhouse Teachers is wonderful because they mail a quarterly magazine, included with your membership, about homeschooling that is rich with ideas and encouragement.
For set curricula, I like to buy from a website where I can browse and read about each product, such as Christianbook.com. For some subjects or as supplemental material, I use Evan-Moor workbooks which are an incredible resource for all grade levels.
When Laura reaches high school levels, I’ll use 7 Sisters Homeschool, which has no-busy-work curricula and is all PDF based. They host a wide variety of subjects written by veteran homeschooling moms.
As you can gather from my daughter’s diagnoses, special needs is a thing in our house. Actually, all four of my children have special needs, though the three oldest are adults and have moved on to their own houses (and, one got married!). It can be downright exhausting to parent special needs children, let alone homeschool them.
I have found that my daughter thrives at home, where there is less stress and zero bullying. Still, parents who are homeschooling children with special needs require encouragement and inspiration. That is why, with the Lord’s incredible help, I’ve developed the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference, the first of its kind in the nation. Featuring over 20 speakers presenting over 30 sessions on homeschooling special needs, including the incredible Temple Grandin in a keynote. The conference boasts all pre-recorded videos for your convenience, and lifetime access to boot, for just $22. For more information, click here. To register, click here.
In public school, kids have “specials” – library, PE, music, art. Homeschoolers have these things, too. We go to the public library once a week, Laura is constantly making art projects that tie into what she’s learning in history or science, and she goes outside to play, and play hard, for PE. We’ve also been known to incorporate health lessons in “physical education.” She also learns life skills, such as doing her own laundry, cooking (she loves making eggs for her own breakfast in the morning), and baking. Just today she finally (!!!) chose an instrument to learn, as we told her she needed to choose one for the fifth grade. She chose the ukulele!
For attendance, we use the AppleCore online attendance that is a perk of membership with Schoolhouse Teachers. When Laura starts ninth grade, it will be used to house her grades, too. The AppleCore program then takes her grades and generates an official high school transcript. I tell you, the annual membership for Schoolhouse Teachers is one of my most favorite -- and utilized -- resources.
Homeschooling can be a delightful time, if you relax and allow learning to happen, at any time. For us, homeschooling is not between the hours of 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. It is 24 hours a day. We focus less on education and more on learning. Every experience can be a learning experience, and that is the attitude we choose to adopt.
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I wish you all the best!
© 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling is the ultimate individualized educational plan for children with -- or without -- special needs. You're not bound by any restraints on time or subjects so the child can move at his or her pace -- actually learning, not regurgitating facts quickly forgotten.
There is a problem with homeschooling special needs children, tweens, and teens, and that is a lack of assistance and encouragement. Parenting a child with special needs is hard enough; homeschooling a child with special needs can be unmercifully brutal. Homeschooling parents of special needs children need to be encouraged and inspired and know they are not alone.
When my oldest son was in the middle of his senior year in public school, in the special needs department because of autism and bipolar disorder, he had some pretty severe behavior issues that were directly related to being bullied. While I didn't officially homeschool him (as in, withdraw and make a homeschool), I did facilitate home-bound studies and teach him much more than was required -- it was my first foray into homeschooling. He walked at graduation that June and received an occupational certificate of completion.
Now, I teach my youngest daughter in our [official] homeschool. She has dyslexia, chronic migraines, and ADHD. Irregardless of the specific special needs, it's impossible to find a homeschool conference dedicated to teaching special needs of all kinds.
As a mom with four special needs children, who is a homeschooler and a homeschool blogger, I am ecstatic to announce the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. My nine years' worth of event planning has helped me recruit giants in the homeschooling blogging community and special needs advocates such as the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin.
I know, full well, that parents of special needs kiddos have a very difficult time going to in-person conferences -- that's why it's online. I also know that live online conferences are hard, too, because you have to be committed to sit at the computer and watch live sessions. Special needs parents don't have time for that. All the sessions for the Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference are pre-recorded, so you can pause, help a child, go to the bathroom, and not miss anything.
