This is the first installment in a six-month long series on homeschooling various special needs, in anticipation of the Homeschooling Special Needs Expo, an in-person conference coming June 28-29, 2024 to Shelby, NC. Open to all in the United States, this conference is the first of its kind in the nation, featuring Temple Grandin delivering the in-person Capstone Keynote and a church track to help churches minister to special needs families, in addition to helping teach parents how best to homeschool their special needs children and teens. For more information on the conference, click here.
What is executive functioning? Executive functioning are those skills that help a person plan ahead, meet goals, follow multi-step directions, have self-control, and manage distractions. For many kids (and adults!) with autism, ADHD, and other neurodivergent issues, executive functioning skills are not innate. However, one can exhibit executive function delays without having autism, ADHD, or other issues. The keys to help a child with executive functioning issues are to identify the issues and then to train the brain to develop those skills.
There are eight key executive functions: Impulse control, Emotional Control, Flexible Thinking, Working Memory, Self-Monitoring, Planning and Prioritizing, Task Initiation, and Organization. Here are seven ways to homeschool kids with executive functioning issues.
Use a planner for each child
Use a calendar-planner for each child, where the child can write down assignments, tasks, chores, therapy sessions (if applicable), and keep track of important dates, such as birthdays, youth events for church, and due dates for homeschool projects. Use this planner to write down daily goals and priorities. Check the planner daily but allow the child to use the planner to take ownership, to help him or her track progress.
Top 5 priorities
Each Sunday evening, sit down with your child and work together to develop the top five priorities for the coming week. This may look like studying for an upcoming test, researching a paper, finishing a project, practicing an instrument five hours, or even taking care of pets. The important thing is to let your child think about the upcoming week and its tasks and develop five priorities based on the academic activities (or household chores) that are coming up in the week. Once your child thinks about those priorities then writes them down in the planner, help the child stay on track by referring back to the planner. Bonus: a child cannot argue with the planner! After several weeks of this, with success, this will become a habit that will stick with the child for a very long time.
Do what you dread first
Encourage your child to not put off unpleasant tasks but go ahead and knock out things he dreads first. For example, if your child hates to do math because she doesn't like it, encourage her to do math first, so that she's not dreading it all day long. Sometimes the anxiety of knowing that we have to do something we don't like to do paralyzes us in doing anything at all.
Set up morning and evening routines
Routines are critical in helping kids with executive functioning disorder thrive. Help your child by setting up and maintaining morning and evening routines, with self-care items such as bathing/showering, skin care, teeth brushing, any medications, meals, etc, part of those routines. Some homeschool families enjoy utilizing a morning basket in which books are read, puzzles solved, and the Bible read as a family before the academics of homeschool even start. Then, in the evening, have showers or baths, snacks, a movie, Bible devotional, or reading books in bed...the key is to maintain the routines for the good of all.
Use a timer
With some children, they take so long in doing one subject that they can't get to anything else. This frustrates them, frustrates parents, and doesn't make for a happy homeschool. First off, don't assign twenty math problems when six problems can represent the lesson and tell if a child has mastered the concepts. Use a timer, especially for things like math problems, spelling assignments, writing papers, or other things like teeth brushing. The little added pressure of beating the clock will help the child move on to something else and take away the dread of dealing with a subject he doesn't like.
In dealing with executive functioning issues, start with one thing. Set up routines, get them to a point where they're habits, then incorporate a planner. Like fad diets, moving too quickly from one thing to another is a set-up for failure. Do one thing for a couple of weeks, than add something else.
Understanding goes a long way
Children are rarely oppositional for no good reason. Usually there's an underlying reason behind difficult behaviors--diet, lack of sleep, a developmental delay or neurodivergent issue that hasn't been diagnosed, or lack of structure are all things to consider. Understanding why your child is acting out, not focusing on his or her work, or forgetting things you just went over is critical to getting your child the help he needs. Many times, in the process of discovering that your child has an executive function disorder, you may find that you also have the same issue.
Executive functioning disorders can impede a person's entire life, but there are things that can be done to help train the brain to function to prevent anxiety, make deadlines and life goals, and not be late for events. Like with anything, it takes time and discipline to hone those skills, but just acknowledging there's a problem is the first step.