The conference brings participants over 19 speakers with over 30 sessions on encouraging and inspiring homeschooling parents of special needs children, tweens, and teens. A few sessions include:
I am so excited to announce the keynotes of the conference. Not only is Durenda Wilson sharing her wisdom in the keynote "Unhurried Homeschooling: Why We Need to Slow Down," and Lee Felix of Like Minded Musings is speaking on "3 Keys to Parenting the Heart of Your Special Needs Child," and Carol Anne Swett of Homeschool Answer Mom is speaking on staying the course and overcoming doubt during your special needs homeschooling journey in her keynote "Homeschooling When You Can't See The Finish Line," but renowned autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin will be sharing her thoughts on teaching special needs children of all ages in a conversation she had with me.
I am so honored to have these incredible men and women -- giants in the homeschool blogging world and special needs advocates -- join me for this first-ever Homeschooling Special Needs Online Conference. Participants will receive lifetime access for the sessions, plus a digital swag bag of coupons, printables, and freebies from speakers and sponsors. In addition, participants will have access to a social media group for interaction and community-building, because, you are not alone.
Sponsors of the conference are Homeschooling One Child, BJU Press Homeschool, True North Homeschool Academy, Powerline Productions, and HSLDA.
This conference is just $22. For just $22 you as a homeschooling parent of a special needs child can be encouraged and inspired to keep on homeschooling your precious gifts -- your children. The conference goes live on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, so don't delay! To register for this incredible conference, click here today.
It's been one of those days: Laura didn't want to write spelling definitions, she wanted to write them three times each.
She didn't want to read science, she wanted to do a lab instead. She didn't want to...fill in the blank. We've all experienced days in which homeschool was just...well, hard. Gone were the visions of happy children around a table, merrily notebooking with lab books and unit studies...no, in our house, Laura's whining about the injustice of learning decimals while the bushy-tailed cat jumps on the dining/homeschool table, scattering worksheets and thoughts all over the floor.
The distractions of social media are ever present, plus the absurdity of having to make yet another meal that creates yet more dirty dishes...and there's curriculum for next year to think about, labs to plan, lessons to print....let's not forget that we need to formulate an intelligent response to that Harvard woman who wrote that homeschooling article, even though we'll never meet her or send the response in.
Boy! Homeschooling isn't for the weak!
Here's a thought, a deep one, so lean in close: sometimes, I lose myself in the tight-knit, wonderful, and delightful homeschool lifestyle and forget that it's downright difficult to teach my daughter. I get so wrapped up in the homeschool lifestyle that I forget about homeschooling.
It's a bit like marriage, really: we get so wrapped-up-in-love with the idea of marriage that we forget marriage is all about work. Marriage is hard work, but it is worth it. Same with homeschool: it's hard, productive work in which you get to see lightbulbs go off in your child's eyes as they understand concepts, and then they want to talk about them for hours.
A while back my husband, daughter, and I went to Ulysses S. Grant's house in St. Louis, Missouri, then a few weeks ago we were in a store, and she saw a book about him. Even though the book was on an adult reading level, her interest was piqued. It's a glorious thing to talk at length with your child about a historical figure, and have her hold her own in conversations.
We all have seasons in which we consider hanging up our laminator and calling it quits on homeschool. I think, though, that has more to do with us as parents than the kids. If we parents have some sort of deficit in our knowledge, we get anxious when it's time to teach that subject, so we say, "Oh, I couldn't possibly teach my kid Algebra, so we'll only teach through middle school, and she can go to public high school."
Or, we listen to our kids whine all day about missing their friends...listen, here's an unpopular thought: YOU are the parent. YOU know what is best for your child. If your child is missing his friends, by all means, let him hang out with his friends and make new ones at homeschool-related activities. But don't give up -- homeschool is a marathon, in which the prize is far off, but it will be there. It's not a 150m dash or a sprint down the street. No, it's a marathon that lasts years.
My daughter just turned 10 years old. She's in the fourth grade. My husband said to me, "We'll only have her eight more years!" Oh, how that frightened me. Only eight more years to teach her all that she needs to know in math, language arts, history, science....I couldn't be more wrong. We have eight more years to give her a solid foundation on which to build a love of learning that will be with her for the rest of her life, and that foundation is being built even now.
I want to encourage you--this hard homeschool season you're in is just that: a season. You can do it! If you need to take a day or two or a week off, do it. Take a mental health day. Explore curriculum catalogs with your child. Use your love of homeschool to inspire your family, especially your child. Clean off the dining / homeschool table, organize your homeschool spaces, and tackle what 's next.
If you do feel inadequate to teach, though, let me address that: you are not inadequate to teach your own child. That is a lie from the pit of hell. God gave YOU the children to raise, not someone else. You are not inadequate. All throughout school, I didn't so well at math, so it was drilled into me that I couldn't do math. Do you know that hurt me throughout college? I used every C, D, and failing grade I made as confirmation bricks in the wall of my personality. It was only when I started homeschooling Laura that I learned I could do math, because it was all in the way I taught her. I encouraged my daughter and told her that her worth is not based on math or science or reading ability, but who Jesus says she is: a child of God, a daughter of the Most High King, who is made in His image: smart, bright, inquisitive, and kind, among other adjectives.
You are not inadequate. You are the perfect person to teach your child, because God entrusted you to be his or her parent. God had no one else in mind other than you to raise and teach your child. If God has called you to homeschool, He will provide the resources, the knowledge, and the wisdom to do so. Trust Him. Trust yourself.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Being a mom is hard work. You have all the stuff to do, kids to manage, husband to take care of (admit, you do), and work inside or outside the home. Throw in homeschooling kiddos, and you have yourself a mama in bad need of a hot, uninterrupted bath and downtime.
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Shout-out to all the single moms out there, or married single moms -- those of us out there who are married, but because of deployment, disability, or what-have-you, have a ring on the finger that you're working to the bone.
Homeschooling moms are with their kids all.day.long. -- by choice, mind you, and they (we) wouldn't give it for anything. I love homeschooling my daughter and seeing the Dawn of Realization peek over the horizon of her mind when she gets an important concept. You can just see the lightbulb turn on. There's nothing like it in the world. Except, maybe, going to the bathroom by yourself. That's right up there, too.
And, let's face it: Valentine's is coming up and there are all sorts of Valentine's Day card packets with the obligatory two teacher's cards, but we don't ever see "Thanks for teaching me, mom!" cards...except here. ;) As International Homeschool Day is February 29, 2020, this card is a perfect way to show some appreciation.
I've found nine ways to encourage homeschool moms. These may be done by husbands, parents, kids, grandparents, neighbors, church friends--basically, anyone who wants to encourage a homeschooling mother you know.
1. Be mindful of the homeschooling day
Learn when a homeschool day is most active, and don't interrupt. If you know that your daughter homeschools your grandchildren in the morning, don't call in the morning. Simply wait until after lunch, or text a quick note to call you back at her convenience. Texting is great because it allows the recipient to respond at his or her leisure.
2. Be mindful of her time
Conversely, be mindful of her time. Just because a homeschooling mom is, by definition, at home, doesn't mean she's available. That bears repeating. Just because a homeschooling (or stay-at-home-mom or work-at-home-mom or work-out-of-the-home mom) is at home, doesn't mean she is available. Don't assume she can take Grandma to the doctor or volunteer for that committee or pick up dry cleaning. The beauty of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to teach and interact with your kids as you want. The downside of homeschooling is that you have the freedom to go at a moment's notice, and some people may take advantage of that. Homeschoolers typically schedule and plan out weeks in advance, and it's not just an inconvenience when something is thrown in unexpectedly, it's an abrupt change in plans. Homeschooling teachers typically do not have substitutes to take their class when they are told there is a sudden issue with their parents, as their class is their family.