(c) 2024 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
In the spring and summer, homeschooling content creators call this "convention season" and it's for good reason. There are so many homeschool conventions, conferences, expos, and days scheduled all over the country during the spring and summer that it warrants its own season.
This post may have affiliate links to homeschool conventions that help fund this website (and give you a good deal, as a coupon is included). We appreciate your support.
What does this mean for you, a homeschooler? It means that if you have any question about homeschooling, there will be someone at a homeschool convention that can answer that for you. If you're thinking about changing curriculum, you can browse, look through curriculums--even talk to the curriculum creator in a lot of instances.
Here are nine reasons why homeschooling families should attend homeschool conventions:
The first reason is the large variety of homeschooling speakers who pour out their expertise in sessions that are designed to help you and your children. There are keynote speakers that have been homeschooling for years (sometimes decades) and are fighting for you and your children on the national level. They have more encouraging knowledge in their little fingers that most have in their whole hand.
Last year's Teach Them Diligently in Pigeon Forge saw Kirk Cameron on stage, then Heidi St. John, and other powerhouse proponents of homeschooling. In smaller sessions you have homeschool content creators, curriculum writers, bloggers, and other homeschoolers who know what they're talking about, and give you that knowledge--and are often free right after the session for a few minutes or available in their booths to talk one-on-one with you. I know that after my session on special needs children last year at Teach Them Diligently-Pigeon Forge, I had a number of parents come to my booth to ask me specific questions about autism, ADHD, and other learning difficulties. They walked away with not only helpful information but also my card for further assistance. Many speakers are like that--or have resources that will help you in your homeschooling journey.
Tip: Bring a notebook to write notes, ideas as they come to you in sessions, questions to ask, booths to visit, etc. When you meet another homeschooling family and your families click, use your notebook to write their contact information down.
3. Phenomenal Sessions
Every homeschool convention company works tirelessly to bring in speakers who know what they're doing, and have something to say about it, and because of that, participants enjoy phenomenal sessions about a wide range of topics--from Homeschooling 101 to homeschooling special needs kids, to discussing government interference, and everything in between. You literally can gain a wealth of knowledge about homeschooling, and so can your kids. There are many sessions that relate to teenagers, such as choosing a college, or developing your high school transcript (your teens should go to these!). Every convention is different and offers a different slate of topics from which to choose.
3. Exhibit Hall
Here's where it gets fun -- and sometimes, overwhelming. There are so many booths exhibiting curriculum, curriculum helps, books, toys, opportunities--that it can get to be a bit much. Take your time, go through each aisle, making note of booths you want to come back and visit later (preferably, by yourself, while your husband or wife watches the kids out in the reception area).
I encourage you, if you and your spouse go to homeschool conventions together with the children, to give each spouse an opportunity to wander the exhibit hall alone. Last year, while I worked my booth at Teach Them Diligently-Pigeon Forge, my husband wandered the hall. He came back with a newfound love of homeschooling (yay!) and a lot of resources for our homeschooling daughter.
Also, go through the aisles with the children, too. They may see something that encourages them. Plus, it's great to see other homeschooling children and know they're not alone.
TIP: Wear very comfortable shoes. Leave the cute heels and flip-flops at home or hotel, and wear your sneakers. You will walk more than you think you will.
4. Children's Programs
Many homeschooling conventions will offer childrens' programs for little ones, elementary age, even middle school. When your kids get to be in high school, they can offer volunteer at these childrens' events (especially for Teach Them Diligently events). At some conventions, homeschooling high school graduations are held. Don't be afraid to let your kids be a part of the childrens' programs -- it gives them something to do, new friends to make, and gives you the opportunity to go to the sessions and exhibit hall in peace.
Tip: If allergies are a concern, simply pack your child's lunch and snacks, and make sure the staff knows about them. If your child has special needs, make sure the staff knows that, too.
5. Meeting Other Homeschoolers
Meeting other homeschooling families is a huge plus when attending homeschooling conventions. You realize you're not alone, and you can bounce ideas off one another. It's a great time of fellowship and meeting new friends.