That's not to say emergencies aren't necessary reasons to stop, adapt, and move in a different direction, but choose the emergency. Broken, bleeding, heart attack, stroke: yes. Go. Sudden need for ice cream (been there), rapid desire to go shopping (did that), or an immediate need to buy flour to make chicken and dumplings for the ladies' BINGO game that will be held three days' hence (bought THAT t-shirt): these are not emergencies.
3. Give gift cards
Often, a homeschooling mom will spend money on curriculum, dry erase markers, printer ink, paper, printer ink, stickers, notebooks, and printer ink (notice a theme?) but not on herself. Gift cards for coffee on the go, massages, the movies for a date night, or other fun things will help her feel appreciated and loved.
4. Wish list
Ask if she has a homeschool wish list on a website like Amazon, ask her to allow you to have access to it--then order things off it during the year. What better way to support the homeschool and take some worry off a mom than to provide a globe, or industrial-strength pencil sharpener, or a cute homeschool mom t-shirt? Whatever is on a homeschool mom's wish list, you know that there are things on it she knows she could use in her home and with her kids, so they will not go to waste. Think about shopping those lists for birthdays or at Christmas.
5. Sick days
It's hard to homeschool, parent, take care of the house, and nearly impossible to do all that well when there's sickness in the house. With social media, many times you know when a family is down with the flu, or having a particularly rough season with special needs, or maybe facing surgery. Providing a meal, whether you've cooked it or it's via take-out, is a lovely way to show a homeschool mom you care and have her back.
6. Provide a homeschool conference
Conferences that are dedicated for homeschooling families are integral for encouragement, finding out the latest curriculum, getting ideas or assistance, and just being around like-minded individuals. Encouraging a homeschool mom (or dad or family) with paying the registration costs (or, even, travel costs!) of homeschool conferences is a huge way to take an active role in the future of those children.
There are a number of homeschool conferences coming up around the country. One, an online conference, is the Homegrown Generation Online Family Expo, which is a one-of-a-kind event. Live and fully interactive, the conference will feature some of today’s most popular speakers addressing the most important issues that homeschool families face. Just $20, it provides lifetime access to participants. Register here.
Another conference is Teach Them Diligently, to be held in seven cities around the country this spring. Featuring the top names in homeschooling today plus a first-rate exhibit hall of homeschool vendors, it is not to be missed. Plus, the kids' and youth programs provide incredible opportunities for kids and teens to be around other homeschoolers and have fun learning about Jesus. For 9 years, Teach Them Diligenty Christian homeschool conventions have been a help and encouragement to new homeschool families, seasoned homeschool families, and families who are just thinking about starting homeschooling alike. Register here.
7. Library fines
Another way to bless a homeschooling mom is to pay off her library fines. It is inevitable: ask a group of homeschooling moms what's the one thing they wish they could dispose of, and it would be library fines. I use my local library a lot in homeschool, and I would love to have someone offer to take care of our fines. It's a rare month that we don't have some fine from an educational DVD we're still working through, a book that is taking a little longer to read, or a book that was so loved it went missing as it was being read in bed.
8. Encourage play dates
Get your families together and have play dates. Offer to have a friend's homeschooling kiddos to come over for a visit, or go visit a homeschooling mom with your kids (and bring coffee!). There really is no substitute for adult conversation, prayer between friends, and play.
9. Discipleship Groups
Invite a homeschooling mom to a Bible study as part of a small group or discipleship group. It's hard to keep focused on your own walk with Christ when you're so busy planning the route for others' walks. I'm involved in a small Bible study group with other ladies at my church. We meet every Tuesday night for several weeks in the fall and again in the spring for dinner, study, and fellowship. I'd be lost without that group of ladies. Inviting others into groups helps energize not only the individual but also the group.
These are only nine ways to encouragement to a homeschooling mom. Listening, talking, laughing, and sharing in each other's lives mean so much.
(C) 2020 Terrie McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her daughter. In the past, she also briefly homeschooled her son, who has autism.
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