6. Meeting Homeschooling Content Creators
Where else but a homeschooling convention can you actually meet Linda Lacour Hobar, the author of The Mystery of History, and talk with her one-on-one about history and what you liked about the curriculum? You can meet the very people that create your Bible devotions at the Not Consumed booth! You can meet me! I'd love to meet you and show you all the new things that are in my booth this year (you can preview them here).
TIP: Homeschooling creators work long hours to create and curate the things you see in their booths. The booths are not cheap, and they're certainly not free. Please do homeschooling content creators a solid and bring either cash or credit cards (most accept both or either) and buy something. It's a kindness--and keeps us going.
7. Buying Next Year's Curriculum
Often, you can find incredible deals on your favorite, or a new-to-you curriculum at conventions. Come armed with the credit card and go ahead and purchase it, taking advantage of any sales thay may be going on. Often (but not always), homeschool curriculum creators can ship the materials to your home so you're not lugging around 72 pounds of books throughout the exhibit hall.
TIP: Sometimes you'll buy a book and it'll weigh a good bit. Some conventions give swag bags but they're not hefty enough to carry a bunch of books. Bring a hefty totebag, an extra stroller, or something to carry your loot. Last year a family brought a wagon -- had their kids on each end and their haul in the middle. It was fantastic!
8. Traveling [according to my daughter who was scientifically polled for this article (meaning she walked in while I was writing and I asked her what the biggest benefit to going to homeschool conventions was to her)], is a side benefit of going to homeschool conventions. When you travel to a distant place for a convention, make it a fun time. Pigeon Forge (where Teach Them Diligently will be at this year) offers a huge amount of things to do besides going to the convention. Where else can you visit a Titanic exhibit, see a building with King Kong on it, and visit an upside-down house? We've stopped at educational and fun places on the way to a convention in Texas -- it breaks up the trip and adds a fun element to homeschool conventions (and makes that more educational).
9. Rededicating Your Family to the Homeschool Ideal
One of the most important aspects of going to a homeschool convention is the energy and confirmation of the "why" we homeschool. If you're teetering on the brink of giving up--by all means, go to a homeschool convention. Between the speakers, the keynotes, the sessions, meeting other homeschoolers, and exploring the booths in the exhibit halls, you will gain a new perspective on homeschooling and maybe recommit to it. It's important, especially in the culture in which we live as Christians, to see the importance of homeschooling. Attending homeschooling conventions can do that.
TIP: The food in convention venues is often pretty expensive. If you can (according to venue policies), pack your family's lunch. If you can't (because of policies), find a hotel near by in which to stay, and leave for an hour for lunch in your hotel, and come back. Or, keep the cooler in your car and go out to your car for lunch. Here's another tip: after a long day of conventioning, most of the time you just want to go back to the hotel. Bring a slow cooker with you from home, start it in the morning, and by the late afternoon and evening, dinner is ready for you when you get back to the hotel. Throw the kids in the pool, then shower everyone--it'll be an easy bedtime for everyone, just to get up the next day and either convention some more, or get on the road back home.
Here's a list of where I will be speaking and exhibiting, with a list of my session topics:
Tri-State Homeschool Conference
April 22, Shenandoah Junction, WV
Sessions: Homeschooling a Teen with Autism; Hope for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Parent; Homeschooling One Child; Life Skills, Chickens, and More
Teach Them Diligently-Pigeon Forge (affiliate link)
May 4-6, Pigeon Forge, TN
Coupon code ($20 off): McKee23
Session: Strategies on Homeschooling Kids with Special Needs
Gastonia Homeschool Day
May 8, Gastonia, NC
Thrive! The NCHE Homeschool Conference
May 25-27, Winston-Salem, NC
Sessions: Hope for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Parent; Homeschooling a Teen with Autism
Upstate Homeschool Expo
June 1 (4-8 pm); Greenville, SC
(C) 2023 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
It's that time of the year: birds are singing, flowers blooming, pollen on the air...and homeschoolers fight homeschool with every fiber of their being. Yet, you as the homeschooling parent, want--need--them to finish something related to homeschool. Your house is a mess, your kids aren't listening to you, and you are overwhelmed.
Homeschool doesn't have to be overwhelming but it often can be. Distractions get in the way of both parent and child, and the academic part of homeschooling can quickly feel like a chore. Here are some ways to manage an overwhelming homeschool life:
Have a change of scenery
As I write this, my daughter is beside me on our deck. We're sitting on a bench together, papers and books and laptop before us on a table. Birds are chirping, our chickens are clucking, the duck is quacking, and I expect Carl, our rooster, to crow any moment. Carolina blue skies are overhead, dotted by big fluffy clouds. It's a glorious day--and we are homeschooling. She's working a word search for spelling.
The thing is, we just started--and it's already 12:03 in the afternoon. It's nearly impossible for us to start in the early morning hours, so we start when we can: after animals have been fed, breakfast eaten, and clothes changed. Sometimes, a change of scenery, like coming outside on a gorgeous day, can help a great deal. Take materials to the park with a big blanket, or go to the library. Sit at a library table and, quietly, do the lessons.
The biggest distraction for my daughter are screens. Her tablet, her borrowing my phone--they all have a tendency to suck time and motivation away from her. One thing we're going to do, starting tomorrow, is to institute a new family rule: no screens until academics are finished and chores are done. I say tomorrow because this is an ongoing issue and, frankly, one I just came up with. When you're overwhelmed, you have to come up with things as you go to see what works and what doesn't.
Here me out: you don't have to finish the curriculum. If academics are hurting your relationship with your child, stop the academics. Take a couple weeks off and do fun things: plant a garden, visit museums or parks, rearrange the child's room--do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. Go for long nature walks and talk about what you see. Then, come back to academics a little at a time.
Not even public schools finish entire math books. The purpose of homeschool is to cultivate a relationship with your child and institute a love of learning. If learning has become a form of torture for you both, it's time to give it a rest. Try something new, like just reading the history book aloud. Do science projects.
There's a caveat to this, though: if you have a high school-level student, it's important for the sake of the transcript that curriculums do get finished. Have a heart-to-heart with your student and just lay it out: you must push through the curriculum to graduate high school. A lot of life is simply pushing through. We need to make sure our children understand that.
Take time for yourself
It's one thing for the students to be overwhelmed; it's another when the homeschooling parent gets overwhelmed. Know that it's perfectly okay to reach out to another homeschooling family and ask if they want to trade time. You invite another group of homeschooling children to your home, with their academics they're working on, and all the kids work on their individual tasks at your table, while the visiting kids' mom gets a much-needed break. Maybe she'll get her hair done, or nails, or just have a couple hours for a mental health break. Then, she watches your kids while you get a little break.
Take a week off academic homeschool and make it a homeschooling project to organize parts of the house that are cluttered and overwhelming. If you use your dining room for homeschool, as I do, try to figure out a way to store homeschool materials when they're not being used so you can actually use the table to dine on. If you are blessed enough to have a dedicated homeschool space, take a day or two to organize and redecorate it--particularly before starting a new grade or homeschool year.
Biblical characters battled being overwhelmed, too
Christian homeschoolers often think that they're the only ones to get overwhelmed. Just because a biblical character was close to God doesn't mean they didn't battle being overwhelmed. David, Jeremiah, Elijah--even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were overwhelmed at some point in their lives. We can learn from them and how they handled being overwhelmed. Having an active and constant prayer life, being in the Word, and surrounding yourselves with praying friends can all help you in being overwhelmed.
Everyone faces a season of being overwhelmed. I feel like I am a chronic overwhelmer--to the point that I needed help, so I wrote a book about how biblical characters handled being overwhelmed and what we can learn from them. I learned so much during the writing of this book! Overwhelmed: Biblical and Practical Ways to Manage a Crazy-Busy Homeschool Life can be found in my online store (autographed) or non-autographed books are available on Amazon. Balancing homeschooling, parenting, discipleship, home management, and life can be extraordinarily tricky. In this mercifully brief book for overwhelmed homeschool parents, I give biblical and practical strategies on how to manage a crazy-busy homeschool life. Using Scripture and practical suggestions, I encourage parents who are caregivers and homeschooling, and parents who are homeschooling children with special needs. In addition, I show how biblical figures handled stress, and applies those lessons to real-world issues homeschoolers face.
Please know that you are not alone! Every homeschooling parent feels overwhelmed at times, and more in some seasons. It's important to recognize when you're reaching that point, and to do something about it.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Homeschooling your kids and taking control of their education is such a wonderful and rewarding feeling. It can also feel very overwhelming! There is a lot that comes with homeschooling from the curriculum, educational resources, and supplies that can make it difficult to keep everything together and organized. Not to worry though, here you will find some homeschool organization tips to help you.
Color coding can be done in a couple of different ways. If you are homeschooling more than one child, assigning each child a color can help you to know whose work you are looking at, and who forgot to put away their supplies. If you are only homeschooling one child you can color code by subject. Having your homeschool supplies color-coded can make finding what you need when you need it easier for you and your student. These color-coded labels can help you do that.
Clipboards are inexpensive, versatile, and they can be invaluable tools when it comes to organizing your homeschool. You can put your daily or weekly schedules on them and they can also be used as portable workstations for when you or your student don’t feel like being stuck at a table or desk.
Chances are that some of your homeschool curriculum and resources are digital so you will need a way to organize all of those resources too. Start by creating a folder for each subject on your computer, those folders can be further subdivided into topic and grade level so that you find exactly what you need when you want it.
You will want to keep a portfolio of each of your homeschool children’s work through the school year, but where are you supposed to keep it all? Grades and unit tests can be stored as computer files if you prefer, or you can print end-of-the-semester grades and put them in a binder for each child. Add this Annual Record Portfolio, and you'll have all your child's grades at your fingertips.
What about all of their completed projects you ask? You probably don’t have room to store them all, particularly if you have more than one student. You can, however, document their completed projects with pictures that you print and add to their portfolio, or simply keep them as a digital archive.
If you are a homeschooling family, and you aren’t using your local library you really should be. There are so many amazing resources that you can check out and use as part of your curriculum, or just for fun, and it’s all for free!
The trick is to make sure that the borrowed library items make it back to the library and don’t get lost in the books and resources that you already have at home. That’s where the library box comes in, all you need is a milk crate or storage box where all of the borrowed materials can stay when they are not in use to make sure they are returned. Hot tip: I use this collapsible trunk organizer for a library box. It keeps the books in one place in the house, and it's easy to transport in my van back to the library. It folds down so we can take it in the library to re-stock. Plus, when it's not holding books, it's great for groceries.
Bookshelves can be used to hold more than just your textbooks and workbooks, and they are relatively inexpensive. Adding a bookshelf to your living room or homeschool room is an easy way to help keep your homeschool organized.
Purchase totes, baskets, or canvas storage bins that will fit comfortably on your bookshelf. Make sure that each tote, basket, or bin is clearly labeled so that you know what belongs inside of it. If you have younger students who are just learning to read pictures on the outside of the boxes can be very helpful.
A Place For Everything
You know the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place," well, this is true for organizing your homeschool as well. Have a designated spot for your textbooks, workbooks, paper, art supplies, learning manipulatives, and anything else that you might be using as part of your curriculum.
Having a designated spot for each item makes it easier for you and your student to put things back when they are done, and that makes it easier to find them the next time they are needed. If you find that you have more things than you do space it might be time to purge some of your materials or put them in storage until you need them.
Over the door, shoe organizers can be used to store so much more than just your shoes, and it is a convenient way to keep some of your smaller items together. The organizers with clear pockets are great because you can see what’s in them quickly.
These pockets are a great place to store index cards, markers, crayons, glue, painting supplies, pencils, and flashcards. You can also use them to hold your office supplies and any cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, that you may use in your homeschool room.
Having your homeschool materials organized means that you can focus on the important parts like teaching and learning what works best for your learner. Everyone’s homeschool organization will look different based on the number and age of students they have, and the space that they have in their home. Do you have any amazing homeschool organization tips that you would like to share? Comment those ideas below!
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
Homeschooling One Child is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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